We have been here just over 6 months now and my family is settling into a new rhythm. I have just celebrated my first Birthday in Cuba, and for the first time in years, I didn’t organise anything, as being in Havana for us is just like one long ridiculous party at times. There is always so much to do and it seems we are always invited! January was supposed to be a quiet detox month but it has just slipped by as crazy as all the others. We headed out to Havana Vieja with friends to see the opening of an exhibition by Cuban artist Jose Emilio (JEFF), who, the day after he met me at a very fun dinner before Christmas, painted me! (I think it was my dancing that inspired his creativity!) We sat outside in the beautiful Plaza de Cathedral afterwards for a snack and a couple of drinks.
I am always amazed how quickly children adapt to new things, or at least mine do! I suppose they don’t have much choice – poor little international nippers. But they haven’t complained too much. Not even the lack of McDonalds, multiplex cinemas with buckets of coke and popcorn, youtube on tap and bad cable TV. Maybe it is easier to keep your children children here in Cuba. I can remember how terrified I felt in those last few days in Guatemala, and the idea of jumping into the unknown again. But hey, there is never much point in worrying and being in Cuba is all about not worrying.
On top of that we put them into a French school, just to spice things up for all us. Paulo is now speaking French (with an outrageous accent) to some of his new school friends, and one of my friends reported that he heard Nico speaking French at the school gates the other day. He denies it vehemently, but I feel quite proud anyway! Maybe it was just his favourite comme si comme ça shrug. He is learning to read really well in Spanish, English and French and managing his linguistic chaos with aplomb. As I am educating them in the world of Sean Connery’s James Bond right now, I tell them if they do well in all their languages they too can be a secret agent! How does James Bond have so many nobias Mummy? Nico asked me the other day! And both boys are beginning to sound a little bit Cuban too! Saskia swings her bum like a native. Talk about adapting fast!
THe US Interest section finally got their permission to go outside the 25 mile zone so they could visit the film school. This regulation was originally put in place by the US on the Cubans in Washington, and naturally was reciprocated in Cuba. Anyway John Caulfield the Chief of Mission and Gloria from Public Affairs were very genial and seemed genuinely interested in the film school and we spent a pleasant afternoon with them chatting and showing them around. John was remarking that Cuba was a wonderful place to be living with a young family and that the rest of Latin America was blighted by violence and drugs. There was a micro second of tension in the room when we resisted commenting that maybe, just maybe that violence and drugs could have something to do with their neighbour to the north who consume most of those drugs and are no strangers to violence. Historically, the US supported the rightwing governments of Latin America and really helped teach their people how to kill and torture. Is it just a coincidence that the most peaceful, crime free country in the Latin World is the one where they kicked the US right out ……. ? Anyway in the name of good relations, it is best just to let these things go sometimes!
Through the boys school I have met a good set of friends, mothers and fathers from very diverse backgrounds and don’t feel quite so lost anymore as I sit through the parent teacher meetings in French and Spanish. Paulo played in a rugby tournament on Saturday, yes that’s right, rugby in Cuba! Who would have thought. I was just a little horrified that I had to get up extra early on the day after my birthday. I suppose that is all the fun of being a parent and all that joy and pride ……. but Saturday morning at 8.30. I don’t have much joy! THe Cuban children (mainly Afro Cubanos) who have just embraced this new sport whipped the pants off the French School). Undeniably Cubans just excel at sport in general. I could see a future team giving the All Blacks a run for their money!
I suppose the children have a routine more than I do, as in my life so far here in Cuba, every week is different, but it is always exciting or interesting or challenging. I am learning to be more patient, learning to be more creative when it comes to food and cooking as nearly everything is seasonal, and supply and demand are not two things that always go together in this crazy world. There are no rules. In fact the only rule here is that there are no rules. I think that is why the Cubans have learnt to let go. You can’t control life here in Cuba. It controls you. But luckily for us, so far, life has been pretty good.
My little Saskia, true to my prediction of being a girl born to live in Cuba is completely content. She is such a happy little girl that she infects all around her but as a friend commented the other day, she knows what she wants and she knows how to get it. I marvel at her ability to do this and I am trying to learn fast. But apart from this superpower, she is the most cuddly kissy sweet little ball of love.
She is talking more and more and at this stage of my children’s bilingual development, I have always found their ability to acquire two languages so effortlessly, nothing short of miraculous. How everyone around her says a word in Spanish 50 times and then along comes Mummy and says something different and she accepts it, quite happily repeating a complety different word as though humouring me. Paulo and Nico are not helping me out as they have decided that Spanish is their language for their sister. I keep trying to recruit their skills to my side of the linguistic table but ……… Luckily British grandparents are arriving on Sunday to remind her that it is not just her crazy mother who says the weird words!