WHAT HAPPENED IN CUBA, STAYS IN CUBA
© Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour
The title of this blog says it all! However, this is only the case if the group of people who travel together do not have a writer in their midst!
On with the story … trip to Rau’s house! And, the final day in Cuba…
Day eight … on Saturday a small group of us went to Rau’s house to meet his family. I asked the taxi driver if he would stop by Al Capone’s place on our way––you guessed it by now––that’s right, for pictures! After my mini photo shoot, we picked up V’s friend, D. She has a boat at the marina. She and her husband purchased the boat a number of years ago; however, he passed away shortly after. D loved Cuba so much that she decided to stay on.
V had a map of Matanza, showing where Rau lived, but we still got lost. Not for long, though. Of course, I snapped pictures everywhere. The poverty would take your breath away. Our summer cottages would be mansions compared to what many Cubans live in. I managed, during a walk, to get a real glimpse behind the wooden and steel-railed doors––poverty, unadorned and simple.
The ravaged wooden door leading into Rau’s home opened into what we would consider a storage shed. It housed piles of old wood, and Rau’s workshop where he makes wood carvings for sale. I determined that I would buy some pieces from him.
All the gifts we had brought along for the family were spread out on the table, and the excitement was like a Christmas morning. The gratefulness was heartfelt. Rau has three children: Moses, Penelope, and Elizabeth. Penelope loves to draw, and she proudly showed me her art work. One of our friends had sent her some art supplies. Moses plays baseball, and V had brought him a bat and a new pair of gloves. Of course, they posed for pictures!
Rau has been working on his house for over ten years. The kitchen was quite nice, and from what we saw there were two finished bedrooms. I had no idea where the two girls slept, or the elderly aunt who lived with them in order to help care for the children while Rau’s wife worked. There was a section of the house that I guess, if one were to use their imagination, could be considered an inside open courtyard, as there was no roof. Rau showed Ed his plans for the house and said the construction probably would take another ten years or more to complete!
The household also had a pair of Chiwawas, and their baby, and a Rotti that was tied up on the third floor level. I dared not approach him, assuming by his greeting that he would have taken our limbs from under us and would not have had to eat for another week or two!
During a walk to the store, I flashed more pictures of the living conditions, of the lack of proper sewers and drainage systems––of the people. I felt guilty probing into their lives, but these pictures tell the real story of how the Cuban people have been forced to live. I managed to capture some children playing baseball in a meagre side yard, using sticks and a tennis ball.
Back at Rau’s house, plans were being made to go out for lunch. It took forever, as decisions were being made on Cuban time! Finally, two taxis were called (one of them belonged to Rau), and we crammed in 18 people (including the drivers), and then headed off to a special destination. Rau’s wife just smiled and said it was a surprise. It is inconceivable that the old 1950’s and 1960’s cars are still running, although the air is rank with gasoline fumes! After meandering down a country road, we arrived to a beautiful park––the surprise.
Upon arrival there, I was sad that I had asked to leave Rau’s by 3:00. We sent a message to our cab driver to extend our pick-up time to 4:00––5:00 would have been better, though. We had another fabulous Cuban meal. The meal was provided with plates of sweet potato chips for us to nibble on before our main course came. Ed and I shared a shrimp and chicken dish. Our meat was cooked on an enormous outdoor barbeque. The taxis returned for us at 3:30 and transported us back to Rau’s. I purchased several wooden pieces as gifts for my kids, and Rau wrapped them for me. Our taxi arrived shortly after 4:00 and we were finally on our way at about 4:45. It takes a long time to say goodbye to people in Cuba. I promised Penelope to send her some art supplies.
Back at the hotel, we played cards and then hit the bed early as six of us were supposed to go on the Catamaran on Sunday––our last excursion!
Day nine … Rain clouds crowded the sky and released their droplets to the earth. We decided to cancel our Catamaran trip. Luckily, we got our money refunded. The sun came out from behind the clouds later that morning, so the six of us headed downtown to do some shopping. We found a charming restaurant and were served up a delicious lunch. Once again, I had shrimp; I couldn’t get enough of the shrimp from the restaurants in Cuba (the resort shrimp was nothing to be desired). I managed to pick up some more souvenirs for the kids and my friends, so, despite not getting on the Catamaran trip, it was a perfect day.
Back at the resort, we played some more cards and then six of us took a walk on the beach. I snapped several more pictures, again, and captured a beautiful sunset. After supper, we hung out for a few laughs. Two of the young men who were MC’s for the evening shows were sitting at our table and it became quite the party. One young fellow really got into the joviality. At one point, he jumped up and called C his “Papa!” It was hilarious. We attended the Cabaret Theatre show, and then headed off to bed.
So, here I come, almost to the end of our trip … it is day ten. We are packed, and all our suitcases are in one room as we had to be out of our rooms by noon, and our bus was not arriving until after supper. Some of us chilled out by the pool, I had a swim and caught up on some of my journaling.
On the bus to the airport, the guide said that they hoped we had a fabulous time in Cuba. He instructed us as to what we were to do once we got to the airport. As Ed and I were in line waiting to get our boarding pass, a couple from Canada was short $20.00 and was desperately asking people to loan them the money––they would send the benefactor a cheque. Ed gave the man a 20, and also our business card with our address. In a world where sometimes one expects to never see that 20 again, we were surprised to get a cheque in the mail a couple weeks later––faith in human honesty confirmed.
Fortunately, our photos matched up with the pictures that had been taken upon our entrance into Cuba, and we passed through and onto our plane. I was amazed that Sunwing had remembered to provide me with a gluten free meal (request had been put in by the flight attendant from our flight down to Cuba). We were picked up at the airport by the pre-arranged cab and arrived home in our driveway at about 3:30 a.m.
At that point, another adventure began. But, that is another story, for another time.
Stay tuned for my concluding segment, my generalization of “What Happens in Cuba, Stays in Cuba!”