|Cienfuegos, Cuba -- 7/99|
This is a different kind of Trip
Report from what you usually see on Ocean Photos.
Just a short note of our trip followed by a letter to one of our readers.
Chris and I departed Grand Cayman together to head to Cienfuegos for the Annual International Catamaran Speed Boat Race and weeklong festival. We flew to Havana and then motored the five hours southeast to our favorite Cuban city and looked up friends, made new ones and generally just had a two week party.
Prior to my departure from the States one of our readers contacted me with a request I carry a gift of a radio that needs no batteries or electricity. She had read about our travels in Cuba last year and was touched by the reports of the people and their lifestyle. Her generosity in turn, moved me. I found a recipient for her gift and wrote her the following letter upon my return. It perhaps speaks more of the nature of the people in Cuba than I could relay in yet another "Trip Report".
By the way, unreported in Ocean Photos as yet, is a two month tour Chris and I experienced of the entire country of Cuba where we developed a true appreciation for this warm and resilient culture.
I'm back from my travels (temporarily) and have just received the film from my visit to Cienfuegos. I thought you might like to meet the family who benefited from your kind generosity.
I met Julio through another friend of mine during my last visit and enjoyed the hospitality of his home on a number of afternoons. He lives in the poorest section of Cienfuegos, a barrio called La Reina - The Crown. His house, unlike the rest in the city is a recent construction, government built.
Though "new", it lacks the charm of most buildings in Cuba and consists only of concrete block with an asbestos roof. Unbelievably hot in the summer and cold in the winter, the house has a main room, food preparation area with a sink, a bedroom and an open area next to the bathroom that serves as another bedroom. It is sparsely furnished with nothing more than a table, two chairs and two beds. They have a television in the corner that hasn't worked for over ten years but as one of their few possessions, they cling to it as though it were a new color set. He lives there with his two daughters, and his grand daughter.
After I was in town for a few days and settled, I paid a visit to their house hoping to catch Julio, however he was at his job as an construction worker where he earns $14 / month. His daughters, Clarita (sitting) and Lasarita (standing) were overwhelmed with your gift. I explained how it worked and how it came to them from a benefactor in the US.
When I returned another day, Julio told me he was quite impressed with a radio that required no batteries and would work when the power was out, (it's always out). He also said he looked forward to listening to it with his family on a day off at the beach.
Chris, (the big Englishman) in the photo as you may recall travels frequently with me and as an experienced seaman will act as Captain for our new charter boat, M/Y Outrageous Conduct. More on that later.
Clarita's daughter is a very charming child. I brought her some sidewalk chalk, Lifesavers and stick-on earrings. I also smuggled in some yellow and red apples, some of which were gifted to this household. Clarita told me the last time she had an apple she was a child and her daughter had never seen one. Two weeks later I spied the apples, sitting on a shelf in a place of honor, next to an empty Budweiser can and an empty bottle of Havana 7 Year Old Rum which we had shared with Julio earlier in the year.
She's grown quite fond of me and I must confess, I enjoy her as well. When I left Cienfuegos, I gave most of my clothing as well as my shoes for the father and his sons. I also left them with American dollars though Julio was loath to accept the money. I believe they will purchase some additional furniture and perhaps a store of rice.
Natalie, I would like to thank you personally for putting your thoughts of these fine people into action as well as convey their gratitude to you. I have never met a community like Cubans and when away, I long to be there with them.
Chris and I have acquired a 81' motor yacht in Hong Kong which is on it's way to Miami - expected arrival date Aug. 17. We will spend several months refitting her to meet our purposes of diving, photography and long range travel as well as setting her for luxury charters.
We plan to head south late this year or early next, passing through the Bahamas to Turks, then the Dominican Republic moving west along the coast of Cuba, dropping down to the Cayman islands and perhaps Jamaica, back up to Cuba, westward to Cozumel, Mexico and then follow the coastline along Central and South America.
We would be honored if you and your husband were able to join us at some point for adventure, appreciation of the world or just plan relaxation.
© 1999 John Petrak