[ 6 August 2016 - Saturday...later in the day ]
[ 6 August 2016 - Saturday ]
Soo, I did the unthinkable today, I attempted to book an early flight home. As fate would have it the travel agency I tried didn't have any available flights.* (Glad I didn't book that one way ticket as Martin suggested I do - apparently flights are scarce and I might have run out of cash in the meantime!!) I feel like there have been a lot of little things leading up to this point of wanting to be back home. The “Hola linda!” comments that used to be quasi-funny but at least tolerable are now annoying. A guy yesterday started talking to me, asking where I was from, what my name was, etc which all felt pretty harmless but after talking for a bit I began to leave, saying “ciao,” and walking away and I could tell that he was following me, calling out something to try to get my attention. I pretended to not notice until I couldn’t any longer. Then he asked where I was staying (not telling you that…) and whether I wanted to go to massage parlor (huh? nooo….) and that he’d go with me if I wanted (hell no……) Then as of yesterday morning, I’ve been hit hard by a cold (I sneezed so much yesterday that my abs were sore this morning, my throat is killing me, my nose won’t stop running, and I’m achy. Please don’t let it be Zikka! The starving dying dog is laying in the same exact spot as every other day sometimes with uneaten food placed beside him. Then yesterday evening I also saw a dog with a leg so mangled you could see the bone. I think that’s what sent me over the edge.
* It's not as simple of course as just hopping onto Kayak and booking a flight...
Note: This is NOT a commentary or critique on Havana or the Cuban people - what I am trying to point out is that the photos we are usually shown of Havana are always cropping something out, always making things appear more aestheticized than what is the reality of the situation.
(From what I could gather the dumpsters are where all the neighboring households had to take their trash for pick up. Unsurprisingly, door to door trash pick up, a convenience taken for granted in the US, is not a service available in Havana.)
"In the memoir Quand J’étais Photographe, '…everything appears to us with the exquisite impression of a marvelous, ravishing cleanliness. No squalor or blots on the landscape. There is nothing like distance to remove us from all ugliness.'
From: Writing on the Image: Architecture, the City and the Politics of Representation by Mark Dorrian p. 27
[ 4 August 2016 - Thursday ]
From yesterday: I just got back from dinner at this little restaurant I’ve passed a couple of times called Havana 61. It was totally closed off from the street so I assumed it would have air con (as they call it here). I was glad that I dragged my tired self out of my hotel room at 1830 because the place was small and any later I wouldn't have gotten a table. I was sitting between an older German couple (the woman had the most gorgeous hair!) and a couple about my age, the woman was American and speaking of her phd, the man not American. I couldn’t figure them out, lol.
Anyways, I was walking home from the restaurant…literally two blocks from La Gárgola Hostal, when I’m stopped by an older man asking where I’m from. The answer “Estados Unidos” always gets them. (: And I think this guy was a little drunk. He was telling me that it was his 60th birthday and introduces a few other men as his nephew, his brother, his other brother. One of them gave me the hand motion for “He’s crazy” (to which I wanted to be like, “Then help me for cripes sake!” Secretly I think they all like to see the foreign American woman in awkward but trying to be polite agony. Ugh lolTo be honest I’ve “stuck around” to hear out a lot of these awkward conversations - awkward because I never know where they are intended to go… and 85% have been harmless and I’ve been able to “Hasta luego, mucho gusto!” my way out of them.) The guy was telling me that Germans and Italians see him as a black man, but Americans don’t really care. He kept saying “el negro” referring to himself and “blanca” referring to me, and then saying something about el corazon and Obama. LOTS of talk about Obama. I think just having a “el negro” president has helped our international standing more than anything other single thing could. Trump…..could take it all out. One security guard wanted to know what I thought about Trump and he pretty much said that America was “loco”… There’s a man who does this street act with two dressed up Dachshund dogs where he has trained them to give a high five when he talks about Obama and a growl/bark when talking about Trump. I actually decided earlier today that I would play a little social experiment and wear my "Trump Eres Un Pendejo" shirt around just to see what reaction I get. It reminds of being in Croatia in 2008 and a restaurant owner asked what we thought about Obama. I do believe, if my memory serves me correctly, in a group of Republicans I was the single person to say enthusiastically “Obama!”
