September 2011

Waiting during recess.

The Registry Offices on my planet have become human concentrations or people’s saunas.  The long lines overflow to the outside of the building, most of them ending on the street, sidewalks and curbs, where those who aspire to be assisted hang around, waiting for the hoped-for moment. At lunch time, the office is closed and everyone must leave and wait outside. It should be noted that so far none of these sites has a computerized database.

None of them provides enough seats to accommodate everyone; insufficient ventilation is guaranteed. Of course, there is an exception that confirms the rule: the Central Havana Registry – perhaps the only one that works well, based on my personal experience.

I think I have visited almost all of them in the capital, including the one in Santiago de las Vegas, which like all of their species are located in houses and apartments, abandoned for several decades by their former owners and later by the State, which took possession of them without giving them any maintenance in all these years (including cleaning them).

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Here there were once seats

The people who work there do not enjoy appropriate working conditions and generally display a very bad temper. They do their work as if they were doing a great favor to the applicant, even making an effort so that it will not go unnoticed. This forces many users to arrive at the place bearing some small gift. If not, sit down and wait! In the end, whether they do their work well or badly, they will receive the same meager salary.

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Here is where there once was lighting and there was also an air conditioner.

After waiting for more than three hours to be helped, I was able to notice one of the possible causes of the delay: the long silicone nails, green and with small raised flowers, of the employee who took care of the applications. It was to be expected that she would take more than twenty minutes with each short four-line form to be filled out, in addition to the innumerable times that she would leave her work station for just a moment, to go deal with some small matter in another department, and not taking into account the friends who are allowed to go first, cutting into the line.

I was finally provided with a copy of my application on a recycled piece of paper, written exactly on the previously printed side, almost illegible, but even so I left the place relieved, and even happy to have been able to file my application.

Translated by: Espirituana

September 25 2011

Hey... I'm watching you

In order to make a modest contribution to what appears to be a great confusion when translating, I gave myself the task of searching in dictionaries, to clarify for that great actor who often visits us, Danny Glover, and who is said to be such a friend of Cuba (meaning the government), the true meaning of the word “spy,” which he so often confuses with “hero.”

According to the Larousse dictionary, illustrated manual (1969, pages 365 and 474):

Spy: a person charged with gathering secret information on a foreign power.

A person who on the sly observes the actions of another or tries to know his secrets (this last meaning suits the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution).

Hero: Someone who performs a heroic deed.

Main character of a literary work, adventure story, film.

Person who performs an action that requires courage.

I hope this helps clarify any confusion about the use of these two nouns, which are so often misused in our media.

Translated by Regina Anavy

September 20 2011

Normally, the emergency room of a hospital is a chaotic place, where ambulances are constantly arriving or cars bring in injured people, you hear screams and cries. But not always, at least not in the neighborhood polyclinics. Here things are more relaxes, as the emergencies go direction to the hospitals, as do the people who feel extremely ill, they don’t come to these primary care centers, they go quickly to the place where they know their problems will be resolved: the hospital, where they can count on there being more resources.

The cases I related below are true, though they seem like jokes, and what’s more they star the polyclinic in my neighborhood.

One of the doctors in whom I have the greatest confidence told me, that one Sunday when she was in the emergency room a young woman came in somewhat upset and said to her, “Doctor  you have to save my life, if you don’t help me my husband will kill me.”

“Tell my what the problem is and let’s see if we can help you,” the doctor said to her.

“Look, in all honestly, I am having an affair, and the thing is, I fell asleep and now I can’t go home without justifying to my husband where I was. I need you to admit me, and if you can, give me an IV!”

“Let’s see,” the doctor answered, “for this I have to consult with my superior, I can’t do this on my own.”

She consulted with the chief of the emergency room and both of them fearing for the physical integrity of the woman who was really very upset, decided to admit her and give her an IV with glucose.  They called her house and told her husband to come and get her, because she had come into the emergency room sick and they had spent the night stabilizing her. The husband, totally crushed, came immediately and looking at his defenseless wife he covered her in hugs and kisses and only reproached her for not waking him up and asking him to accompany her.

The other case was simpler but nicer: A woman of about 30 came and said to the doctor, “I’ve discovered a lump in my breast, but as I was teaching a class I waited to finish before coming to see you so you can tell me it’s cancer and how long I have to live.” The doctor grabbed a short white coat and said, “Take off your clothes and put this on and I will examine you immediately.”

