If a plantain is very ripe, you cut it at an angle in thick ½ inch pieces and fry it in hot vegetable oil until it has a crispy blackened exterior soft interior. If it is still green you cut it with a cheese slicer and put it in hot vegetable oil until it is hard to make plantain chips. Both are delicious! I think Ruby Gene liked the chips more.
Daniel took me to the market today. Plastic or cloth bags are either to be carried, found in the street, or bought for 1 peso cubano or about 4.5 cents. According to my guide, you can’t find the best fruit that grows in Cuba, but the fruit you find is good enough. We bought guayaba, plantains, and some salami, sliced from a less than clean looking concrete slab. Purchases can be made with either the Cuban peso or the exchangeable Cuban Dollar (CUC), or some combination of the two if you get a good exchange rate for the CUC (24 or 25 pesos Cubanos). Confusing…yes. The man who sells plastic bags at the market couldn’t be found because the police were around and he wasn’t authorized to sell.
From the market we went to visit two people from the church. One was a young woman who had just had a miscarriage. Daniel prayed for her, and we shared a few moments with her family. The young woman in her 20s was engaged to be married, so obviously she was devastated and in a lot of pain. The other was Israel Palma, a member of the church for some 50 years, was in a wheel chair and has stomach cancer. He is in his mid eighties. Shirtless, he met Daniel and I with a disarming smile and display of enthusiasm. He had been anticipating our meeting, and gladly shared that he enjoyed speaking English. His wife, Pilar, originally from Spain, moved to Cuba with her aunt after her mother died and before the Cuban revolution. She is a faithful Catholic, but knows we are all on the same camino. She met Israel because Israel’s father kept sheep and she happened be on a business exchange, which turned into several exchanges. They have been together for 52 years. Israel said of our relationship with God that we are like planets orbiting around the sun. We are within God’s gravitational pull.
The following short video is Israel reading scripture in English on this same visit:
That evening Daniel led a bible study on the closing chapter of Ecclesiastes. It ended at 9:20 pm, after which, in the dark, Daniel showed me a set of about 12 keys that go to locks and doors of the church. I assumed and hoped I would be able to figure it out through much trial and error. As the keeper of the keys, I would be frequently sought after. El Pastor is responsible for locking up, shutting and turning off, and putting away….So now that’s me. Since he was one of 8 members of this church when he first came as a lay person in 1986, and has been here ever since, I suppose that he was one of the only ones who would know how to do these things. They are painting the front of the church building right now. Thinking of a recent painting project at Westminister Presbyterian Church, Santa Fe, I asked, “Who chooses the color?” He proudly pounded his chest and said, “Yo” - “I do.” It helps that he’s an architect by trade, so he knows colors, etc.
Names of the people are going to be very difficult to remember. First names are very different, like: Iraraizi. And some of the first names are not used because of nicknames. It is nice to meet a Pedro or Juan (or even Juany) or Ana on occasion. There aren’t enough of them here.
The Izquierdos leave tomorrow morning early. We will miss them immensely as we will now attempt to navigate this town, San Antonio de los Baños, and this country, Cuba, relying on God and the people who have received us.