from the archives...
We are staying with a distant uncle of a friend.
He's from Laos, as is my friend, though while the Commies took over and her parents fled, taking her four year old self in tow, he stayed, said the right things, and became a good Commie.
Years later, after sending him to Thailand to study engineering, the Commies sent him to Cuba. There, he met a fifteen year old campesina, got married, got her pregnant, and settled down.
Now twenty years later, he juggles jobs: one for the Cuban government, surveying farms and planning the harvest; one for the Laos government, translating for officials, for which he gets a car and pass to the embassy store (where he buys such items as VCRs and rice cookers and sells them for a slight profit) and the other job that all Cubans obsess about all the time -whatever it takes.
He's one of four Laos in the entire country, seven if you count the embassy staff, and if you count the Cambodians and Vietnamese, fifty or so Buddhists.
My girlfriend and I have landed here as an opportunity to experience the Cuban life, though it's getting to be a bit much. They live in a house on the outskirts of Villa Clara, near where Che sabotaged a train load of Batista soldiers, crippling the army and paving the way to victory for the revolution.
In the house live Chamsy and his wife, both short, round and portly, his handsome teenage son, beautiful teenage daughter and a younger, squirming child.
They give us one bedroom and everyone else sleeps in another. When they're not sleeping, they're cooking. And they don't sleep very much.
Behind the kitchen, a pig constantly grovels. We never see it except for it's massive shadow -three feet high and five feet long and enclosed in a cage roughly the same size. It spends it's entire short life wallowing in it's own filth, as pigs often do, as soon it will be the feast at a celebration, or at least sold for hard currency.
Behind the pig, in a slightly larger space but also unseen is a pregnant doberman. Every day is drama with the doberman, until she unleashes a flood of blood across the patio, mixing with the pig's shit and filth.
The smell is unbearable to us and unnoticeable to them and the cooking continues obsessively.
Their insistence is intolerable.