The lady went behind the screen and at that moment a little metallic sound was heard. “Thank you doctor, but I don’t need you any more!” the patient said, “I found the cancer. I hadn’t noticed but in my haste to finish lunch, I was holding a dessert spoon in my hand and when I looked at the clock I had to run so I wouldn’t miss the bus, and I couldn’t think of anything to do with the spoon other than to put it in my bra and I forgot about it. You can’t imagine how worried I was having that lump all that time.”

The other case was a man who came to the emergency room with a matchbox, and shaking it to make a noise, showed it to the doctor. “Doctor, don’t think I’m crazy, but these are not matches, look, it’s two stones.”

The doctor asked, intrigued, “Are they something you excreted?”

“No, Doctor, I found these in my Cerelac when I was eating breakfast, and I wanted you to send them to be analyzed to see if they are poisoned.”

“Please, Sir,” the doctor said, “If you had been poisoned you would have symptoms. Better you go back to where you bought the product and make a claim against the seller.”

September 22 2011

Work on fabric, by Rebeca

Much has been said about the new image of the Cuban woman. In official spheres they speak of the revolutionary woman, mother, comrade, worker, housewife. But what’s certain is that, more and more, our women suffer transformations that are detrimental to their appearance and self-esteem.

A free woman is not a woman who tosses out profanities, gesturing, yelling, and baring her anatomy, or who wears a uniform to prove how free she is. A free woman, in my opinion, is someone who doesn’t undermine her public image, who behaves socially according to the most basic and simple rules of education, dresses neatly but humbly, according to where she works or is going, who curbs her tongue and tries to enrich it, not with swear words, but with simple and friendly words to others, treating everyone equally, showing care in the details. To be equal to men we don’t have to lose our femininity, it’s enough to demand equality of rights and duties and above all to respect ourselves.

One of the most common phenomena is the degradation of the image of women, here on my planet, it has been, among many others, through the brutal scarcities we have seen ourselves steadily subject to, being women, of course, the most vulnerable, precisely because without any doubt we are the gender most obliged to ensure the social ravages: scarcities of the most intimate personal articles, absence in the home of the father figure because of the sugar harvests, the wars on other continents, the international missions, and so on, where the woman is left alone at home with the children and the elderly, without the ability to go to work to help sustain the family economically.

On the other hand, the absence of information (this includes especially women’s magazines), as well as the abundance of negative examples in the media, in terms of the gestures and clothing seen in video-clips which sadly have been taken by the population as the standards of fashion, without taking into account that one thing is the ordinary daily clothing for work, whether in an office or factory or a doctor’s clinic or something else very different, is that used for fiction. Not to mention how insulting it is to show women as ornaments or objects for pleasure that are for sale.

We are those, precisely, who have to fight to be treated with respect and consideration by men, respecting ourselves and showing our intellectual and working capacity, just to be, without any doubt, those who bear the major social weight.

September 1 2011

In order to not continue losing our recipes, for lack of supplies or for how difficult it is for to get them in here, I am posting this recipe for your consideration, with the hope that those who are keen on the culinary arts will make it.

Catalonian Coca* (Family Recipe)

Before getting started, preheat the oven.

For the dough:

1 lb. of wheat flour (4 cups)

1/2 pound of refined white sugar (2 cups)

1/4 lb. of shortening (1/2 cup)

2 tablespoons of butter

1/2 teaspoon of salt

2 tablespoons of baking powder

2 tablespoons of dry white wine

3 eggs

So far things are going more or less well.

For the sauce:

1 can of tuna in oil

1 small can of baby peas (drained)

I can of red peppers (use about two)

1/4 pound of headless shrimp

2 hardboiled eggs for garnish

1 large chopped onion

4 cilantro leaves finely chopped

The first four ingredients are the hardest for us to get, but if anyone following me here, in my planet, has FE (Family in the Exterior), then they can give you the ingredients to make this recipe.

Procedure to make the dough:

Sift the dry ingredients and add the fat, breaking it up with a pair of knives until it is small lumps.

Add into the center of these ingredients, three beaten eggs and the dry wine.

Roll out the dough with a rolling pin to make a rectangle approximately the diameter of the pan to be used. Place the dough in a rectangular pan, greased. Separate out a small portion to make lattice strips.

Spread the tuna mixed with onion, cilantro and baby peas across the dough. Take the extra piece of dough and cut it into strips, and make a grid (see the photo). Place on each square a piece of hardboiled egg, a shrimp, and two strips of red pepper, folded. Varnish the lattice with beaten egg.

Put in the oven, about 35 minutes.

In these times of so many wars, there is nothing more relaxing than to make a good recipe to share with family. Bon appetit!

