CHIHUAHUAS FOR CHANGE

Magic Margot Shoebox is a collection point for all that I hold dear - and that's a lot. My recent inspiration is Don Floyd's new blog thecaptainandthomasine.

The original title of my blog "Chihuahuas for Change" popped into my head two years ago when I was looking for a place to "store" all the information I accumulated on Sarah Palin. I've since dumped that information as others have done a far better job researching and accumulating.


Life is about change and since I have darling Libby the chihuahua the title seems to still be fresh.

KINDNESS

One can pay back the loan of gold, but one dies forever in debt to those who are kind.

"Nullius in verba" Take no one's word for it.
Do your own research.

Success if going from one failure to the next with enthusiasm. Winston Churchill

tracking

Tracking

SHOEBOX


I told you this is a shoebox and we all know that we simply put stuff into a shoebox in no particular order. That's how things are going to appear here. When something whaps me over the head you will be the first to know.

Right now, I want to tell you about my favorite blog in the whole wide world - Margaret and Helen. Hope you go read their post called "I can see November" - while there note their statistics. A grandson set this site up and it's been around the world several times. Margaret and Helen have been friends for over sixty years and counting.

http://margaretandhelen.wordpress.com/

Don Floyd and I have been friends for more than thirty years and counting. We first became pen pals in the late 70's. We are cousins and share a passion for genealogy. My major project this year was helping Don get his book "The Captain and Thomasine" published. Will give you more details in later post.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

CUBA TRIP

January 1998
Its been fourteen months since we went to Cuba.  I kept a notebook, but it is skimpy.  Before I put it away I am going to reconstruct our trip and our feelings.  Wish I had done it earlier because some impressions and emotions fade with time.  However, its an indication of the depth of feeling the trip aroused that causes so many memories to be with me still. 

First I remember that for weeks after I returned and sometimes even now when things are not going well, I remember the expression I made over and over on my return home: “I’ll never complain again.  I’ve been to Havana and seen people with nothing and yet them seem reasonably happy”.  Are they simply numb after all the years of deprivation?  I don’t think so; rather, I think it is an innate spirit.  Music is everywhere and a general air of contentment or is it resignation?  I don’t mean to say that there isn’t suffering for there obviously is a great deal.  The remarkable state is that somehow humans are able to adapt and even rise a bit above.

The most moving evidence of suffering is the willingness of women to prostitute themselves.  The second most obvious evidence of suffering is the total lack of upkeep for all the buildings and roads.  Havana demonstrates quite clearly the effect of no one pays taxes for forty years for even buildings and roofs built to last will eventually melt to nothing when basic upkeep is neglected.  All along the Malecon are fabulous homes weathering to dust.  Through wide open or non-existent doors I glimpsed hallways and interiors reveling the worse deterioration that I’ve ever seen.  Yet, people live here.  Look at the second floor and you see people, chickens and laundry on the balcony.  Do they have running water and a sewage system?  Who knows.  Coming upon these fabulous buildings with their unparalleled view of the water is a great surprise that makes one gasp.  What a place this must have been.  Perhaps that makes the present situation even more horrible.  This is not a backward third world country, but rather a highly civilized place with educated people living amidst rubble.  How do they do it.?

We left Isla Meujeures Mexico bound for Havana on a beautiful morning, but as we traveled the rolling of the water increased.  Losing site of land aroused emotions of unexpected uneasiness.  The mind starts to cook up scenes that flash from inconvenient trouble to life threatening disaster.  Gradually the realization dawns that this isn’t the Disney-safe inter coastal waterway on the west coast of Florida, but rather real life, and the phrase from the Navy Hymn “perils of the sea” becomes reality.  Who would come if we called on the radio?  Who would hear – that kind of thing?.  We traveled all day without seeing another boat or even a plane.  My mind rolled back and forth tossed by fantasies of trouble and yet soothed by the sight of the endless water and prospect of our destination. 

