Cuba, China, Friends, Karma and Covid-19
In February last year in Havana with my Scottish mate John Bongo we had one of those pleasant and nice experiences that travellers have when venturing out of their comfort zone – which I and my friends always have as we do venture out.
After a good dinner with friends at Destino we were ready to go back to our Casa and finish the night off with a good cigar and a bottle of Ritual as usual, when my oldest Cuban friend, let’s call him JLL, called me and asked me to help him get into some nightclubs that would not let him in – you see, he is a good guy, hard working, honest, loyal friend – but he is black and from La Lisa, not the best ‘hood in Havana, so he would not be allowed into nightclubs catering to tourists and rich Cubans.
He had not been let into the Hotel Nacional terrace to share a cigar with my Canuck friends David & Debbie and my Dutch friend Jan years before … I had to fight security to get him in.
No problem – I told him we would meet him at Que Bola at midnight and we would take him in.
We left the Paladar, went home, picked up 2 Salomones and I left my Cuban mobile at the Casa. He had told us he was already on his way, past the Russian embassy and at Que Bola in 5 minutes. All set then.
We got to Que Bola, no problem getting in – we were Yumas, and I told the bouncer to look out for our friend and let me know when he arrived.
There is a small open air bar at the back ( only reason we went there ) and that is where I told JLL we would be waiting for him.
Surrounded by ca. 20 pretty, all tattooed and all professional working girls we ordered Cristal and lit out Salomones waiting for my buddy.
No JLL to be seen – nada. I regularly went to the front door to check – Nada.
While spending 90 minutes there smoking and wasting time, a friendly guy standing at the bar next to us commented on our cigars and we started a conversation.
Turns out he was a Chinese engineer working in Cuba on technical projects for 3 years.
He didn’t smoke but was interested in cigars and spoke fluent Spanish.
We smoked the Salomones talking and sharing experiences, he had been to Germany, had a daughter studying in Canada and was an all-round pleasant, intelligent and knowledgeable guy. Pleasure to meet and talk to.
He knew most of the good places and Paladares in Havana ( and one of the best rollers who happens to visit Shanghai often ) and we agreed to meet again for lunch next day at Amigos del Mar and for me to show him Espacios.
Our friend didn’t arrive, I had no way of calling him, we finished our Salomones, took a Maquina and went back to the Casa.
Once re-united with my Cuban mobile I called JLL and found out that, mixed up and confused as he always is he had gone to Bola Habana instead of Que Bola and waited there for us … wondering where we were.
Much laughter – and a promise to do it again soon with better co-ordination.
We met Li next day at Amigos del Mar, had a good lunch, good conversations, then again at Espacios where he showed up with a group of Chinese friends, good time and good fun.
Back in Havana again in November last year I met Li again and – funny enough him being a non-smoker – he helped me out finding some Cuban RE boxes through his contacts.
We had lunch at Santy’s with my US and Canuck friends and I took him to the JJ Fox party next door in Jaimanitas. Great fun !
Crazy – so crazy indeed that we agreed to meet again in March this year as he was taking his family to Cuba for a vacation. I booked my flight to be there same time with Li.
Well – that obviously didn’t happen. We both just cancelled our Cuba trips due to Covid-19.
But lo and behold – today I received a package of face masks from Li in Shanghai that I will distribute to family, friends, care homes for the elderly and the pharmacy.
I’d like to thank my friends in both Shanghai – Li and Webber, as well as my Hong Kong friend Alan for their concern and the supply of protective gear.
Much appreciated !
Karma and cigars in Havana – meeting people in some bar joint way past midnight waiting for a lost buddy … who would have thought it would become so important so soon.
Humanity at its best.