# 27: Open for Business

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August 18, 2014 by vivalafiona

Stop Press.
Casa Los Mangos is now open for business. We have received our licence to rent 2 rooms to Cuban and foreign tourists.
Not only that, we can now send and receive emails from our new ‘smartish’ mobile phone.
Email ossiel.ramirez@nauta.cu
And not only that, I finally have a kitchen, with a gas stove, hot running water to wash up in, and cupboards.
So, I have re-entered the 21st Century and hopefully the workforce.
Am putting my sales and marketing hat back on and hoping you can all help by circulating the following to anyone you know who is headed for Cuba, or considering it.
Casa Los Mangos is a small farm/large garden on the edge of Trinidad, 15 minutes walk along Calle Simon Bolivar from the historic centre of town. Our address is 8 Carretera La Boca on the road to La Boca fishing village and Trinidads beaches and snorkling spots. The hundred year old farm house offers 2 rooms for rent, both with ensuite, air conditioning, a bar fridge, double bed and portable fans. One room also contains a single bed. The house has a large verandah along the western side which overlooks the garden and orchard and catches the sea breezes. We have security parking for up to 4 cars and parking for large vehicles is available outside. The house sits on over a hectare of land with well established banana, soursop, avocado, citrus, guava and mango trees. We also grow a variety of herbs and vegetables and tropical plants including coffee and sugar cane.
We offer breakfast, lunch and dinner on the verandah (20m x 2.8 m), or in the garden weather permitting, including a welcome cold beverage made from home grown produce. Meals may include BBQ Fish, Pork, Sheep/Goat or Chicken cooked on an open fire or spit in the garden served with fresh vegetable salad, viandas (fried or roasted pumpkin, sweet potato, malanga/yams), arroz congri and fresh locally baked bread or a more traditional Cuban feast of roast pork, beans, fried green bananas, yuca (cassava), rice and salad followed by a traditional dessert and coffee. We also cater for vegetarians and grow a variety of herbs, fruits and vegetables.
Fresh fruit juices made from our own or locally produced produce including old fashioned lemonade, mango juice or smoothy, banana smoothy, papaya, watermelon, guava, guananbana (soursop) or passionfruit juice are available. Cocktails including Mango, Guanabana or Lime Daquiri, Mojito, Cuba Libre, Canchanchara and Local Beer are also offered.
Guests are welcome to wander through the garden at their leisure or relax in hammocks. There is a fresh produce market across the road, the train station is nearby and we are only 5 minutes by car to the Ancon Peninsula or a 30 minute scenic bicycle ride along the Caribbean coast to Ancon Beach. We have 3 geared bicycles for rent.
Your hosts are Ossiel Ramirez Perez and Fiona Wilson. He is a talented musician who has been performing in and around Trinidad for 17 years. He was a finalist in the recent International Song Compeition for Trinidad’s 500th Anniversary Celebrations. Osiel also speaks some Italian and English and can teach guitar, percussion and salsa. He is a keen fisherman and enjoys taking guests to some of his favourite local fishing spots. Fiona Wilson, was a sales and marketing manager in the Australian book publishing industry for 20 years, and an intrepid world traveller, who fell in love with Cuba on her first visit in 2002 and has returned many times since to explore the island, its historical centres and particularly its national parks. Now a permanent Cuban resident, married to Ossiel, Fiona has become an amateur fruit and vegetable farmer and co owner of Casa Los Mangos. Fiona speaks English and is still perfecting her Spanish.

My Irish mate said to me when we first bought the house back in August last year that we would be open by August 2014. I thought he was daft, confident that we would be up and running in 6 months time. Turns out of course that I was the daft one. We had much bigger plans for Casa Los Mangos including an outdoor bar and swimming pool, as does our young architect, but for now I want to enjoy a construction/renovation free life for a while and spend some time in the garden. My composting has paid off and the ground beneath the bananas is covered in pumpkin vines sprouting very large, long pumpkins. The first of our sunflowers are blooming and they have brought bees back into the garden which delights me and Osiels father, our gardener. Sunflowers are very popular in Cuba, particularly coveted by followers of Santeria of which there are many in Trinidad.
I learnt the hard way that although Cuba does not have any dangerous animals, other than perhaps mosquitos, it does have at least one plant that has a nasty sting. I spent the afternoon of my birthday last month with a local GP trying to find out why my legs were covered in a very itchy blisters. Normally mozzies don’t like my blood much and I have never had an allergy to anything before. He diagnosed that it was an allergic reaction to a plant, not an insect, but having learnt that I was Australian and had worked in publishing he was far more interested in discussing Mark Twain than my skin condition. It took nearly half an hour to write out a prescription while he waxed lyrical about Huck Finn and his other favourite reads, lamenting the fact that it was much harder now than it used to be to buy books in Cuba, especially the classics. Got me thinking that Cuba needs a Get Reading Revolution.
The culprit turned out to be something called guhao which grows wild on the hillsides around Trinidad and in particular on the hill leading up to the television tower, the one I regularly climb. I can now identify this plant and avoid it but apparently one afternoon I sat right on top of a young plant growing amongst the grass in the shade of a tree, engrossed in a book, Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond or it might have been Lionel Shriver’s The New Republic. Apparently being in the shade increases this plants potency, which is why I hadn’t been ‘bitten’ before, walking along an open trail.
It feels a little surreal to be set up in a home again, with a lounge room and a TV where I can sit at night and watch, would you believe, the first series of Downton Abbey. We have also been engrossed in the World Cup and held a Grand Final party here last Sunday with beer and pop corn. A shame that Argentina lost but some of you may be surprised to hear that Tim Cahill’s goal was voted the 2nd best of the whole competition by the Cuban commentators who were most impressed at the Aussies abilities and I think a little sad that they didn’t make it to the second round. They were, we think, a better team than the Brazilians. The best goal, according to the Cuban commentators, was scored by a Colombian.

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