Pushing a home-made cart with used roller bearings for wheels, this man covers a lot of ground collecting cardboard for recycling. I’m sure it doesn’t pay much, but in Cuba every little bit helps.
On this day, I found him almost 3 kilometers from his home in Centro Habana. Keep in mind that many streets are not good and his cart does not roll well.
Necessity is the mother of invention.
Somewhere under this pile of ropes, strings and flattened boxes is the cart he pushes daily.
No, not Creedence Clearwater Revival
Cuban Computer Repair.
On two occasions I asked my friend Heiler to look at my malfunctioning laptop. The first time he quickly diagnosed a bad memory stick and replaced it with one from his laptop.
The last time things were a bit more complicated. I had a problem with the keyboard that required complete disassembly and cleaning.
Both repairs started with the 12″ red handled kitchen knife and a shot of rum (for me). When I asked him why he did not use the miniature tool set I gave him, Heiler shrugged, said something that I did not understand, and laughed. We all laughed. Cubans love to laugh. I drank more rum.
If you are walking with a camera in hand, you must be a tourist. At least that’s what most Cubans think and most of the time they are correct. So when I am out photographing with Romnis – https://wp.me/p4fUlX-Tt – and I hear “where you fron”, I laugh and let him answer.
This gentleman did not believe that Romnis was Cuban. He pulled out a 20 peso bill and made a bet. Romnis dug out his government I.D. and we all had a good laugh. No money was exchanged.
He was waiting in a Havana doorway while having his bike repaired.
As I walked past, I heard “full frame?”
It took a moment to sink in. Someone was asking about my camera …. in English.
Of course, I stopped and a fine young man introduced himself as Romnis. We talked cameras and photography for a while. He explained that he was a student of photography at the university and showed me some of his work. I was impressed. We quickly became friends, exchanged numbers, and agreed to photograph together in the coming days.
Romnis and his professor.
The classroom. This is a private school in a private home.
In the office of the professor.
Some of Romnis work:
Sometimes the simplest things bring the biggest smiles. I gave this man a Ford decal for his convertible. He loved it.
Tu Kola is the Cuban equivalent to Coca Cola. Apparently a shipment arrived in Havana on this day because I saw cases being delivered in more than one location.
At Bar Metropolitanos my friend Damian found himself in the middle of the action. After he posed for a photo with two cases of cola I showed everyone the image I made earlier of a guy carrying six cases into another restaurant. We all had a good laugh.
Cuban or Tourist ? That’s the name of the game. The way it’s played is to leave your luxury hotel in Trinidad, Cuba after sunset and head to the nearby park to enjoy a fine Cuban cigar. The next step is important: Find a bench that’s not crowded with a good view of the foot traffic. Sit down in your best “mind your own business” body language and light up.
Sooner, rather than later, one friendly Cuban will spot you for a tourist and want to start a conversation. If you’re like me and don’t speak Spanish (shame, shame, shame) conversations develop slowly. Especially when trying to describe the cold and snowy conditions back home. Everything from shivering to shoveling to driving in the snow makes for very animated communication (and lots of laughs).
Your new Cuban friend will inevitably try to teach you some Spanish. Like “caliente” to describe the weather or “frio” to describe the two beers that you just bought. (it’s impolite to drink in front of a friend).
Oh, yes … the game. When you get tired of animated communication, you start pointing at passers-by and asking your friend “Cubano o Tourista” ? He will identify each one and soon start pointing and asking you, “Cubano o Tourista” ? He will also tell you when you guess wrong, which happens a lot more with you guessing than with him guessing. If you want to have some real fun, argue with him when he tells you “no un cubano, un turista”. You can tell him that you recognize Cuban shoes (zapatos) when you see them, or use any other single Spanish word that you think you can apply.
You will both have lots of laughs until the “poh-leez-man” shows up.
When the police get out of their car at the nearest intersection and decide to watch the crowds, the game is over. Your new friend will whisper “poh-leez-man” several times as he gets up off your bench and moves to one of his own. Suddenly your cigar and your beer will not seem so enjoyable. You can wait a few minutes, walk to another bench on the other side of the park, but the moment is lost. The game is over.