My life has begun here in Havana but I still feel a little bit in limbo, mainly because the school term hasn’t begun for Rafa or the children …….. but after a few amateur mistakes, things are falling into place faster than I ever imagined.
Most importantly, we are all happy and relaxed as we never were in Guatemala and I haven´t even made any friends yet! But I feel so optimistic and happy for Rafa and I and our family life for the next 4 years. The energy here has let us all unravel. Rafa seems to be relishing his new role, and is getting up earlier than any of us every morning to swim in the sea and do Thai Chi. The children have hardly had their clothes on, especially Saskia, whose fat little bottom I am getting used to seeing waddling around the garden or sitting in her paddling pool. Her hair has also gone wildly curly and she looks prettier than ever! The boys spend more time swimming, chasing crabs, sailing off in their pretend boat to the island of Juventud ……. than fighting, as they had been during the last few weeks of uncertainty and stressful travelling.
Cuba loves children and everywhere we go my three are running around making friends. I feel so relaxed that I don’t have to worry about kidnapping or guns or narcos or just plain old uptight rich people judging us. Everyone has been so friendly ………..
I will always love Guatemala but living in that ridiculously unequal, repressed and violent society was not good for me. I feel things too much, even the things you don´t see. I wrote about Antigua life in this blog and will always love my friends but I can’t wait for them all to visit me here to see me in this new world.
When I think about the uptight rich Guatemalans and arrogant Americans who had never visited Cuba, but were so quick to tell me that it was a disaster. I will tell them, take a good look at yourselves before you criticise others. Cuba ain’t perfect but there is something intangibly special here.
So here goes my little update on life …….
We arrived to find out that both our cars were off the road. But now we have two cars outside our house. Mine is a big Chrysler Voyager with 3 rows of seats. Yikes! But there is no traffic in Cuba. Imagine 1950s England. After Guatemala and a month in UK this is driving paradise.
I had to deal with the cook, who introduced herself to me in February (our first visit) saying that she was in charge of the house. That is going to change, I thought to myself all those months ago. I didn’t like her from the beginning. Just her very presence in a room irritated me even before she opened her mouth and she would follow me around like a nurse in a mental institute.
The house had been empty for 8 years apart from the odd event or dinner and she had been ruling the roost. I couldn’t even go into my kitchen and get a glass of water without her breathing down my neck ……. literally. After 5 days Rafa came home to find me holed up in my bedroom like a depressed teenager on a school exchange. So she had to go! Her food was rubbish anyway and she hadn’t helped me find any of the things I had asked her. She wanted to be in control. Also there was a suspiciously large amount of food coming into the house that we certainly weren’t eating.
I think we have also found a nanny. I am not sure anyone can replace our beloved Juju but I have a really good feeling about this woman who is a friend of one of the ex-employees from the house and is a kind and gentle woman from the country. She is a teacher and a mother in her fifties looking for something less stressful and close to home (she lives in the first block of flats next to our house about 200 yards away).
Next the school issue. We were expecting to send the boys to the International School but after a quick visit to discuss payments we were blown away by the fees. The Film School had offered to pay for one of the boys but still we could not ask them to pay what they were demanding ……. a price expensive for anywhere in the world never mind Cuba. It was a bit of blow but sometimes things happen for a reason. We discovered the French international school was just 5 minutes from our house, a quick phone call and we found ourselves in the headmasters office filling out forms and laughing about how the French school was bringing rugby to Cuba. I have a feeling my little Nico will be good at rugby just like his grandfather and uncles …….. vamos a ver. I liked the headmaster, he had a little sparkle in his eyes like a good Santa.
So the boys will have another language, their third. They even offer French classes to parents which I will be taking ……… its 20 years since my days in France and I love the language. On top of that we have a very good French bakery round the corner with baguettes, croissant and pain au chocolat.
The food issue has not been such a big deal as I imagined and I have only been here just over a week. We are lucky as all our basics come from the Film School. I won’t have to shop for vegetables, rice, beans, meat, chicken, cheese, milk, yoghurt, flowers, water, beer, wine, cola, juice boxes, coffee, chocolates, serviettes ………. and a whole lot more. What we have already found is supplies of fish and prawns, Serrano ham and Olive Oil, Malta, tomatoes, bananas, onions, cream cheese and a bread that you could just about call wholemeal. All at cheaper prices than we paid in Guatemala.
What I foresee as the consumer issues are getting hold of good cheap clothes for the children and Rafa and good sunscreen and toiletries. But Rafa will be travelling and friends will be visiting ……. we shall survive outside the consumerist world I think.
Now to the technical issues. Rafa was so proud that he had sorted out my almost impossible to get hold of mac external modem and got me connected to internet in the house in a matter of days, only then to have a storm burn our modem 4 days later! He has just interrupted me to tell me that a Cuban Mexican friend from the school has already found us another modem in Mexico and is arriving in a matter of days to come to my internet rescue. She is also bringing Rafa a new MacBook which the school will pay for. We’ll be having a few mojitos with her watching the sunset when she arrives …….. my internet saviour!
We have also been told that all our things have got the green light from customs and we should have them by Monday. Oh my bed, my pillows, my kitchen stuff, Saskia’s toys, the boys Lego and bicycles we shall soon all be reunited!
So in a couple of weeks the children will be back at school, Saskia will start in her Cuban nursery, I will have a nanny, I will be online, we will all have the food we need, I will have time to write again ………. and maybe, just maybe, Rafa and I can get out for a night and go dancing.
We are coming up to a period of shooting stars apparently. As we sat outside last night looking at the stars I was wondering out loud to Rafa that maybe I felt happy here as I come from a little island off a big continent and here I am again on my island.
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