Thursday, August 17, 2006

My friend in Cuba

Over the past two years or so, I have been corresponding regularly by email with my friend in Cuba. My friend is one of the lucky ones – my friend has free access to the Internet at work. Unlike ordinary Cubans who are not allowed to have access to the Internet at all.

Anyway, while I was writing my book, Child of the Revolution: Growing up in Castro’s Cuba (what do you mean you don’t have a copy yet? Order it here!), I relied on my friend in Cuba to help me confirm some details about my old hometown that I had long forgotten or wasn’t too sure about. I owe my friend big time for that.

That’s because my friend was also born in Banes, some years before me. And although my friend no longer lives there, there are regular visits to see relatives.

Every time my friend would report back with details about the town and occasional photographs of places I only recalled deep down the back of my mental CPU. Sometimes, it was sad news: how this building or that building had collapsed due to neglect, the poor state of repairs of some of the houses, the pot-holed streets … You wouldn’t believe what our old pueblo looks like, the emails would say.

My friend and I never talked politics. It was a given. In fact, I always made sure I was extra careful with my emails because I feared they were being monitored by someone somewhere at the other end, and I'd compromise my friend somehow. So, instead, we’d talk sport (we both agreed Australia was robbed in the World Cup), or books or films (what’s with that guy Crocodile Dundee?) … but never politics.

On occasions, I’d spend what seemed like hours trying to read between the lines of some of my friend's emails, wondering whether there was some hidden message there about the political situation on the island. It’s a very Cuban thing to do. Pointless. Frustrating.

Well, you know, I haven’t heard from my friend in Cuba now for some weeks. In fact, not since Cuban television announced that Fidel Castro was ill. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence. I hope my friend is alright.


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