Rene and me enjoying single malts and cigars while the Grammy winning jazz group Irakere plays 30 feet away.
A light dinner in HavanaComing back was a bit hectic as I had to fly through San Jose and Guatemala City on the way home to El Salvador. I did this to avoid a long stop over in SJO and also because Guate has a great duty-free store. They always have a buy one and the second one is half price deal going on. I have seen this for tequillas and champagnes and this time it was for whiskey and perfume.
So back at home I asked the caregiver for my Mother-in-law how she was and she tells me "mal". I ask her why and she said that her 4 year old son has bronchial asthma and she couldn’t take him to the hospital because she was working. I said fine but why didn’t his caregiver take him in and she said she left money to do so but it didn’t happen. I asked how he was now and she said better and that he only needs some pills that always help. I asked her what they were and she mentioned ampicillin - and I asked how many pills she buys and she said 2 or 3! So I explained how dangerous that was and how that it could make her son more ill by only partially taking out whatever bacterial infection he had while leaving the stronger ones to keep on growing. So I told her that she had to listen to the doctor or ask the pharmacist what was the minimum dosage she had to follow. I am thinking about her son’s asthma and asked her if she cooks with gas or wood in her house - and she says wood! Gas is heavily subsidized here so it will only cost about $5 a month ... but then again, wood is free and if you don’t have the $5, you are going to use wood even though everyone, from a recent University of Berkeley report to illiterate countryfolk, know that it is bad for their children’s health. So I spoke to Fatima and we are going to give her a countertop gas range and her first tank as part of her Christmas bonus.
After this conversation, I am feeling a little better and head off to they gym. Fatima drops me off and I work out and then walk back. One of the two regular guards lets me in and I ask, again "como estas?" He says fine and asks how I am and I say "bien" and he answers "como siempre." That means "like always" and obviously, there are a few ways of taking that. I take it to mean that I am a foreigner with money and don’t have a care in the world.
So the caregiver brought her son to the local public hospital and he was admitted and they gave him a 7 day cycle of antibiotics and she knows to use all 7 pills. Fatima and I went shopping and got a 4 burner gas cooker, tubing, clamps and a valve for about $40 in total. The first tank will cost about $25 so for $65, we just drastically improved the air quality of a family of 6. I am going to send this E-mail out to everyone who regularly gets cigars from me and, if they ever want to see another free cigar, they will donate US$65.00 to my new "Good smoke, bad smoke" campaign. How ironic that one good Cuban cigar can cost $75 while $65 can improve a family’s life.
We are in the midst of a lot of rain due to Tropical Storm Ida blowing past neighbouring Nicaragua and Honduras. Ironically, we are at the end of the hurricane season and Cuba has escaped clean this year ... but Ida may yet turn into a hurricane and hit Pinar del Rio. We should be having sunny dry days but we seem to be getting more rain now than we had in normally wet October.
Off to a wedding this evening. It is my good friend’s daughter who has decided, at the age of 21, that it would be a good idea to get married. She hasn’t finished school yet and her boyfriend is working but they will have to live with his parents until she starts working and they can afford to rent their own place. Naturally, my friend is not overjoyed with this decision. We bought a nice crystal vase at Portico and then thought a bunch of gift certificates to local restaurants would be a good idea (to give the couple the chance to get out of the house for some dinners). Sushi Ito didn’t have them but Chiles, Bennigans and Los Cebollines (Mexican) did. But get this, while all of them had gift certificates, none of the restaurants actually had any on site. They all said I had to drive to their main offices to get them. W T F. I spoke to the Chiles manager and asked him if thought it was reasonable to have me drive across town in bad traffic and in the rain to give him $60. He didn’t think so and disappeared and came back with some certificates! Bennigans basically blew me off and said I could go to the office or not get them. The Los Cebollines guy said that I could order them and come back to pick them up but this wouldn’t work for us so we got him to make the request to his office to have them delivered to another restaurant nearer to us ... so hopefully we will be able to get them en route to the wedding. It is being held in the bride’s mom’s cantina bar! Specializing in cheap cold beer and boquitas - small snacks such as fried tortillas with fresh cheese and avocado and deep fried chunks of pork! Now that’s wedding food.
A bit about El Salvador ... big news is that 12 Arena (right wing) Assemblymen have gone "independent" which means they can and probably will vote for the FMLN (left wing former guerillas in the civil war). Now why would they cross the floor and give the Frente a majority in the Assembly allowing them to pass a lot more initiatives? Word on the street is that the former president, Tony Saca, is being investigated for corruption and this deal will guarantee that he won’t be prosecuted. Hmm, maybe that is why Tony’s cousin led this little rebellion.