#20 :: Bunyips and bananas

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September 18, 2013 by vivalafiona

Avocados y Platano
I bought a house yesterday.

A small farm on the outskirts of town, perhaps on the wrong side of the tracks for some but I opted for the tranquility and the mango trees. In fact it is more of a banana and avocado farm. Paradise for one 3 year old I know in Australia who loves this combination and taught me that mashed banana and avocado is actually very nice. Perhaps I can convince Osiel’s 7 year old to dine on this instead of ice cream and cucumber.

Conveyancing takes about 4 hours. Not surprising really when a wedding only takes 4 minutes, once you have all the paperwork ready of course. It is the queues in the bank that takes the longest amount of time, same the world over me thinks. Cuban banks don’t issue bank cheques so when you purchase something big and expensive like a house or a car you have to pay in cash. Banks rarely have large notes so extracting let’s say 100,000.00 pesos, which is the equivalent of US$4000.00, involves handling very large wads of money. We had to take a back pack with us. I felt like a very paranoid gangster as we left the bank and jumped into the waiting Chevrolet outside (a friend of Osiel’s) to personally transfer the money into the vendors account at another bank a few blocks away. Trinidad’s banks can’t do electronic transfers either, apparently.

My paranoia was I think a little justified. Trinidad is after all a small country town and for those of you who have grown up in one you will know only too well that everyone knows everything about everyone. Dad transferred some money for me recently from Australia and when I went to check if it had arrived it seemed that all of the staff in the bank were in the know. As I mentioned I am greeted as a friend/acquaintance by some of the staff and by others as the foreigner with name of a popular cartoon character (Shrek). It goes without saying that all their family and friends know also and most will even be aware of how much the house cost. No need for it to be advertised on leaflets by real estate agents or printed in the newspaper, word of mouth/gossip is Cuba’s no 1 advertising medium.

So now my new job begins. After being unemployed for almost a year I am looking forward to some responsibility, routine and a few deadlines in my life. There is much to do. The construction of a cottage garden to provide us with veges, herbs, spices and medicinal plants. Renovation of the tourist accommodation so that we can open for business by October/November. Landscaping the front yard a) to provide some flowering plants and more shade and b) to reduce the amount of mud and dust in the house. We are sitting on red clay soil, which is evidently fabulous for bananas, avocados and mangoes but not so fabulous for house interiors. The fact that it is almost impossible to buy a doormat in this country only makes my life and every other Cubans life hell when it comes to trying to keep a house clean. The revolution brought education to all women and equal rights in the eyes of the law but housework is still a woman’s domain so I should correct this: ‘every Cuban woman’s life hell’! I made sure Osiel visited the aisle in Bunnings that houses a huge range of doormats they offer so he could be filled with inspiration to start producing them here in Trinidad. Cubans make all kinds of things out of old rubber tyres so why not doormats.

People often ask me what I miss most about Australia. The answer is people, the Aussie bush and coast and believe it or not working (at A&U). I know now how difficult being unemployed or retired can be for the psyche. I was also extraordinarily lucky to work in an industry that produced one of the things I love most in the world – books. I nearly cry when I enter a bookshop here and am counting the days for the next Book Fair in Havana (Feb 2014). Fortunately for some of the children I know we passed through Santiago Chile and were able to stock up on Spanish language picture and sticker books.

I also want to report that I have now read 2 books and flicked through various others on my Sony e-reader and still have not had to recharge it. Therefore in my opinion it is an excellent traveling companion especially for those prone to prefer remote out of the way places to visit and/or the great outdoors.

Some wonderful friends gave us season 1 and 2 of Game of Thrones on DVD to bring back with us. Compelling watching, it is both entertaining and horrifying us most nights. Anyone know if there is a season 3 yet? An excellent way for Osiel to practice his English. We also scored a copy of The Sapphires which will help introduce my Cuban friends and family to a little Aussie culture and history as well as a genre of music they missed out on due to a revolution.
We have started to harvest some of the bananas and avocados. Truly the avocados are the size of very large eggplants and weigh a ton. More importantly they are delicious and make the best guacamole. I fear we are going to turn green from over consumption. We need to rent a horse and cart to take them to market because our large wheel barrow is not up to it. . Perhaps something else we will need to purchase (horse and cart) because as Osiel argued it could also serve to provide tourists with a ride to the beach (20 minutes away by horse and cart). So there’s a treat in-store for you when you come and visit.
A new edition to the family arrived yesterday. A four month old, black Creole puppy which I have named Bunyip. We need a bit of Australiana around here and he does look a little like a kelpie. Quite a few people have suggested I import a kangaroo or two but I think we will have to settle for the stone variety. Cubans have an obsession with decorating their gardens with gnomes and brightly coloured mushrooms so perhaps I can find someone to make me a Skippy. Bunyip is having English lessons so he too will be able to communicate with the tourists, and take orders from me.

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