I awake from my siesta in the early evening. Stare at the creaky old overhead fan futilely moving the stale, hot air around and around. Where am I? Dazed and confused from all the heat and exhaustion, I yank open the shutters. Contramaestra!
The long evening shadows create a Cuban twilight zone in the plaza below. Some good hombres hang about below a lamp post smoking cigarettes. Passing around a bottle of rum. Everyone's spilling out into the street.
The chicos strut about in impossibly tight pants. The chicas in bright makeup and minis. Everybody trying to catch one anothers' eye. Naked toddlers race about at play. The little girls practice twirling the hula hoops around their impossibly skinny legs. Looking at my watch, I notice it's time to get ready for tonight's big show.
I head to the hotel washroom. Can't drink the local water. So I brush my teeth and gargle with the last of my Coke. Blech. A little boy, waiting for his father by the toilet stall, watches intently. A little wink. He smiles. Stares shyly at the floor. Cute.
First stop -the dollar store. I buy three more Cokes to take with me. Damn. I feel so guilty in here! Off we head into the Cuban night, the streetlamps casting a pale glow down the narrow cobblestone streets of Contramaestra.
Suddenly -a blackout!!!! Damn those Yankees!! By now a conditioned scream! We'd almost break out laughing except for the chaos that ensues. Cubans on clunky old Chinese bicycles crash into each other, people walking on the street. A mad cacophony of angry voices, bruised arms, shins and knees. Even a fist fight or two as tempers flare. Ho boy! For awhile we stumble about. Total strangers lost in the dark Contramaestra night.....
He gestures for security to let us in. The guards fan out parting passage among the jostling sea surrounding us. We dart for the gate. Matilde determinedly hangs onto my hand for dear life. Ramon bravely tries to fight back the crowd. Willy's bringing up the rear. The crowd descends crashing upon us, picking him clean! At the last second we yank him through. For the rest of our trip he'll bemoan his lost pocket calculator. A cheap gift but all he had to work out the school finances.
"My Chinese slippers! I lost one! I lost one!", Matilde cries!
"We'll get you another!"
"But, I bought them in Habana!"
A table has been reserved for us up front the decrepit old stage. I nervously sit down. The band soon joins us. Yes. They've heard a lot about Canada. Another Cuban joke: if Quebec separates from Canada they'll join us. Then we'll have the United States surrounded. Ha! Unlikely.
A pale spotlight shines on centre stage ...
To be continued ......