Tag Archives: Brittan

Lesson Learned from Friends on the Road

  • You should always bring some of the clothes you love and rely on (Nellie) but should also buy/bring some basic stuff you don’t mind giving away (Rhiannon)
  • Of course, don’t be “that guy” who just gives away all their broken/dirty junk: give away the things you love, and it’ll come back to you (Deirdre)
  • Just do it, magn/There’s nothing you can do about it now, so have fun/shoes are lame (unless someone steals yours)/spend your nights under the stars (Kristina)
  • There is no right way to experience a country, so just do what makes you happy in the moment, and if you enjoyed the time while you spent it you can’t look back with regret (Abby)
  • Bring a book or two, and trade them away for others when you’re done.  After all, on the road, a new story is worth more than one you already know, and can easily find again (Emma)
  • If you really are the “whatever” person (like Avi The Army Guy or Julie The Yoga Girl) trust that everyone knows that already, and let them come to you if they want to know more (Julie and Avi. Duh.)
  • Bring all-purpose items, and travel speakers (Laurel, aka Leslie)
  • Don’t lend people your Coach/Ignore all negativity (Aliesha)
  • Be unapologetically ridiculous and enthusiastic, and you’re bound to make friends.  Even if you don’t, you’re probably already having a ton of fun (Brit and Kristina)
  • Sometimes the cost of something “lent” is worth the friendship or the conversation you get in exchange (Britito)
  • Really listen, and remember people (Nellie, Laurel, Julie)
  • Sometimes being the butt of the joke is the best way to put everyone at ease, and the quickest way to gain friends (Gumby)
  • Lack of language doesn’t mean lack of communication (Mike)
  • You can sweet-talk your way into (and out of) anything (Pasha Daoud)
  • You’re always surrounded by a million memorable moments waiting to happen (Allyson)
  • Trust strangers (Dylan and Taylor)
  • Always ask the parents before you give kids something, especially candy–and make sure you have enough to go around (Lori)
  • Don’t let anyone (or anything) hold you back from what you want to see or accomplish (Falconer)
  • Just eat it (Brit, Rhiannon and Falconer)
  • Be humble; laugh at yourself; always be learning (Janine)
  • Keep an open mind and try to put things into context.  Also, always have a notebook and pen (Ilham)
  • Even if you don’t have the words, you can always make friends with your talent (Justino y Míles)
  • Laugh and smile and you will make friends (Diana)
  • Ask questions (Julie–like you don’t know which!)
  • Always have a scarf and a sweater (Marisa and Cynthia)
  • Always bring at least one or two things that make you look hot–you never know (Sarah)
  • Packing is for overachievers (Erin)
  • Relax.  When the bus breaks down, have a photoshoot! play cards! work on your tan! (Profe)
  • When you don’t have something, whether it’s an object or a skill: outsource (Kate)
  • A good friend is always there for you, no matter the distance or time difference (Alex)

What are your best lessons, from travel or otherwise?  What have the people around you showed you?

La Residencia

I’ve never really gone into some of the basic, background stuff, so I’m going to try filling in the gaps.  Like this big one: whereon earth do I live?  I know you’ve heard me sing the praises of the Real World House and complain about how overcrowded it is, but here, for the first time, is your personal photo tour.

The place is owned by Casa de las Americas and is booked every semester with students who come to take part in their programs.  We leave on April 2, UC Davis is coming in on April 3.

Maria lives in an apartment near the kitchen, on the roof. She's our fiesty Cuban abuela, who loves us all so much--except when we leave wet towels on the floor or forget to lock the doors.
There are 3-4 locks keeping us from the riff raff on the street, depending on how many of them are in use at any given time.
Only the 19 students who live here can go downstairs. Maria and Miledys come downstairs to clean and when invited, and Chino always knocks, whistles or yells down to us before coming into "our space."
We have our own fridge, as well as a very slow desktop. I pretty much live on my balcony, bed or one of these red objects.
Best fridge ever. did I mention I live in the real world house? Except that we're actually all legal to drink, and nobody's punched anyone (yet).
For good measure: the view out my window. Always.

Buen Dia de las Mujeres

Today is Women’s Day, something I honestly had never heard of until Maria’s breakfast rant today.  We’ve been getting “felicitaciones” all day from men walking past us, and even some freshly picked flowers.  What exactly are we being congratulated for, though?  Being born female instead of male?  Opting not to switch genders (which is covered by Cuban health care, by the way)?  Although I must say, the more time I spend here, the more I think of being a Cubana as an accomplishment of some kind.

