Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Cuba Anyone? Excellente!

This blog comes to you from our good friend Darren Brocklehurst. It’s a great story and a great read. I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did. Thanks Darren. :-) He begins by writing...

While we were in Cuba we rented a taxi and drove into the city of Camaguay to see what the real Cuba looks like. (It’s very crowded with narrow streets and a very weird juxtaposition of Capitalism based stores and Communism based stores. Ones filled with North American type products and other filled with odd bits and pieces of random items… weird).

While we were there we walked past a corner that had an open sewer grate and the smell was a little overwhelming, and unfortunately there was a pizza store right on that corner too. We were hungry, so we decided to give it a try, but the culture barrier made it awkward, so the bravest of us went in and one of us put the $3 on the counter and took away a piece of dough about an inch thick and six inches across. The locals were eating them folded taco-style. We quickly discovered that the stench at the corner was not caused by the sewer, but by the cheese on the pizzas. The little pizza that we were now holding smelled a lot like baby poo. One bite later we discovered that the cheese tasted pretty much the way you would expect baby poo to taste. Yuck.

Cuban food: 1 Hungry tourist: 0.

We took a tour of some of the downtown cultural sites (the Theatre, the Monument to Che, the Creepy Frozen Old People statues, etc) and we saw the market. Pretty much all vegetables (Tomatoes were selling for about 16 cents each, coconuts for 25 cents). I told our guide that I’d like a coconut and he said that he knew where there were fresh ones on the street. Whohoo. Fresh coconut straight from the tree.

Later in the tour we pulled over at a street vendor who had a cart full of coconuts with the husk still covering the shell. He took a machete the size of my arm and whacked off the end in two or three skillful swipes (I counted, and he still had all ten fingers – amazing!) Then he poked a hole in the end for me to drink the laxative inside. I passed on the coconut milk laxative (Bernie had a terrible experience the last time he was in Cuba with the coconut milk and scared me enough that there was no way that I was going to drink any of it!). Then I asked about eating the inside. He whacked the whole thing in half with his sword and passed me the coconut. The only trouble was that there was no meat inside. Where I had expected the meat to be there was just a congealed white paste that reminded me of sour milk. I shrugged and the machete guy whacked off part of the next husk and handed me a “spoon” and motioned that I should scoop the curdled milk slime into my mouth and enjoy. “When in Rome” has always been my motto (I’m going to change that soon!) so I scooped the white paste into my mouth and smiled for the camera. Once I had turned the corner I took a photo of my second try at Cuba street food, swallowed what felt like warm snot in my mouth and threw the rest of the coconut away.

Cuban food: 2 Hungry tourist: 0.

I didn’t have it in me to try again.

Our last day at the resort we walked into the little town where I had seen a local eating the coconut meat that I so desperately desired now and the stand that he had just the day before was gone. Oh dear. We didn’t find any coconut meat (I asked a local and he told me to start asking for coco-fruit – which turned out to be genius!) and when we returned to the entrance to the resort I asked the concierge where I might get some coco-fruit and he whistled for the gardener to come to the desk. I went with the guy and brought out a 247 foot long stick with a hook on the end (ok, maybe it was 15 feet, but it was a long skinny stick). He poked the coconut tree until it gave up two of its fruit. Then he took his dull rusty knife and sawed at the husk until he had poked a hole in the top of the coconut exposing a tiny hole just big enough to get the laxative out of the nut. I smiled, tipped him generously and left to dispose of my second nut full of Exlax.

Cuban food: 3 Hungry tourist: 0.

I refused to be beaten by this, so I trodded off to the beach where I knew of a guy with a machete. The guy as not there, but the sword was. How hard could it be? I’ve used an ax and I’m a master at Jedi Knights, so I took the machete in one hand and laying the coconut on the sand I thought better of the whole idea and decided it was better to be hungry than amputated.

Then I remembered Gilbert (the guide who took us to the reef). He wears a nasty Shark Knife strapped to his calf muscle all the time. Maybe he could crack this nut for me. I took it to him and he said “no problem!” and then took my coconut behind the screen and I heard “THUMP, wuble wuble wuble” “THUMP, wuble wuble wuble” “THUMP, wuble wuble wuble” (this part is better in person – imagine me with a curious face and the cool sound effects that I make…) I peeked behind the screen and Gilbert was THROWING the coconut at the concrete floor of his hut and then jumping out of the way as it bounced off random things in his office. I tried to call him off, but he had already broken the coconut for me.

I then realized how hard it was going to be to separate the meat from the shell.

Cuban food: 4 Hungry tourist: 0.

Bernie and I had one more coconut that still had it’s husk on, so we took his coconut to the basketball court (which was basically a run down concrete pad with a pole at either end) and “THUMP, wuble wuble wuble” “THUMP, wuble wuble wuble” we were dodging Bernie’s coconut trying to get it to break

Cuban food: 5 Hungry tourist: 0.

Anyway, just to finish the story I did get some of the meat from the shell before supper and packed the rest for the plane ride home the next day. It took me the full three hours to get all the meat off the shell, but I ate the entire coconut before we landed at YYZ.



At 6:56 AM, Blogger Darren said...

Aww, shucks - I appreciate the ink - thanks for the attention.

I do, however, wonder how things are going for you...

How's your job search going? Where are you staying? What do you do with your spare time? Do you get to go to the Jazz Clubs? Why *do* they call it the Windy City?

How is my friend really doing?

Enquiring minds want to know!


At 10:52 AM, Anonymous Me said...

Hello :-)

Well, things are going really well. I still am doing the job search thing. Most of my time is taken up in the pursuit of finding a job. I spend a lot of time doing aplications and searching for jobs. I try to tailor my resume and cover letter for each job I apply for. I was really hoping to be working by now.

Outside of that things are going really well. :-)

As to the windy city, well, from what I heard recently, it's called the Windy City because of all the jazz muscicians that came from here, or came here to make a name for themselves. I guess Chicago is famous for jazz wind instrument musicians.


At 11:05 AM, Blogger Sylvie said...

Thanks for posting darren's message Ken. That was super fun to read!

Hey Darren - great descriptive story - every thought of writing a novel?

At 11:39 AM, Blogger thesscurry said...

ok Sir Kenneth--- but what kinds of jobs are you applying for...???

At 5:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's not the blog you said you were going to post.....come on man...spill!


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