My friend ever the optimist and not fully familiar with life in Cuba suggested we have a picnic in our room in the Casa in Caibarien. We had spent the day driving to Cayo Santa Maria, walking along the wild, wind swept beaches taking photographs. It wasn’t a typical hot day on a Cuban beach, it was more like a winter’s day in the UK; grey, gloomy and windy.
We had already been out to the only restaurant we could find in town the night before and my friend was a little tired of Cuban food. Being a Muslim, she doesn’t eat pork, she didn’t realise that this would rule out most options on most Cuban menus. As a creative cook herself, she was forever looking for the spice. However, on this day we felt like a cozy picnic style spread just for two.
We went in search of a supermarket to see what we could find. Number one on our list was bread, but this proved to be a challenge in itself. “How hard can it be to find a loaf of bread or some bread rolls?” Well, this is Cuba, I had to remind her. After spending 1 month in Trinidad, I could honestly say that I had never seen bread in the shops and there certainly weren’t any Bakeries in town. I remember walking up and down the road of my Casa Particular on the way to my Spanish lessons and smelling the aroma of freshly baked bread, but the bread being baked wasn’t for sale. It was a government run Bakery where bread was being baked for rations.
It was difficult for her to comprehend. How can there be no Bakeries? This was in December 2006 before private enterprises were being encouraged. Refusing to believe there was no bread, she insisted that we continue driving around the poorly lit streets of Caibarien. Finally we stumbled across a Bakery, we couldn’t believe our luck, we were a little excited so we boldly entered the Bakery as if we had the right to walk in and purchase a loaf of bread. All eyes were on us for a split second, two strange girls completely out of place and then everyone continued to work and pretended we didn’t exist. Off course, she didn’t speak any Spanish so I had to be the one to ask, so I sheepishly went up to the counter and asked if we could have one of the baguettes he had in his hands; the delicious aroma wafting around us. He stopped what he was doing, he looked around him, maybe he was looking for moral support from his co-workers, and finally he handed me one of the baguettes and he continued to work. A little bewildered, I asked him how much he wanted for the bread, ready to be overcharged as I was obviously a tourist. But he looked at me and said he didn’t want any money. Now I was surprised, I asked if he was sure and he just smiled and waved me off and told me to enjoy the bread. We got the feeling they just wanted us to get rid of us.
It was like finding the jewels in a treasure hunt. We were so pleased with ourselves, not only did we find some bread, we even got it for free! It was the highlight of our day, we couldn’t stop giggling like a couple of exited teenagers.