A moment of honesty here, I don't suffer children well for any length of time. I am child-less by choice in my personal life, and while I have many, many younger relatives, nieces and nephews produced by my three sisters, as well as great nieces and nephews produced by my nephews and nieces, I prefer living with dogs instead. I love my young relatives, but I love sending them home to their parents even better, when I've tired of their company.
My siblings and friends who are only now enjoying the freedom that I have always had, seem to act as though being happy your kids are no longer in the house, is a guilty pleasure, rather than the nature of things. In other words, you have kids, they grow up and they leave and you get your sanity and life back. I don't see any reason to feel guilty about that at all. It is the way the universe works, right? So while, I do like little people, my philosophy has always been, if you choose, give birth, raise them until they are aged 3, then send them off to boarding school until they turn 18, when it is time for college. Painless child rearing, but not what a “parent” should do. I fully admit that I'm not “parent” material. Just wish others would be more honest with themselves instead of treating their offspring like an acquisition, a designer handbag or something that matches their latest pair of designer jeans.
At least publicly, the children of Cuba seemed well loved and cared for. Many of the cultural events that we attended in Cuba were put on by children, students mainly from what we in the US would consider middle school. Since I've spent my entire life avoiding organized kid stuff, Disney world performances, I was not exactly thrilled, but resolved to put on a good face and enjoy the moment.
I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised at the various performances and programs we observed and took part. I had fun, actually. We were treated to song and dance and instrumental music, from a quintet of young women singing an old black gospel hymn to welcome us, to an orchestra made up entirely of guitars. We met the quintet at a school with a music and performance curriculum. The students were selected from all over the city to sharpen their skills with the future intent of teaching or performing. The overall intent is to preserve Cuban culture and pass it on. The school, like all schools was state run and also free for students and parents.
The Orquestra de Guitaras was a neighborhood culture club, so to speak. State sponsored but put together as a result of a neighborhood banding together to teach, and provide practice and performance space and a built in audience. For instance, the only requirement to joining the orchestra was that the child have a guitar. The lessons are free, done by volunteer directors who teach the kids to play the instrument. in three weeks. Most of them don't read music so all songs are memorized. The special performance was nothing short of amazing.
Without exception, even the street urchins, who begged for money or whatever we would give them, were squeaky clean and didn't smell, as Marie remarked. They were pushy but polite as they hustled us. After all, we were tourists there with spending money to burn. Our tour guides cautioned us on the first day that giving to the people was our choice. We needn't feel guilty because all children in Cuba had state provided free health care, free food, and free schooling.
I noticed that the kids always asked for money, but the adults always asked for items like pens or soap or paper. We were told that this was merely a conversation starter in the hopes of getting other items that could in turn be sold on the street for a high price. I ended up giving away small items such as my extra pens and pads of paper and the soaps, shampoos and other courtesy toiletries from the hotel. I was traveling without my computer and had loaded up on writing materials which became dead weight when it became apparent that writing longhand and pictures proved difficult.
There was no quiet time built into the tour to pause and write, or to write at night, so I resorted to mental notes, scribbled notes and many many pictures to jolt my remembrance for when I started to write as I am doing now, after I've returned from my adventure. In my past professional life, I was a news reporter during the time when cell phone cameras and recorders as well as other modern conveniences for documenting life, did not exist. I had to rely on my camera and my memory in order to get the story and get it right. I found and was pleasantly surprised that I have not lost that skill in my older years. My powers of observation are still intact and functioning properly.
More to come....