November 12, 2012 by vivalafiona
Am currently being fumigated for the 3rd time this week. The government is terrified of outbreaks of dengue fever so the whole town is exposed to fumigation inside and outside their houses. It works, there are no mosquitoes in Trinidad, but the flies seem to be resistant, which is perhaps a good sign as far as human health is concerned. However I have not noticed too many frogs about town which is not a good.
I am on the upstairs terrace with the cat, one of the owners and one of the staff and we are all trying to escape the noise and smoke that emits from the fumigator. The house appears to be on fire the smoke is that thick. What with this and the people next door burning off in the back yard this is not the day to be doing the washing.
Had a change of routine this morning and rode my bike out to La Boca, the seaside town where many Cubans spend their summer holidays. Along the way I passed brigades of men cutting the grass beside the roadside with machetes and blades on the end of thick sticks, a familiar sight as you drive in the countryside. My immediate thoughts were of disbelief that the revolution has provided a world class medical system but done little to alter the life of the countryfolk. They are still tending the land, it seems to me, as they have for centuries by hand. It did, however, also occur to me that here was work for 10 or 20 men rather than a single man sitting astride a ride-on-mower spewing petrol fumes into the air. They all seemed happy enough, greeting me with a hola amiga ( hello friend) as I rode by. A smile easily evokes a friendly greeting here from both men and women. So different to Sydney where you rarely even have eye contact with people you pass in the street.
A friend of mine who is a musician was due to go to the provincial capital town today with a group to perform to in mates in one of the jails there. Unfortunately the van they had arranged to transport them broke down before it had even left Trinidad. The US embargo and the collapse of the Soviet Union has had devastating effects on transportation in this country. Old Soviet trucks and tractors are frequently used to transport people around, standing room only in the backs of trailers, although I have seen a few with seating installed – sort of an open air bus. I once rode in something very similar in Burma for 8 hours one day. My bum was so numb by the end of the trip I didn’t think the nerve endings would ever recover.
There are also old yellow US school buses still in action. The trucks, tractors and buses often more than over 50 years old and spare parts are pretty much non existent. But the Cubans are resourceful. As an Irish tourist told me today, they will use anything available to make do. She saw an old American car in Havana witha broken bumper bar held together by melted and interwoven knives and forks. Thanks to Venezuela, and Presidente Chaves, petrol is available to keep these dilapitated vehicles on the move. But motorists beware the headlights, breaklights and indicators rarely work. I don’t drive at night in this country for fear of running into a horse and cart loaded with farmers returning home from a days work in the fields, as did once nearly happen.
Tourists on the other hand are travelling around in modern airconditioned buses and mini buses. Cubans who can afford to pay tourist prices can utitlise these now and there are plenty of government and private taxis that offer similar fares to travel between towns. Yesterday I rode in a 1950’s red and white Chevrolet taxi to Santi Spiritus, the provincial capital, to go shopping. No need for air con when you have all the windows down and can travel at 70km’s and lounge out on red leather bench seats watching the palm trees flash past.awqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqsa (that’s the cats typing).
Today was the opening of an annual artisan exhibition at the local art gallery, which is also a stunning example of colonial architecture, the former home of a sugar baron. Ceramics, clothing, woodwork, pottery, needlecraft and more. Unfortunately I haven’t seen all the artworks yet because I very dramatically fainted at the end of the fashion parade. Have no idea how those colonial women coped in their layers of petticoats in this heat. After a lot of speeches in front of a crowd of artists and their families and friends, in an un-airconditioned room (not even an overhead fan), I started to see black dots. A few minutes later, I found myself being lifted to my feet by some very concerned people , including the director of the gallery, having just slumped to the floor. Gave my friend, who had a bamboo rocking chair in the exhibition, a right scare. Fortunately the exhibition is on for a month so there is still time to see what I missed.
Now if I had a fan with me this might not have happened. Many women, young and old, still use beautifully decorated fans in and outside their houses. A woman standing near me in the gallery lent me hers as I was escorted outside into the fresh air. Umbrellas are also used as protection from the sun, like parasols of yesteryear. Sunscreen is too expensive for most locals. Strangely it is only the men, especially farmers and the elderly, who wear hats – usually of the stetson/cowboy variety. The very handsome horse owner/veterinarian I go riding with has one straight out of a John Wayne movie.