If the rest of the world can see what half of America can see, but moreover the rest of the world sees what half of American CHOOSES NOT TO SEE. Makes me mad and sad. Dare I say it, but I doubt you’d find a Trump supporter in Cuba, Latin America, or mainly anywhere outside of Europe really. Although they’d probably not even venture to France these days given the irrational and misplaced fear of "the radicalized."
I was caught in conversation with another random guy on my exploring yesterday who was trying to tell me that the American and Cuban governments might not agree but the people are…. “lo mismo” I supplied. Giving away that I understood more than he initially thought. Couldn’t play dumb anymore (: Except when, god help me, some people talk to me and there’s music playing in the background and they seriously have some sort of “country”accent (for lack of a more appropriate term). Then I can’t understand anything and look at them blankly feeling bad.
[ 4 August 2016 - Wednesday ]
I slept pretty poorly last night and can feel it in my eyes this morning. All day actually I was feeling melancholic. Martin had moved the previous day into our new apartment in Kerrytown, an old barn on Depot Street that’s been restored and converting into living spaces. I was looking forward to seeing pictures of that and of the dogs that he picked up from the kennel. When I got to the internet hotspot though I saw on the sidewalk the same starving and dying dog and it broke my heart all over again. I walked around the rest of the day feeling sad and overwhelmed by this place and by all the sad, horrible, and unfair things in the world. When I came back to the spot where he was this morning he was gone, but moved down the sidewalk about twenty feet. Still just laying there.
Sometimes I feel that I have a warped sense of sympathy. I saw children sleeping on the streets in Mumbai but a starving dog makes me cry the hardest? Animals are the most innocent of all I think in this world, but are children not just as innocent? I don’t know, can’t tell, haven’t figured it out yet.
It’s times like these when I think of the design blogs that I read, the beautiful interiors, the perfectly designed restaurant bar and I think we’ve lost sight of reality. While people all around the world live using cardboard boxes as walls, others are wondering whether “Handsome Grey” or “Moonshine Beige” is the best color for the foyer.
It felt unkind to take that photo of the dog but I wanted to remember him. To make him feel like he wasn’t alone. To give some sort of validation to him, yes you do exist. I see you. I acknowledge your pain.
…I saw yesterday (3AUGUST) more people, tourists, trying to help the poor little dog. Some people had given it food and water. Their compassion made me cry too. It made me think (something that I already know but find it easy to lose sight of) is how humans can be good too.
… 6AUGUST edit. I haven’t been back to see if he is still there today, even thinking about him makes me cry. But I did see a Cuban help him yesterday! The first Cuban I’ve seen to even acknowledge him, while others sit by with their pet dogs!! I just don’t see how that happens. How do you have a pet dog and sell puppies in cages on Obispo but don’t feel any sympathy or responsibility for this starving dog? I just can’t stop thinking about him and crying. I keep thinking about Tom saying that Cuba desperately needs people to come in to help with animal care and at first I didn’t really see what he meant. The streets aren't “overrun” with strays and people have well taken care of pets but the number of cases of neglect that I have seen now makes his comment clear. There were a few people (British, Australian, one Swiss) on their last day of a tour at breakfast this morning and the woman was telling how she didn’t like Cuba. That on her first day here she figured out it wasn’t a place she liked(maybe I’ll write more about this actually...) but she said she didn’t like the poverty, pollution, and the animal neglect. She said everything is in ruin and meant it literally. In the country she had seen starving animals all over and said in particular this starving mother dog with teets all swollen from frequent and probably recent use was entirely skin and bones but was the sweetest dog she could have imagined. She found someone to sell her costume jewelry in hopes that the money would go to taking care of the dog. (Optimistically trusting, the cynic in me feels.)