It is 9:00, and I am sitting here on my bed in a pool of melted sweat, relaxing after a nice dinner of cheese pizza. Ok, the pizza wasn’t that nice….but it was easy and fast and I was able to eat it after doing a quick internet check. J I think I might be the only person to ever visit Cuba and not eat at a Cuban restaurant!! If I suggest it, Merlin gets very upset and says that it is very expensive, and that “we can eat at his house…..just let him go tell his mother to fix me something”. The only other place to eat that I know of is the hotel down the street. They have a snack bar and a hoity-toity restaurant that I cannot afford. Since I am only eating one meal a day…the snack bar it is. J When I get home, I will go to the Cuban restaurant in Norcross…..it is wonderful. J J
Anyway, it is dark outside, the temperature is cooling down to a nice 90 degrees and it is time for bed, right? Wrong! Merlin will be here in an hour to take me to hear traditional Cuban music! It is about time!! I am so excited and I will tell you all about it tomorrow! J Today was another day full of rehairing bows and seeing students and musicians. Many now greet me like an old friend, kissing me on the cheek as they say hello. It makes me feel so good! We had another breakthrough today in Cuban/American relations, as well. You know how I keep talking about these moments that always happen for me when I travel overseas? Well today, right on cue, came the next one. (I could set my watch by these things.) Today was the day that everyone forgot that I don’t speak Spanish. J It always happens around the end of the first week…..people just look at me and start spewing Spanish in normal conversation. These are people that know me! Trust me; this is not because of some new-found fluency on my part. I think it happens when the novelty of having a foreigner (me) around finally wears off. It is pretty funny, actually. Merlin and I were having an in depth bow conversation when all of the sudden, he switched to Spanish, in mid-sentence, no less! . When I just looked at him, he simply said, “I know…..I just don’t know how to say it in English”, and then proceeded to keep talking to me in Spanish. I just laughed and laughed. What are you going to do?
My favorite part of the day (so far) was late this afternoon when Merlin, Lasier and I were working on bows. Two of the young teenage students…both very pretty girls…were hanging out waiting for us to finish their bows, flirting lightly with both of the guys and eating the M and M’s I was sharing. J Merlin was playing music on his phone…some sort of Latin hip-hop…. and all of the sudden a slow, Latino love song came on. Merlin started singing softly as he worked and soon, both Lasier and the girls all joined in. They didn’t really know they were all singing together, they were just each caught up in the song. It was one of those moments, you know? One of those moments when everything got kind of quiet and everyone seemed so content and comfortable. I just smiled to myself as I combed out the bow hair, thinking, “how lucky am I?”. I know I say that a lot, and when I am at home, I feel lucky and blessed each and every day. But when I am on one of my adventures, things like this take on a kind of glow and it really brings home how great this life really is.
(Later........ at 1 am…)
Ok, so if you are going to suffer permanent hearing damage, it should definitely happen in a Cuban bar, don’t you think? J I am back from my evening and it was wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! When we left the house, I could tell that something was different. It is Friday night in Santiago and the town had a celebratory feel to it. The women on the streets were all dressed up and the children were completely precious, wearing little shawls, three piece suits….the ninas wearing flowers in their hair. We walked to the concert hall where we work every day and turned down a street that was full of people. Every building had a restaurant or bar in it and they all had live Cuban music going on! I think I have died and gone to heaven!! We waited in a park for Lasier, and there were people dancing in the square, a band playing under a pavilion and old cars driving by, spewing exhaust from 1956. It was awesome! As we sat in the park and waited, Merlin and I played the ‘what country do you think THEY are from’ game. England , France , Germany ? I am usually very good at this game and it turns out, so is Merlin, so we had a great time talking about everyone that walked by. J
When Lasier didn’t show up, we started the evening in one of Santiago’s most famous clubs. Merlin with a beer and me with a Mojito, we settled in for some music. I have to say, the music was amazing…but very, very loud. I consoled myself by saying that it sure was a heck of a way to lose your hearing, but early on, couldn’t bring myself to leave. I mean, I was in Cuba , listening to a traditional Cuban band, for Pete’s sake!!
Then they walked in. Five adults. Laughing, dancing their way to their seats, making a graaaaand entrance. The man looked like a brunette Woody Allen and was dancing across the entrance way wearing a tee shirt that said, “F*#% you, you f*#^ing f*#%”.
The Americans are here.
For the first time, I saw how we really look to the rest of the world. I have to admit, I was laughing at the tee shirt…you can blame the mojito on that. I mean, who wears a shirt like that??? Then I realized that not only was I a little embarrassed, but I had reached my decibel limit. Two professional salsa dancers had come out and were working the crowd. Merlin wasn’t so thrilled by the music either so I suggest (yelled, really) that we go find something better. He was horrified that I would pay $5 for each of us and then leave 45 minutes later, but I explained that given my face, it was only a matter of time before that salsa dancer zoned in on me and that one mojito was NOT enough to get me out on the dance floor! He acquiesced and sure enough, as we were leaving, I glanced back to see the Americans being dragged onto the dance floor by the pros. (Whew, that was a close one) J
We strolled from place to place, checking out bands, making a quick stop in the middle of a square to visit with some bass playing friends of Merlins. After talking about Baby Basses, (everyone here loves Ampeg!!!), we asked the advice of his friends and ended up at a delicious bar across the square. Long and narrow, with a hundred plants hanging overhead and oscillating fans blowing the air around, the outdoor café with its live band was perfect. We were soon joined by yet another of Merlin’s bass playing friends, and sat enjoying beers and the music for a while.
Several phone conversations took place with Merlin on his cell phone and it turned out that he was in the middle of a big personal problem involving women. (Doesn’t it always involve women?!) As he got more and more depressed, I finally taught the both of them about the blues. Not playing the blues, which they both understood completely, but having the blues. (Try explaining THAT in a second language!!) When we finally closed the restaurant down, Merlin declared that he had the blues and needed to go home and play his bass for a while. The three of us strolled through the darkened streets of Santiago laughing and joking, slowly chasing his blues away. When we neared my corner, Merlin said, “Please to come, Anna….help me chase the blues away…we will play the bass!!” I laughed and explained to him that I was old and that he and his friend would do just fine without me. J After a bit more cajoling, I sent them on their way and walked the last block home. I am happy, peaceful, and about as far away from the blues as a girl can get.