HAVANA TIMES – Just a few hours ago a friend visited me. After some very affectionate greetings without hugs or kisses and after washing our hands with soap and water, she went to the place of the house where we Cubans usually receive visitors: the kitchen.
Immediately I started making coffee or rather a concoction that they are selling on the street as coffee that, to add insult to injury, is wrapped in a plastic soap wrapper.
While I keep an eye on the coffee maker so it doesn’t explode, I think of Todd Carmichael, the coffee sourcer. He’s from Philadelphia and conducts a documentary series called “Dangerous Grounds”, which I follow through the audiovisual “Package” of the week. I recommend it.
If Todd tried what’s being sold here in Havana he would get a very bad opinion of Cuban coffee. He would be concerned about the poor health of our noses, palates, and stomachs.
But going back to the topic of my friend’s visit, the first thing I ask her is how she is managing. She explains to me that she’s been shopping at MLC stores, which some teasingly call LSD, and I simply call them what they are, “dollar stores.” She pays the dollars at 50 Cuban pesos (double the official rate), she goes to a bank and deposits them on the famous card. In this way, she buys food for her children and other items that she needs.
I ask her if the stores are well stocked. In a very characteristic Cuban gesture, she makes a face and indicates with her hand that more or less. She then tells me that she has to line up at 5 am and that around eight or nine the guard takes peoples’ ID card and two or three hours later she makes the purchase.
We couldn’t drink our coffee, it was horrible. I made her an herb tea with plants from my garden. We talked a while more and I gave her some Passion Fruit to make juice for her children. We said goodbye with great affection, and we wished each other well.