Cuba June 12

Hi!

This is Evan writing. This morning we woke up at 7 for breakfast as we did yesterday. This was nice; I think I speak for many when I say it was a relief to finally fall into a routine. Breakfast was excellent as usual, comprised mainly of fruit that seems to gain in freshness every day. The discussion at breakfast was quite lively as we all told stories of our middle school love lives. At 8 we were given a decision as to whether we would like to work on the roof again or stay downstairs and try our luck with odd jobs.  We were all impressed with Jon, who decided to climb to the roof without hesitiation despite his fear of ledges. Truly, this man is tough. Up on the roof we quickly completed our first task which was hoisting up the remaining cinderblocks. In only 2 mornings, our admirable crew lifted 400 blocks onto the roof of the church, a feat which will be told of acoss the globe for many generations to come. This could only be done through good teamwork and the invaluable support of our leaders. During a well deserved water break, Desi and I reflected upon how each of our leaders brings something special and essential to the trip. Allison has become a surrogate mother for many, Tom is a fountain bursting forth with seemingly infinite wisdom, and Fran is really good at everything. Since we had finished with the cinderblocks, we all turned to viciously confront our next task: mixing concrete. The manual mixing of concrete is an intense process that involves repeated shoveling and dumping, but we were not afraid.  With the help of our Cuban coworkers, we measured out the correct ratios of sand, gravel and water and began to mix. After they watched us toil about for awhile, mixing champions Carol and Julia got involved and began to show the rest of the crowd how real men mix concrete. Never one to be outdone, Dan snatched away Julia´s shovel and entered a furious mixing duel with Carol. As they pushed each other to their mixing limits, the Cubans erupted in cheers of approval and amazement. This moment of joy was the perfect culmination to a long, hot, morning of work.

We greeted with enthusiasm our next meal, comprised of rice, beans, cucumbers and tomatoes in true Cuban fashion. A highlight of the meal was an epic staring contest between Carol and Trey in which underdog Carol crushed her opposition in dramatic fashion. Unfortunately I had my money on Trey; I supposed he was as good at resisting blinks as his steady, resilient personality would suggest. After lunch, most of the team set out on a cross town trek with our knowlegable guide, Tom. The destination was the central square in Holgiun that was teeming with activity.  Along the street were a few vendors selling beautifully crafted handmade wooden goods; perhaps some readers will find one of these pieces in their hands someday, brought back by a courageous service-doer as a souvenir. The square also had a free art museum that we visited when a rain shower broke out. The first floor displayed pictures of indigenous people from the Amazon, but the second floor gallery was filled with graphic pictures of plasic surgery that attemped to show what we go through to attain “The Desired Body.” We were fortunate enough to be forced to walk home in the cooling rain, a special treat in the middle of a really hot day. When we got back, we got a special surprise for dinner. Alberto had gotten a special smoked pig for us. This was the first pork we had had in Cuba and it was every bit as delicious as it sounds.

After dinner we made a short trek to another Quaker church in Holguin (yes, there is more than one).  While everyone was little bit exasperated at the prospect of having to sit through another religious service following Sunday´s marathon, we were met with a service that had as much value in its brevity as it had in its content. This was because we were given the opportunity to mingle with the Cuban youth of the church. Even Michelle, Kate, Julia, and I participated thanks to the thoughtful translation of our friends. While it had become clear that Desi, Carol, and Dan had Spanish conversational skills that were more than proficient, it was great to see Jon, Anna, Trey, and Martina flex their spanish language muscles. We were guided home by the Quaker youth and there were tears in the eyes of many as we bid them Adios at the church door. However, Carlos quickly turned our frowns upside down with servings of strawberry ice cream. The perfect snack to eat before a night that will surely be as hot and humid as those preceding it, the ice cream really hit the spot and concluded the day with appropriate sweetness. And such concludes the tale of day four for The Cuban 14.

-Evan

P.S. Mom, I love you. You too Dad.

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