Monday, June 16, 2008

Seattle: Clearcuts and Doctors

it's 7:15 am and a sunny day in seattle. i'm already glad i packed my yoga mat - i slept on a very comfortable top bunk (thanks kids, who are visiting their dad) and have been up for an hour contemplating the journey and appreciating the luxury of this first, and likely only, unplanned day. after a presentation tonight, we're on the road - driving by day and speaking to various audiences each night, packing donations for cuba into the various vehicles, picking up some more caravanistas, and doing it all again tomorrow.

the border crossing at the peace arch was surprisingly simple. as judy said, their orders come from washington, and washington doesn't want any publicity around this annual event. "oh it's you again, back for another year" was the attitude. apparently it's just easier to wave us through rather than face the potential flurry of media we might evoke if we were denied. the mexico border, apparently, can be rather different. we're looking forward to that on july 3rd. who knows -- maybe some of the border guards are wondering why this blockade against cuba exists, why the american government insists on defying united nations law that have all but starved a nation. despite the blockade, i've heard, the cubans have now survived their 'special period,' the time after the change in the soviet union that left them with no oil, and are actually somewhat prosperous agriculturally and otherwise.

i don't know, i'll check it out with my own eyes when i get there. it still blows my mind that americans 'aren't allowed' to travel to cuba. what kind of patriarchy is this?!??

i drove from the border yesterday, after the peace arch park picnic, with john and the infamous rick. (the clearcuts along the way are new and devastating.) i'd been advised to hang out with rick as he's a good driver, a mechanic, a wealth of information, he's vegetarian and will know some good places to stop for supplies along the way. it turns out rick's not driving this year, but his buddy john will be, and we're taking a route that turns eastward after olympia and then on to idaho and utah. john's dealing with an unfair bureaucracy and racist/homophobic graiffiti-ists who would just like him to move entirely off his piece of land, i guess so that they can build whatever condo development or resort community. he's taking a summer break from it all to join the cuba adventure and seems very competent and organized and is willing to help me find good organic snack foods along the way. there's a scheduled route in las vegas - i wonder if we can usurp one of those casino stages?!?

on the ferry journey yesterday, through the beautiful active pass between victoria and the mainland, judy told me "you're going to meet some of the best people on the planet," or words to that effect. i have no doubt of this. last night, and tonight, we're staying with a woman doctor whose primary "be a good citizen" concern appears to be eating locally. they have a beautiful raised bed garden, and a functional clothes-line. the house is simple, comfortable, there's nothing excessive about it. valentina's the daughter of a revolutionary father who travelled, despite his recent stroke, to the peace arch park yesterday. when it was clear we weren't all going to fit at tom and judy's home, valentina was contacted and she graciously offered her children's empty room and a spare room downstairs for the three of us.

we were up late last night, and here we are this morning (with hazel, the english caravanista), talking about the myths about canada's historic role as peacekeers in the world (tina loves canada, but figures canada's benefitted from the imperialist policies of her government while wearing a facade of peacemaker), about the status of women around the world and especially in iran (a film tina recommends called "off-side" and wants to visit there), the condo development behind her home that destroyed a small forest and ruined her view, the health system (or lack thereof) and an american doctor's frustrations trying to help poor immigrant people who live with arthritis and can't afford knee replacement surgery. her own health insurance costs $500 a month, and she still had to pay $1700 for her son's tonsilectomy because they only cover 20%.

the canadian contingent will be moving in different directions tomorrow, some of us heading east and some travelling through oregon and northern california before journeying to texas where we'll all converge. there are 15 different routes through the united states, yesterday three caravans crossed from canada into the united states - i haven't checked the internet yet to know whether the others had such success as we.

and i didn't have a chance to return phone calls and email before i left - to all those who wished me well on my journey - MUCHAS GRACIAS!!