So I was on a hunt. There is a certain category of cigar, from a country that rhymes with Tuba, that is of questionable legality at home. In the rest of the world they are recognized as being the world's best cigar, but as one of the last legacies of the Cold War they remain unavailable in my homeland. While in Ecuador I asked about their availability several times, including on a walk-about tour of our host town. My poquito Spanish skills certainly didn't help, but I completely struck out in Ecuador. I hoped I might have better luck in the tourist areas of the Galapogos.
We got to the hotel in Puerto Ayora and I was introduced to the Concierge / Bell Hop / Office Manager, a gracious fellow who happened to be Cuban. He saw my Oakland A's cap, we talked a little baseball, and then I asked him if there were, uh, "Tuban", cigars in Ecuador. Well, I didn't say Tuban but I'm trying to avoid prosecution so please pardon the poetic license.
He told me, in what is apparently the proper local response, that there was a place a couple of blocks up the road. But he then proceeded to wax poetic about a particular cigar that is only made in the mountains of his homeland. In his own words they are the finest cigars made. Unlike Cohiba's, or some of the other brands you may have heard of, they are not exported. They are only for local consumption. He promised to bring me one when he came in to work the next day.
I thought it was a gracious gesture, but didn't expect anything to come of it. Instead, that night after dinner Amy and I went walk-about through the town. We would poke our heads into a store, ask about availability, and be offered a cigarillo (cigarette) instead. After more explanation we were invariably told that a store two blocks to the right would have them. We reached the top of the hill, were told that a store two blocks to the left would have them, and then bagged the whole exercise. I was to leave South America empty-handed.
Much to my surprise, the next afternoon shortly before checkout my Cuban friend saw me wandering the grounds. He had indeed raided his secret stash and had brought me one of his prized cigars! I was genuinely blown away. He wanted nothing more than to share a bit of his homeland's culture. My ear-to-ear grin was thanks enough apparently. We took a quick photo, I thanked him profusely, and I walked away with a great memory.
|One happy Gringo|
Amy and I went on one last trinket-shopping excursion into town, and I found an appropriately tacky hiking hat. At that point, with my head suitably protected, I decided to return the favor for my new amigo. As we were getting ready to board the bus out of town I poked my head into his office. We talked a bit about the A's, and our mutual interest in Yoenis Cespedes, a Cuban player on the A's. At that point I told him that I wanted to give him a little gift in return, and offered him my A's hat. He was every bit as excited at receiving the hat as I had been about his gift of the cigar. That called for one more picture with my new Cuban amigo.
|A fellow A's fan|
Hypothetically speaking, of course, I'm saving this cigar to celebrate the impending birth of Amy's first grandson. Hypothetically, of course, because I wouldn't want to run afoul of the law...