|Not brilliant quality, I was using
my cheapo Samsung J1
Yesterday was so very cold and overcast and it rained from time to time. Most of my clothes were in the wash so I was wearing shorts, all I had, not very sensible. The neighbours all clubbed together and bought a pig. When Nini first told me about it, I think it was still walking around but by the time I arrived it had been gutted (I am sure it was gutted) and wrapped up in a black polythene bag. It fell to Alexander to butcher the pig, the photo shows a fairly late stage and the various parts were distributed among the neighbours for cooking. How a guy off-work with recuperating torn ligaments in his left shoulder can do that, I don't know. Although the knife, and at some stages a small axe, were in his right hand, it still involved a lot of twisting. I did warn him to take care but he seemed oblivious to the risk. And the riskiest part was hacking the meat off the legs with a very sharp knife. And that was after we had gone for a beer together.
I stayed till 6pm but then said that I wanted to go back home but Alexander and Sofia came with me, first to a supermarket in the centre of Cuba to buy food for me, and then for me to catch my bus home. I will explain, Cuba is a region of Pereira, separated from the main centre of the city by Avenida de las Amercas which is about 5km long, running east to west. The airport and swimming pools are close to Cuba. Roads run like spokes of a wheel from the centre of Cuba, I live on one, Calle 70 served by bus 14 and they live in a zone on Calle 38 served by bus 5. The bus system, called Megabús is superb. All journeys are the same price and one has to use a card in which are stored journeys. The buses are frequent and the bus between Cuba and the centre runs like a train in its own section of road. To enter the main bus station in Cuba involves scanning the card at the entrance, then all journeys are included. So if you have an interchange as in my case, there is no need to swipe the card in the second bus.
I slept badly last night, one of the neighbours was playing music very loudly late at night and today, I still haven't got over my jet-lag. Part of the reason is that I haven't stopped since I arrived here and I know it is recommended to take a complete day off. No chance of that. From when I got off the plane in Bogotá I have been feeling very dehydrated and I worry that I have some kind of illness - not for my sake but because I don't want to spread it around. I just feel feel generally rough. But I have no cold symptoms, no temperature, no cough, nose clear. So I have to assume that it is the result of the flight from Spain.
Now to today, Saturday. The weather was much warmer with a hot sun, maybe a change of at least 10c in temperature. Alexander was due to have physiotherapy this morning and we had arranged to meet in Plaza Victoria in the centre at 9pm. But I was running late and they waited for me at Cuba bus station instead, which made Alexander 15 minutes late for his appointment - they told him to come back on Tuesday. Obviously it was as a result of my lateness but I didn't feel to blame because they could easily have stuck to Plan A! But we had a super day together. We strolled around shopping malls, had a coffee. I ordered a capuchino but it was nothing like that, it was weak and milky with no evidence of froth (they replaced it with something stronger but still without froth!) Last time I was here, I wrote in this blog how difficult it is to get a decent coffee here, the land of coffee! By contrast, Manila had many Starbucks coffee shops which served superb coffee. We took a taxi to Parc de Arborleda which is a favourite mall of mine. I have said before, the taxi drivers here are the nicest in the world. On the way, the driver gave me a pronounciation lesson which was enormous fun. I think I will have to forget all about those Spanish rolled Rs, here the sound is much gentler.
I had promised to buy Nini a dress and I spoke to Alexander just to check he had no problem with that. I am sure you can imagine the answer, I guess I was just being ultra-polite. Hey, I pay their rent but it will stop when his shoulder is recovered (chopping up a pig not terribly conducive to that!) She chose a marvellous black culotte. I will take a photo when she wears it next, she looked fabulous in the shop! It was about 55 euros. She asked my opinion about the one in green but I didn't think it was a good idea, black and white are so safe and you can wear anything with them. She said she didn't have any other clothes in green, so it was an easy decision. I am so happy she asked me. Many men are dress designers (admittedly many are gay) so we know about clothes! I wrote something similar when I was in Manila I think. We bought various things for my apartment, nothing for them. It is all very different this time, it is almost as if they don't want me to spend too much. For sure, last time was expensive because I was often with various members of the family, sister, mum..kids. Now we are just four and it is so nice. We had a meal together which I paid for of course, it came to about 20 euros. I am happy to spend that just on myself in Spain. And I don't feel they are taking advantage of me, Alexander said "Muchas gracias" afterwards as we walked away. I cannot tell you how different it feels this time. Nini is very happy, but rather tough on Sofia at times (haha, instead of me last time!) She is genuinely warm and friendly towards me (maybe a year ago you would have been sceptical but this time, yes, it is genuine). Unlike the Philippines, we all speak the same language. I find Alexander difficult to follow sometimes, more so than taxi drivers for example. He shortens (eats) his words rather in the stye of Andalucia and speaks rapidly. And it is funny, often I have trouble following Sofia. So she then patiently repeats the words to me more slowly!
Oh, I forgot, I bought her two colouring books and coloured pencils. I spent a lot of the time with her in tow, holding my hand. This is the family I never had! Prince Harry got into a little bit of trouble with the real family of Meghan Markle for using a similar phrase about her, so I should make it clear that I am talking about offspring, of which I have none! There is one generation between Sofi and Nini of course but somewhat more than one between me and her. But they often call me Tio Steve, which I like, because it makes me out to be the same generation as her parents!
They don't have a TV and I am buying them one. It was not solicited in any way, it was totally on my initiative. I just had a strong feeling that I wanted to buy them a tele. We all liked a 32 inch Samsung TV with TDT (digital terrestrial TV package) but I will wait a day or two for the New Year to pass. This was in the Éxito supermarket but in the past I have used Alkosto which is on Avenida de la Americas and is more of a technology store. But they will need a sofa from which to watch TV. I suggested buying one second-hand and buying or making a "throw" it is called in the UK. Simply a loose cover over the whole sofa. They were looking at new sofas in the shops but they have very little money, so my suggestion was better I think! In fact, as I left Cuba on the no 14 bus back home, we passed what looked like a re-conditioning shop. I came back home because I needed some rest and they went back home on the number 5 bus! And that brings me right up to the present time which is 7pm on Saturday evening. I think I deserve a beer! And my friends in Europe can wake up on Sunday morning to find my latest post. I hope you enjoy reading about my exploits!
Oh, by the way, Nini showed me the book of their wedding in October, she had sent photos by Skype of course but this was a printed book professionally put together. It was a spectacular affair. But I never asked, "How many sofas did that cost?" because to them it was clearly the most important day in their lives and my question never left my lips... of course not! My contribution was a box of 24 red roses which I think they forgot till the last minute, so I ordered them from a florist in Pereira online. They ended up in various bouquets.