Long Lunches with Lots of Rum

by Tammi Arender, KNOE-TV Monroe

Beautiful Greek Architecture - The University of Havana campus looks like something out of Greece with large columns and stately staircases.

Beautiful Greek Architecture - The University of Havana campus looks like something out of Greece with large columns and stately staircases.

The highlight of the day for me was the visit to the University of Havana camps with University of Louisiana - Monroe President Dr. Nick Bruno and his wife. Side note here... they both offered to help me carry my camera gear on several occasions. How sweet is that?  The University campus is certainly a diamond in the rough. And I mean rough. The campus is like something out of Greece with its large columns and stately staircases.

I also got to visit a couple of markets. The first food market I went to I was thrown out. My interpreter was not aware it was the military market- sort of like a commissary on the US military bases.  In Havana, this open air market is filled with all types of vegetables and meats (not cooled in any way I might add.)  This meat could very well be cooked to a nice medium rare in this climate, if it’s out there for very long!  It is just set up on the street corner looking just like our “Farmers Markets”.

I had hardly put my video camera on its tripod before someone said, "Stop! No pictures allowed." So we quickly did as told—I’m not a person that likes conflict, much less conflict with someone who calls Castro boss! So we quickly hailed one of those 1950’s Chevrolets for a taxi ride to the “peoples” market.

This market was much smaller but still you could find onions, carrots, key limes, and eggplants that are almost as big as watermelons. Even at this market, many vendors are very reluctant to have their picture taken. If they do agree, they expect to be paid at least a “cuc”.  That’s a Cuban Convertible Peso, which is like our dollar. Sometimes I forked over a “cuc” if the shot was worth it. Sometimes I moved on to the next vendor…after all one mango looks just like another mango.

Did I mention these people love their mangos!  I went for a glass of orange juice this morning at our hotel restaurant and my taste buds were not tickled when they were touched by mango juice instead of good ole OJ.  Mangos are everywhere.

Open Air Market - Raw meat hangs in the heat of this Cuban open-air market.  There were many types of vegetables and lots of mangoes.

Open Air Market - Raw meat hangs in the heat of this Cuban open-air market.  There were many types of vegetables and lots of mangoes.

Another interesting thing is that our lunches tend to take a long, long, long time. I think our shortest has been 2 hours. These restaurants do not believe in getting you in and out on lunch hour. Plus, they’re regularly filling your glass with rum. If you've ever heard of “drinking your lunch,” people here do that! I can’t imagine having to go back to work after getting tanked before the crack of noon! They do serve Coke and Sprite but so far I haven’t found a diet coke or coke zero. And their bottled water tastes like tap water. But that’s okay. As long as it’s wet and clear with no visible debris, I’m a happy woman!

Til tomorrow…when we’re heading with the commissioner to a tobacco farm.