January 25, 2013 by vivalafiona
Trinidad was 499 years old last week and to celebrate there was a 7 day festival with music in the streets, a small version of Luna Park for the kids complete with jumping castles (never before seen here), fairly floss, ice cream with chocolate topping, party whistles on a stick and street stalls selling fast food, locally made shoes, jeans covered in sequins, toys and fake tattoos.
Fairy Floss comes in green and pink and is spun onto a stick, the way it used to be when I was a kid, not in a sanitised plastic bag. It is called Super Algadon (Cotton) here which I think is because it is Cotton Candy in the USA and provides the very same sticky melt in your mouth sugar hit.
Ice Cream – no tubs of ice cream lined up in a freezer here, the entire freezer is an ice cream tub. How much fun would that be to clean out? You can also buy ice cream sandwiches – ice cream wedged between biscuits with chocolate flavoured syrup drizzled along the edges.
Other Cuban fast food include popcorn, hot dogs, shish kebabs, fried rice, corn fritters and spiral donuts all washed down with beer served in empty plastic ice cream containers or recycled plastic bottles from the beer trucks nearby.
There are lots of stalls selling Fake Tattoos and I was highly amused to see the face of Lionel Messi alongside Spiderman and Che on offer. Osiel’s daughter got a colourful fairy on her right shoulder blade whilst a neighbour chose Tom, from Tom and Jerry.
I can assure you the fun park would not meet our OHAS regulations by any stretch of the imagination. The rides are all packed into together and not always fenced off so it is essential to stay alert if you want to avoid some pretty nasty bruises or a sore head. I found myself ducking instinctively as we strolled around catching as I caught a glimpse in my provisional sight of a large metal object hurtling in my direction. In reality it was probably at least 2 feet away. Lucky that Cubans in general, and myself included, are not tall. The ferris wheel, although baring no resemblance to the monster versions the western world is now so fond of, does offer a lovely view of the town, and out toward the coast. At sunset it is spectacular.
My favourite ride was the self powered roller coaster, which only the Cuban’s could invent. A roller coaster carriage that comes with bike peddles. You pay and you peddle. Almost beats the man powered Ferris wheel I rode on in Myanmar once, where a bloke swinging from the bars/spokes used his body weight to turn the wheel.
The local government installs temporary outdoor disco’s on some of the streets of Trinidad, complete with DJs. The lucky neighbours get to enjoy music all day and most of the night for free. How fortunate they are depends on their taste in music and dependency on sleep, of course. I know a certain casa particular owner that called the police at 3.30 one morning when she just couldn’t bare to hear one more sexist rap/raeggaton song.
Trinidad’s Cultural Week, as this festival is known, is primarily aimed at locals but does attract Cuban’s from out of town including musicians, comedians and dance groups. The main performances were held in the park opposite the new 5 Star Hotel which is behind Maritza’s house. If we were feeling lazy we we could sit on her rooftop terrace and enjoy the music which was mostly traditional folk, salsa, son and popular songs from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Some of the tunes did sound remotely familiar.
I found myself almost rubbing shoulders with a famous local comedian just before he performed one evening. His best joke, and perhaps the only one I fully understood, was about the jealous husband who bought his wife a mobile phone so he could check on her whereabouts at all times. Whenever he rang she was, of course, working in the kitchen. To prove it, her suspicious husband asked her to turn on their blender so he could be certain. Day after day, numerous times a day, the husband would ring and the wife would turn on the blender to convince him that she was in fact at home and working in the kitchen. One day the phone rang and rang but there was no answer, so husband rings the landline and young on answers. Dad asks son where his mother is. Son answers that she is in the kitchen. Dad asks son why she didn’t answer the mobile phone. Son tells dad that she can’t come to the phone because she is in the kitchen using the blender. Dad asks why she didn’t answer the mobile phone and son tells him because it is in the blender.
I think it is high time I upped my vitamin C intake to give my immune system a boost. Cubans can be very generous particularly when it comes to alcohol and they will insist on sharing their bottle of rum or beer with you. The problem is that they never have a spare glass so you get to share that too, and they won’t take no for an answer. After 4 months of being here quite a few people are starting to recognise me and recognition when intoxicated can mean that you’re their new best friend. I will need to start carrying a disposable cup with me.
Winter has finally arrived, it’s 28 degrees and there’s a cool breeze blowing, so in reality it feels like a Sydney Spring. Even the sun’s strength has faded a tad but the land is as scorched as I imagine it is in most of NSW and Southern Australia after the heat wave. All the Cubans I know are talking about the 45 degree temperatures and the fires in Australia which have been reported on the TV and in the papers for the past couple of weeks. Scenes of exploding houses and lots of dead stock have been shown.
We escaped to the mountains on the weekend and visited a local nursery which sells some familiar looking plants including African violets, begonias, herbs, strawberries, orchids and ferns. It has a stunning garden full of gardenia’s, hydrangeas (hortensia), roses, hibiscus and would you believe bottle brush trees. Across the road is a grove of what could be blue gums but are definitely tall slim eucalypts, so I feel positively at home here. The store and coffee shop was once the quaint mountain retreat built by Batista (dictator Fidel ousted) for his wife. It also sells medicinal herbs so I was able to buy a bag of fresh ginger for cooking purposes. Trinidad has 2 local ceramic factories, (one state owned and the other private) which produce terracotta pots amongst other items for the house and garden so I have started my own little potted herb garden. You will often spy a large assortment of pot plants in the internal patio’s of Cuban houses as you stroll past their open windows and doors.
Imported toothpaste has reappeared which is a relief. The locally made stuff is said to contain fluoride but my friends here are not convinced by the labeling. It certainly does contain bicarb of soda which is not a bad thing, but is rather tasteless. Does it work is my main concern?
I have been awarded temporary residency status which means I no longer have to report to the Immigration Office each month to pay for a visa. The laws have relaxed here and it is now much easier for Cubans to get a passport and travel abroad. I suspect the Immigration Offices are pretty busy at the moment so am pleased I don’t have to stand in that queue.
Happy Australia Day to all those downunder.
Hope it is a cool, bushfire free weekend.