I was invited to Cuba this month by Professor Miwon Choe from Western Kentucky University and participated as a storyteller/trainer in workshops she conducted throughout Havana. I am grateful for the opportunity she offered and completely satisfied with the experience. The people of Cuba are beautiful inside and out. They have a love of culture which they narrate through their art. I hope God graces me with the good fortune to revisit the students and staff at the Experimental Art School in Havana.
While in Cuba, we stayed in the Vedado neighborhood. I highly recommend it, just like the rest of Havana, it is very safe. Throughout my stay, Professor Choe and I walked around the neighborhood, ate and shopped at local restaurants and stores.
One day while shopping for some light groceries, we found a small store with fresh fruit and vegetables. I was particularly interested in buying a papaya. The problem of the day was that all the papayas were huge. We would not be eating that much papaya. So, I asked the vendor if he would be kind enough to sell me just half of a papaya. He smiled from ear to ear and said that was not possible. I had to take the whole papaya. He looked at his fellow vendors and they all smiled and smirked towards one another. I was clueless.
I then noticed that on the counter sat half of a beautifully and ornately cut papaya. I asked if it was available, it was, and I bought it. We walked back to our apartment and put our groceries away. A few hours later we got visitors, natives. As we were talking and getting to know one another, I offered our visitors some papaya covered in strawberry yogurt and granola. Our visitors looked at one another and laughed. One of our visitors informed that in Cuba, papaya is a word used to describe the male reproductive organ. I immediately laughed, loudly. Those of you who know me, know I have a hardy and loud laugh. It was suddenly clear why the vendors were smiling and laughing at each other when I was told I had to take the “whole papaya.”
When in Cuba, don’t ask for papaya, ask for fruta bomba, or bomb fruit!