This is a continuation of my journal on my trip to Cuba. I went to Cuba with Global Volunteers, a 501c3 non-profit, as a volunteer, arriving on January 6th; my goals were to teach English to Cuban people, to learn about the Cuban culture and connect with Cubans on a “people to people” basis, and to make a difference in someone’s life.
I started my day with a huge breakfast made by our casa hostess, Fefi. Again it was eggs, pineapple, toast, some kind of ham/salami, mango juice and coffee. Photos of the living room of the “casa” are above. I then walked to the community center.
The community center is operated by the Church and is where we all (the volunteer team) meet to go to our designated morning jobs, do our tutoring, have our lunch and our team meeting. Barbara and Paul agreed to do light construction, Andrew and Lynda were assigned to work in the community garden, I was to help in the kitchen if needed and then Alice and I were to tutor from 10 to noon at the center.
I reported for kitchen duty to help Edilia who gets all the vegetables and other items ready for lunch for the volunteers. Edilia doesn’t speak English, but she managed to communicate to me what needed to be done. So I peeled garlic and shallots, chopped cabbage and sliced tomatoes.
Then at 10am my students started showing up. I usually only had two or three students in the morning. We got acquainted, and I started with flash cards and picture cards to see what level they were at. We made some progress and I enjoyed it, but not knowing them, it was a bit difficult to try and figure out their level of English, but I was learning as I went along.
We were instructed by our team leader not to take pictures of the students or staff for the first few days – until they were comfortable with us – which made perfect sense. So I didn’t take pictures of my students until later in the week. But Karen, our team leader, took a few photos during the week – here is one of me and my dedicated student Osmayer Alvarez.
Several ladies from the church sew, crochet, knit, and make handcraft items and sell them at the community center; they brought their lovely products in each day for us to view and purchase. There were hats and purses crocheted and sewn, children’s clothes, shoes, a blanket that took 6 months to crochet, and more. Here are a few photos:
At 12 the team reconvened for lunch. The selections for lunch were usually some kind of sandwich plus all of the vegetables. Unfortunately, I couldn’t eat the vegetables as they were washed in the local water, which is a shame because that’s what I normally live on. I didn’t want a cheese or cheese and ham sandwich, so they made me eggs.
After lunch, we had a team meeting. We introduced ourselves to Alice by way of describing the person to our left. Alice had been delayed getting in by a day, so she missed the introductions and goal setting on Sunday.
We all give a quick report on our morning activities. Andrew and Lynda described the organic garden, along with how they weeded in the raised beds. They told of the day’s harvest being sold from a stand, along with some reserved for hospitals, day care, and other service groups. Alice and I gave our summary on tutoring English learners, including some of the frustrations that interacting with unfamiliar people in an unfamiliar environment can produce. Barbara and Paul told about their painting experience. The team then updated the goals board with Alice’s contributions.
Our itinerary for the workdays was to work in the morning, have lunch at 12, team meeting at 1, then have a cultural or people to people experience in the afternoon with perhaps some free time, then dinner and finally tutoring from 7pm to 9pm.
Our local facilitators/coordinators were Yadi, Yanel and Junior, who work for the church that Global Volunteers partners with. They were with us each day to assist and be there to make sure we had everything we needed. They also went along on our cultural activities. They were absolutely wonderful and so helpful!
To get to our cultural activity for Monday, we took two horse drawn carriages to Galeria Pauyet in Ciego de Avila for a gallery tour.
Galeria Pauyet is a local store selling handmade silver jewelry and other beautiful decorative items made out of German silver, discarded silverware and even some Russian bullets. There were small and large animals, planes, pianos, turtles and more….. The artisans create and work in an open air building behind the gallery, and we were given the opportunity to see them at work.
We then walked to another shop/gallery that sells local handcrafted items like paintings, souvenir type objects, and textile products. This is a photo of one of the textile artworks for sale.
Finally, we got a break for free time and walked home to our casas. I stopped on the way to get some ice cream with Yanel and Andrew.
And I took some photos in the town:
Once I got back to the casa, I decided to wander over to Maximo Gomez Parque – the internet park. What’s an Internet Park? People in Cuba don’t have internet in their homes, so they go to a public park and buy access to the internet. I bought a card that came with a code which I put into my phone, and then, voila, I had access to wifi.
I took several photos with my phone camera at the internet park – the concept just baffles me, but I found the people and situations there very interesting.
Across from the internet park was a rather rickety vegetable stand.
At 6 we all reconvened and went to dinner at Blanco y Negro Restaurant (Black & White). The food was decent, but not outstanding.
And at 7, we walked back to the Community Center to meet our students and begin our tutoring. I worked with about 3 students in their teens, and a mother of one of the students. I enjoyed it immensely, although with all the noise from the kids who were being taught numbers and words, it was difficult to hear and to work.
At 9pm, tutoring was over and we walked home to our casas. Alice and I were escorted by Yanel and our team leader, Karen.
The end of a lovely second day in Cuba.