Tag Archives: posts in a series


In Santeria, my orisha is Chango, one of the guerreros or warriors.  His colours are red and white like Santa Barbara, he wields metal weapons and is often depicted with lightning.  He is often thought of as a virile–a Casanova and all that is mean.  Why are those synonymous in Cuba?  Or Anywhere?  But that’s not how I identify with him.  Each orisha has many paths  that they can take, and ways you can be like them.  I like that when syncretized with Catholicism, Chango has some gender–bending, and his tendency to mete out divine justice.

I have a strong sense of Justice.  Whatever is good and fair compels me, regardless of how it favors or whether it directly affects me, which sometimes confuses others.  It isn’t as noble as it seems, and can often be annoying, like a compulsion.  You see for me, the absence of truth, facts and fairness is offensive.  Facts and justice are my religion, so it effects me whether the disservice concerns me or not.

I greatly dislike situations like this one, where there is no right answer.  The writer in me thrives on ambiguity and grey area, but ethically it makes me uneasy in daily life.  There’s just so much we can’t make sense of, from child labour to servitude that borders on slavery, the attention we receive from men as well as our very presence here.

Even if there is no right answer for everyone, I like to at least have my own rules, my own personal sense of what’s best.  that’s the beauty of Chango–he delivers his own swift justice, not anyone else’s.  My fiery Chango is down to its embers when I can neither come to grips with a situation nor make it right.

Bienvenue a Paris!

After eight hours in Logan and another eight on a plane due to volcanic ash-related re-routing, I’m finally in Paris!  Here’s a smattering of photos from our dinnertime stroll.

The view from my Apart'hotel (The Citadines) in 1ere Arrondissement, Paris
Saint Michel, near where we ate dinner and a short walk from our place.
The Seine at sunset.
Notre Dame Catedral
My new fox friend that I made at our restaurant tonight. He was perhaps the most normal aspect of the entire experience.

Foto Friday: Calle 13

Remember Foto Friday?  Me neither. Let’s see if we can work on that.

You’ve already heard about the blemish on my time at the Calle Trece concert, so how about the rest of it?  I think the pictures will do it more justice than my words.

The stage at the tribuna anti-imperialista, aka the demonstration plaza right behind the US Special Interest Section so the Cubans can protest at the drop of a hat
Calle Trece is from Puerto Rico--the US gave them permission to come, and made no comment about it
Kristina and I, up above the crowd on shoulders.
The crowd behind us. This is also where Cuba protested the Elian Gonzalez thing for weeks on end.
The crowd (including me in yellow) from above. Oh and hey, those are the guys who took my wallet.
Calle Trece with the Cuban and Puerto Rican flags. We eventually got up pretty close. Apparently the only concert that was bigger was Juanes.
The buildings alongside the tribunal. Streets were closed off for blocks around, and there were almost no event police. Even if there had been, they wouldn't have been able to get anywhere with that many people
Smile! Or, as we were told to say, "Whiskey!" This is us having 15 CUC worth of fun

What I Wish I Brought

Let me start by saying sorry for the bizarre spacing–wordpress is dumb and so am I.  Second, congrats the UNA for their performance at Southeast!  Even more congrats for finding the Spartanburg nightlife–I hadn’t thought it was possible.  Good luck gearing up for Nationals!

Toilet Paper.
Closet storage. We don’t have any bureaus, and in my room Kate and I have to share a nightstand, which she graciously lets me use most of.  We each get four hangers in the closet, and the rest of our stuff is in suitcases under the bed.
Snacks. There just aren’t any here.  That seems like no great loss, but I seriously feel like I’ve been observing the most epic Lent ever over here.
Sweats. Like with snacks, sometimes you just need something comforting and home-like.  I don’t do the whole bit with bringing pictures from home.  If I miss my dog, I have pictures on my laptop.  If I miss my dad, I listen to Bruce.  If I miss the entire Harrington clan, I can watch Gram’s 80th birthday thing.  If I’m sick or tired, I just want some sweats and goldfish.  Well, I really just want Andrew and pad thai, but neither of those travel well.

Underwear. Let me first clarify that I did in fact bring sufficient undergarments for the trip. I did not, however, bring a ton.  It’s such a pain to wash your underwear here, because it either goes in the ineffective washer and out on the line for all to see, or is painstakingly washed (still rather ineffectively) in the bathtub and then put out on the line for all to see.  I think when you’re in a very strange environment, comfort is key (if you didn’t get that already.)  They don’t take up much room, and are far more valuable than a lot of the space-wasters I brought.  So for Benin, given how little room clean underwear takes up and how drastically it brightens my mood, I plan to bring enough so that I don’t have to wash it.  Yes, I know this is absurd.  But whatever, I’m the one going to weird countries, I get to decide what eccentric items make it possible for me to do so and not go insane.  Apparently, it’s underwear, sweatpants, cheez-its and my teddy bear.  Because I’m twelve.

