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Work 4 Peace,Hold All Life Sacred,Eliminate Violence! I am on my mobile version of the door-to-door, going town-to-town holding readings/gatherings/discussions of my book "But What Can I Do?" This is my often neglected blog mostly about my travels since 9/11 as I engage in dialogue and actions. It is steaming with my opinions, insights, analyses toward that end of holding all life sacred, dismantling the empire and eliminating violence while creating the society we want ALL to thrive in

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Marisa and Idalmes

Marisa introduces me to her granddaughter and talks about how much she loves her. She makes her say “hello, how are you” in English. I talk to her in English and Spanish and she races off giggling. Then Marisa introduces me to her friend Idalmes.

Both womyn help me express myself in Spanish and they explain to each other everything I’m trying to say. I am very curious about all the new construction taking place & I ask them whether it is the government that is paying for the construction and the land or if it is private.

They tell me (I think), it is Cubans, not the government, that pay for materials and labor. Once the house is built, they do not owe anything to anyone. One womon says she hasn’t worked since the house was finished – she doesn’t want to , she needs rest and peace. The other womon says she works a few months out of the year.

Both womyn tell me they will rent their homes MUCH cheaper than the hotel I’m staying at. I tell them I have an all-inclusive deal this time but maybe next time.

These womyn are best friends. They treat each other so kindly and affectionately – and treat me kindly also – I ask them if they’ve know each other all their lives, and yes they have. Idalmes takes us into her house to show me what I can rent the next time I return, maybe with my daughter and grandchild.

Beautiful bright swirled green tiles form the floor on the entry way and all through the house. The first room we walk into is the living room with the open kitchen right behind it. On the left of these big, long rooms are three bedrooms and at the very end a very modern bathroom. This house is immaculately clean as well, like mine might almost resemble when I know I’m having special company.

A young man is watching tv in the living room. He gets up politely as she introduces her youngest son - who quitely towers over all of us - and comes to shake my hand. She then takes us outside to a little covered porch and then down a few steps to a magical garden with banana trees, lemon, mango, papaya, and an avocado tree. She tells me this is her job, every day, clearing some of the land to plant what she wants to grow.

I ask my same questions about the government and fear and freedom of speech and get the same answers. It is so peaceful here and although they would like more food sometimes and more money, they are happy, their children are happy, and their grandchildren are happy.

I ask if there is violence in Cuba, if men hit their wives or kill them. They gravely tell me no, not at all, but they know that happens in the U.S. – they both have televisions and watch movies. 

We talk about the dangers of more people from the U.S. coming to Cuba. They look at me blankly. I tell them about how good capitalism is at tricking people. They still look at me blankly. They don’t understand how they can be tricked. I tell them someone will come and offer then what they think will be TONS of money for their homes. They might not be able to resist. Once they get the money and a u.s.ofa. person has moved in, then prices will skyrocket (try saying that in Spanish!) And the money they thought was soooooo much, will turn out to be not enough anymore.

It’s called gentrification. They nod wisely and I can see they understand. I explain to them that we in the u.s. are conditioned not to care about other people, the people that we are getting cheap labor from or slave labor, the people whose resources we are stealing. I tell them there’s not a country in the world that we have gone into and not devastated the people.

Oh sure, some people will get very rich – but most people will suffer. 

That’s my fabulous conversation for today! I look at the time and realize I have less than an hour to make it back to the bicycle womon so we hug and kiss goodbye and I head back the way I came.

It takes only 20 minutes for me to get back and I don’t have to get off my bike once - except when my hat flies off as I race downhill. I learn later that I was on my way to the indigenous museum and should have kept going but I had thought it was the other way. 

Grrrrr oh well, I’ll just have to return.

Day 3 - to be continued

I’m up my usual 6am today and I head out quickly to the beach. The sun is just rising and I see only a few tourists around, perhaps catching one more glimpse of the sea before climbing on the bus to the airport.

I do my stretches and then run for 30 minutes 4 times back and forth across the beach. Then I am able to do my Tibetan morning stretches before I head out to breakfast.

After my conversation with the English communists last nite who informed me that they’ve met many communists here, I’ve decided to try to wear my “Black Womyn’s Lives Matter” t-shirt to at least the breakfast and dinner buffets, just in case there are more activistas camouflaged there.

I intend to be at the bike stall by 9am so I can maybe ride all morning – at least until it gets too hot. When I amble over to the bikes, the womon recognizes me of course and reiterates again that I cannot ride to Holguin. I laugh and reassure her I will not. I can only have the bike for three hours so I head out in the direction the French Canadian came from, even though he thinks I can’t ride that way, just so I can further reiterate I do not intend to go to Holguin.

