Sunday, July 26, 2009

Cuba 09 - July 26th the sounds of silence

i realize that the sometimes near deafening tinnitis that afflicts me every day of my life in wifi/cell tower victoria, or indeed almost anywhere in north america, is absolutely non-existent here in cuba. prior to leaving i had intended on noticing the difference, since last year's visit left me with a feeling that the vibe around here affected me differently. but i hadn't paid particular attention to whether or not it was in fact an absolute silencing of the incessant humming that can drive me to near madness, or more of a quieting of the sound. turns out it's silence.

after dinner last night we experienced a truly tropical storm. we're staying very near the beach, and the claps of thunder were closer and louder than i think i've ever experienced. earlier in the day we had been introduced to the province by the municipal communist league. they told us about their hurricane preparedness, this being one of the regions hardest hit during the annual storms. they showed us a grid, with each house on every street clearly identified. it may sound big brotherish, but i'm sure there are folks with similar maps in every country in the world, and these maps are used (perhaps among other things, who knows) to track every single individual in the province. they know which houses are hurricane safe, which are in need of repairs. they have a plan that enables the people in less sturdy households to partner with other households, and some people are actually bussed to structures that can contain them. there's no katrinas here, he said. in the past four hurricanes they've not lost a single person in matanzas. i remember hearing, after the three major storms that hit this lovely little island last year, that the cubans lost half a million homes, but only a small number of people. maybe it was five. something like that. compare it to haiti, next door, which is ruled by a corporate military elite, where the people are considered nothing more than fodder for the sweatshop mills, where the same three storms took many many lives. in cuba, lives are actually worth something, and hurricane preparedness is something they take very seriously. our evening storm gave us an idea how powerful the earth really is, an even greater appreciation for this peoples' revolution.

my new caravanista friend nonkululaka asked me, on the bus ride to matanzas, whether i could live in cuba. i told her it isn't really up to me, it's up to the cubans and their government. but, she said, could you live here? i told her that my life in canada is dependent on being connected to internet, that i publish a newspaper and leaving all that would be difficult but, ultimately, yes, i could live here. if they'd let me. in fact, this might be just the place to write that book i've been contemplating ....