Sunday, April 29, 2012

a defining moment

took place the third day of the trip when after a tour of the National Museum of Fine Arts we were given free time.  as every traveler knows (especially the women) you never pass up an opportunity for a toilet stop. so I went to the ladies room and found the usual attendant with the toilet paper squares. however after using the facility found there were no handles on the toilet to flush (paper being deposited in the trash can since the systems cannot handle that)- and lo and behold - no water to wash our hands. the attendant offered to pour water from a refilled plastic bottle over my hands - I declined and used the Purell I carried.

the National Museum of Fine Arts- with a fabulous and priceless collection of incredible art - spanning 500+ years of Cuban art history and there is NO WATER! this was not a temporary problem that morning- this is a permanent situation (discovered upon asking the Foundation rep.)

I am going to take things out of sequence a little bit here because this bears further remarking. One of our group members has put up a shared website for our photos and this morning upon viewing I came across a photo by Mary Herzog from Wisconsin that could be the ultimate illustration of life in Cuba for the masses of the everyday working folks. The point this photo illustrates was so commonplace by the day we had this visit to the home of the local family in Trinidad (our last day before returning to Havana about 5/6 through the trip) that I didn't even think about taking a photo myself.  Thank god Mary did because this perfectly sums up the situation vis-a-vis the infrastructure and material goods availability that we encountered on the trip. Outside the tourists facilities - people struggle everyday with things like phone service ("stolen" from an accommodating neighbor with a line for a fee paid to her and her family for sharing) cable (the same) and Internet for those lucky enough to have some access and an unused email address that can be rented to someone who actual is wealthy enough to have a computer.... the whole situation is mind boggling.

because the restrictions have kept (until 6 months ago) from selling homes they are passed form generation to generation and when the family gets too large for the space they build an additional story on the top of the house (IF they can afford to do so) but in order for it to be passed along in the succession after the death of the ostensible owner they have to keep the staircase to the new floor INSIDE the building - outside access equals a new and separate dwelling which then means the original cannot be passed down when granny dies... as I said mind boggling...

so before I go on to the rest of the day's activities I want to show Mary's superb photo and a couple that illustrate the house situation.

the TV set in the family home "died" and so the grandfather who was the neighborhood Mr. Fixit decided to keep things patch,  patch, patched by using an old computer monitor that had been discarded to create a "new" TV... this is an astounding expression of the age old adage "necessity is the mother of invention."
(thanks again to Mary Herzog for sharing this photo)

a house across from the Synagogue and the detail in a bit closer shot:

I am sure I will find more of these illustrative moments as I go through the photos but now let's end here and I will do the next post on the remainder of the day which started at the waterless National Museum of Fine Arts.

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