The bike is simple with foot brakes only and no gears. I take a few wild plunges off the side walk over grass and soil before I remember to brake with my feet. I finally find the way out of the gigantic hotel grounds (I think there’s 750 rooms scattered about not to mention the gym – with weights only, no electric equipment – the children’s building and play ground, to mention a few. The road continues to boarder hotels for several blocks, giving me a chance to adjust to my primitive bicycle.

Soon I am on the road, leaving the hotels behind, and being treated to stunning glimpses of the beautiful, calm aqua blue green ocean on my left and the greenest vegetation and red soil on my right. Horse and buggies pass me, some trucks spewing black smoke occasionally rumble by, and the scattering of cars, some early 50’s u.s.a., others later model maybe 20 or 30 year old German or Japanese cars. A few motorcycles but mostly bicycles on the road.

A womon who lives in a cement house just past the hotels, waves to me, wanting me to stop in, claiming she has a present for me. I shout back that I am riding my bike now, but thank you. I am looking for a different kind of adventure today.

I ride my bike, getting more confident as I try to remember no hand brakes, following the only road out of hotelville and feel like I am entering a more real part of Cuba. I see a few small farms and amazing red dirt and wonder how it is to grow here. Soon the road has become so steep – la loma – that I have to get off my bike and walk us up the hill. It is hot but clouds frequently cover the sun so it is not unbearable. My water is still ice cold and I’ve only been riding for about 20 minutes so far.

A young man I saw hanging out at the bicycle stand soon catches up with me with his bike. He is also walking it and I wonder briefly if he was sent by the womon proprietor to check if I was heading to Holguin and to snatch me or rather the bicycle back.

We begin talking as I notice he has a film festival t-shirt on – the same film festival I’m supposed to pick up a memory stick from but alas, it is only a t-shirt he has found, he has not been to the film festival. He speaks less English than I speak Spanish but we communicate.

We both get on our bikes and continue to ride on this sparsely traveled highway – thank goodness because there’s no shoulder just gravel, dirt and short grasses along the road side. We do the usual exchange of names (I don’t understand his, he doesn’t understand mine), where we live (he up the road, me United States), how we learned English/Spanish (he school, me school) before I ask him if he likes living in Cuba, if he’s afraid of the police, if he feels threatened by the government, if he’s been warned not to speak poorly of Cuba.

I’m trying to ask everyone these questions, as my Spanish tutor from Cuba claims all the people have such fears – I’ve yet to find anyone thus far, who has confessed.

He is very young, maybe 16, coffee-brown skin, black eyes, slicked back full-bodied hair, slight but not skinny. He doesn’t understand my questions but he tries hard to figure it out. He says everything is peaceful in Cuba, no one fights except drunkards and druggies – neither of which he is. 

I wonder if he is going to accompany me my entire bike ride, even though I do not know where I will end up. We pass a small town maybe ½ mile off the main highway to the right. All along the highway we’ve been riding on are small sporadic fields and even fewer single family homes. I debate turning off to explore that village but decide to keep riding instead.

We get off our bikes once more before cresting at the top of the peak. This village butts up against the road plus another road splits off the main highway. I decide to swing right onto this road and my little biker companion swings left to continue up the main highway.

Several new houses are being constructed here. I think I’ve said – all the houses in Cuba seem to be either cement or cinderblock with either some kind of tin or sheet metal roofs or thatched roofs. And they are painted very striking, bright, happy colors. 

Several womyn are walking in twos or threes down the road. There are also horse and oxen drawn carts and other bikers. Chickens pluck about and goats dot the fields. I see a pig here and there.

When I get to the end of the paved road, I can either bear to the right or make a 90 degree turn to the left. Both roads are that deep red/brown earth. A large garbage truck comes at me from the road on the right so I decide to take the left path. I get off my bike and walk it from here.

I pass small garden plots and small houses. None of the houses I’ve seen thus far in Cuba have been huge or even big. Some have a second story but not many. 

I pass this sign and off in the distance, I see either a couple of caves or some mining in the side of the distant mountain. Everyone I pass greets me with an Hola or Buenos Dias and big, curious, shy smiles.

Soon I hear the sound of children laughing and playing and I realize I’ve come to the school. I ask a couple of men who appear to be hanging outside the fence if this is the school for the entire village. They tell me it is just for 11, 12, and 13 year olds. There are other schools.

I continue a little farther but the road is getting rougher and the land is more wooded although I can see it is a well-worn path up here. I decide to retrace my steps.

When I get back on the paved road now leading out of town, I pass two womyn who wave at me and ask me to stop.