Wednesday, June 18 in Cuba

Hello readers of this blog (especially my mom, dad, and brother, Andrew : ) ),

Today has proved to be a mellower and more relaxed day but still full of new things to learn.  This morning started with the arrival of a new fruit for breakfast.  Watermelon! As much as I absolutely love having mangoes every morning it was nice to see some new variations of our breakfast.  After breakfast almost all of us girls (plus Tom) went back to the home for children without parents to finish up painting the exterior that we started yesterday. The boys (plus Katie) stayed at the church to prepare supplies for the work we will be doing for the church tomorrow morning.  While the walk to the children’s home is a long one, it is always interesting to see which way Carlos will take us to further prove that we have no understanding of the layout of the city at all (we’ve spotted some street names on some buildings…it’s a start).

When we got to the home we were immediately greeted by some of the younger children like Christian, Jose, and Isabella who don’t go to school this week because they don’t have exams.  It always brightens my morning when I can be greeted with cute side cheek kisses from little 6-9 year old kids.  It amazes me how open and caring this community is and how welcoming every member is towards all of us.

We started painting the rest of the stucco siding of the house with the green paint right away.  I learned from the previous day’s work (and our work at Calabazas) that painting stucco with tiny paintbrushes never proves easy.  It is painstakingly slow work to get the paint into the small cracks and bumps but there is something relaxing about working on a certain spot diligently and carefully.  It also helps to have others around you to talk about what TV shows we should watch or whether or not Tom should let his soon-to-be-8th grader get a Facebook and with what conditions. We eventually seemed to be running out of paint again like we had the day before and it really let me see how precious these kinds of materials are and that they are not to be wasted (unlike the impression I got after our last painting adventure in Calabazas which ended in an all-out paint war).  Ultimately, we decided to dilute the paint to get the last wall painted only to learn that the thinner paint makes the work of painting stucco so much easier.

After the last touches, I spent some time cleaning out the paint buckets and then migrated to the front porch where all the kids were using the water colors I brought.  There was a wonderful relaxed feeling during this time and I got to watch Sky paint a beautiful butterfly while Jose painted a rainbow (most of which ended up on his legs and in between his toes).  Overall there was something very sweet to this moment of just hanging out and watching these kids enjoy the simple joy of water colors.  We then made our way back to the church but not before getting at least five or six kisses each from the kids.

We ate lunch at the church and found ourselves with a somewhat free afternoon.  We decided this would be a good time to walk around town with our newly exchanged money and find some little souvenirs and trinkets.  I was able to get some pretty postcards, key chains, and a bracelet and necklace from stores or street vendors.  While this was somewhat uneventful, a smaller group was approached by a man who said “Y’all must be Americans”.  While that seems a bit scary, it was actually a man from Oklahoma who had been living in Mexico and vacationing in Cuba for a month now.  It was very interesting as we have not met any other Americans while we’ve been here in Holguin.

After our time in the square, we split up to go to different homes for dinner.  I went with the largest group of 8 to the home of Aleida and her family (which includes Anna, a very, very cute three year old).  The one thing that has been hard for me during these home visits has been my attempts to not appear to be a rude guest.  These families are feeding us with so much food that they normally wouldn’t have and while I want to eat it all there is only so much I can eat at one time.  A common theme I’ve picked up on is that if I do not take a lot of food that means that I don’t like it, but I don’t want to take too much food and leave too much uneaten on my plate.

Overall this was a very interesting family to learn about as almost every generation was there that night including the great grandmother.  It was also interesting to learn about Aleida’s life as a civil engineer and her experiences as a woman in a science field in a region where that field is more targeted towards men.  The most interesting part of this dinner was when the grandfather took us to his small workshop garage behind the apartment.  Tom described him as a sort of mad scientist and inventor.  It turns out that he has worked directly with Fidel Castro for inventions and he showed us a little Fiat in his garage that was given to him by Fidel.  The work space was filled almost completely by the taken apart car with no room to walk around but he was still able to show us a variety of his inventions including a contraption that creates wooden beads. He uses it to supply a lot of the city with beads and after showing it to us he promptly gave us our own bag of his wooden beads.  He also has many inventions helping in the art of cosmetology which is the profession of his wife.  Everything down to the lights powered by the car were constructed by him and it was a very interesting experience to be in his presence.  The dinner ended with the family giving each of us a flower and an apple mango.  It has been so absolutely wonderful to have these dinners with these individual families and to feel their generosity and kindness.  So far this trip has been absolutely eye-opening and a truly fun experience.

Sincerely,

Emily Rucker

PS. I love you and miss you Mama and Papa, have a wonderful anniversary!

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