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Delray Beach, FL, Westport, MA, United States
Undergraduate degree, Colby College; MA in teaching, Columbia Teacher's College; former high school English teacher in three states; former owner of interior design co. with advanced degree from R.I. School of Design. Barking Cat Books published my first book in 2009 titled, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS. My humorous manuscript titled ELDERLY PARENTS WITH ALL THEIR MARBLES: A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE KIDS was published in June, 2014. In 2015 A SURVIVAL GUIDE won a gold medal in the self-help category at the Florida Authors & Publishers Association conference. In 2018 Barking Cat Books published my SURVIVING YOUR DREAM VACATION: 75 RULES TO KEEP YOUR COMPANION TALKING TO YOU ON THE ROAD. See website By CLICKING HERE.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Cuban Travelogue, Part III

     On our "People-to-People" tour of Cuba we visited a maternity home serving the province surrounding Cienfuegos on the south coast. Maternity homes provide residential care for expectant mothers from rural areas or with high risk pregnancies. There are no charges, of course. A doctor and nurse are on duty 24/7. In Cuban pediatric ICU's, there is a 97% survival rate. Eight percent of births are Cesarean, provided only if a doctor orders them. No epidurals are given. As the expectant mothers told us in the maternity home, "Cuban women are strong."
     In general, Cuban men frown on vasectomies and although prevention of births through education is the state's focus, family planning is a "nightmare," as described by our Cuban guide. With the over-sixty population around twenty percent, the state encourages babies, of course. However, young people can't rise economically (in 2017 the average Cuban salary was the equivalent of $27/month) and postpone having families. There are no more free layettes from the state and with child-support laws requiring only the equivalent of $2/month per child, divorce is high. Condoms are listed on menus at every cafe and bar. As one of our tour group quipped, "Coffee and condoms - five cents, please."
Symbol for a B&B in Trinidad, with laundry drying on the roof

View from our hotel in Cienfuegos on south coast

Lobby of Hotel Sevilla, Havana
      We wound our way to Havana on the northern coast and checked into Hotel Sevilla near the National Theater and Sloppy Joe's. In the terracotta courtyard combos performed day and night. Throughout the country there is music - in cafes on the street, on the sugar cane plantation we visited, in bars and nightclubs, in the ears of young people in Havana listening to play lists. The people find a way to make the best of their circumstances. We were taught Salsa moves one night on the waterfront (no photos available!).

National Theater, Havana

Even the statues play music in Havana
Star performers singing of their country and Mother's Day at their elementary school
Entertaining ourselves with music on a sugarcane train
Carmen and a local at a cafe during a rainstorm.
       Upon our arrival at the hotel we were served our first Mojitos, offered at every subsequent stop. There was only a whiff of something rum-flavored in our drinks. Our room was spacious with scaffolding outside our window, though no workers ever appeared. The floor tiles and toilet had large cracks (luckily we didn't fall through!); one of two elevators was cordoned off; and during torrential rains in the late afternoon two parties in our group had to mop their floor, due to leaky windows. One of us, "J," requested an envelope at the front desk. "No, no envelopes and no stationery," she heard. Instead the receptionist reached for a sheet of paper, folded it into approximate thirds, and stapled the ends. "Your envelope," she said, handing "J" her request. Two new hotels were being built near the waterfront, joint ventures between Spanish and French companies and the Cuban government.
     We attended a lecture by retired architect/ professor Miguel Coyula. He opened his remarks by saying, "Havana is crumbling!"
Typical apartment building, Havana

A study in contrasts.
     One-fifth of the Cuban population lives in Havana (2.8 million), while three buildings A DAY crumble to rubble in the city. A toilet costs 333% of a month's wages; a gallon of paint costs 20% of a month's wages. Residents can "own" an apartment by leasing it from the government for 20 years. They cannot sell it and have no control over anything happening outside their own four walls (there is no building administrator or board of directors). With six to ten people living in three-room apartments, conditions aren't maintained. "When the U.S. embargo is lifted, will the Cuban government be ready for the tsunami of foreign investment?" the architect asked rhetorically.
     Two billion dollars flowed into Cuba through remittances from relatives in the States during the '90's, but the funds were used for "passive personal consumption" or put into hidden accounts, thereby avoiding taxes. "A disparity is growing between the population who has no foreign source of goods/funds and those who do or who leave for foreign jobs for 1-2 years, bringing their savings back with them," said the architect.
     That evening we stopped at a bar in Old Havana named "The Small Grocery in the Middle of the Street" (La Bodeguita del Medito). A huge crowd hung out on the cobblestones, talking and drinking while a combo played inside. The city was perfectly safe at night (no guns, no crime). Hemingway frequented this bar while he lived in Havana with wife #4. We pressed against the crowd inside the open storefront to see what Hemingway had written on a piece of cardboard over the bar: "My Mojitos come from La Bodeguita. My daiquiris come from La Floridita" (another bar).
     A blond American tourist spotted Tucker, one of our group who sported a white beard and white hair combed back behind his ears. "Hemingway!" she yelled above the salsa music, pointing at Tucker.
     "Just call me Papa," he quipped.
     "Hell, no! Never happen!" she yelled, turning her back in hasty retreat to the curb. We called Tucker "Papa" for the rest of the trip.                                                           To be continued...

Our "Papa" Hemingway

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