*Translator’s Note: Catalonion Coca is a pastry typically made and consumed in Catalonia (region in the Eastern part of Spain)

Translated by: BW

August 28 2011

The teachers asked his students: What is the future tense of the verb “to protest”?

Quick as a bunny, Pepito raised his hand and blurted, “‘Prison’! Professor.”

So it is, here in my planet, for the last fifty-two years some of the verbs in our rich Spanish grammar, have just one conjugation.

Just a few days ago the people of Havana learned of the events that star a pastor of a Pentecostal church and a group of his followers.

As the internal information is practically nil, we learned about the events long after it began, thanks to news from abroad spread verbally or by telephone by those few who have access to the Internet or satellite TV antennas.

Then the government was forced to inform us through a brief note that said very little in the press and on TV, which left people more confused.

The truth is that for the last week they’ve staged siege at the church located at Infanta and Santa Maria in the Cerro neighborhood, with police, ambulances, rooftop snipers, state security agents and firefighters are staging a kind of Cirque de Soleil, thanks to the worries expressed to the authorities by the families of the people voluntarily barricaded there.

Although we don’t know exactly who they are or what their true motives are for the sit-it, what we we do know is that thirty people are barricaded there, among them children and some pregnant women, showing support for their Pastor.

Yesterday it seemed the whole police force was withdrawn. I imagine there are only state security left and the ever alert informants from the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution. They reopened the shops, the farmer’s market and normal traffic circulation.

The Pastor and those supporting him remain there. They say the leit motif of this protest is the demand for housing, in exchange for that which a year ago the guide of this congregation built for himself and his family on the roof of the temple.

It only remains to wait and ask God for an appropriate, sensitive and peaceful solution for those barricaded there.

This unusual event sowed confusion among the authorities of my planet where, for more than half a century, public protest has been prohibited and the future tense of the verb “to protest” is conjugated with the word “prison.”

September 15 2011

It was early January 2001. I was in New York, invited by Marta, my lifelong friend. She took me from one end of the big city to the other, wanting me, in a few days, to see what was best and most interesting.

The first thing we did was visit the museums, dedicating an entire day to each one, and leaving for last the tourist sights. I remember that the day before I left that beautiful city, my friend decided to take me to visit the Twin Towers, despite my telling her, for romantic reasons perhaps, that I would prefer to visit the Empire State Building. But she didn’t budge, she told me I had to see them and if we had enough time we would visit the other places I wanted to see.

I have always been impressed by heights. Once we were there I was still trying to persuade Marta, telling her to look at the tremendous line we had to wait in to go up. She was unwavering, telling me, and it was true, that it would move very fast.

Indeed, thanks to the incredible organization, our turn came quickly. I was really impressed, as we went on a virtual helicopter ride where the seats of the spectators even moved. I could also take photos of Ellis Island from the large windows of the Towers. I was really pleased with the visit we had made thanks to the unwavering insistence of my dear friend. Who would have thought, at that time, that just eight months later these spectacular towers would disappear! That we could have been among the three thousand people who lost their lives, due to the cruel terrorist attacks. Every time the images of that fateful 9-11 come to mind, I think that all the security measures redoubled since then, as annoying as they are, are more than needed.

Thus, my sympathy for all the families of the victims of that tragedy, the survivors, and for that great nation. And my deepest contempt for those who try to impose their doctrines through the implementation of terror.

September 10 2011

Today the city is painted yellow.  Many women wear this color in honor of their Virgin, and carry beautiful yellow flowers in their hands, mostly sunflowers, and men and children accompany them. It is the day of La Caridad del Cobre, Cuba’s Patron Saint, the Mambisa Virgin. No one in the workplaces has to call for this, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution don’t have to mobilize, there is no overarching organization nor long lines to go and see it.  The people spontaneously come together to offer respect and devotion. Today, at five in the afternoon there will be a pilgrimage, leaving from the church that bears her name.

September 8 2011

1 can of condensed milk.

8 fresh egg yolks

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.

1 teaspoon vanilla.

1/4 cup white rum.

1 cup sugar.

1 cup water.

(These last two ingredients are to make the syrup).


Beat the egg yolks, add the syrup, almost cold, and the condensed Flavor it with vanilla, strain everything and cook it over low heat a few minutes.

Then, at the end, add the rum.

Allow it to cool and decant it into a previously sterilized glass container.

Generally all Cuban households had at least one liter of this cream to celebrate any event. It was very typical Creme de vie for special occasions such as the birth of a new family member, or baptism. Also for Christmas Eve.

A great gift to a friend or family would be to give this delicious drink in a personalized bottle, as in this case, specially decorated for the occasion.

Bon appetit!

September 4 2011