It was almost simultaneously that Al Krueger our engineer and Yergan the owner of “Explorer” noticed a “vibration” and slowed the engines.  Suddenly the comfort of the puffing engines was quieted bringing on a real sense of “aloneness”.  Al threw up came the interior hatches and descended into the engine room to inspect.  The boat rolled lazily with the waves.  Al declared he couldn’t find anything and the engines were revved up.  Same vibrations.  Now it was time for discussion.  What could it be (Al said it couldn’t be a prop or a shaft as all had been serviced recently.  And yet, there it was – a vibration at the half-way point of the trip.)  If the destination was anywhere but Cuba we would have continued on, but not knowing what type of service Cuba might offer, we turned back at 4:00 in the afternoon and slowly made our way back to the point of beginning.  A full day of traveling and were simply returning to port in Isla Mujares.  Just past midnight we backed into our slip and managed to waken most of the marina.  The process of backing evidently caused whatever had wrapped around the shaft to be dislodged and thrown off because the diver who went down in the morning found nothing.

Our second departure for Cuba was a bit later than the first since we stayed up talking to a neighbor from the marina.  Our late return brought him down to see what was wrong, and he accepted the offer of a drink, and one thing led to another until he told the tale of the pirates who attacked his sail boat while he was anchored off Guatemala.  Such hair raising stories full of blood and death are common in movies, but none of us had ever heard of a real attack.  He had escaped only by hacking the pirate to death with a machete.  Now our minds really had a fantasy to toss around as we set out on the high seas for a second try at reaching Havana

Today the seas are calm and the voyage smooth. – almost boring.  The engines drone all day and all night and we wake the next morning to see off the starboard the mountains of the west end of Cuba hazy in the distance.  All day we cruise along the north west coast never seeing a boat, plane or even a fish.  (Al had his lines out all day and caught nothing.)  We estimate that we will arrive in Havana late in the evening, and decide to call on the radio when we get closer.  The day is uneventful and pleasant interrupted by pleasant conversations and naps.  Night comes and we continue to push forward, and a new aloneness creeps back into our minds for we are about to enter Havana harbor and no one knows we are coming.  We do not have a detailed chart of the harbor, and it lacks the obvious red and green markers that serve as landmarks to a stranger.  Overlaying the whole is a sense of uneasiness about how our arrival will be received although we’d been told there would not be a problem.

When our instruments indicate we are near Havana Harbor we turn south and try to hail Marina Hemingway.  No answer.  We try again and this time are told to call back as we get closer.  (Well, at least they know we’re here and don’t seem intent on shooting us out of the sky.)  Except for the far away voice on the VHS radio there is no sign of life at all - not another boat of any description.  How strange not to see any fishermen out at night.  Slowly, we see a glow and then slowly it becomes individual lights along the shore.  What a feeling to see this place develop out of the darkness.  We get a sense of what Columbus must have felt when he visited the area five hundred years earlier.  There isn’t a clue about which direction to take, and its only after communication is established by radio that we are given dubious directions.  The Cubans patrol the harbor with radar and once they pick us up “talk us in” by saying “head for the white light.”   The whole shore line is white lights making its hard to pick our exactly the “white light” they have in mind.  (How dependent we have become on the lovely red and green channel markers at home.)

Jergan steers the boat and Steve, Al and I strain our eyes for the “white light” among many as well as keep a look out for any possible obstruction in the bay.  Slowly, we approach the shore guided by the Cuban with only the essentials of English, but none the less more than our knowledge of Spanish.  Bit by bit we steer and turn and chug along until we find the particular white light and head toward the immigration dock, a concrete sea wall topped by a wooden hut with a tall radio tower.  We tie up with the assistance of the many Cubans who come from the hut and from the picnic table beside it that is lit from a nearby street lamp.  All else is very dark.  The hut and table are the only island of light, and yet we know there is a marina nearby.  We are greeted like visiting royalty.  Music is playing on the radio and the officials are lingering in the very dark yard smoking and looking a lot like the officers in the first scene of Carmen.  (The ones who watch the people come and go and comment on how funny they are – drole de la gens que ce gens la.)  As we tie up the boat, Al and Jergan, who have declared their lack of concern, betray themselves by acting nervously cordial to the officers.  They seek solace from their anxiety smoking endless cigarettes, and  “Yes sirs” fly like moths under a light as the various officers approach and board for their turn of stamping and inspecting.

