Day 8-Cathedrals, tennis shoes and blue beaded necklaces.....
This morning, I slept in and leisurely went through my suitcase. I have so much to leave behind and want to get it all divided up to give as gifts later today. After organizing everything, I took some quiet time to sit and finish typing up yesterday’s report. I went out into the main part of the house and asked Anna if I could sit at the dining room table. She brought me fresh mango and café cubano and I, once again, was in heaven.
My main goal of the day was to go see the cathedral. We walked by it several times in the last few days, but I did not get a chance to really enjoy the square and the church itself, so off I went to find a taxi. Yes, I have made this walk many times this week, but at this point, it is about 845 degrees outside and I just don’t have it in me! I chose a taxi from the long line of cars in front of the nearby hotel, going for the 1956 Chevy. There are some newer, smaller cars…all of which obviously have air conditioning…but I do not care! I want to ride in one of these cool old cars!! I asked the gentleman, “how much for the Cathedral?” and he said something I didn’t understand, followed by ‘cinco’. “Five?” I said, and he nodded. Best five bucks I ever spent! I jumped in the front seat and we took off. He turned away from the direction we were supposed to be heading and started climbing the hills out of town. Hmmm…..the cathedral that I want is actually downhill from everything else. I know because when we went to it last night, Merlin warned me that after the cathedral, it was all ‘uphill’. (which, of course, made me smile….). Anyway, he was chatting merrily and saying Cathedral-something-or-other and I realize that we are going to a whole other cathedral, which might be ok, but could also be a two hour drive away!! So I look at him quizzically and say, “Cathedral? En centro de Santiago ? (which I really hope means, “The Cathedral? In the middle of town? ) “Eiiiiyeee!”, he says and nods, speaking a whole lot of Spanish and smiling while he turns the car around. We are finally heading in the right direction and the neighborhoods start looking familiar again. I know that the fare was too high, but I do not expect him to change his mind, given the change in destination. It is ok by me and worth it to take that ride!
When he drops me off at the cathedral, I take pictures and gaze adoringly at it. Seriously! It is beautiful and was originally built in the 1500’s!! It actually stands way up high, sitting on top of a lot of small shops, all closed because it is Sunday. When I try to get in to the wrought iron gates that lead to the stairway, a woman says kindly, “Closed til 5:00” Of course, she says in en espagnol, but I get the drift. Oh well….. I continue to stroll around the square, but by the time the fourth man has walked by me making kissing sounds, (turns out, I am fairly popular here!!), I decide that it is time to get off the street for a while and I head to Casa Trova. Last night, I told you about meeting the two different musicians that both said that they were playing at Casa Trova today at 1:00? Well, I walked in, took a seat in the back and looked up to see them waving at me from the stage!! The room was small and open on one side to the street. It was full of small chairs covered in leather that still had the hair attached in places, and there was one lone empty chair in the back, with one tiny table. See, it was meant to be. I quickly tood a seat and looked up to watch my new friends. They were both playing on a small stage with four other musicians. The place was small and full of locals...not a tourista in sight til me, (and then later two women). When I walked in and the musicians started waving enthusiastically, all of the locals turned to look at me. Then, as I sat down, a man came over to greet me. It was one of the cellists whose bow I had rehaired earlier in the week!!! He kissed me and sat down to join me for a beer. Everyone was looking at me like, "How in the world does that tourist know all these people!!" :) :) It was awesome!! The music was awesome as well and I spent the better part of an idyllic afternoon sitting there, swaying and smiling to the beat.
At one point, two women came in, and I recognized them as they sat right in front of me. I saw them two days ago and knew that they were tourists, but pegged them for Europeans, so I didn't talk to them. However, when they sat down, someone asked them where they were from and they said "Estados Unitos". I leaned forward and said, "Where in the US are you from?", and they both started laughing. One of the women turned around and said, "Oh, are you another disobedient servant of the crown?” :) :) I laughed and laughed. "Si", I said. Turns out, she IS from Germany , (I knew she wasn't your run of the mill American), but lives in San Francisco now, with her friend. They were great, and are the first Americans I have met that aren't here legally. It made me feel better to talk to them and laugh a little.
When the music finished, the band all gathered around me to sign the CD that I bought, (naturally, I had to have something to remember this by!). They all knew that I was a cellist and bassists so I assume the guitarist and bassist had filled them in. To feel so accepted was wonderful beyond words! Have I mentioned how much I love Santiago ? :)
After the music, I finished the afternoon at the outdoor restaurant overlooking the Cathedral. I figure if I can’t go in the church, I might as well spend some time enjoying the view. :) The pizza here…what is it with these people and not serving Cuban food?!?...was fabulous!! Imagine a large, thin sopapilla with red sauce and a little cheese. Not Cuban, per se, but it will do. :) On the square, people are relaxing on the benches, not moving any more than they have to. There is a nice breeze coming through and storm clouds are rolling in. The line of taxis doesn’t move……there are no tourists here to hail them. So I stare at a row of 1950’s American cars and fantasize about what it must have been like back then….the buildings freshly painted in pastels, the cigar smoke wafting by and the sounds of Cuban music spilling out of bars and hotels. Funny….the only thing that is different is the age of the paint………..
