Day 5 December 9, Wednesday
Today we brought to the hotel lobby our items to donate to the Community Center. I was very glad to get the 30 Spanish-English dictionaries, pencils, notebooks and toys out of my room. A few volunteers went with the donated items, taking a horse and carriage while the rest of us walked to the Community Center.
Mayla, my student from Monday, came back. We went over the greetings and simple dialogues and then went into colors, clothes and body types. She doesn’t comprehend everything but she is an earnest if shy student. When Rita arrives fort minutes later, I decided to move Mayla with me to another room. Rita is very enthusiastic and knows more English than Mayla. I learned later that Rita shared raisin wine with Ginny, who was tutoring her.
Hu Di and Alli from the Global Volunteers home office visited our project. They were stationed over at Santu Spiritus. It was great to see them.
The Gardening Group harvested cucumbers, radishes, carrots and lettuce. The kitchen staff at the Community Center prepared them with an artful presentation. We had pizza for lunch. The crust was thick, like Chicago pizza. I had a slice with tuna fish on it. The sauce looked like tomato sauce but it had a tang to it.
Donna, Kathie, Ginny and I decided to walk to the main square. I needed stamps to send the postcards I’d written. It was a very hot afternoon and I was soon sweating. The place to buy stamps was closed, permanently. Since Hu Di told me it took two months for her postcards to arrive from Cuba, I decided to mail the cards from Miami.
The square has a long wall that serves as a resting and meeting place. As we sat down to rest, the old Jewish couple came by and we talked with them. The communication was spotty at best since my Spanish was still very rusty. A little while later, our morning student, Rita went by. She invited us to come to her house for coffee. Ginny piped right up with “yes.” Rita stopped at a travel agency and we waited outside.
We walked to her home. By the time we got there I was hotter and sweatier. We sat in her living room and she brought out some natural yogurt which everyone but me tried. (I don’t do yogurt.) We toasted to our friendship. It was cool in the house and soon I felt better.
Rita, a biology teacher at a medical college, gave us a tour of her home. It included the living room, dining room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and terrace. It was quite spacious.
She gave us each maps and travel brochures about Cuba and Ciego de Avila that she had picked up at the travel agency. How considerate!
Here is a photo of Rita’s house and one of me and her.
We said our “hasta mananas” and started back to the hotel. It was about three o’clock by this time, and even hotter than before. I felt faint. By the time we were almost back to the hotel, I was on autopilot. I put up my umbrella to protect me from the oppressive heat. (I had booked the trip in December on purpose because the average high temperature was supposed to be in the low 70’s F. Unfortunately for me, they were experiencing a heat wave and it was in the high 80’s and low 90’s with high humidity.)
As soon as I got back to the room, I washed my hands and face with cold water. I still had some tea in a container in the small refrigerator in the room. There was a thick layer of ice in it, so I pressed the container to many parts of my body. I won’t let myself get that over-heated again. To hell with pride, I’ll take a pedicab even if everyone else is walking.
The hotel had some strange practices. Every day we received two additional bars of soap, mildly used, and not in paper wrapping. The same was true of toilet paper. No wrapping and clearly not a new roll. These were left whether our supply was low or not.
We went by horse and carriage ($1 each but included in our Global Volunteer fee) to The Garnish restaurant.
The freshly fried plantain chips were outstanding. The shrimp was scampied and quite good. The flan, which we have for dessert almost every night, was the best yet in terms of flavor and consistency. I ordered the TropiCola tonight. It’s much sweeter than the Ciego Montero TyKola I had yesterday. I prefer the less sweet one.
I brought a copy of my book The Castle of Chuchurumbel intending to tell it with the flannel board figures I’d packed. I started to do so with Emily, Ramon’s daughter, but Migue, my student from last night, asked for me. He was a reticent English speaker, so I agreed to work with him. While I was reviewing with him, we were joined by Geddys, the daughter of the tour director I’d met in the cigar store. Migue didn’t talk as much after she joined us as she is more fluent in English. It was a pleasure to have a conversation with her about Cuban life. Below is a photo of Warren and Joan and their student Annie. The other photo is David and Sandy and the teenagers they tutored.
After we got back to our hotel, via horse and carriage, I went upstairs to Amy and Caroline’s room where our purified water is housed. I saw Laurie there and she offered me a piece of sugar cane or coconut she’d cut with the cook at the Community Center, who took her on a bike tour. I took a piece of coconut and split it with Ginny. She didn’t like the hardness of it. I liked it but it was very chewy.