This morning, Merlin was supposed to pick me up at 8 am to go to work for the day. At 5 minutes til, there was a knock on my door…he was here! With lots of “Buenos dios’s” and “Hola’s” we were off. Today he took me a different way to the school and we spent more time in the neighborhoods before being spit out into the hustle and bustle of the center of town. The sky was bright blue and the heat was coming off of the street in waves. Between that and the smog from the cars, it was a bit of a shock to this poor girl who had not had her coffee!! Speaking of which, there is no such thing as ‘to-go’ here. And if I were to ask to run into a shop and down a quick cup of espresso, Merlin would immediately insist on marching me back to his mother and have her make me a cup! For now, I will just deal with the caffeine headache and enjoy my surroundings. This much noise, color and life is surely enough to distract me! J
When we arrived at the school, Merlin went to find out which room we were working in and within 15 minutes, I was spreading out my tools and taking in my first bow. Ahhh…I cannot tell you how good that felt! Don’t get me wrong…there is nothing wrong with just being a tourist and having a good old-fashioned vacation! But I have been focused on coming here and doing some good for a long time and the last couple of days have made me somewhat antsy! Two clips of the scissors….old horse hair falls to the ground, and I heave a sigh of relief. This is what I came here for. The first hour went be so nicely….I had three bows come in and I was leisurely putting a thumb leather on one while listening to the symphony rehearsal next door. It probably should have occurred to me that the majority of the bows were actually over there being played!! Sure enough….rehearsal ended and bows started flying through the door!! And just when they slowed to a trickle, here came the students from the local middle and high schools!
I looked at the giant pile of bows and decided that I had officially lost my mind!!
I spent the next two hours rehairing like mad! When Merlin asked me if I wanted to go to his house for lunch, I decided that it was HIM who had lost his mind!!! I couldn’t go any where, and told him so. I had a bag of nuts and a protein bar in my bag…if I could find time to eat them. J The afternoon sped by with Merlin dropping in from time to time to help. He is actually quite good at faceplates, so as soon as I got them all glued on, I gave them to him to cut out, which worked great cause I was still rehairing like crazy. J Merlin tried to explain that I didn’t need to clean and lubricate the bows…just put hair into them. No way! I tried explaining that you have to do this….the bow will last a lot longer and perform better if all of the parts work well together and aren’t gunked up with the residue of 10 years of hard playing in the heat and humidity of Cuba. I don’t think he really understood me…it did lose something in the translation, but being respectful of my place there as the guest and his teacher, (his words, not mine), he let it go. J
The room we are working in is right on the main square of the building and has giant French doors that open out into the courtyard. I draw quite a crowd for most of the day and one man in particular sits across from me and watches almost all day long. It turns out that his name is Lasier and he does all of the woodwind repair for the symphony. He is really paying attention and within a half hour, anytime I search for something in the pile of tools in front of me, he actually picks it up and hands it to me! I am going to be sorry to see him leave! It is like having your own bow-rehairing assistant! J I offer to teach him to rehair, but he says no, that he prefers watching, so I continue enjoying his assistance. At one point in the afternoon, he left for a moment and returned carrying two small fried apple dumplings. He handed them to me with a smile and said, “For you”. I was so touched. And I really appreciated his thoughtfulness. I was beginning to get quite grumpy when it hit me that it was 4 o’clock and I had not had anything to eat since last night. Lasier surely saved the day and I resolved to take a little better care of myself tomorrow. It would be a poor showing in Cuban/American bow relations is I bit someone’s head off for no reason at all!!
Finally at 6 o’clock, I call it a day and tell him that we are done. My will is strong but my eyes are shot. As we clean up, he keeps saying, “Do you want to go to my house for a beer?”. After going round and round, I finally convince him to sit with me in the square to enjoy our drinks, rather than sit inside. He takes a seat next to me on a wall and looks bored as the people stroll by and the breeze rustles the trees. An elderly man walked by carrying flowers and I asked Merlin who he thought the flowers were for. “They are for his wife”, he said with disinterest. “No!” I cried, “I think they are for his secret girlfriend!!” And with that I introduced him to my favorite game……making up completely ridiculous stories about the people that are walking by. J Soon, a man carrying a shoe box and a woman with a drink sat across from us. “He is in love with her!!” I said with great dramatic affect, “But she only likes him for his drinks!” Merlin deadpanned, “And because he buys her shoes. “ I laughed and laughed and finally said to him, “See…..isn’t this fun!?” “At this moment, I am very happy”, he said softly. We talked some more about secret girlfriends, (he has two) and working hard, (he has three jobs), before throwing our cans away and heading for home.
On the way to my casa, I try to explain to him that I don’t want his mother to cook me dinner and for him to entertain me. I want to go check my email and have a quite dinner. He takes a lot of convincing, but finally says goodnight. What does one do when kindness clashes with conscience? I love his family, and enjoy spending time with them, but I do NOT want to be a burden to them! Feeding an extra person three times a day is not only a big expense, but is a lot of extra work for his mother It seems that when Martin, the other LSF person, comes to visit, he eats all of his meals there, spends all of his free time there and even has his laundry done there! I don’t know, maybe that was what was expected of me? But no one told me and I just don’t feel good about it. I am hoping that in the next few days I can feel things out so that I don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.
I ended my day at the nearby hotel checking my email and having dinner. It was there that I heard a violin plucking. I turned around and it was one of the men from the symphony whose bow I had rehaired earlier today! He came over to say hello and showed me his violin. It feels neat to actually be out and run into someone I know. J J After listening to his band play for a while, I finally head home. Anna, my land lady, greets me at the door and runs to the fridge. She hands me a plate with a small pineapple on it. With a smile, she lifts up the top and it is filled to the brim with chopped mango and pineapple, “For your breakfast” she says. How wonderful are these people? I am going to sleep now, feeling content and well cared for.
Good night all,