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Fidel in Shorts

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Log Book: Caibarien - Cuba - May 24, 2004

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Fidel Castro all-star

I am pleased to bring, exclusively to my viewers, a never-before-published photo of Fidel Castro in his basketball tryouts. How I came about this photograph is quite a story. Like all good things in life it begun with mangos.

It was one of our last days in Caibarien and we were visiting a retired couple who had befriended us a few days before. They had a spacious apartment in one of the buildings we were passing every day while in town. They also had a fruit-laden mango tree in the back yard and the day that we were headed into town to visit Remedio, they offered us the mangos. I think over time we must of have consumed some three bags of mangos that came from that tree.

The lady was a retired ministry of education inspector and her husband had retired from the army at the rank of colonel, if I remember it right. They were very nice people and we enjoyed visiting them a lot, sipping sweet Cuban vino distilled from orange or blackcurrant and chatting as much as Tobi's Spanish and my anti-Communist sentiments permitted. As it turns out this lady's brother, standing in this photo next to Castro, was on the Cuban basketball team. I can not report you much about Fidel's abilities as a basketball star, but I was thrilled when I was allowed to snatch a reproduction of the photo proudly displayed in their living room.

We enjoyed our hosts and their hospitality, hoping one day we would be able to return to this place. For us, visiting the little towns like this one was the best way to experience Cuba. People are kind without wanting anything back and the town goes about its business in its simple and well established routines. The fishermen fish and share their knowledge about the waters (more on that in the next report) and the store-keepers offer their wares without pushing them on you. There is a guileless simplicity in the way we were treated that touched us and completely won over our hearts after the rather sour experience in Santiago.

We loaded our food supplies on the boat and went, with resignation, through yet another inspection of documents and search of the boat. This particular soldier was rude enough to inspect Tobi's teeth to corroborate written report from the navy base at Cayo Coco, where, if you read previous updates, we were treated at a dental clinic. I was almost losing my cool with those arrogant soldats and unfortunately at that time I could not have known it would be the last time we were to be boarded by uniforms. As far as we were concerned we were on our way to la Havana.

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