One cannot help but think that the immigration officer’s inspection is designed more to satisfy curiosity than to serve any particular official purpose.  (They greet gifts of liters of coke as though they were champagne.)  They are very cordial and sensitive to the fact that they shouldn’t stamp our passport and as I washed the third round of glasses in preparation for the serving of yet another round of soft drinks to the next clutch of officers, it occurs to me that our arrival has brightened a night that had been lit only by a couple of bare bulbs and a lot of nothingness.  We are objects of delight to them. Finally, after serving drinks to half the population Havana in the first hour off our arrival, we are issued our pink paper visa and told we are welcome to stay for ten days since there is a storm coming.  Its official we are welcome.  Jergan starts the engines and we find our way through the blackness to our berth for the night feeling just like we had landed on the moon and been greeted by friendly Martians.  Its midnight and two of us fall into bed exhausted. 

I awake in the middle of the night to find Yergan’s door closed and have the spooky feeling that he is not alone in his room.  It was eerie to think that within a couple of hours of our arrival he left the boat, found a girl and she was there amongst us.  Truly I am on another planet.  As I lie in my bunk only  a few feet away from Jurgan‘s door, I think about the girl and begin to contemplate what would make a creature follow a man home to his boat like this.  Eventually I fell back asleep very thankful I did not have to meet her face to face.

Dawn brought a different picture of Cuba.  It was grey and solemn and there were no cars.  Lots of people traveled up and down the marina street, but they were on bicycles not in cars.  “Explorer” lay alongside a concrete wharf just in front of a huge sailboat.  Electricity was the first task of the day.  Al and Yergan were both ‘testy”.  To celebrate our arrival they each had three shots each of Tequila to prime them for an evening of bar hopping.   During the evening Al had lost both his money trying to buy $30 worth of sandwiches in a bar.  We never did really know all the details, but somehow Jergan got back to the boat with Al and a girl.  (Guess Al was upset because he didn’t have a girl and lost his money).

Our eyes were barely open when someone knocked on the boat and offered to wash it.  Al was less than friendly to the offer since he was still sore over the previous night’s loss.  (He kept muttering about Yergan’s bad manners, but he simmered down when Yergan gave him $50.)  The boat washer came back to a better reception and made it plain with his limited English that he had a son who would like to be our guide and show us around.  We settle on a price and later the son Frederico arrived back at the boat with a driver and a car and we take off to see Havana, stopping along the way at Frederico’s house to let him get a clean shirt.



Going for the shirt allowed us a glimpse into a middle class lifestyle in the Havana suburb of Miramar.  It looked like rural Georgia of one hundred years ago.  Frederico’s home was on the water looking north across Havana Harbor.  In the U.S. this would be prime waterfront property worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.  We didn’t go into his home, but peaked in the door to see a pathetic dried up plant and worn linoleum.  Outside the wires were hung like wash lines criss-crossing the court yard.  The sides of the building were anything that would keep out rain including pieces of corrugated metal slipped into the siding where holes might have been.  There was a dirt court yard with one poor pathetic child’s truck stuck in the bare ground.   Frederico didn’t seem to mind that we saw the place, and probably he doesn’t even understand how wretched it looked to us.  I asked about an outbuilding I saw out toward the street covered with a palapa roof.  He said it used to be his restaurant until the government shut it down.  For the moment we didn’t understand the meaning of his remark, and thought if very strange that he should have a restaurant in his front yard.  After he was cleaned up with a fresh shirt we took off in the battered car with six of us crammed together.  The Windows were open and unclosable since the handle was missing.  Missing that is until the driver passed one handle back so we could adjust the window.  Guess he kept it in the glove box.

