Day 5 - Thursday, December 2, 1999

Sonia serves Ricardo and me a cup of excellent café cubano. When I ask them about the food rationing system I learn that it has been in force ever since the revolution. Fourty years is a hell of a lot compared with the five years that food was rationed after the Second World War ended in Holland... Excuse me, but there is no war in Cuba going on, right? Sonia and Ricardo are 'entitled' to

- 5 pounds of rice per person each month - 5 ounces of beans per person each month - 6 ounces of sugar per person each month - 2 ounces of ground coffee per person each week - toothpaste and soup each three months in accordance with the number of family members
The food roughly suffices for half a month...

They tell me that someone they know died last night. He died of gangreen, caused by untreated diabetes. I just can't believe what they are saying. If I go to see a doctor and diabetes is diagnosed, then I will have to take insuline shots for the rest of my life and I may have to watch out what to eat, but that would be about it. I will die of old age, or maybe in a car crash, but not of diabetes. No way. Ricardo explains how I should interpret Cuba's health system for ordinary Cubans: yes, there is an ample supply of highly qualified doctors available...it's the supply of medicine that is lacking.

Beny Moré, Sonero Mayor. We have managed to find the girl that sells the cassette tapes; up two floors in the Casa de la Trova. Volumes VII and IX are available at the moment. Next, we're off to try to find some book of poetry by Jose Martí. We try the dollar shop across the park, but to no avail. Ricardo tells me that if the word gets out that Martí's poems are available in any shop, they will be sold out in no time. One of the shop attendants tells me he speaks seven languages and I tell you it's really funny that when you're in Cuba wishing someone Tot ziens, he will reply with Doeg!

Cubans whistle a lot, for example when they want to warn other traffic for potentially dangerous situations. A construction-worker sitting high up a scaffold whistles twice. Ricardo is amused when I relate the whistling to the fact that a policeman walks a couple of meters behind us, and that there are probably unofficial moneychangers around.

Chevy at the Mirador El MayabeSonia starts to dance and Ricardo freaks out completely when we play the Beny Moré tapes. There's something really catchy about this music, or any kind of Cuban music for that matter. Like Gloria said, 'the rhythm is gonna get you'... We have pizza for lunch and in the afternoon Ricardo and I go out to visit the Mirador El Mayabe. The view from here at Holguín is nice. Pity though that some small-time capitalist with sunglasses on charges me a dollar for parking in an otherwise empty lot.

As we walk around I notice ants carrying large pieces of tree leaves to their nest. In a rather philosophical mood we come to the conclusion that the ant society may be the only one where socialism has been fully implemented and successful. Ricardo tells me that when guajiros find their trees attacked by ants like this they will try their utmost to kill the ants, or the tree will die. Socialismo o muerte.