Friday, July 24, 2009

We´ve Arrived !!!!

this year's airplane was significantly different from last year's -- bigger, newer, more spacious. but still russian. i guess some countries are not afraid to take the cuban pesos. consecutive days with little sleep sparked caravanista plans for IFCO (pastors for peace) airlines -- we'll travel on various routes, establsh affinity groups, and our motto will be "we don't care what you think." we're going to cuba.

we arrived around 4 am. the advantages of travelling in large groups was also discussed. imagine what fun it would be if we organized a hundred people each time we want to go to the market, or to a movie. it's just so much more entertaining and challenging to travel in groups of a hundred. individuality can be so expedient.

when we arrived we were greeted by many pastors for peace supporters. after a speedy pass through customs, an early morning press conference for the pastors staff, we found a few of translators we'd met last year and they guided us to the awaiting buses - brightly painted relics from previous caravans. some of us, destined for the william carey centre, boarded the spirit of humbolt - a rusty old school bus that woody had lovingly steered on the 2004 caravan. we heard stories of everything possible on the bus falling apart, of caravanistas holding a mirror out the window so that woody could see behind him.

at the centre staff were awake and kindly showed us our rooms - dormitories with bunks for women, and for men, and one of the men's rooms has bunks three high. for some reason two of the other places we had hoped to stay, to distribute our caravanista bodies and their earthly requests for sleep, food, and bathrooms, were unavailable so we're all assigned to the william carey centre downtown and the martin luther king jr. centre a short distance away in marianau. i'm happy to be close to downtown, even though it's a bit more crowded. this year i want to explore a bit on my own, to see old havana.

after a few hours sleep, an attempt about the vegan caravanistas who will appreciate comida sin los productos animales, and a shared breakfast of granola and soy milk that gerry and i brought to the island, we all boarded the old humboldt schoolbus destined for the casa de la amistad. this lovely heritage building and its surrounding gardens serves as a gathering place when all of us caravanistas need to be together. this morning we were witness to an international press conference. lucius explained about this, the 20th caravan, its cargo, answered questions about the border crossing and the journey, and then we moved on to a second press conference focussed on the graduation ceremonies of the latin american school of medicine that we'll be witnessing this afternoon.

two usa citizens from this year's graduating class spoke about their experiences. they both welled up with tears as they expressed their gratitute to the cuban people, and especially to fidel castro, who have made this opportunity available for them. these are women of african heritage who would not otherwise have had an opportunity to become healers. they are now destined to return to their neighbourhoods, to serve, as they say they learned from the cubans, to give without expecting anything in return. lucius walker and ifco helped facilitate this training opportunity. i didn't know of their involvement in the school until now .... these folks really are doing the work for its own sake, rather than for any reward or accolade. i'm very honoured to be here with them.

we moved outside to plant a cuban mahogany tree in the gardens of the friendship centre, to represent continued growth for the school, for the work of the pastors for peace. although, ultimately, it is hoped that the evil usa embargo will be lifted so that these people can have access to all the necessary hospital and healing equipment they require to fulfill their mission, outlined in the cuban constitution, to provide health care and education to all cuba people equally