Opening Statement



Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Santiago de Cuba School Diary [2012]

[My PDT news links continue below this blog. It was time for a bit of editing, so you will find all the entries for my Cuban School Project trip to Santiago de Cuba here.]

Monday August 13: A blistering 40 degrees in the shade as we arrive in Santiago de Cuba. Settling in and visiting my teacher colleagues and friends at home in the city centre near Cespedes Park, the Cathedral, Casagranda Terrace, the Casa de Trova etc.etc.etc. It's been a year. Everyone welcomes my sister like a new family member. You can't beat the Cubans for genuineness and hospitality!




Tuesday August 14: Another day day spent in the Santiago de Cuba city centre visiting friends and experiencing the downtown sights. Excellent traditional Cuban music along Heredia Calle. The Casa de Trova/ House of Music has two stages and an upstairs dance floor now! Dropped by the Toronto Friendship English School, where all is well. I need to get up early for tomorrow's 8am class.


Wednesday August 15: Visited beginning students and their teacher at Toronto Friendship English School. Student numbers up to 150 for this fall when day round classes resume. All ages. Only 1 teacher though. Teachers earn 500 to 1000 local pesos a month in Cuba now. 24 pesos are worth 1 Canadian dollar. Do the math! Ouch! Afterwards we had lunch with my teacher colleagues from the pedagogical institute to discuss plans for the made in Cuba"Ingles Para Ti" workbook we have been developing. Uses local Cuban references, stories,and examples instead of America, British or Canadian ones. Will develop three more levels in hard print for the English schools, and of course, the interactive DVD version for at the university. I will definitely need to do a lot more Cuban School Project fund raising in Canada when I get back to make it work. Still the progress to date is quite extraordinary, definitely a community labour of love by the teachers.



Thursday August 16:  50 degrees Centigrade! Too hot to do much of anything in Santiago de Cuba today. Invited the teachers to the hotel pool. We stood in the water up to our necks talking school plans, had a good swim, then worked on our tans in the sun. It's of course summer holidays here too. Am baked golden brown. Making plans to go snorkeling down the coast this weekend before we leave.




Friday August 17: Visited Moro Castillo, the towering 15th centre Spanish fortress built at the entrance to the bay. Protected Santiago from pirates, invaders from 16 to 19th century until they let the US navy in. Santiago is the 7th settlement in the new world, and the original capital of Cuba. Also birthplace of the 1959 revolution. Teachers have asked us out to dinner tonight at a friend's casa/ home. A youth dance troupe came over to make a presentation for some educational aid. Those kids sure could dance! Sill talking school business despite the overwhelming heat. Everything always moves in slow motion here. Surreal. Go with the flow. Just too hot to do otherwise....



Saturday August 18: Day spent finishing Cuban School Project business in meeting at hotel. Will try to get teachers a good computer in Canada with software, printer and burner, so they can better continue developing our English-Cuban workbook, basic through advanced editions. Laptop probably easiest to bring into the country. Maybe go Apple? Provided current donations for the Toronto Friendship school and the university professors to continue work on the project for next school year. We'll probably just go sit and relax with my colleagues at Cespedes Park in the city centro tonight. A typical everyday Cuban night out for the locals. An orchestra, minstrels, lively discussions and all sorts of other entertainment, a real carnival of Cuban life! Then Sunday to the beach!



Sunday August 19: My sister and I snorkeled in the grotto at the Buccaneero Hotel outside Santiago, while the staff from the Toronto Friendship School enjoyed the all you can drink-all/ you can drink amenities. It was a windy if not hot day and the water was very choppy with big swells. The grotto is like a huge natural tropical fish and coral aquarium. Lots of Brain and Long Horn coral. Schools of Blue Tang. Swimming out along the coast we got caught in a strong current but swam safely back to the grotto and finished our snorkeling adventure there. Big iguanas all over the rocks, came up to our table at the BBQ/bar looking for scraps. All in all a great day, driving there, and back in a 1955 Chevy for $25 a day.



Monday August 20: Departed the hotel for the airport by lunch after much hugs and kisses for our send off. Riding in a 1957 Ford which kept breaking down, couldn't make it over the steep foothills outside town. Pretty funny actually but we were running late for our 2 o'clock flight. When my sister went to get out the door handle fell off in her hand! Fortunately got rescued by a jeep which raced us there fast. Only one flight out of Santiago today, ours, so not much of a line up, to say the least. Sad to see the city and the mountain tops disappear below the clouds as we flew out back to Toronto.



Also see last year's Cuban School Santiago Diary in my August 2011 Blog Archives below. Possible sources for education aid donations for the Cuban Schools also being sought. Please write if you can help. Cheers!

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