I woke up, having slept quite long and undisturbed – except from a dreadful dream about one of the profesoras:) and I jumped into the shower hoping the electrifier would kick in so I could have a hot one too.. I was lucky, even though it was no Niagara Falls, it was sufficient, and having done all that I turned on MTV and had a cigarette.
Now, we’re closing in on x-mas rather rapidly, and if I buy most of the presents here in Cuba I will save some really hard cash, even though it means carrying it around Amsterdam the day I get to explore it (next Friday). I mean, I am a student, I ain’t got a job at the moment, no income, and this pressure from all the folks I know to buy them cigars. Well, that ain’t gonna happen! I don’t buy cheap shit from the streets, ’cause you risk buying cigars rolled of bananaleaves, hence I’d rather pay a fortune to get the real thing for myself.. And maybe a couple of others. But the quota of carrying cigars over the Norwegian border is only 250g. which allows 25-30 cigars sized no. 4. "So, what am I to do?" I’m thinking, sitting there puffing my Lucky Strike and having a glass of orangejuice while watching Britney Spears and Madonna shake their asses in what they call serious music. Heh. Well, whatever I do, I have to do it today – because of my exams on Monday and Tuesday – and it will cost some hard earned cash (that I borrowed from my mother:)
So, after having checked my e-mail and deleted all the ones that I really should have read, I go off to Habana with 150 US Dollars in my pockets.. I get to Real Fabrica de Tobacos (Habaneros) which is located just behind The Capitolio (quite an impressing building, a "duplicate" of Capitol Hill) and pay the entrance fee of 10USD. I’m mixed up with this group of tacky people from Wales, a few drunk ones from Denmark and this really stuck-up, German grandparents who keeps throwing shit at me even though I understand every single word (more or less).
Then we’re guided through the factory, without any bags or cameras (something I could’ve been without, I even recharged my digital camera’s batteries for this scoop), and led through the process of making high-quality cigars. First, we enter this room where the smell of great tobaccoleaves really gets your juices flowing, where there are these two men who’re just sitting there sorting the leaves after size, quality and texture. Ok. Great job?.. Then we’re led to the "rolling school" where the going-to-be-master-rollers are learned from scratch how to make this enjoyable vice. They seem very concentrated at first, then very distracted by one of the Danis people’s strange laughter who really scared the shit out of me.. None of the cigars made here are sold or exported.
Up on the next floor we’re introduced to the real rollers. These are the skilled rollers who attends at the factory 8hrs a day and 5 days a week, with a bottom salary of 10USD a month (which is pretty good in Cuba) which rises after how good and how many cigars you make. They are also allowed to smoke as much cigars as they want to, and I think they could take with them 2 cigars a day – something for the wife and kids waiting at home.. Now, we go through the entire process, but are interrupted by this man reading in a microphone.. We learn that he is "the leader" and that he reads aloud books the workers wants to hear. Quite intelligent, if you ask me. I mean, you can sit there working and learn the entire European History from A to Z in a year! While earning money!.. Oh, well. I don’t think 10USD would cover for my lifestyle, so maybe in a next life…
After the whole ordeal, we’re carefully guided into La Tienda, the shop, where we can buy high-quality cigars in all sizes, to all prices, and even limited editions. By this time I was really yearning for a cigarette, so you can imagine how I gaped at those great Cohiba’s and Romeo y Julietta’s looking back at me, with pricetags from 50-500 USD. I bought myself 25 Montecristo no. 4 which is quite small in size (no. 4) and not too strong for my tender throat. I also got a cutter, and some other cigars that I bought single, just to have a taste. Then I was out of there heading for the nearest caffe..
.. Which was the outdoor cafe outside Hotel Inglaterra where I was going to enjoy a cup of Cafe Americano (black with no sugar) when this cuban hustler (jinetero) asked me for a beer. Shit, sure why not? Since I already had spent 80USD on cigars and stuff, why not make the day for this poor bastard? BUT he was going to pay me back, oh yes, he could see that I was intelligent – you see – so he insisted on bringing me Jose Marti’s collection of poems, AS A GIFT, that I was only going to pay 2 dollars for. Oh, why the hell not? Marti was a smart bastard, by the way, so I guess I could find someone back in Norway suitable to receive this from me as a christmaspresent. So our friend, who called himself Juan by the way, ran away to fetch it while I was going to enjoy some time alone from other people.
BUT no. As soon as he’d left, these two, young (and beautiful) jineteras (you might call them prostitutes if you want to) asked for a cigarette, and never mind me, go ahead, and I was once again "enjoying" the company of beautiful mulattas. So, while I was sitting there, drinking my coffe, I came to the realization that they wouldn’t leave the table. I had already put their hands away from my crouch a couple of times, but they hadn’t left. So, since they were there, and I was there, why not see what their thoughts on ethics and moral were? That’s what I did. Picture this: Me with a cup of coffe and a Lucky Strike in my mouth discussing ethics and moral with two cuban prostitutes. What a sight! The discussion ended with me being naive, since I kept claiming there were other things to do than sleep with foreign tourists, and they being survivors in an unjust world. They left after a while, but I really appreciated the chat. And believe me, there was nothing more:)
When they’d left this loco rastaman came to have a beer, sure why not?, and we spoke – or wrote to each other – about Jah, life and love. Not to mention the fact that he’d been ran down by a camel-bus a few years ago and after that life went downwards. But, keeping the faith – and probably a daily inhale – he was alive and kicking and we had some great laughs and serious conversations about fat Americans. (No offence, of course.)
Juan came back with the book, I gave him the two dollars and soon – to make an even longer story short – I was in a cab on my way home. Now it’s eight o’clock in the evening and I have nothing to do but read and have a couple of beers before the morning light once again hits those shades and it’s time to start a new day. As you can all understand it’s been a day of great experiences, smaller ones, and annoying ones. I got to enjoy half a cup of coffe on my own, though. One must look at the bright side of this, especially when there are people starving everywhere around you, something you can’t justify without a little sting of bad concious. Now, to the beer!