Milli Stephania, Travels

Cuba: Finding Our Way to La Farmacia

I finally got to sleep in a bit today. The girls are already roaming around the house getting ready. They’ve planned a whole day I wasn’t even a part of. It’s alright… I ask what the plans are and we have a lot of walking to do today. I wasn’t too happy about that at first. I kept thinking about how I lost my camera and the memory card that was along there with it. It didn’t help that I couldn’t find my sunglasses either. My prescription sunglasses, the ones I wouldn’t be able to see without. I was cranky.We found a park, and noticed everyone on their phones. Our host offered us a wifi card and we finally got to put it to use. Tanya finally had a chance to reach out to their boo, 4 days later, to let him know she was okay. Olivia messaged her mother, and when it was my turn to use the phone, I didn’t really have anyone to text. I decided to get on Google Maps instead and find some directions to where we were headed. If I needed to contact anybody, they could wait until I got back to the states. Anyone who is important knows where I am.Matanzas, there’s one main road, La Calle Prinicipal as the locals call it, is one long strip over looking the water. Crossing to the other side is a hassle and unless I missed something I haven’t seen any traffic lights. We would wait until the cars were far enough to run to the other side, but since it was a two way road, our chances were pretty funny. Seemed liked we were playing a real life version of a video game. The sun was strong today. My shoulders felt the burn from yesterday’s beach day. The straps on my backpack kept digging into my skin and I felt every tug. I’m glad we hopped on a cab, since where we were headed was an hour of a walk. Our taxi driver was a bit wreck less and didn’t even know where he was going. He stopped about every 3 minutes to ask someone where El Parque de la Libertad was. This park is where the military parades where held back in the 1800s. When we arrived we walked into the gorgeous and ancient Museo Farmacéutica de Matanza. This pharmaceutical has been around since the 19th century. Our tour guide was so sweet, she asked if we were famous dancers because we were just so pretty and made up. We blushed and said no, and she proceeded to ask if we had boyfriends. I tell her one of us is happily taken but two of us are single. She gets all excited and tells me she has a nephew…. Oh my goodness… we’re getting matched up in Cuba ya’ll!Another lady comes out and says her son is single as well and is looking through her purse to see if she can find a picture to show us. She doesn’t find any on her phone and manages to find an old passport looking style photo in one of her pockets. I told her, her was handsome, and joked around her, that next time three women passed by the farmacy she had to be better prepared, so he can run off ad marry one of them. She laughed and said, I was right.I fell in love with all of the glass jars, all still containing original remedies, herbs,the French porcelain vases that were decorated by hand. She even mentioned that some of the small bottles that were used for elixirs, where made in New York. The botany, chemistry, medicine, pharmaceuticals and recipe books have all been preserved since 1964. It was simply ancient, and step back into time. I loved it.
While walking, we stood out like sore thumbs. The men kept throwing compliments at us, calling us beautiful and making conversations. They would ask where we were from and would try to make conversation. I would say thank you and to have a nice day. A minute later we would have someone else doing the same thing. The cars will honk at us, the whistles. El piropo was real. To them, we were exotic and we would get many stares.A few cuadros (blocks) later, we walked into a Ediciones Vigía, a publishing house with beautiful handmade books. All made by recycles materials. I ask the two ladies who are bookbinding on a long table if we could join them. Gladys and Virma welcomed us to join them and gave us some scissors. They were cutting the images and texts from the recycled paper, so they could later arrange all the pieces on to the books they were creating. Oh, these ladies were so damn sweet. We talked about Cuba and how much fun we were having so far. They asked what we had done so far and gave suggestions on what we should do next. We started to speak about music and how much Virma loved Marc Anthony. Glady’s mentioned that as soon as Tanya walked in, she reminded her of a poem, La Bailarina Española. (The Spaniard Dancer), by José Martí,  she went on and recited the poem, which was so beautiful. I asked how they felt about the gates opening up to tourism in their island, and they mentioned it was both a a good and bad thing. When I asked in what way, Glady’s mentioned that it would be good, because more money will be coming in, but it will be difficult to keep a hold of their wonderful culture and it only meant that things would be changing. Virma asked me how I felt about our newest president. A lot of people are upset, I responded. I won’t be back when he gets inaugurated, but I know I’m going to missing a huge part of history because I was here in Cuba. They asked what we did for a living, and we explained how we were teachers, writers, artists and helped our community of the hungry and homeless. They were surprised and gave us compliments on how were were so young and beautiful and were doing great things.
Sitting down while cutting away and having a regular conversation with these women felt so natural. They asked me how it was in New York and the first thing that came to mind is how so many people are rude and caught up in their phones and in their lives. Cubans have to be the most nicest, inviting, patient and well mannered community of people I have ever met in my life. I wish some of that culture can be rubbed off on New Yorkers. We said our goodbyes and they made sure to let us know that we were always welcomed if and/or when we returned to Cuba.   Right across the street, was El Museo de los Bomberos (Museum of Firefighters). I noticed a handsome man in his uniform and asked we could walk in. He guided us inside and since the historian wasn’t around, we didn’t get to learn much about it. His coworkers came out to see us, and they would stare at us as if we were the ones on display. The firetrucks were so intriguing, and kept us busy for a few, but we were starving.  .  Finding food is a bit difficult in Cuba. Almost everything is little things to peck at for the moment. Finding somewhere with hot food was a tough one but we found a spot and sat down. The cafeteria was small, dark with only a window illuminating the restaurant. We had the place to ourselves and we sat right by the window. Next thing we know some guy is peeking in through the window with his face all up in the glass, mouthing something to us. We have no idea what hes saying but we say thank you so he can walk away. He doesn’t. He walks in instead and starts talking to us. Or food is already on the table, and he’s standing there talking to us. Making small talk about his family who lives in Jersey. I engage and then tell him it was nice talking to him but we wanted to get our meal. He says no problem and walks away.
The food wasn’t that great. I scarf it down anyway, because I don’t know when I’m going to be able to find food again. Especially since I´m starting to run out of money. Cuba isn’t that expensive, but everything does start to slowly catch up to you. I know when I get back to Havana I’m going to have to go change some more cash.

One of my favorite shots while walking back towards our casa particular. I loved the deep orange lights behind the navy and purple sky.
One of my favorite shots while walking back towards our casa particular. I loved the deep orange lights behind the navy and purple sky.