July 3rd, 2008


7-2, 17:00 (Cuba)

Dear Sarah,

There is a lot I want you to know about. But, since I rambled in my previous letter, instead I'll try to stay on a topic of mutual interest.

"What were the three greatest defeats in the Revolution?"
"Breakfast, lunch, and dinner."

It isn't that Cuban's can't or don't cook. Instead, it's difficult to obtain stocks or ingredients of any sort when everything is regulated. It has been only recently that community farms and coops became legal. There's a farmer's market in Habana, but it's more tourist trap than local gathering.

There are four classes of establishments where we can eat: (all regulated)

1. Restaurants - these can be inside hotels, or on streets. But they're all expensive ripoffs.

2. Street vendors - these can vary from ice cream vendors to refrescos, pizzas to the very common bread and ham sandwich.

3. Paladares - these are people's homes that are open to foreigners. Heavily taxed and often cracked down upon, the government doesn't like them because they smack of private enterprise.

4. Casa particulars - it's required they serve us one meal a day.

The best options are the paladares and the casa's. It's tragic, but for 10 CUC$ a piece, we get to eat incredible meals these families wish for every day. On Monday, when we couldn't finish up, we hoped they ate our leftovers.

The national food of Cuba is rice and beans. Which, before certain times in college, I would have thought depressing and bland. But, every meal we've had has been delicious!

The rice varies - it's usually short grained and bleached. The beans are black and spiced. We mix the two with the rest of our meal to great result.

Beef is illegal to everyone except Cuban Jews. The meats of Cuba are pork and chicken. Fried chicken, baked chicken, and cooked pork. And everything is left in their natural juices up to their serving.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner comes with mango. It's first skinned and then sliced off. And, it's juicy and delicious without fail. Sam devours all he can - his hunger for citrus has been unsated even by the Caribbean. But, it I can find it so good in the States, I definitely have found a new fruit to love. Oddly, it's always served with a dash of sugar.

"Ensalada" is the term used for sliced tomatoes, onions and avocado. Then, sprinkle some salt on top. Sam and I leave the avocados to Chris, and Sam leaves the tomatoes to Chris and me. I feast and mix it with everything. I like Cuban salads.

Rice, beans, meat, mango and "salad." That's a typical Cuban meal.

Of course, there are drinks. In the morning, it's a cup of coffee to get you going. And, orange juice with sugar added during breakfast. In the evening, it's "tuKola" made with "sugar and/or corn syrup." If you want water, you have to ask.

Humorously, I'm eating the most sustainably I have ever - possibly in my life. You've talked about urban farms, there is one right outside my building! Gardens are community plots and produce is sold as such. Livestock is less common. We've seen chickens. But, cows and larger animals are all on the outskirts of town. As are the larger impact fields like rice, beans and sugar.

Supposedly, the best Cuban cuisine is in Miami. But, they're strongly proud about one local culinary variation: ice cream. Coppella is a dedicated park to it. Yeras ago, there was even a competition to have more flavors than Baskin-Robbins. But, it's less fancy now. Regardless, we all enjoyed a glass of strawberry ice cream in the shade. It was, and I'm sure is becoming monotonous, delicious.

Every house receives a crockpot and rice cooker. But, given what I've seen, I think people would kill for a blender like your Annihilatrix. I miss it, with it came nice things.


The beach. I'm still sick.

Dear Sarah,

Thursday morning, I woke up at 5am. We went to sleep very early on Wednesday evening. But I didn't start so early because I had slept enough. Just nightmares.

I dreamed about everyone I love. It was a set of monologues with short scenery changes acting as some semblance of a story. Each person would talk about their goals and hard work. No one explicity said it, but the common subtext was clear. My existence and constant laziness was an impediment to them.

The last one, and the one I woke up from, was you. I remember it becuase the character was you - but the body wasn't. Your hair was cut. Your physique was tougher, and your posture aggressive. I tried to say how it wasn't my intention to stand in your life's path. But, I had no voice and "your" words cut enough to end my slumber.

Or, maybe it was the heat.

The humidity and temperature here are both hihg. There are two seasons: sunny and rainy. The only difference is that in one, it rains. For our visit, the rain has mostly confined itself to the afternoon. Those showers are harkened by the familiar smell and last for hours. Being caught in them means never drying off.

Our casa is inland, in the "uninterested" central district of Habana. The morning heat starts early, as we miss the costal breeze. As does the noise and bustle, since the reason our district is considered "uninteresting" is because people live here. As foreigners aren't allowed to talk to locals, goes the thinking, what could possibly be the reason for visiting?

My mood is still somber. I feel it comes across in my writing. Since my ability to communicate is one-way, I find myself imagining what's happened with you at home. Did you finish the move? How is your feasibility study starting up? Have you thought about local Native-American traditional diets? I presume by the time I return, you will have purchased tickets for Los Angeles. While I want to be with you for your birthday, I hope you didn't book your ticket to return Thursday. You're closer to your family than I am to mine; and, I feel it's important to be with the people who have and continue to stand by you.

We're going to the beach today. Actually, I'm at the beach right now. (I write these letters over the course of hours.) The thought in our minds is that a day of laziness will do our moods an improvement.

The first beach we tried to visit, Terará, used to be the happening location. It since has been barred to tourists without proper documentation. Our taxi driver tried warning us against it; but, we were determined. Unfortunately, there was little success to be found arguing at the police checkpoint. Instead, we moved on to Playa de Este. Which is actually a collection of beaches. We arrived at the first, de Mégano, arranged return transport by 5pm, and set off. The beaches is mixed with few tourists and more Cubans. It's also well patrolled. Minutes after finding a palm to base from, a guard warned us of theives. "mas ojos!" Keep our eyes on our belongings.

These are teh first real idyllic beaches I've been on. The wind and sea keeps the air humid but cool. The sand doesn't blow because it's coarse. The water is warm and green to blue. The sun isn't oppressive today so a lone and ragged palm is more than enough shade to provide comfort.

I write and watch, feeling better. Sam walks and is a happier jerk. Chris reads my literal copy of the Motorcycle Diaries, and is a smiling annoyance. I love my companions.

And, I love and miss you,


Happier now. Still sick.

Dear Sarah,

The water was refreshing.

The taste of it in my mouth was saltier than the Pacific ever was. After mentioning this to Sam, we proceeded to argue in the water for twenty minutes about my "dubious claims."

While we tossed logical fallacies between us, ("If I can taste the difference between fresh and salt water, why can't I taste the difference in levels of salinity?" "That is the worst strawman I have ever heard. I would have stuck with my heated water retains more salt argument." "You know what else holds more when I get it hot?") I watched a couple make love in the surf. They soon discovered a seemingly under-broadcasted truth.

Sex in water sucks.

Thursday, and thinking of you.