Thursday, July 2, 2009

What to expect on a Caravan Route

Welcome to a route of the 20th Pastors for Peace caravan to Cuba. You
may be joining two people in a car, or 15 people in a school bus, but
below is what lies in front of you.

Every day you will travel to a new city. Usually this will mean
getting up early, and sometimes very early, to ensure that your
vehicle gets to that city in good time. Your hosts will usually give
you breakfast. Often there will be a group circle and reflection
before setting off, to introduce new people, make announcements etc.
The journey may be from 2 to 10 hours depending on the distance to be
covered. There will be brief bathroom stops and a lunch stop of 45-60
minutes. You pay for your own food and drink on the road. No alcohol
or any illegal drugs are permitted on the caravan vehicle.

At the next city your hosts will normally feed you, often via a
pot-luck supper at the evening event. The public event will last 2-3
hours and is a key activity in reaching out to talk to people about
the blockade and the caravan. There may be anything from 10-100
people. There may also be opportunities to talk to the local media. In
some places there will be material aid to load, and in some places new
people will join the caravan. After the event you will be housed by
local people. Usually this will be in beds in private homes, but where
the caravan group is large and the host resources modest, some people
may have to sleep on mats in a community center or church. Hosts are
urged to provide an evening meal and breakfast for the caravanistas
but be aware that occasionally on large bus routes this may not

There are certain key roles on the caravan. Usually these roles are
filled by different people who have been pre-selected by Pastors for
Peace – though on a small route one person may fulfill two roles.

-The Route Coordinator is the person in charge. Their job includes
ensuring that the caravan vehicle gets to where it is going in good
time and everything goes as smoothly as possible. The coordinator
should consult with caravanistas as much as possible and seek
consensus, but if there is disagreement the coordinator has the final
say. They should delegate many of the practical tasks to other people,
including you.
-The Speaker is the person responsible for putting across the Caravan
message to public audiences and the media in a clear and consistent
way. They may well involve some caravanistas in assisting them. They
are not in charge of the route – though they will often be experienced
caravanistas and thus a source of good advice.
-The Driver(s) is the person(s) responsible for ensuring that all of
you get to your destination safely. On issues of safety on the road
they are in charge, but otherwise they should follow the lead of the
route coordinator.

You may volunteer or be asked to assist with any of the following:
1) Navigation - assisting the driver
2) Sorting, packing and loading of material aid
3) Setting up and running the sales/information table at events
4) Basic vehicle maintenance – refueling, cleaning windows, keeping
the insides tidy. If you have car mechanic skills please let the
driver know
5) Arranging with nighttime hosts who goes to what accommodation – be
sensitive to who want to be housed together and who may need to be
kept apart
6) Submitting event reports and/or photos to the Caravan Blog at
If you are sending email updates during the journey to friends, think
about including the people who hosted you as well – both as a way of
thanking them and of involving them further in the caravan project.

You are embarking in high summer on what may be a road journey of many
days in an old vehicle without air conditioning, and space may be
limited (if you are on a school bus expect to be sharing a bench
seat). Let the camaraderie overcome the material hardships. Excitement
may be high, but so may stress levels. Be respectful, tolerant and
patient with each other. Raise any problems in a constructive way at
the group circle or with the coordinator during the journey.
Take this opportunity to practice becoming collectivist Cubans rather
than individualistic Americans. When the bus stops for what is meant
to be a 5-10 minute break – go straight to the bathroom, and have a
few people go to the service till to purchase the snacks/drinks for
the rest. Aim to get in and out fast and encourage others to do the

Depending on your experience the speaker may ask you to say something
during the caravan event, or to talk with local media. Whatever your
knowledge of Cuba, you are an expert on your own motivation for going
on the caravan – so be ready to share that with others. If you have
musical or performing arts skills which could be incorporated into the
caravan event - please let the speaker know.