School Supplies. It seems they can only be bought at rest stops here, who knows why.  It would also be nice to leave some with some of the people I’ve met here, since pens and pencils are a commodity.
Rain Boots. We’ve been rained at and semi-flooded often, and seriously epically flooded once.  I didn’t realize I’d need the boots here as much (or more) than  I need them in Boston.

More stuff to give away.
Toilettries, presents, clothing, medicine.  I didn’t need the big bottles I brought that weighed down my suitcase, but in this instance it worked out because it means I have a bunch left to leave to someone like Miledys.

Cold Medicine. I was a sniveling mess when I left the states, and I was terrified they would think I had h1n1 (I didn’t, and had the vaccination card to prove it) but my parents thought they would take away dayquil and cough drops.  Since then, I have wished I had them a million times.  What’s the worst that could have happened?  They take away my bargain bag of Halls?

Warmer clothes.
This is the coldest “winter” Cuba has experienced in about thirty years.  This country was not made for these gale force winds or temps toward freezing.  We can’t even close all the windows all the way.  For the first week or so, we wore all of our warm weather stuff all the time, even to sleep.

A bigger carry-on.
They weigh the checked luggage, not the carry-on.  Duh.  Silly Delia.

DVDs. I know it sounds stupid, and that’s why I didn’t bring them.  I’ll be in a tropical country, I thought.  I’ll be too busy being tan and fabulous to do a silly, indoor thing like watch a movie.  Yeah right, Bad-at-Packing Delia.  It’s three months!  There will be downtime, and there will be nights when you just want to stay in and relax.

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.

¿Te Gusta Cuba?

As I mentioned before, I’ve been stealthily gathering intel from all my roommates and some of the tourists we’ve encountered.  I’ve wanted to ask expats but haven’t had the opportunity.  I was fortunate enough to be able to ask the question at the Special Interests section as well.

One universal reaction was to assume that my question held an inherent judgment, though rarely did any two people assume I was making the same judgment, even if they were responding at the same time.  Some were offended that I would even call into question whether they like it, or that I could possibly imply (by virtue of my question) that not loving Cuba was possible.  Others were flabbergasted, asking how anyone possibly could enjoy Cuba.

Another bit worth noting is that most people had to pause and collect their thoughts for a moment before speaking, regardless of how they felt about the place.  Cuba just isn’t black and white, I suppose.

I think on this one I’ll just present you with a few anonymous quotes from the group, without my judgment, since you already got it (sort of) in the form of my response to the question.

“Interesting, different from my first experience I got here”

“It’s really day to day here.”

“[long pause]…um, yeah.  Yeah, I like it here.”

“I’m just kinda frustrated, I cant understand as much as I’d like to.  I guess I’m just frustrated.  It’s kinda holding me back a lot cuz I’m embarrassed.  I’m just embarrassed that I don’t know more.  I don’t like to talk”

“This was my first choice, and some days I wonder why.”

“There definitely is good days and bad days though.  I mean I don’t really have bad days in Boston; there’s always something to do.”

“I feel a lot of pressure to like Cuba.  I think I can not like Cuba and still have had a positive experience.  But I don’t think I can tell people that.”

“I think I could stay here for a while.”

“I’m counting down the days…”

“I don’t think this place is about that, truth.”

“There is no right way to experience Cuba.  If you enjoy how you’re spending your time at the moment, then you did it right.”

“I don’t like it here, but I don’t think that’s the point of coming here.”

“Ohmigawd I wanna live here!”

“I think it’s different when you’re somewhere for a long time.  It’s hard to stay so excited to be there for three months.”

“_____ wants to live here.  How?  Has he been here?”

Los Campesinos

I haven’t done a full write-up of this past weekend’s trip to Viñales and Pinar del Rio, but here are some pictures to whet your whistle.

Pinar del Rio is a province to the West of La Habana province. It's a lot of farms and beautiful countryside, like at this rest stop.
Che is everywhere, even in dreary little towns. It's unclear who exactly does all these murals, but I heard that artists have to uphold the revolution if they want to paint murals, so perhaps that's why there are so many on average people's homes
A giant mural on the mountains. It gets repainted every two years or so, and you would never know it was there if it weren't for all the tour buses.
We stayed at a rustic hotel. And by rustic, I mean there was running water and awesome food but also a stable that included horses and these guys.
Kristina rides a horse past some bamboo (!).
Fording a river
Tobacco fields that are the livelihood of the region.