by Yosley Carrero
HAVANA, May 20 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese community in Cuba are extending a helping hand to students from China as COVID-19 restrictions remain in place to contain the spread of the pandemic.
The kitchen of Susu Wang, one of the Chinese students at the University of Havana, is well stocked with beans, pork, noodles as well as different ingredients and condiments for China's traditional cuisine.
The 23-year-old student was born and raised in China's Hebei Province and now rents a second floor apartment in central Havana, one of the hardest hit municipalities in the island nation amid the pandemic.
"During lockdown Chinese students watch TV, do workout, study and above all, try to keep in touch. Solidarity and friendship are guiding principles of Chinese people. A friend in need is a friend indeed," she told Xinhua.
Wang and her roommate Qiuyu Wu are preparing Chinese beans and potatoes for dinner as well as a cucumber salad, a traditional Chinese cold dish made of cucumber, garlic and soy sauce.
It would have been impossible to cook their traditional dishes during the coronavirus outbreak without the help of the Chinese community in the Cuban capital, said Wu, who comes from China's Sichuan Province and studies at the University of Havana now.
"Public transport is suspended to keep social distancing and buying food is difficult for Chinese students. We are now benefiting from the initiative of the Beijing Restaurant's workers who have set up a place so that we can get the ingredients we need to cook," she said.
Beijing Restaurant, founded in August 2019, was the first restaurant operated by a Chinese company on the island. It stands on the banks of Almendares river in Miramar District in Havana.
With a seating capacity of 120 on normal days before lockdown and decorated with Chinese symbols, the brand new restaurant served about 50 dishes cooked by skillful chefs from China.
Zhang Jiang, executive manager of Beijing Restaurant, said they pick up Chinese students in Havana twice a week and offer them food supplies.
"We have a minibus to pick them up at different locations and send them back home. We are committed to making Chinese students' stay here more pleasurable during the epidemic," he said.
Currently, a 215-member chatroom on WeChat operates as the ideal platform to keep workers at Beijing Restaurant and Chinese students connected so that they can order meals in advance and keep informed on the offers.
"This chatroom is very useful while we stay in isolation because we can talk not only about food supply, but also about other topics involving Chinese people and descendants in Cuba," Chinese student Haitong Wu said.
However, Beijing Restaurant's initiative also benefits Cubans who visit the restaurant for the fine Chinese cuisine.
Cuba has been suffering a shortage of basic supplies in the past several months as a result of stepped-up U.S. economic, commercial and financial blockade over the island. The scarcity of basic products is made even worse by the COVID-19 epidemic.
Since first confirmed cases were reported in the country on March 11, local authorities adopted measures to distribute more products to Cuban nationals through the ration card system.
"I have been driving for 20 minutes from the outskirts of the city. I want to buy Chinese soy sauce and spices. I am fond of Chinese cuisine," Havana resident Yankiel Suarez told Xinhua.
The Chinese community in Havana has been offering different services during the coronavirus outbreak, including supplying meals to elderly people living in nursing homes and offering Chinese martial arts classes on TV to help Cubans better deal with COVID-19.
Earlier in May, Cuba distributed some 58,750 face masks and protective suits donated by Chinese alumni to combat the coronavirus on the island.
China and Cuba renewed their bilateral educational agreement in late 2019, under which more than 3,000 students from different regions and provinces of China can study the Spanish language, tourism, medicine and other specialties at Cuban universities. Enditem