Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Day 2 In Cuba: Old Cars, Long Meetings, and a Little Cha Cha

Day 2 In Cuba

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I am still pinching myself—I am in Havana.  Old cars cruise the street.  Music blares from apartments.  Laundry hangs over balcony walls.  Dogs roam the sidewalks.  Old women smoke cigars.  People everywhere are falling in love.

Looking at our agenda, I would say that today was probably the most difficult day for me. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I cannot sit still long.  Meetings that stretch for hours leave me doodling or pacing in the back of the room, and no matter how compelling the speaker or the subject, I lose interest and become impatient, antsy, and rammy.  Unfortunately, I experienced this a bit today—an engaging, charismatic teacher—one who was part of Castro’s original literacy movement 5o years ago ran a session for us to inform us about Cuba’s education setup.  Sarah Daisy, our guide/escort/interpreter for the week translated her words.  But the lilt of the words and the cadence of the Spanish began to lull me, and I once again found myself standing in the back of the room. 

That being said, the professor’s session was incredibly informative and struck a cord with me, as she kept mentioning the importance of family and community involvement with their schools.  Cuba underwent a huge public awareness campaign called “Educate Your Son” (yes, I know, I too have a problem with this title…) that really brought the importance of early childhood education (0-5 years) to the forefront of parenting.  The campaign reminds parents that they are the most important resource for their children in those early years.  She talked about how decisions for children are made with the families and how they are involved with the school.  It was very impressive.

Before our next meeting, we had an hour of free time, and so my new friend Peggy and I hit the pavement and explored the neighborhood taking pictures, meeting new people, and just soaking it all in.  The streets of Cuba teem with life and color.

We then traveled over to the organization that is hosting us and met a lovely woman who spoke to us about how they work with other international organizations.  We discussed political issues—particularly the one with the Cuban 5—five men who have been arrested in the US and are being detained and accused of terrorism.  It is very interesting to read the US version and then to hear the Cuba version.  It makes you realize the different perspectives that emerge from cultures.  It also makes you realize that Cuba may not be the only place that uses propaganda.  I am finding myself wondering how much of it we are fed ourselves.

We had a city bus tour, and this would be my third bus tour this year.  DC, Huntsville, and now Havana.  All I will say is I hate bus tours and ended up falling asleep. 

With an hour and a half back at the hotel, I finally got out for a run along the pathway that weaves alongside the waterfront—the Atlantic on one side, Havana on your other.  The intense pollution, uneven tar, inhibiting heat, and ridiculous machismo of the men sitting on the seawall, riding their bikes, or just driving by, made running difficult, but  how often do you get to run in Havana?

Dinner was heavenly—and I was able to rouse my delegation to some dancing to the cha cha band; we even got the cook and waiters to dance with us.  But it was a restaurant for tourists, and I am desperately wanting to find my way into the real Cuba to talk to real Cubans.  I asked Sarah Daisy about this, and she told me that tomorrow when I am free for the afternoon to just start talking to people and adventure will find me.  I want to eat at roadside stands and walk crumbling streets.  I want to hear people’s stories.  I think I can talk a couple of the other delegates into this as well.  I was not able to successfully convince anybody to hit up the jazz club across the street tonight, but I’m working on it.

My vegetarianism doesn’t quite fit into the pork pork pork diet here, but they are delighted that I eat fish, and so I have had fish for four straight meals.  It has all been delicious, but I wonder how much fish I will have eaten by the end of the week!

I miss my TOY friends—we would have a blast here together and it feels odd to be on a trip without them.  And I miss my family.  My husband and I travel well together, and there are so many times I wish I could turn to him to exclaim over something.  Tomorrow we get to explore on our own.  My goals:  find some souvenirs, ride in a big old car, dance with a Cuban, and talk with a child. I just want to absorb it all. So I am.

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