Campañerang Cuba Redux

Dear Elly G,

Ay’g pag expeck. If Cubans could speak Bisaya, that is essentially what they would tell you over and over. Ay’g pag expeck. I suppose they’ve become so inured to the foreigners whining about why everything is the way it is – the food, the schedule, the people, the lack of bus stops, they’re moved to say this ahead of time to prevent disappointment.

Which leads me to the food. (What doesn’t? Everything leads me to the food.) I had a rather late supper last night at the buffet restaurant, and I haven’t the foggiest idea what these people are complaining about. Bland, my Asian ass. No sauces? Each table had salt and pepper shakers and there was a prominent display of all the bottled condiments one would wish. Tartar sauce. Steak sauce. Hot sauce. Sauce maryosep. I went in fully expecting to be disappointed and I was, except it wasn’t the food I ended up being disappointed in. It was in people who write reviews despite having no tastebuds worth mentioning whatsoever. Not that I closed my eyes and was transported to heaven, but the seafood was all I could’ve wished it to be. I had grilled salmon and breaded fish (I have no idea what kind of fish it was) and a lovely bunch of shrimp, heads still on, everything as tasty as if it were pulled fresh from the sea, which it probably was. I wonder if some are so used to drowning everything in spice rubs and butter, they can’t appreciate fresh seafood. I’ve decided to be annoyed at the way people review Cuban food online. Everything is prefaced with “keep in mind, it’s Cuba,” as if it’s going to be deficient and less than, by virtue of not being… I don’t know, Europe? Canada? The U.S. of Hey? It seems to come from an extremely limited experience.

Not that I’m so much more experienced than they are. I just feel that maybe when travelling, a tourist needs to be less condescending and be more open to different things, especially cuisine-wise. Why expect things to be more or less the same as it is at home? What’s the point of traveling then? At breakfast, one lady caught my eye. All she had on her plate was toast. That’s it. Five slices of the most boring white bread, browned and buttered. Even her companion pointed it out with a raised eyebrow, and the lady just shrugged, and made a sort of pout. This is probably the kind of person petty enough to go on Google and give this place a one-star just because she couldn’t find anything to eat. The spread was pretty varied, an impressive selection of cold cuts, breads, fruit, omelette bar, cereal bar, dessert bar, what have you. I’ve been to enough hotels to be able to tell when something is sparse, and believe you me, this was not sparse at all. If anything, it was the opposite.

You know what’s surprisingly bland? The fruit. Maybe you and I have been spoiled for it, having been brought up in a tropical country, but their pineapple is surprisingly bland and so is their watermelon. I don’t know if this is true throughout Cuba, though. It could just be this resort, and this island with all the tourists who come here for fun in the sun like it’s an adult theme park and we’re all just here to be fed and watered. Kind of like a plague of locusts. We come in, feed until the land is bare, then move on. Maybe the pineapples just can’t keep up with the rest of us.

Sleep deprived,
Nikka

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