A blackout seemed to frustrate a volunteer’s English classes one night. But soon our volunteer, Jennifer, would learn that there is no darkness in Cuba.
I am going to remember Monday as a collection of sounds, lights, and … darkness!
Breakfast at hotel: The slurps of coffee and leche, the undertones of Deutsche – sprechen among the new arrivals, and the pad-pad-padding of ours shoes as we scamper across the tile to the lobby to be on time to start our new assignments.
Our walk to the community garden: The clopping of horse hooves, bicyclists pressing quietly into a strong wind, and the occasional rumble of a heavy truck or scooter. I am fascinated by the many ways people get around! As Yanel told us gardeners this morning, a Cuban could even make a spaceship from Russian and American car parts.
At dinner: Seated together after our first day of volunteering, we were all full of chatter about our new experiences. I felt tired but happy to be surrounded by new friends – all working as a team toward common goals with the Ciego de Avila community.
And then, the electricity went out and the background music was silenced. Without hardly missing a beat, the candles were lit and the conversations went on. Would we be teaching tonight or not? Would students still come, or stay home?
And, indeed, the student came – ready to learn – even in the midst of darkness.
Our first evening of conversational English started by the lights of mobile phones. The room buzzed with voices speaking English and Spanish words, with laughter, with songs and games. For my partner, Brie, and me, it was improvisational give-and-take learning between us and our middle-school-age students.
To cap off the day, and by this time we’re pretty tired, we arrive back at the hotel to be recharged by the beat of dance music and the sight of an amazing, athletic, and graceful dance troupe performing down in the bar area. How lucky to see them – what a perfect ending to an amazing day.
I closed the day happily immersed in the sights and sounds of the wonderful Cuban culture, and grateful to be exchanging these experiences with fellow volunteers and the people of Ciego de Avila. Despite their struggles, there is no darkness in Cuba; not in their spirit.