The main road from Marina Hemingway into Havana passes through the Miramar neighborhood skirting the former Soviet Embassy and arrives along the Malecon in downtown Havana. It is called 5th avenue.  The sights along the way are breathtaking.  First, there are the old cars.  Everywhere the cars are 1950 models.  They are all up and running full blast although obviously not everyone has a car.  Many people take a bicycle and many others hitch hike.  On reflection, probably the hitch hiker girls we saw were prostitutes although I took them for citizens just needing a way around.  Our first stop was an open-air market of artist selling their works.  Frederico and the diver accommodated us by stopping, but seemed nervous and wanted us to come along.  Quickly we purchased painting of a worker.  The artist come out of no where with the rolled up canvas that stilled smelled of paint.  He thrust it into Steve’s face.  Instantly, Steve called “Marg” and showed me the picture. Within seconds we purchased it for $40 and moved along.  It might just qualify as being the fastest art purchase in history, and it has become one of our treasures.  The style is rather cubist and seemed to express so much about what we were starting to see in the place.  We longed for time to shop for more.  Next stop was the Castillo del Morro and a start on our Cuban history lesson.  Both Steve and I arrived as blank slates needing to be imprinted with local history and lore.  By now the wind blew fiercely blowing form the south.  We are told that a “high south brings strong north” or in other words, a front was coming.  We climbed to the top of the fort for a view of Havana Harbor and the beginning of our realization of the continued importance of this land and city in history.  Looking back at the visit to the fort makes me think of a later trip to Nassau in the Bahamas where we found people quite accustomed to the tourist dollars and not the least afraid to demand money at every turn.  They are like trained seals who perform for a fish.  Here in Cuba there is a reticence.  I offer a dollar tip to a lovely gentleman who poses with me for a picture.  He is appreciative, but not demanding.  Perhaps the government makes him afraid to be too open about soliciting tips.  In time this will change and unless human nature is rewritten later tourist will find the same trained seals in Havana.  For now one has a feeling of genuine delight in being with people from the outside world. 



Next the jalopy takes us to the old town square where we park and walk through narrow streets full of incredibly picturesque buildings to the map vendor.  Yergan wants to buy navigation charts and we understand that it is only recently that such things can be purchased.  Previously they were guarded for security reasons.  We walk around the town a bit, and its obvious from the answers he gives to questions, that Frederico doesn’t know too much about the history of the place, but Steve and I are already enchanted with the town.  We meet our driver back at the park where he is lined up with all the other drivers. One gets the sense that they know one another.  We keep pausing to take pictures, but Frederico seems a bit nervous and hurries us on.

Dinner is planed to be at a private restaurant and we have invited Frederico and the driver to accompany us.  As we approach the car at 8:00 for our dinner plans we are stopped in the darkness of the marina and Frederico is taken off to speak privately to whomever had been watching us.  He returns to tells us he will take us to dinner, but must come back and talk to the person who was observing us and join us later for dinner.  The restaurant is in a neighborhood near his home and the streets are dark.  It is possible to see into the houses through open doors, but so easy for residents to see us.  We feel like intruders..  We park and approach a home and Frederico goes first knocks, inquires and returns to tell us to walk around the block.  Evidently the person at this restaurant did not have the lobster that we had told him we wanted.  We enter another restaurant and take our seat under a canvas tarp that had been strung between trees.  The garden is strung with Christmas lights and the scene is enchanting.  Behind a bush a man cooks on a barbecue.  At first it seems like a regular restaurant until gradually we realize we are in someone’s front yard and they are cooking on their barbecue.  The food is good, but selection is limited.  Later we learn about these private restaurants where food is purchased at the dollar store.  This food is not affordable in the pesos ordinary workers earn, but is available only for dollars and is resold for dollars in the front yard of a home.  We have a lovely meal marred only by Frederico’s failure to return promptly as promised. It’s a bit disquieting to realize we don’t know where we are and seem to have just lost both guide and driver. 

Eventually Frederico arrives in a shaken state of mind.  Evidently, his conversion with us on the boat during where Steve explained to him about our legal system and showed him his computer was observed and taken for mischief.  A cold shiver of apprehension and disbelief crosses us as suddenly we feel a very small taste of the kind of government under which these people live.  Frederico delivers us home and promises to return the next day for more sight seeing.  In twenty four hours we have been flooded with impressions and experiences.

