Hola Amigos, Familia, y Otros,
Imagine yourself waking up in bed sweaty and hot, yet comfortable and carefree in a Communist nation with the smell of fresh fruit before your nostrils and Spanish commentary in the background. Lovely thought, right? I believe this accurately describes everyone’s experience getting up this morning prior to our arduous and entertaining day. Before diving into this post, I will begin by writing about our second day in Holguin as a group in general and then I will proceed to discuss the lessons I am beginning to uncover only two days into the service trip.
This morning we all woke up to the bright morning sun shining through the creaks of the metal barred windows of the church. We all woke up around 8:00 a.m. for early morning breakfast. We soon gathered around the tables and waited for the wonderful breakfast prepared by our hosts that consisted of fresh fruits, cookies, rice, eggs, and various other delicious foods. During our slow-paced morning, we were given the schedule for the day and were immediately put to work. Maria and our hosts had assigned us to various obligations throughout the church.
Myself (Holdyn), Richard, Owen, Thomas, Isaiah, Jake, Sydney, and Brayden transported dirt-like material to the second floor of the church to eventually use it as the base of the floor. The process goes as follows:
We shoveled the dirt-like material into a wheelbarrow. This wheelbarrow would then be transported outside underneath a bucket attached to a pulley that we would fill with the dirt and transport to the second floor where others would take the dirt and furthermore, transport it once again into a pile that will later be used as a base for the flooring. We alternated turns. After this process, we were sweaty, covered with sunscreen, and proud of completing manual labor.
The rest of the squad—Setareh, Selah, Anna P., and Anna C. along with the help from Molly and Jenna (who always did hourly run-throughs to reapply our sunscreen)—began cleaning and reorganizing the service room. This was a very difficult task to partake in and we couldn’t have done it without our team work.
After the several hours of true manual labor, we ate a fantastic lunch with amazing soup and many lovingly prepared foods. After almuerzo, we had a relaxing siesta (which brought relief to our muscle pain) and took initiative to shower (well… at least some of us). The church is one of two locations in Eastern Cuba that provides free, purified drinking water for the public to use at their disposal. We got to witness this at 3:00 p.m. today and never in my life have I witnessed (in person) such gratitude for our help and presence as the public obtained their fresh water.
After the wonderful water giving, we were taken on a bumpy bus ride in a 1960 bus/truck a la casa de Roxana for dinner. On the bus ride we got to witness many of the homes of the Cubans on the Southeast side of Holguin and I am almost certain that many of us, including myself, were thinking about the poverty in this nation in comparison to the lives we live in Pennsylvania and as George School students. We were offered a wonderful meal by Roxy’s family and got to spend time bonding on her rooftop (including a warm panoramic view of Holguin) and in her living room dancing to Spanish tunes and a little bit of Taylor Swift (Yes, Taylor has made it all the way to Cuba…). We finished the night saying goodbye and returning to the church to prepare for bedtime. This is only a brief touching stone upon the amount of hard work and effort we put into our endeavors today and I am proud to say that I love it here so far in Cuba.
I now want to briefly talk about what I have experienced today and thus far on the trip – which I am sure many of us on the mission can connect to. The major thought that keeps entering my mind is the thought that somewhere in the world, a villa in Mykonos, Greece exists by the seaside while a man in Cuba is struggling to support his livelihood and family. I have come to witness that although in my eyes the status of their economic state is low in comparison to America’s average, they are content with what they have. I have witnessed this in the native people of Saint Maarten during Spring Break, but nothing in comparison to the Cuban people. My Spanish speaking ability is broadening rapidly, and I am able to sustain a full conversation with my loving hosts and community members. This is a tool that I can use to help develop the sense of understanding that I just described. Once you are able to break the language barrier just enough, it is amazing to observe the beauty of the spirit that exists in all people, all living things. It fascinates me that I am from an official enemy country, and am able to connect to the Cuban people’s desire for change. We are all sentient beings, and regardless of socio-economic struggles, political standpoints, and/or feeling regarding the America-Cuba embargo, I can spiritually relate to the Cuban people on some level. One moment today (or yesterday – I cannot remember) Tom stated that Roxy had told him that never before had she witnessed true poverty until going to Washington DC last year on a George School service trip. That strikes me as a very ironic claim. It took me awhile to let that truth soak in.
Again, these are just tastes of the feelings that I and others are pondering through on this service trip, and I cannot describe enough in words the magnitude of the nature of these emotions and thought-provoking facts that I am truthfully observing here in Holguin.