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jeudi 19 novembre 2009

Bienvenidos a Miami y Las Playas

What all can happen in a couple of days in Miami?
It had been a love at first sight when I arrived in Miami as an undergraduate student, a love affair which was to continue throughout my student days in London and the trainee doctor days in Melbourne.
Of course, it was in Miami, that my love for Cuba was born.
And the lifelong addiction to Cortadito.
Arrived from Paris on Day 1, met at the airport by good Jamaican friends and a long weekend of talk, friendship and unexpected pleasures of human interactions began
Dinner 1: Mussaman Curry with Shrimp
Day 2 Breakfast: Jamaican Ackee and Saltfish. Shopping for clothe and chotchkes to take back to Europe
An Yum Cha lunch at a very grumpy Chinese place, where the servers outnumbered the guests but reminded of similar feasts in Melbourne, but of course cant be compared to the Dimsum at Hotel Oriental at KL.
A very pleasant interaction with an innovative business woman from Cayman Islands, a busy mother who runs a company and manages a home with three children with the help of her very complimentary husband. Good Friends.
Day 3 Breakfast: once again Jamaican/bammy/Johnny cake/green bananas/avacado
Lunch: A Lebanese mezze from a nice Pita Grill in Kendall, run by a Spanish speaking Palestinian who had migrated to Venezuela during pre chavez days and now finds himself in Miami, this city of immigrants. Kibbeh/kofta/labne/hummous/babaganoush
Dinner: food from Bangkok, Bangkok. I had not eaten there for a while but I thought it had become very Americanized. Fish/padthai/crab fried rice
I know I am talking about food, but what is remarkable about days in Miami, which I always look forward to, are the human interactions. First of all my dear sister, who is struggling against her illnesses, while maintaining her wide heart and abundant generosity.
Her husband and I decided to go to La Casona in Sunset Drive. A Cuban café, it was late in the evening, for a coradito. A salvadorean, who has been in Miami since 1980, greeted us; a Honduran woman made herself busy making the Cortadito for us. Sit down, encouraged the Salvadorean. This is Miami, we were chatting in Spanish with explosive laughter.. between the four of us, born in different parts of the world (my Jamaican friend is of Palestinian/Cuban ancestry)m the two central americans brought over here by the winds of political changes in their respective countries.. they hated every single political leader mentioned, Zelaya. Chavez. Morales.. but had kind words for Castro, which I took it to be a reaction to their dislike of the Miami Cubans, thus a passive way of getting back at their somewhat harsh employers?
A simple, warm, very latin encounter, the kind I miss in Paris!
Went to Book Exchange, a second hand book store near the Bangkok Bangkok restaurant, while waiting for food, after have a chat with a Peruvian Chinese owner of a convenient store, who sold us lottery tickets. In the bookstore, as it always happens in literate environments, an enthused owner and his helper. I bought Skarmeta’s the Postman, from which the movie Il Postino was constructed, I have a copy somewhere but felt like reading about my favourite poet and Isla Negra. Near the counter as I was paying him, I saw a copy of Portable Island about cubans abroad at home by Ruth Behar. Didn’t have a price on it, so I asked the owner. He looks at me and says, you look like a traveler, I said Yes, Havana and Paris are my homes. A pleasant chat followed, general chit chat and as I was leaving the store, he said, I would like to offer you Ruth Behar’s book as a gift. I felt very good about it. These little things are what makes up the magic of Miami!
Among other things during this weekend, a pleasant spiritual lessons gently taught to us by a Mr Seth, owner of an Indo American Grocery where we had gone to buy Pappadam. Without even waiting for a proper introduction, he began taking about energy and goodness that people transfer to one another, which was the most appropriate topic for my sister. We both listened to him carefully, it is amazing how similar the spiritual sayings are, the older the civilizations are ..
That evening, we were joined at dinner (take away Thai food) with advice to all of us. She is in charge of an office issuing US passports and I was amazed how many people there are who have absolutely no identification papers at all, and they were born in this country..US immigration , she continued, is like that boy who has all the toys, will gladly play with you, but at sometime, will collect all his toys and leave you there.. you have no toys to play with. She recalled the story of an indo-american who had lived in the usa since age 2, who was convicted of having a BB gun in his car during his boisterous adolescent days, now applying for his citizenship papers, had in bold letters in his file, illegal owner of Gun! And the immigration department began proceedings to deport him to India! So her advice to all of us sitting around that hospitable table, all of us born in various countries… Be careful when you play with the Immigration Officers.. Good Advice. A lovely evening of nostalgia for Jamaica, the excitement and hope of being in the USA and the camaraderie of shared history
With heavy heart, I said good-bye to my Jamaican friends. On the plane sitting next to me was an elderly lady, an elegance of her previous life still shone in her face. She was born in Villa Clara and spoke so fondly of her country and the city, which pleased me to no end. I am tired of Cubans who had left the island constantly talking badly about their motherland, as if nothing good ever happens there..not at least after their departure…Who is the traitor, I wonder..
She had to change planes in IAH and as a token of appreciation of the kindness of Miami, I walked with her to the other terminal and up to her gate… and she said, in Spanish, I hope before I die I have the chance to come back to Cuba and know your family..