The morning started out with a heavy rain in Ciego, but we followed our usual routine of breakfast in the casa served by our hostess Fefi and then we walked to the Community Center.
Because of the rain, we assumed no students would show up for tutoring, as rain is a reason to stay at home in Cuba. So Alice and I had no tutoring, Barbara and Paul had no construction work and Lynda and Andrew’s work in the garden was cancelled – all due to the rain. Instead our team leader arranged to have a cultural session where we asked Yanel, our local guide and coordinator, questions about Cuba. Barbara took copious notes of the discussions, and I have her permission to share her notes. The discussion notes are below after the photos, if you want to read them.
Junior joined our discussion group, and we continued our discussions on the culture and customs of Cuba. Junior is our other coordinator and guide, and the son of the pastor of Iglesia Enmanuel.
After our group discussions and lunch and looked at the handmade items for sale on the patio of the Community Center.
We left the Community Center and took a horse and buggy to a local club, Casa de la Trova, where a jazz band – bongos and keyboard – held a private performance for us.
After the show, we were on our own for a few hours, so I wandered off through downtown Ciego on my way to the casa to take pictures – some with my phone and some with my camera.
The team met at 5:45pm to go to dinner at Garnish. There was garlic shrimp, fried sweet potatoes, rice with beans, salad, fish fingers and pork. The flan at Garnish is fantastic and we always have takers for the flan dessert.
We arrived back at the community center early and got ready for our students. Karen took a photo of me and my students (from left) Dailenya, Osmayer and Claudia. I truly enjoyed tutoring my students and got a lot of satisfaction from teaching them English, seeing them laugh and enjoy learning. I learned a few Spanish words while teaching them because I had to look up the meanings in the Spanish to English dictionary. I couldn’t have made it without that dictionary – it was so helpful.
We walked back to our casas. The end of another wonderful day in Ciego de Avila.
As mentioned above, here are Barbara’s notes from the discussion about the local customs and culture:
Yanel told us about the religion being mostly Catholic, Jewish and Santeria. He discussed economics, ration books, milk only for children, 5 lbs of rice per person each month, pick up at a specific store in the neighborhoods. Physicians make 30 CUCs per month (about $30 US) and Teachers make $25 CUCs a month.
He explained that the Cuban resorts are too expensive for Cubans to go to; Canadians pay $15 CUCs per day but a Cuban is charged $50-90 CUCs per day.
Yanel talked about food – A Cuban person cannot live on the rations received. They need to buy extra food from the market. The community garden provides for the very poor.
There are few beggars in Cuba; if someone is homeless, it is usually by choice.
The government provides homes for seniors and the Churches help out.
The Iglesia Enmanuel church that owns and operates the Community Center in Ciego, has hosted Alcoholics Anonymous for about 16 years. The IE church also collects baby clothes and delivers them on December 25.
Cuban crops are mango, pineapple, guava, papaya, sugar cane, oranges, mandarins, plums, peaches, pears, custard apples, strawberries, grapes, and Cuban wine (not very good according to Yanel).
Babies are born in the hospital. Some babies are baptized at birth but not Iglesia Enmanuel tradition. At 1 yr old babies are presented to God. People baptize 2nd Sunday after Easter upon request after tutoring from the pastor. Go to the river. First there is a typical church service. Then there is immersion in the river. Lots of food and celebration.
1st birthday is very special for the child and parents. Spend a lot of money. Music, pinatas, food balloons, cake. Some parents have parties each year for the child if they can afford it.
15th birthday is very special for the girls. Lots of pictures, clothes, special pictures downtown at various sites. Quinceanera = 15th year. Boys not so much celebration but may have a few pictures and get clothes.
Weddings: Couple sign papers at a notary with two witnesses. May go to the wedding palace – dressed up with friends and family, take pictures, party usually – no dancing though.
People in Cuba date at about 10 or 11 years.
Yanel said that Cubans are not racist. Black and white live in harmony, but there are some towns where no blacks can live just pass through. We did hear differently from some black Cubans.
Death: taken to a funeral parlor. Family stays there with the body all day ad night sometimes for two or three days. There are candles and flowers. Usually not held at houses. Everyone is buried. Not the custom to burn the body – no cremation.