Our second morning arrives with incredible surf crashing over the sea wall just across the gravel roadway on our port side.  The waves hit the sea wall and spew big clouds of water and mist straight up into the dull gray morning.  Frederico doesn’t come as scheduled so Steve and I walk around and examine the hotel near the marina.  The outside is dingy, but inside is quite nice. It’s a far cry from the Marina showers with their soap-stiff towels and on and off hot water.  We learn that the name of the hotel Is “Old Man and the Sea" and its guests are German and Canadians.  It is here that we find the only CNN television station

Finally giving up on Frederico we take a taxi to town.  This time we ride in style in a government taxi.  The price is higher $15.00, but it’s a Mercedes.  We are dropped at the same spot as yesterday and since we know the area we wander around enjoying the sites.  Lunch at La Mida is in a delightful court yard restaurant with peacock roosting on the second story ledge and chickens gathering scraps from the floor.  The music is grand and we eat (what else) a Cuban sandwich.  Since we only brought $500 cash with us we decide to be frugal and people watch in the park.  Our park is located just in front of old governor’s home and the portico of the mansion is full of book vendors.  One of them is particularly charming and wants to have a cup of coffee with us.  He sells me a book about the black history of  Cuba and says people call him Sammy Davis (and in fact that’s who he looks like.  All the time there is music playing in the background.  I go to watch and listen and for $5.00 buy a tape of the music.

As we sit in the park we are approached by a man who doesn’t speak much English, but nevertheless wants to talk, and insists on telling us that Castro should be  (and here he makes a slashing motion across his throat).  Steve is horrified and moves away.  I smile and hope this isn’t a set up to throw us in jail.  The man talks and talks and seems mostly to want us to take the message home that if the US would drop the embargo Castro would fall.  We hear this message over and over so much so that I decide to write the State Department when we get back home and express what I’ve heard..  After this encounter (and we never were completely sure of the man’s motive) we were approached by a gentleman who said he overheard us speaking English and wondered if we wanted a guide.  Both Steve and I were skeptical about his motives and yet at the same time he seemed to be trustworthy.  In fact, I had been taking pictures of the governor’s palace and had seen him through the viewer of the camera and included him in a shot because I thought he looked “intelligent”.

We were getting low on money and yet his fee was reasonable so we decided to blow $15.00 for three hours of touring the town.  What a tour it was!  We were with a walking encyclopedia of information.  Our brains couldn’t assimilate everything fast enough.  We walked up one street and down the other.  We were told the whole history of a most fascinating city.  Both Steve and I could hardly believe our luck.  When the day was over we took a taxi back to the boat and dropped Feilipe off on the way.  Evidently he does this every day in order to make ends meet.  He told us that in order to keep his family together he needed to earn $100. American dollars each month.  He has two boys and a wife who was Russian.  He is an engineer and spent some time in Russia in training.  He has no love for the Russians or for the system, and is not particularly guarded in his conversation about either.

We plan to meet the next afternoon at the same spot and invite Felipe for dinner with his wife.  By now we are starting to run short of money and need to call home which turns out to cost $40.00 cash.  We have dinner and try to charge on our Visa, but have it denied.  Visa from other countries is OK, but banks don’t honor American Visa.  This is an eye opening experience for us.  Dinner this evening is weird.  We share the meal with Al, Jergan, Frederico and the two girls.  Its was funny because I didn’t quite know what to say, and couldn’t have said anything anyway since neither girl spoke English and I do not have any Spanish.  By now the weather is getting dicey and one front after another comes down the straits of Florida.

I must note that I am resuming this in September of 1999.  I have made up my mind that today I will finish these notes.  In some ways this is good since I have the advantage of time and hindsight, and since I have notes and the aid of the video that Al made I probably have a good remembrance.  In addition, the New Your Times for Sunday August 8 carried a story that I saved and attached to my remembrances because it article so closely mirrored our experience.  No doubt one day Cuba will be just another tourist island in the Caribbean, and over time the memory of these more than forty years will grow dim.  For now though even in September of 1999 things have not changed at all.  The Miami Cubans still wield enormous power to keep Cuba even to the detriment of their own brothers.  Its curious how those who escaped and thrived can continue their vendetta over such a long period of time.

