I had a leisurely breakfast this morning. I’ve been eating two fried eggs each morning, passing up the breakfast meats. Good thing I walk at least two miles a day.
Mayla came for tutoring. Another beginner, Teresa, joined us. She’s a retired cook. We reviewed greetings, colors, body parts, family, numbers and some food. I gave them both index cards with English and Spanish of everything we covered. Mayla isn’t working as a Spanish teacher because she’s ill. I don’t want to intrude and ask what’s wrong with her, but I wonder.
After our Team Meeting, for lunch we had freshly harvested sugar cane with our sandwiches and freshly squeezed guava and pineapple juices. I chewed on the sugar cane but didn’t like the consistency.
Susan, Vann and I walked with Ramon, our local guide to his home. As we were walking he talked about his daughter Emily’s school. She’s seven years old and very bright. He said he often picks her up early. When I asked why he said that they don’t teach much in the afternoon, mostly rest. As He said this, Emily’s teacher rode by on her bicycle! Since it was only one o’clock I asked how she could be out of school. He said the teachers cover for each other. He explained that teachers don’t get paid very much. He used to be a teacher but he couldn’t support his family on a teacher’s pay and teachers were forbidden to take extra jobs. He said for most jobs the adage is, “We pretend to work and the government pretends to pay us.”
Ramon explained that Emily gets lunch at school for 7 CUPs a month, about $.35 U.S. Full time day care for children not of school age, including breakfast, two snacks and lunch is 100 CUPs a month, about $4.00 U.S.
We passed the bus depot where I saw a very long bus, three busses made into one. Ramón said that there isn’t enough public transportation and the busses didn’t have seats. Everyone stood so more people could be packed in. I also saw a really old car.
Ramon and his family are living with his neighbor until he can rebuild his house. It was supposed to be for two months but it’s dragged on for almost a year. I looked at the building and there seemed much to be done. A friend is helping him. I think there’s also problems with paucity of building materials and money.
It was a long complicated story bound up with the fact that until recently homes could not be sold. Ramon had an agreement with the woman who owned the home, where he and his family lived on the second floor, that he would put on a concrete roof on the second floor. In return she would give him the top floor of the house. However, she traded her home with another two women who didn’t want to honor the agreement. Ramon went to a friend who was a lawyer to sort it out. The old women complained to inspectors (building?) and work had to stop while they investigated. Due to a new building code, Ramon had to remove the roof, enlarge the house and heighten the ceiling, and replace the iron stairs with concrete ones.
Ramon’s wife didn’t speak English, but she welcomed us in. Their younger daughter Evelyn, is thirteen months old. She showed off her new walking skills. Of course they offered us coffee but I don’t drink it and besides it was a hot as hell day.
Susan and Vonn took a pedicab back but there’s only room for two people. I took a horse and carriage by myself and took pictures along the way back to the hotel.
Pedicabs, horse and carriages, bicycles, motorcycles and busses far outnumber cars in this city. As you can see there aren’t many vehicles on the roads.
I stopped by the hotel bar for a soda and was served a diet Tykola. How did the bartender know I would prefer a diet soda? Did he just look at me and figured I needed to take off some pounds? Anyway, it tasted more like chemicals that American diet cola. I’ll stick to the sugared ones here in Cuba. They have only 100n calories per can, are made with real sugar, and taste great.
Tonight we tutor at five instead of seven because there’s an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at the Community Center at our usual tutoring time, 7 p.m.
We took the horse and carriages to the Community Center. I worked with Migue again. He was sweet to greet me with a kiss on my cheek. His name is actually a longer form of Miguel but he is called Migue. We reviewed the previous material and added relatives and transportation.
We walked to El Crucer, the ship-themed restaurant. We feasted on yummy French fires, ropa vieja, pounded pork steaks, lamb, vegetables and of course, rice and black beans.
After we returned to the hotel I joined Donna, Amy, Caroline and Bobbie at the hotel bar. I had my first mojito in Cuba. It was okay and tasted better as I drank it. All of the volunteers I’ve had in depth talks with are amazing people who had high powered careers and manage to fit in humanitarian activities.