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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

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Day 5 Guardalavaca worker bees

About ¼ mile away, in front of the hotel, past the several roads and driveways, and behind a huge open field stand a row of apartment building after apartment building painted bright beckoning colors making it almost impossible to distinguish from a hotel.

I decide to walk over there & find out what’s going on. It turns out these are the houses that the government builds before building the hotel – houses for the constructions workers, and later the hotel workers. 

Not just apartments but schools as well, and infirmaries. It’s really incredible this way of life. I talk with several people and am invited into homes, but I don’t go this time – it’s getting late and I want to get online tonite, if I can. As I stroll through the complex, I hear a group of people loudly drumming on substitute drums. I can’t see exactly what they are using but it seems like buckets, metal, rocks, all rhythmically projecting a blend of appealing jaunty sounds that propel me dancing down the sidewalk.

There are signs from the revolution all over the complex. (I'll post pics when I can) and a modern sculpture next to the playground. I wonder if there’s going to be an election as I read these slabs of rock painted (pics).

At the far end of the village there’s a small group of closed shacks lined up together forming a square that appear to be places to buy food. When I ask the young man who is inside the fence if these are shops, he brusquely tells me no. I should have used the word for restaurant instead. I decide to come back during the day and explore for myself. I’d LOVE to find a place that sells tamales!

I wish the tourist industry would do it differently here in Cuba. I suppose some things are different, as the dollar being worth 2/3 of a Cuban dollar. But the plastic cups, bottles, and straws are scattered on the beach along with too many cigarette butts. I wish the hotel would give out glasses and ban the use of straws, not to mention smoking but I think banning straws would be simple compared to banning smoking.

It seems as many womyn are smoking here as men, although I can’t tell if they’re european or Canadians; there are many, many, many Spanish-speaking tourists here – I will ask the waitresses if they are Cubanos o Spaniards, or maybe from other Central or South American countries or Mexico. 

But the hotel hands out one beach towel and you have to keep your receipt in order to get and return the towel; they could do the same for glasses and water bottles to cut down on the basura en la playa. 

I also wonder about the abundance of food in the hotels, of course. How can people be so okay eating so much when most of the people in Cuba have so little to eat? The government makes sure everyone has a subsistence level of food which every single person in Cuba is entitled to – no lengthy filling out papers process, or intense government scrutiny to determine if you deserve food or not, or shame connected to ‘handouts’ – but the gap between how much food is in the hotels and how much is in the homes of most Cubans is shameful.

Maybe the leftover food goes to feed those who are hungry, I don’t know. I think I will ask. At the very least, the seeds should be saved from the delicious fruit and vegetables as I’ve heard from some farmers that seed is scarce. I’m shocked, how can it be with sooooooo much food here at the hotel and how easy it is to save seeds, especially the calabasa, papaya, watermelon – they all have an abundance of seed and grow easily from seed.

I will ask about that also.

Day 5 Holguin

I only had two hours to explore Holguin today – I didn’t know until I was on the van that they would stay in Holguin for only two hours. The van had been waiting outside the hotel door when I approached the front desk to find out into re:going to Holguin. I rushed onto the waiting van, happy to know I can get there and back for $15.

After taking off, at first, the van stopped at about 5 or 6 other hotels ‘along the way’ – the slow boat to Holguin – trying unsuccessfully to pick up more tourists. As it was, there were two other womyn and two other men already on the van, all from Holland.

The two womyn turned out to be lesbians, a couple! So I came out for the second time! It was delightful. They had been worried about being out in Cuba but haven’t had any trouble. I told them about Pride next week – actually it’s a stand against homophobia apparently and it will be on the 17th.

Holguin is actually a huge city, about 350,000 people – and an extremely clean city from the little parts I saw of it. We drove by the university where our tour guide said he studied accounting, but accounting was so boring to him, he loves this job showing tourists around not to mention he makes so much more money, as he rubs his big beer belly.

We all go our separate ways, once we’ve memorized the ‘meet-up’ place: I head down a city street and the first thing I come across is a café where it appears there’s a meeting taking place. I ask if I can listen and I’m told sure. The café walls are only mostly waist high, at least the 2 sides that are bordered by the street corner. There’s a shelf on to top edge of the wall and then open space so I could lean in and listen without being too intrusive.

I couldn’t understand much all the chairs placed in rows facing the front were all filled. Men outnumbered womyn 2 to 1 at least with all ages and all skin hues asking questions and listening intently.

In the front of the room, in the corner was a huge Cuban flag and three men sitting alongside it and behind a table. One was a deep dark chocolate, the middle guy was a polished walnut, and the last guy a cappuccino brown – I wonder if it was intentionally designed that way. They all talked way to fast and intensely for me to follow. But I did hear words like “cuidado”, “peligroso”, and “estados undios” and not necessarily together or in that order.

I keep walking. The next thing I see is another university. I spoke with the womon there who told me students study free anything they want, culture, history, medicine. When I asked her about womyn growing organic on a collective, she didn’t know. But she did know about next week’s stand against homophobia – she’s the one who clarified the purpose of the gathering on Tuesday. I a sked her if there was a lot of homophobia in Holguin and she said not any more. Another man who had come to help agreed with her and said one of Raul’s daughters has been working hard to end homophobia in Cuba.

After the university, I kept walking away from the town square – the streets seem to be mostly one way and not very much traffic with again, horses and carts sharing space with bicyclists, motorcyclists, and cars: vintage u.s. and newer german, Korean, and Japanese.

I am struck by how clean the streets are. The buildings themselves remind me of Mexico with their iron trims, bright colors, low heights. I try to peer in to see if I can see a square but can’t see any.

Some folks are playing dominoes, some reading newspapers, others crowded around a color tv watching soccer. Many people have made the front window or doorway space into a small tienda, sometimes selling only 20 items on a tray or other times having maybe 6 pieces of clothing hanging on the wall.

I also see lots of signs “Room for rent” and even one sign that I think is for a hostel. I had to leave in such a rush to catch the only bus going to Holguin today that I forgot my water so I’m forced to buy a plastic bottle. It is inside the photo shop, which took me three tries to find even though everyone pointed in that direction and said ‘on the corner’. 

I’m also looking for an outdoor market where I’ve been told many of the vendors selling veggies and fruit are womyn who bring the produce from their gardens. I don’t find the marketplace but I do find a kind of indoor market place comprised of many vendors selling different touristy things.
I find a young man selling paintings he claims his grandmother has done. I buy two little water colors and a larger woodblock print. Amazing really – soooooooo many fabulous artists in Cuba! And on hand-made paper. Such talent.

I make it back to the van just on time and we head back to Guardalavaca. This time we stop at one of the many roadside produce stands and I buy a delicious big mango – not that I need any food but I couldn’t resist.