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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

Monday, May 16, 2016

Nite 7 Solar!!!

The hotel has been inundated by a large group of Cubans, mostly men – I try to find out who they are, I’m guessing with their camaraderie and maleness, and they all appear around mid 40’s (as if I know what Cubans look like at mid-40 – most Cubans here think I’m mid-40s … hahaha). I think they are over-the-hill soccer players because they have an aura of previous fitness but now most tend to sport beer bellies.

Even males in Cuba greet each other with cheek caresses and air kisses – most of the time, both sides. And when they put their arms around each other, they do a genuine full body, strong hug. It’s quite endearing to watch – and to participate in with the womyn! Most of the food servers are womyn, as are most of the cleaners. These are the womyn I come in contact with most frequently, of course. 

I finally speak with one man who can understand my Spanish who tells me this is a solar convention where they are training their people in the latest solar technology – a PUBLIC service and business. Imagine that! 

Muy bueno!!!! I tell him I have solar on mi casa camion and he translates to the small group that is listening intently. They all break out in smiles and nods when he says it, while they just looked lost when I was talking.
Practico, practico, practico….

Day 7 Mujeres granjeras organicas...

Oh the days are slipping by and I have not found any womyn farmers yet. The best lead I’ve had has been from the tour guide that lives in Banes (about 30 kilometers south of here) who assures me that there is a group of campasinas living together and growing food but he does not know directly of them, only his neighbor, who is also a gardener, does.

But he has not contacted me again even though he told me he would. I have to be patient, things move at a different pace here.

Plus I did not give him a tip so that probably ended things before they began – even though I told him I would pay him to find womyn farmers.

The other lead I have is that tomorrow it is also farmers day, as well as stand against homophobia day in Holguin, and all of Cuba – so maybe I will be able to make connections there. IF I get to Holguin. I will hate to have to take a cab, if I can’t rent a car…grrrrr

7:00am this morning after telling me my reserved car is no longer available, I am told to return to the rental car place in an hour or two but I do not want to pick up a car late morning or in the middle of the day – then I’ll have to return in the middle of the day & it won’t give me enough time to get anywhere, explore, get into conversations, and then get back.

Instead I go for a swim in the beautiful almost warm shallow aquamarine waters but the beach is still pretty crowded and the sun intense, so I leave the beach to walk around the workers’ Guardalavaca and then back to the tourist marketplace where I continue to talk with vendors.

I learn how bad my Spanish pronunciation is when walking down the sidewalk in the workers’ Guardalavaca, I try to point out a big butterfly – mariposa – to a womon who does not work with tourists and who is sitting quietly in the shade in front of her door watching her daughter play on the ground in front of her. It takes repeating myself several times – long after the butterfly leaves –  with me thinking I’m saying the right word and her focusing intently, until she finally goes, ‘ah ha, mariposa’ and then I see I’ve been mispronouncing this simple word…. Grrrrr

I continue to the little outdoor food vendors cooking in small wooden structures with palm leaf roofs and see that their menu is similar to the hotel food with the fried and grilled fish and chicken, no tamales – sniffle – and few vegetables. Corn and tomatoes seem to dominate, as well as fresh fruit juices. But there is a small ‘mercadito’ a few blocks away that is adobe and brick, with a sheet metal roof, and painted deep purple with lovely fruits and veggies drawn on the front. I see they have papaya, platanos, pineapple, guava, cabbage, calabasa, onion, tomatoes and the like. 

I also see in a kind of alley between and behind the tall apartment buildings a small cart overflowing with fruit and a wizened old man pushing it shouting something I cannot understand. I will not buy anything so I do not bother him but I sure would like a picture!

I believe one CUC (the tourist money) is worth at least 10 pesos (the people’s money). And I find out that electricity is only 1 peso a month, apparently for everyone, and the apartments are free although people are now allowed to rent out rooms or even entire apartments. When I ask people where they would live if I rented their apartment, they look at me as if I’m asking about the elephant walking down the street. They tell me it’s not a problem, they have friends, neighbors, family. Cubans take care of each other, they assure me.

And yet I see a very small handful of very, very, very skinny, very old Cubans with sad, hopeless eyes begging for money. I try to ask about them but I simply get agreement that it is a problem in Cuba, everyone getting enough food and clothes. 

And getting enough work. It seems some people work 6 days a week and others have work only for 6 months during the high tourist season.

I walk back across the wide park where no horses are grazing now – they’re probably all out working, pulling carts with tourists or even being ridden by tourists – and amble through the market, marveling once again at the abundant artistic talent in Cuba.

I am told that everything sold in the market has to be hand-made and also made by either the vendor or someone the vendor personally knows. The vendors get 10% of their sales, pay the market at the end of the day 15% of their sales, and then turn the rest over to the artists.

I’m told that there used to be a government official standing with each vendor all day to keep track of sales until they realized this was not feasible and so now, vendors are on an honor system. When I ask if vendors are tempted to lie about sales – I probably should have not used that word – they again look like I’m talking about the elephant on the sidewalk. 

They tell me the government takes care of all the people of Cuba, and without the artist, they’d have no work so they wouldn’t lie. I can’t imagine how tempting it must be to at least fudge a little. One CUC is worth so much money to them. And who knows, but the seller and buyer, if a painting went for $25 dollars or $24?

I return to the beach once more to swim before dinner and to study my Spanish. I try to also study at least once a day although I really miss my rosetta stone and my Spanish class.

Day 7 Pinares de Mayari - to be continued

I want to rent a car today to go to Pinares de Mayari which is a beautiful national park in the mountains that includes hiking trails and waterfalls. I have reserved a jeep but when I arrive at 7:00 excited at the prospect of seeing more of Cuba, I am told my car has been rented to someone else that is coming from the airport and there is no other car available.

I am very disappointed but now I can return to the beach, jog and stretch, and have a leisurely breakfast and maybe catch up with my blogging.

I am at one of the bars on the main floor which I like a lot because I get to stand up and write, which is so much better than sitting for hours writing. And it is at the far end of the bar so I am not amongst all the smokers and there is a nice breeze flowing through the courtyard. 

The only plug in the room is here. I will write here from now on. One of the bar tenders wants a computer for his son who is at the university. I immediately wonder if he’ll trade for a car rental for four days. Probably if he can afford a car rental he could buy a computer, but maybe not.

I will ask my friend Manuel (pronoun ‘man well’) whom I have bought paintings from. He is 45, has lived in England for 9 years, was a university professor at the Holguin university but quit to make more money selling his ‘brother’s’ paintings to tourists at the small market next to my hotel. 

He has two teenaged children by two different womyn, has been married four times, and declares this is his last marriage although not necessarily his last child. His fourth wife, who looks much younger than him, has a 10 year old boy but wants another child, plus he’s supporting his sister whose eyesight is failing, and his mother – or at least helping to support, as his sister lives with his mother.

I am trying to trade my books with him for three more fabulous pictures but he is not trading yet. I overheard him tell someone he really needs a book to read so I thought he’d jump at the chance to read the two new books I bought at the Toronto airport. He said he cannot afford to trade – he only gets 10% of the sales – but he wants children’s toys instead, which I don’t have – I never got the soccer balls together…. Oh well.