The morning started off as usual – we had a huge breakfast made by Fefi, our casa hostess. Unfortunately, I contracted a case of “Montezuma’s revenge”, so I took some medicine and prayed that it would work.
Then Alice and I walked to the Community Center.
Once we arrived at the Community Center, we met up with Karen (team leader), Barbara and Paul. Barbara offered some charcoal for my stomach, which I took. Then we all walked the 20 minutes to the Community Garden, where Andrew and Lynda were working every day from 8am to about 10 or 11am. I saw this man hauling something on his bicycle on the way.
“For many people in rural regions of developing countries, poverty is a daily reality. In areas where walking is the only mode of transport, a bicycle offers the real and immediate benefit of reliable access to essential goods and services. Powered by the remarkable human spirit, bicycles are a catalyst to possibilities.” ~ World Bicycle Relief
Bicycles are a major mode of transportation in Ciego de Avila.
The Community Garden is a huge garden, and the crops are picked and sold at the stand or given to hospitals, day care centers, and other service groups. I took photos of the garden area along with photos of our team working there.
And I took a few other photos at the garden.
We walked back to the Community Center in time to start our tutoring. When Lynda returned, she helped with the tutoring, and Andrew had a long conversation with one of our coordinators, Jari.
While waiting for the group to have lunch, I went outside and took a few photos. What really got to me was the “taxi” that passed by. Actually more like a “cattle car”, I understand these are quite common on the eastern side of Cuba. What I thought was very interesting was the fact that the bus/taxi was very old and I loved the fact that it appeared to have been repurposed and/or recycled.
It felt and looked like the young man looking out of the window with the piercing eyes was looking directly at me, and probably wondering why I was taking a photo of him or his bus.
I went back into the Community Center for lunch. The group had lunch together. and then we had our team meeting. Paul read his summary of the previous day and Barbara provided the inspiration quote for the day: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent that survives, it is the one that is the most adaptable to change” ~ Charles Darwin.
Karen asked each person to share their thoughts on what they appreciate most so far about being in Cuba. I said I got satisfaction from working with Karen (our team leader) and the team of volunteers, and satisfaction from tutoring.
Karen said it was more important here that we make connections than accomplish goals. She spoke about not giving gifts and not making promises to the local people. And she stressed the importance of working under the direction of the locals.
After lunch, our cultural activity for the day was visiting a local cigar store. I purchased several cigars for a few people in Columbus that asked me to get some for them. I was totally lost and had no idea what kind of cigars to buy, so I chose a selection of three different ones and hoped that my people would be happy with them. Here are a few photos of the cigar store employee.
After that adventure, we walked back to our casas. Here are a few photos I took in town on the way back.
I was passing by this man sitting outside and asked if I could take his picture, and he nodded. “If someone does not smile at you, be generous and offer your own smile. Nobody needs a smile more than the one that cannot smile to others.” ~ Dalai Lama
I’m sure I smiled
I passed a few colorful homes on the way.
Upon arrival at my casa, I saw our hostess, Fefi, on the roof hanging laundry.
I rested for a while, and decided that my stomach was well enough to join the group for dinner – so at 5:30pm we walked to meet the team at the restaurant, Garnish.
Dinner for the group was a choice of shrimp or meat or fish plus fried sweet potatoes and rice. I had vegetable soup. For the most part, I didn’t take photos of lunches or dinners during our two weeks there. Now I’m wishing I had, just so I could have and share the memories. Most people don’t really care what you ate or what it looks like – unless it’s something very special or unusual, but I have had people ask me how the food in Cuba was.
After dinner, we walked the one block to the Community Center to begin our tutoring for the evening at 7pm. Barbara and Paul took on a load of children to tutor, and they were a handful – wow! Lynda worked with one student. Alice focused on one of the intermediate students. Andrew worked with two teenagers. And I worked with my late teen students who are intermediate – they know some English words and are learning how to construct sentences and conversations.
At 9pm, we adjourned, cleaned up the community center and walked back to our casas to end the evening.
“Cuban culture relishes the pure and saturated pigments covering entire façades and other large edifices.” ~ Architectural Digest.
I passed by this casa every day on my way to and from the Community Center in Ciego de Avila, and, along with all of the other homes I passed that were painted vibrant colors, it was a reminder that the people in Cuba love color. I think that reflects the feelings in their souls – colorful, vibrant, happy.
“The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most.” ~ John Ruskin