Etecsa Telecommunications Building, Downtown Havana, Wednesday, April 13, 2005, 3:06 pm
So I am sitting here in a new place and I gotta hurry since I bought a $6 CUC Internet access card and I only have 53 minutes left.
At any rate, the dinner at Pedro´s family on Sunday was amazing. We took the GuaGua (Public Transit System) and after about 1 hour we arrived in the area of Marinao. From there we had to walk another 30 minutes or so to get to his house.
Lush tropical vegetation.
There I was received by an entire Cuban family, Pedro´s wife and daughter, his sister in law and their two female cousins who had come in from out of town. It was amazing being in a Cuban home, after having spent a whole week in an impersonal hotel. It was immediately obvious that the Cuban concept of family is very different from what I have experienced in Austria or Canada. Family members live in very tight living quarters since housing is scarce in Havana and often 2 or 3 generations live under one roof.
My friend told me that in his father´s house 3 of his brothers live in one bedroom (and they sometimes receive visits from their girlfriends who end up sleeping in the same room), his sister and mother sleep in one room (as his mother is divorced), and the father and another sibling sleep in another room. It´s very difficult to imagine this type of crammed living environment, there is definitely not much privacy….
By Canadian standards, the home is very basic, located in a complex with about 6 apartments, this apartment contains 2 bedrooms which are shared by my friend, his wife and daughter (who together have one bedroom), his wife´s sister (who has the other bedroom) and the father of the 2 ladies sleeps in the living room.
Furniture and decor are very basic and instead of upholstered sofas the furniture consists of traditional wooden chairs that have a colonial appearance. One of the cousins who was in from out of town got married last year to a friend of mine in Toronto, so she came to Havana to go to the Canadian Consulate to get her visa to finally go to Canada. Getting to go to Canada is not an easy thing at all for Cubans, since it is very difficult to obtain a Cuban passport.
We talked a lot about Canada and about the fact that life is very different, the climate, the environment, the concept of family. This discussion was particularly relevant since Pedro´s wife´s female cousin is hoping to come to Canada in the next 6 weeks as she is currently pregnant.
At any rate, the hospitality was great. I was received like a long-lost friend and the ladies had really taken great care to prepare an outstanding dinner. The table was full of dishes: fried chicken, white rice with bean sauce, fried sweet plaintains (one of my favourite foods) and a tasty bean salad. We had flan for dessert and it was one of the best meals I have had in Cuba so far.
I had brought a little souvenir for the family: 2 sets of coloured pens for the little girl which she absolutely loved and some beautiful flowers for the ladies of the house. The atmosphere was a little shy at first, but after a while we started chatting, asking each other questions about our respective lives in these 2 very different countries. All the while I was there I felt very special and I felt truly honoured to have had an opportunity to be introduced to a Cuban family and to experience Cuban hospitality first hand.