Now, I have to go to my party. It is raining and thundering furiously outside and I am hoping that Latin-time can apply to me tonight. J Sitting on my bed typing with the windows and doors all open, the oscillating fan circulating cool air and the birds singing, I don’t really want to move just yet. Yet….how often do you have people get together in your honor? :) I better jump in the shower…..
Well, I am getting ready to climb into my bed here in my Cuban home for the last time. This week has gone by so quickly!! This evening, I headed to Martin’s place for our party, making a stop by his family home first. It was drizzling softly and I walked slowly towards the house, carrying six bags of things I had brought from America for them. His sister, Maline, saw me coming and ran out to help me. Once inside, I started opening bags and showing them what I had brought. I was nervous. I read on the internet that everyday toiletries are very expensive in Cuba and not of a good quality, so they are very much appreciated by most families. I was banking on that, since that is most of what I brought. Lotion, sunscreen, new hand towels, toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap, tampax, etc. The women, (Merlin had stepped out and his dad is out of town), were very excited and appreciative. The real fun came, however, when I gave Maline the colorful headbands and fruity lip balm that I had purchased with her in mind. What 12 year old girl doesn’t like lip balm that tasted like Life Savers!! :) One of our local Duluth women had donated a recorder and when I gave it to Maline, she squealed with excitement. It was my second most favorite moment of the day. :)
She prattled on and on to me in Spanish, her eyes glowing with excitement. Then I pulled out the bag of clothes I had for Mama Rosita. She is my size and had commented on my tee shirt earlier in the week, so half of my suitcase ended up going to her. I thought she was going to pop from excitement!! She said that in Cuba , it is hard to find clothes her size and that she was so happy!! It made me wish I had brought six suitcases full for her. I also had new underwear for her and assorted other things. And of course, I had to give her a Trail Dames tee shirt. :) I don’t know how, and I don’t know when, but someday she will be walking along the streets of Santiago and someone will say to her, “Are you a Trail Dame?! Me too!!” :)
At the very bottom of the bag were my tennis shoes. Last Tuesday, she and I had a long talk about our shoe size and how it is so hard to find shoes for wide feet. That was the only day that I even wore my tennis shoes and she commented how nice they were. This evening, as I was getting ready to leave for the party, I just wanted to cry. I sat there looking at those shoes…nice, but worn…clean, but scuffed and obviously used….and wished that I had something better to give her. I wasn’t even sure she would want them, so it was with a little trepidation that I even packed them. Then, when I looked at her questioningly and pulled them out of the bag, her whole face changed. I thought she was going to cry. She just hugged and hugged me. That was my favorite moment of the night.
We finished up the gift giving with a bag of assorted candy and some bubbles. They didn’t know what the bubbles were, so I had a great time opening them and cascading bubbles across the room. We all three squealed like little girls and giggled and giggled. I called to Merlin to come translate my explanation of the Pop Rocks candy that I had included and then we headed out. Lasier and his wife Eunice were already at the house with their 4-year old daughter, Ariana. Later we were joined by one of Merlin’s bass teachers, and we had the best time sitting around and talking. :) I broke the ice with a timid Ariana by taking her picture and showing it to her. After that, I showed Ariana how to work my iPhone and it was official…I was her favorite person! :) I showed her how to play Angry Birds and she and her mother, Eunice, were hooked in no time! But Ariana’s favorite was the camera and we all laughed and posed for her as she wore out the batteries in both devices having a good time.
Shortly, Maline and Mamma Rosita came bustling in and called me into the kitchen. They presented me with a gift in a colorful bag. They had wrapped a pretty three-stranded necklace with blue beads and matching earrings. They said that it matches my eyes. :) Then they gave me a little wooden bracelet. There was a card from them all, along with a Cuban postcard. I tried not to cry as Maline fastened the necklace around me and I put the earrings and bracelet on. How do you tell people that the greatest gift they could give you is letting you be a part of their family for a week? I was so moved and of course, I will treasure that jewelry forever.
Later, a dinner of fish, pork, rice and beans was served and soon followed by good-byes. Everyone has to work tomorrow and needs some sleep. Lasier hugged me three times, and I tried to put a whole lot of gratitude into my returning hug. This good-bye was soon followed by more of the same with Maline. I am going to stop by the house in the morning to say good-bye to Mamma Rosita, but she will be in school. Oh, this is the hard part!
Merlin and I closed out the evening…walking for an hour and visiting a subdued Garzon (I actually spelled this wrong last night), before finally heading home. He, too, hugged me three times and kissed me at the street corner where he turns for home. I teased him all week, “You will miss me when I am gone”. I think he actually might…..I know I will miss him.