But, speaking of escaping, our escape from  Communism was “a real trip”.  After five days we were ready for home.  The weather office at the Marina was very vague about conditions and only open sporadically at that, but the weather seemed to have improved, and after all, how many fronts could fall down from the north in quick succession.  We decided to go based on timing and bright sunny conditions in Cuba.  An accurate weather report would have been a better indicator for action. 

We left the marina in bright, calm sunshine after making the obligatory stop at customs.  They checked to see if we were leaving with all the electronic equipment with which we arrived, and I certainly expected them to search for “stow-aways”, but they didn’t (Frankly, I wouldn’t have been too surprised to have seen at least one of the girls emerge from hiding either).  Departure was quiet heightened only by our crossing in front of a very large freighter.  I was topside when Ad decided to cross (why not go behind I’ll never know) and the crossing was close enough that I left my topside post so as not to have to see it.  After that we chugged right along for several hours as the seas increasingly swelled larger and larger.  Soon, the sight of the wall of water in front of the bow, and then the ride up and straight down the wave became completely unnerving.  I retired to the salon in order not to have to see.  I tried to sit then lie and it was impossible.  The boat rose and fell like an elevator.  If you were not braced against or under something you rose and fell with the boat.  I looked at the clock.  It was 3:00PM.  We would not finally get into Key West until midnight so there was nine hours of hell ahead.  Steve became sick.  I saw him go out on the stern and worried he would be swept overboard, but there was not a thing I could do except hope for the best.  Finally, I drug myself to the Galley surrounded by sofa cushions and wedged myself in.  It was the most secure I could feel.  I must have dozed some.  One of the most terrifying moments was when in the dark, I suddenly hear a tremendous roar of the engines and see a very bright light.  The hatch to the engine rooms was in the Galley and Al had lifted the door and gone down (how I don’t know) to inspect for something.  Not only was the noise overwhelming, but also the thought that something might be wrong with an engine was scary.  At this moment, I don’t recall why he checked the engines, but they continued to function and slowly we plodded along.  The incident though made me aware that the life jackets were all stored topside, and if we lost one engine we might be “broached”, something I learned about in Coast Guard school. 

Never have hours drug so slowly as they did that night.  The most incredibly thrilling sound was the throttling down of the engines, and the accompanying ability to hear voices from the cock pit.  We were approaching harbor and the seas were smoother.  I left my cubby hole to go to the engine room to see the lights of Key West on the horizon  We were saved!  It was rainy and cold (as it always is behind a cold front).  Slowly we pulled up to the dock.  We had n slip so we tied up at customs.  Al was angry that Yergan had only “guessed” at the weather.  I was thankful and mad at the same time.  I told Steve that in the morning I was leaving the boat and getting a rental car even if I had to buy it!  We crawled into our bunks for the last time.

Dawn was gray and solemn.  Al was mad at Yergan and I was mad at everyone for having put us through such a night.  Customs was slow, but didn’t seem to mind too much that we had come from Cuba.  Yergan was off doing paper work, and I announced that I was leaving immediately.  Al came with us leaving Yergan to deal with getting the boat back to Clearwater.

Never had home looked so good  What a wonderful place we live in.  Once we started to recover from the ordeal of the previous evening we started to think about all of the refugees who have crossed the same stretch of water in open rafts.  If we in our 45 foot yacht were in danger and uncomfortable, then what must have been the plight of the refugees?  Certainly, things at home would need to be terribly awful to prompt someone to make the voyage.  Ninety miles doesn’t sound like much unless conditions are horrible.  In the Florida Straits conditions are frequently horrible and without radar and communication there is really no reliable way to know what the crossing will bring in the way of opposition from mother nature.

Since our return, our hearts and minds have been with the Cuban people.  We wish there were a way to help, and in fact, I wrote a note to our friend Felipe just to say “hi” thinking that if he replied I would send him some cash with the next note.  My note was returned unopened nine months later.  I wonder what has happened with him?

