First Day in Holguin

Our first day in Holguin culminated with a tremendous tropical thunderstorm directly overhead, reminding us of the awesome power of nature.  Inside the church we felt cozy and dry, feeling secure in our new home away from home.  We have already met numerous gracious, friendly people who have welcomed us, and let us know that they will take good care of us: Maria, pastor and chief organizer; Alberto, husband of Maria and coordinator of service work; Lyanis, cook and “den mother” for all of our needs; José, 17 year-old older son of Lyanis  and our tourguide around Holguin this afternoon; Andres, 12 year-old younger son of Lyanis and general playmate (e.g., during this afternoon’s energetic round of volleyball with a group of 8+ GS students in a tight circle, which lasted over an hour!); and Iliana, assistant to Lyanis and sister of Carlos, musical director of the church whom we have not yet met.  We look forward to meeting many more community members in the days ahead at the church, during our service work, and on our upcoming excursiones.

Some highlights of today include:

– Fran getting pulled aside by Cuban customs officials, and then successfully talking his way out of paying a fine or having his luggage full of children’s art supplies confiscated.  (Maria and I knew he was in the clear when we saw Fran across the room laughing heartily along with the customs officer!)

– Our 20-minute bus ride from the Holguin airport to the church, through agricultural fields on a gorgeous, sunny late morning.

– Being welcomed at the church by Lyanis and Jose, with our dormitory bunkbeds already set up for us, and a delicious snack of freshly cut papaya, mango, pineapple, and guava waiting for us.  (A fresh, tree-ripened mango is SO luscious, it defies adequate description.)

– On our walking tour of Holguin, led by José, seeing gorgeous old architecture dating to Spanish colonial days, public art from the war of independence (1890s) and public works projects currently underway, not to mention scores of American automobiles from the 1950s, in working condition.  (Yes, we saw a real, live ’57 Chevy.)

– Hearing many of your sons and daughters summoning the courage to strike up conversations in Spanish with various people, and allowing themselves to stumble forward without excessive inhibition.

– At our evening circle, hearing all of your daughters and sons offering insightful and sensitive commentary about what they were experiencing, observing, thinking, and feeling, in relation to other people, themselves, and their own world views.

Provided this computer and our dial-up modem access to the Internet continue to function, we hope to send a daily message to you, with a different person authoring the blog post each night.  We are sorry that we cannot have real-time contact with you, but on the other hand, everyone is handling being “unplugged” beautifully, and it is giving all of us an opportunity to practice being here now.  It’s all good.

Time for bed, after an exhausting day.  (Lights out were at 10.  I am up a bit later, to finish writing this.)  We are looking forward to doing some labor tomorrow!

Sincerely,

Tom Hoopes

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