2 January: Havana Fever

rani's picture

Breakfast, Checking Out, and Checking In Again

In the morning, Noe's fever subsided. We ordered breakfast and Noe played with the turtles in the pond. Katya, Isbel's helper, brought a freshly squeezed orange juice for Noe. Later in the morning, Yodhi told us that his wallet was missing during the New Year concert at the Anti Imperialist Square, and we can't blame him for getting wary of his safety in Havana. After we finished packing and everybody got up, we checked out of Casa Isbel. In the mean time Eko was helping out to secure the campervan booking, and he found out that the campervan was only available for the fourth of January. So we needed to extend our stay in Havana and Eko found us a place to stay nearby his residence around Miramar . For security reason of the Cuban homeowner, we can't disclose where we stayed.

In the afternoon we had lunch at Eko and Tya's house. It was indonesian fried chicken with pecel vegetable salad and it is one of the best home cooked food we had in cuba. In the afternoon, Noe's fever recurred. We became worried because this was his third day of fever, so we decided to take him to a doctor.


Eko hooked us with a doctor and we went directly to his house, which is actually illegal. But we had to do it in order to bypass waiting time in hospital. The doctor examined Noe thoroughly and prescribed a modest amount of medicine, but with a thorough set of instructions for nutritional remedy. For example, Noe had to drink pear or apple juice three times a day to help his digestion (because he suspected some kind of digestion problem due to the frequent vomiting). This is understandable, because in Cuba, medicine is really scarce due to US embargo, so doctors avoid prescribing medicine as far as possible. The doctor's attitude is very different from Singaporean doctor or even doctors in Jakarta, who tend to rush in examining patient, and hastily prescribe antibiotics when a fever runs for more than three days. He also really supports breastfeeding.

He gave Noe injection to help with the fever (which ran really high, about 39 degree). He didn't have alcohol disinfectant, so he used his perfume (which contained alcohol, of course) as disinfectant. Cubans really have the survival attitude and fix-it attitude, even with limited means.

As a token of appreciation we gave him a couple of 10 CUC bill, but then he refused. But Eko insisted, so eventually he accepted the money, and hugged Eko really tightly. Later we found out that the doctor's salary was probably 20-30 CUC per month, so basically, we had just gave him one month worth of his salary, and that explains why he was really touched by our gesture.

This doctor's house was very simple, very far from what you typically seen in doctors in capitalist country. The house consisted of only several rooms, with a rather run-down condition. It was not a messy house, but the paint of the wall peeled off, there are some water tracks around the sink of the kitchen, and the furniture was really old. This is really a contrast compared to our gynaecologist who drove lexus SUV to work.


Salary Range in Cuba

Eko explained that typical government official salary is about 200-300 pesos per month, which is equal to about 20 CUC (20 US dollar). Even Fidel Castro salary is just 900 pesos, which is equal to about 70 CUC (70 US dollar) per month. Eko told us that Fidel had the opportunity to enrich himself, with that many years in power, but no, he does not live lavishly (unlike the North Korean counterpart). This is perhaps one reason why this guy is respected in many parts of the world.

Meet The Timorese Family

Then we went to the pharmacy to buy the prescribed medicine. At Cira Garcia hospital, a couple called us because they overheard us talking in Indonesian. Turned out that Leo and Luceo are from East Timor, and were tasked to set up the East Timorese embassy in Cuba. Their sons were in the hospital due to asthma attack. Leo shared his difficulties in adapting to the Cuban ways of working. He told us that things has been difficult, particularly because the Cuban government did not provide the facilities as promised in the MOU signed with East Timor. Eko advised him to be persistent with the Cuban side. Meanwhile, Luceo, a graduate from Udayana University, is pursuing postgraduate studies in the University of Havana, with focus in neurological science. She decided to study while her husband works in the embassy, because the medical education in Cuba is considered one of the best in the developing world.

Later that night we had dinner at Café Espanola (a Palmares owned) near the park in Miramar. I had grilled fish, Yodhi and Indi had steak, and Tya and Puput had chicken. It was quite delicious, although the service was typically slow. For the drink, I had freshly squeezed orange juice, Tya had Malta Bucanero, while Yodhi had Mojito. The building was really interesting, which has a shape of a castle. In the main dining area there are some armors too.

Soft Drinks in Cuba

Speaking about beverage, this is the first time we went to a country without Coca Cola. Instead, the Cuban government produce their own version of soft drink that is called "refrescos" in Spanish. And because they are government produced, they are called "refrescos nacionales". There are two Cola Brands: Tucola and Tropicola, with a taste closer to pepsi rather than coca cola. There is also a type of Sprite / 7up, which is called Limon.

There is one drink that I think only exist in Cuba. It is called Malta, and it's produced by Bucanero (the beer producer, which is also, government owned). Basically it is a malt drink that has not turned into beer, it is unfermented malt which is non-alcoholic. It tastes a bit like a mix of root beer and coke and it is quite sweet. I like to drink it because it has "body" and does not leave sticky aftertaste. When we went to it in Pan.com a few days afterwards, we found Malta with condensed milk on the menu. But we couldn't try it, because the condensed milk is not available. I would really be curious to taste that concoction.


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