November 26, 2012 by vivalafiona
26 November 2012
It is the season for lettuce and tomato, and the carts are full of plump red tomatoes and leafy lettuces. Such bliss. If I have to eat another piece of cold Okra I will scream. I also discovered parsley, chives and radish today in the market. Amazing how much joy such finds bring me. It is apparent that I will have to get up earlier so as not to miss out on the fruit and veges which seem to sell out much quicker than the meat and fish. Shark was for sale out the back of a big truck this morning as was 5 other varieties of fish and prawns. Prawns are approx $4.00 a kilo which sounds cheap to me but of course is not for my Cuban friends. Shark costs 50 cents a kilo.
I put in my application for residency last week, after numerous dealings with the Immigration department here in Trinidad, trying to establish exactly what they required and where to lodge the application (here, Santi Spritus or Havana). It would appear that bureaucracy and government departments are the same the world over. Lots of waiting around in queues and having to resort to multiple visits to ascertain exactly what they need. I can now teach the consulate in Canberra a thing or two about residency applications. Seems their information was out of date by a few years. The immigration officer here was even surprised to know that there was a consulate/embassy in Australia. Little does he know what intrepid travelers we Aussies are.
My husband (how strange does that sound) and I were interviewed by both an Immigration and a Military Officer, which was rather intriguing. The Militar had a good sense of humour and was seemingly there to assist but I believe his presence was much more significant. The whole interview was conducted in Spanish and like my wedding ceremony a lot was lost in translation. There was much interest in my passport with it’s entry stamps to Tanzania, Nepal, Chile, Peru, Spain, UK but fortunately none for the northern neighbour. The letter stating the reasons why I wanted to live in Cuba (a requirement of the application) seemed to receive the approval of both officers. Perhaps (as you suggested Brendan) I should offer my services to future applicants.
The one document I was unaware I needed was a notarised letter stating that in the event of Osiel ditching me his father would take over responsibility for my well being and provide me with a home. At first I found this quite patriarchal and was surprised that post revolution such a law would exist, being the staunch feminist that I am, but now I realise that this is designed to protect foreign women/tourists. So another visit was required to the local notary/lawyer and I am sure it won’t be the last. She is the only lawyer in town that works with foreigners and has been very helpful so far. Unfortunately she is rather unique. One of my pet hates about this country is that people, especially those who work in the shops, banks and other government offices, appear to lack a service mentality. However working in-doors without air-conditioning in this climate probably isn’t conducive to being overly helpful and polite.
I am thinking of producing a bunch of t-shirt’s for myself that say the following in Spanish: Taxi, horse, cigars, boyfriend not required, I am married and yes he is Cuban! The drunks that hang out at the bottom of the hill I climb most mornings now recognise me as do most of the neigbours in Maritza’s street,her friends and family. But I fear that I will never shake off the mantel of being a tourist. Fortunately my name is easy to pronounce, and somewhat familiar as the Shrek movies are much loved here, which is something that can’t always be said for Cuban names. After the revolution it became popular to invent new names, that usually start with a Y, to differentiate Cubans from their colonial ancestry I am guessing: Yaima. Yonerky, Yudel, Yoani, Yordin, Yoan, Yoel, Yunia.
I now have a Cuban bank account. After a 2 hour wait to talk to the relevant person, she turned out to be very helpful and professional and once I had extracted the minimum deposit from the brand new ATM’s outside I was issued with a little bank/deposit book (remember those?).
It is now officially winter here, the second round of winds from the north have arrived and it drops to 16 degrees at night. The Cubans are freezing and I have to confess that despite 26 degree days even I baulk at going swimming. I have had a few early morning starts in my new role as waitress and translator at the casa particular where I am living and have had to put on a cardigan. The upstairs terrace where the tourist accommodation is located and breakfast and dinner is served captures the breeze/wind all day long.
Osiel and I have decided not to move into the apartment we found and instead will stay with Maritza and help her with the constant stream of tourists that are due in the next couple of months. December and January is high season. Between us we speak 3 languages so can communicate with most tourists. It is a wealth of nations that are visiting Cuba now, including Israeli’s which is interesting considering their government supports the US embargo. Still, I am sure like everywhere there is a diversity of opinion in Israel. Shame it isn’t a little louder.