Day 10 December 15, Tuesday
The hotel breakfast buffet was especially hardy this morning because baseball players, both from home and away teams were staying at the hotel and tonight was a big game.
Breakfast consisted of cereal, tea and coffee, desserts (plain and frosted cakes, cookies, rice pudding, pourable yogurt, juice and guava sauce,) fruits (fresh cut papaya, pineapple, cabbage and a citrus fruit with a green skin,) bread (a long square loaf that one had to slice, toasted dinner rolls, and crackers,) hot dishes (sautéed veggies, ham, sausage, chicken fritter fingers, shell pasta, and hard boiled eggs,) as well as omelets cooked to order and hard boiled eggs. Most days I had toast and two fried eggs.
On my walk to the Community Center I hoped to encounter the old Jewish woman I’ve met twice. Warren Joanne, Laurie, Ginny and several other volunteers had visited her home filled with Judaica. Laurie, who spoke excellent Spanish, got the straight story about the old woman. Her father came to Cuba from Constantinople (now Istanbul) in the 1020’s. Her husband’s family came from Palestine. She’s 89 and he’s 84. They said they were the only Jews in Ciego de Avila. Both of their sons are rabbis, one in Miami and one in North Carolina. Warren said her home was well-appointed and spacious.
At the Community Center I tutored Mayla again. I told her The Castle of Chuchurumbel using flannel board figures. We went over the nouns and I have her a copy of the story to share with her granddaughter. I also wrote out the English lyrics for Christmas songs she knew in Spanish and we sang them. She wanted some particular vocabulary words and we went over them.
Sandy was working with Lenora, a fifteen-year-old girl who was on vacation from her boarding school for gifted students. Lenora explained that when a girl is born, he parents save money in a special fund for her fifteen year-old photos. She went to get her album. The cotillion styled gowns belonged to the photographer but she also wore her own outfits. Her aunt had bought Lenora the amazingly high heels for the photo session. The photo session cost about $180 U.S., an enormous amount in this country. However, Mayla told me that she had not done this for her daughter, so I don’t know how widespread the custom is. Lenora’s father was a physical education teacher at the school for the gifted at one time but now he sold cultural items, that I think his wife made, to tourists at the seaside resorts.
After the Team Meeting Ginny and I skipped the pizza and walked to the Fortress for lunch. Unfortunately, they’re not open on Mondays and Tuesdays. I was quite hot but we soldiered on and went to the park behind our hotel that had an artificial lake. We walked down a huge step and over a bridge to a floating restaurant called “Flotada.” The menu had the prices in CUPs not CUCs so we knew we were in a place with locals. There was a breeze off the lake and we cooled off with cold drinks, a cola for me and bottled water for Ginny.
We understood a bit more of today’s menu. I ordered fired “flat” fish with plantain chips and Ginny had mango juice and paella. It was excellent and the total cost was 40 CUPs, about $1.50 US. We paid 4 CUCs, about $4.00 US and the staff was quite puzzled by being paid in Convertible not Cuban pesos. We relieved their anxiety about change by letting them know the change was their tip.
I took a photo of the iron fish sculpture.
We went to the Heladeria (ice cream parlor) in the park with the articfical lake. It was in a modern outdoor setting that looked like a rounded airplane hangar. We loved the murals on the walls.
We got three sundae dishes of ice cream. We each ate one and split the third. Our bill was 27 CUPs, about $1.00 US.
We rested for a bit in our hotel room until it was time to take the horse and carriages to El Crucero for dinner. The broiled fish and plantain chips were excellent. I passes up the black beans and rice, ropa vieja, white rice, flan and bean-cucumber salad as I was too full from our lunch and ice cream.
That night at tutoring I worked with Emily, Ramon’s seven-year-old daughter. She’s very bright and reminds me of my daughter Emily in that when we were doing a drawing definitions game, I suggested a snowman. Of course my drawing looked better than hers because she’d never experienced snow. She sought out her father and cried because hers wasn’t perfect. Shades of my past. I counseled Ramon about living with a gifted child. I told her Henny Penny in English and Spanish and she like it much better than yesterday’s story of The Little Red Hen. She colored the characters I had for the story and I cut them out. She made up her own ending where Henny Penny ate the wolf.
When it was time to go back to the hotel, Laurie, who’d made friends with some of the baseball players, went to the game with several of the volunteers. She told the person at the gate that her husband was on the Ciego team and she got preferential seating. Everyone who went had a good time but they said the game was played at a much slower pace than American baseball. That’s hard for me to believe.
On my horse and carriage ride back to the hotel, the outer rim of a wheel came off. The carriage limped on and we got a bumpier ride.
Ginny and I watched some of the baseball game on television. Ciego won.