Just after our return the US government tightened restrictions on travel so that a trip like our became almost impossible to duplicate.  Steve and I both agree that the experience was probably one of the most significant of our lives.  We far preferred Cuba to Costa Rica, and truly intend to return as soon as we can do so in a more “legal” way.  The country is incredibly rich in architecture and culture and the music is superb.  The people are delightful, and admirable in their long-suffering.  Perhaps when the next revolution happens (and it will) we will go back and write again of our experiences.  In the meantime we have a wonderful new daughter-in-law who is first generation American of Cuban ancestry.  We are forever connected to this lovely country.

I just looked over my notes and decided they are rich with detail.  I reproduce them here as an “appendix” to my story.

Ø Live off your stores – how you can exist in Cuba without spending money
Ø High South brings strong North (wind)
Ø Havana like Atlanta – center of commerce for world
Ø Police
Ø Firing of 23 at the Marina ???
Ø Closing of small private restaurant – day after we were there
Ø Man in park who came to talk –citizen or more?
Ø Black man selling books called himself “Sammy Davis” and indeed looked like him.  Wanted to have coffee with us.
Ø Being out of money – could sell my earrings and necklace
Ø Street children and people
Ø Offered woman orange
Ø Citzen-Itza Ride in claptrap car – stop every so often on deserted road to walk around car and kick tires
Ø Taxi – three kinds Private, leased from Govt. and Government
Ø Woolworth’s – where time stopped.  Looked just like the 40’s.  Escalator not working
Ø Cars still running
Ø Everyone blames current problems on US Embargo – All seen to like US Citizens and be interested to talk, but not much English or at least pretend they don’t speak it
Ø Met two who have taught themselves English
Ø Asked two people about O.J. Simpson (which had just been hot topic – neither ever heard of him and his murder of wife)
Ø Frozen in time – one day government said, “You own where you are today”  trouble is they don’t have money to keep up and cannot sell.  Can trade and pass down.
Ø Hard working entrepreneurs – seem happy in spite of sparse life.  If ever they get free they’ll give Florida a run for its money
Ø We arrived in darkness

Ø City full of old American cars and old Russian trucks
Ø Everyone rides a bicycle
Ø Marina slips have painting memorializing previous visitors.
Ø Adjacent hotel called ‘Old Man and the Sea”
Ø Visit to the map store and old city
Ø Incredible ruins
Ø Very much restoration going on.  Government agency in charge of it called Havaniguana.  Most work done in cooperation with other countries or “investors”.  US seems to be the only country NOT there.
Ø My feeling is place is gearing up for major tourist trade.
Ø Curious that Castro went to Vatican seeking support (to enrapture the common people)?
Ø Wonder what Castro is thinking now?
Ø How does he plan for the future?  Is he worried about succession?  Who is his heir?  What does Castro think of the city he’s created?
Ø People have health care but no medicine
Ø Have housing, but cannot afford to fix
Ø Have jobs, but inadequate pay
Ø Have rations, but not enough to survive.  We were told they must earn $100 American dollars to survive (and they do – everyone has a wad of American Money)
Ø There is a whole capitalistic economy that has developed as a sub level beneath the party system like a layer of smoke under a heavy cloud.  Place seems to function well (people know and greet one another with subtle handshakes and body language
Ø (Remember customs man who wanted to accept the Coke and CD, but was scared)
Ø Remember feelings about girls that Al and Yergan picked up.  One very young (like Page) one mid 30’s – neither spoke English .  why would they get involved in such a short-term dean end relationship?  Are they being paid?  Are they hoping for rescue?

Ø Al keeps saying “don’t panic”  so sure he’s cool and clam when in reality he’s like a scared rabbit fussing and fretting.  He cannot tolerate discomfort in someone else.

Ø The marina had a bath house that sometimes had water and never had soap.  It did have attendants and tattle tale gray towels that were folded in a different shape each day.  Once day like a heart and one day like a swan.  No AC anywhere.  It must get hotter than hell in the summer.
Ø If black market vanished overnight there would be no American Dollars and the economy would dry up.  It depends on American dollars. 

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