“Are you a woman, or a book?”
-Leonardo, Cecilia

“A woman can bear anything but curiosity”
Cecilia

“You can fix the worst things here with drums and beer”
-Rachel, La Bella del Alhambre

“A woman in politics is like a man in the kitchen”
Clandestinos

“You want to take care of all the problems in the world, but what about your husband and house?”
Retrato de Teresa

“It is good to have what you do acknowledged.”
Retrato de Teresa

“Because I’m the man of the house, forget about your little job.”
Retrato de Teresa

“There’s one law for women and another law for men.”
Retrato de Teresa

“But I’m a man, it’s different!”
Retrato de Teresa

“Learn to clench your teeth…like your mama did.”
-Teresa’s mother, after admonishing her daughter for wanting equality, Retrato de Teresa

“I don’t care what they say, a woman is a woman and a man is a man.  Not even Fidel can change that.”
-Teresa’s mother, Retrato de Teresa

“Your husband and children aren’t enough, you always wanted to be you, too”
Teresa’s husband, Retrato de Teresa

“If I look for her again, I’m not a man.”
Fresa y chocolate

“There are functions for men and functions for women.  This is not the function of women.”
-Hector Perez, speaking of women and tambores (playing the religious drums)

“What are you doing to celebrate Women’s Day?”
“Working, of course.”
-Maria

And I leave you with this, from Brittan:
“But when is Men’s Day?”

La gente

Carla and Andy dance while Jose and Reuben look on
Abby y Diana, my roommates, at a recent baseball game
Alex y Govani at a baseball game
A local man exercises, al lado de la Malecon
Herardo, our tour guide from CASA, goes on a test run on Miles' board
Aliesha gets some unwanted attention in Matanzas
This girl is all business
Brittan and a local musician rock out
This man's picture is in every guide book ever written about Cuba

Nombre

Everyone is so frank with their nicknames here, which are more like blunt descriptors.  Every guy with Asian heritage is Chino, which is kind of confusing.  We often hear people called Gordo, or fatty, and men call out to women to call them Gordita, which they think is a compliment.

At this point, I should explain that a lot of terms that sound un-pc and racially not okay to American ears are not at all negative here.  Negro is an adjective, not an insult, and mulatto is the same way.  Chino is the correct term for a Chinese person, they just use those terms with a greater familiarity and frequency than we do.

Beyond that, all of our names have changed a bit.  Brittan is Bree-ton, Justin is who-steen, Abby is usually Awee, Dan became Danielle, Diana is Dee-ahna, and Aliesha becomes Alicia or Alish.  Brittan is also Músico, and Aliesha is called la mulatta, much to her chagrin.  She’s not actually mulatta, but there are basically no people here who are just black, so if you’re anything other than white or Chino, you must be a mulatto.

No one has any problems pronouncing Kristina Escalona.

I’ve become Dell-ee-uh, which I expected.  Entertainingly, the Americans have all taken to calling me this as well.  Some of them I think are just used to hearing me called that, the way I pronounce Diana the Cuban way out of habit and affection.  Many of the Michigan kids, though, honestly think that’s the correct way to pronounce my name.

Foto Friday: Propaganda

I know I’m a day late, but cut me some slack–there was an earthquake and now there are 15-25 mph winds, and the Malecón is flooded.  No one’s injured or worried or anything, it just means our internet is extra-slow.  So here it is, the second installment and already we have a Foto Saturday.

Outside of a gas station (“your friend, 24 hours a day,” “black gold”) there is a bust of Jose Marti so big I can see it from the bus.  The most basic, obvious form of propaganda here is the ubiquitous billboard.  They are used for no other purpose, and are actually quite compelling.  Some are just text, while others are giant, childlike drawings.

Here’s a sampling of some of my faves from around town.

My question: who are these aimed at?  Who are they actually convincing?

There are tons more, but I usually see them out of a bus window.  There will be plenty more in the future.  Unfortunately, I’m so used to it that upon further scrutiny I don’t actually have pictures of many of my favorite slogans.

A man sits across the street from an elementary school.
A typical storefront sign. Many of the decorations from the 50th anniversary last January 1 remain, however.
Brittan and Aliesha with a Che flag in the Hotel Nacional, which used to be owned by the mob
"For peace and friendship"
Hasta la victoria siempre!
Some campaneros stroll past a large version of a ubiquitous logo

There’s actually a conscious effort in Cuba not to deify the living, which surprises some.  Jose Martí is everywhere, usually in statue form.  Che figures heavily in the billboards and murals.  I’ve only found one mention of Raúl, and unfortunately it was pitch black and the picture came out terrible no matter what I tried.  Fidel is around, but not as much as you’d think.  There’s a ton more of the propaganda that’s great, but it’s hard to get good pictures.  I’m fairly fascinated by it, so there will definitely be more.  And some of the best pictures are being save for later, like the US Special Interests Section.  All you UNA, polisci kids would be all a-quiver to see it, so stay tuned.