UNESCO, Cuba and me.

Last week the Director General of UNESCO Irina Bokova visited Cuba and the Film School.  I was lucky enough to meet her and was not disappointed.  She was actually one of those terribly accomplished important people, who seems totally accessible.  I wanted to take her and her husband home for dinner and chat over a good bottle of wine and put the world to rights …. But no time for that.

Her visit to the Film school was a very exciting  and important first step towards the school becoming a UNESCO project, and it all felt so right.  Helped enormously by her words and her warmth.  She even got to spray some graffiti on the wall, as is the convention at the school when VIPs are visiting.  So not far from Steven Spielberg´s comments now sits a line from Irina reassuring the school that UNESCO is with them.  Soñar con el cine … imaginar UNESCO esta con ustedes.  Ir. Bokova.

The irony did not pass me by that Spielberg is a great supporter of the State of Israel and particularly the infamous wall, and Irina had been the first UNESCO chief to recognise Palestine, which in turn, led the way to the vote of acceptance of the State of Palestine by the UN, which happened last week.  Irina’s visit coincided with this historic vote and all week I felt as though I was a part of history in my small way.

UNESCO is already very involved in Cuba for all the right reasons and presently the only UN countries that vote for keeping the blockade are the US and Israel.  I do not profess to be an expert on the Israeli Palestinian situation but I think there are areas of great human rights violations and the figures speak for themselves no matter how you analyse them.  Lets face it, who would chose to be born in Palestine, it seems a bum deal.  Lets hope that their new status gives the Palestinian people a little dignity and identity, if nothing else.

Anyway, back to Cuba.  Everyone was very excited at the school and it was a positive day.  Later Rafa and I were invited to the reception in the garden of the beautiful house in Vedado where UNESCO is based.  There were lots of UNESCO and UN people, a few diplomats and important Cubans and it was here I got to meet Irina´s husband and chat.  He lives in Kingston, Surrey and works in London and his daughter is at Kingston University.  I imagine Irina lives most of her time on planes and in hotels.  Her short speech was inspiring and I felt a bit tearful by the end, realising that I am well and truly entrenched in this world of internationalism.  A British Guatemalan family growing up in Cuba studying at the French school, exiled from one country and not sure where we are heading next …………..

The rest of the week was spent cruising on this high of collaboration.  We enjoyed a relaxed dinner on the beautiful rooftop of a friend’s house in Miramar apparently very close to the vaults of Cuba!  Not something you think about too much in a socialist state, but I suppose everyone has their gold bullion.  Diago, a well known Cuban artist was there with some very interesting views on the future of Cuba that we are still absorbing.  Then on Saturday we had the big pre Christmas bash at the Norwegians.  The Norwegian Ambassador is openly gay so has the best parties in town, helped enormously by his very lovely Mexican husband Paco.  Paco had called me the week before to make sure I had my invite and I mentioned to him how I was looking for some Christmas Carol singing.  That’s a good idea, he said. I arrived at the party alone on Saturday night, Rafa was meeting me there from another reception in the film school.  As I walked in, the ambassador and Paco were talking to a group of Cubans (from the music department of ISA) who turned round and settled themselves before launching into Hark the Herald Angel Sings.  I felt as though my little Christmas wish had been granted and had to stop myself from singing along loudly like a drunken carol singer!

Now are preparing for the Havana Film Festival…………



Losing control, peaceful Tuesday and approaching 8.

I appear to have lost control of my children.  I don’t know when this happened, but I am trying to remain calm, as after many years I have realised that being a parent means that nothing is a permanent state.  Nothing lasts, neither the good nor the bad.

I remember the days when friends visiting last Christmas were in awe at the ease I put my little girl to bed.  She was even at times known to ask to go to bed!  Pacha, cuna, Lammy!  Pacha being Guatemalan for bottle, cuna Spanish for cot and Lammy, the inventive name of her cuddly lamb from her English godmother. I even allowed myself to be a little smug about it …. a dangerous emotion when it comes to children.

Anyway needless to say that this no longer remains the case.  Now we get woken up all night by her refrains, the most heart-wrenching of which are ……. Mummy I LOVE you (she has this one down to a tee and it comes in various desperate and persuasive versions), Mummy I want to BE with you (as previous), Mummy I don’t want to be solita (her favourite Spanglish one).  And then she does them all for Papa (sometimes she starts with Papa, as she knows he’s a soft touch) and anyone else she thinks could be in the house at the time.  Not sure why this is going on, but we are beginning to lose patience and feel as though we are parents of a small baby with the amount of sleep disturbance and deprivation we are suffering.

She has become such a bossy boots mandonna.  She makes us sit on the chair next to her bed, or lie on the rug.  A couple of times we have fallen asleep on said rug.  We crawl out of her bedroom on hands and knees, only to be rumbled at the last moment as the door creaks.

The boys are also not being so obedient on the whole going to bed thing either and it is noticeable how much happier as a family we all are when we get some sleep.  Sleep has become a commodity that I am obsessed with like in the small baby days.  My threats and negotiations to try and get the boys to at least stay in their beds reading, after the tooth brushing, storytime, quality parent time is wrapped up, do not appear to be having much success.  In fact they just laugh at me.

Yesterday I dusted down the expensive and very US style responsibility chart that I bought years ago in Guatemala.  It has things like Way to Go, Good Job, and baseball gloves and trophys on it and not many velcro stickers saying things like ….. rubbish!  A long way off! Or a thumbs down sign.  On closer examination I decided this thing but have originated in some God-fearing bible bashing state because it appears that the children don’t need it and it is just there to make the parents feel good and holy.  I have images of sweet southern belle, hat doffing children full of yes sirs and yes maams.

Anyway I showed it to the boys and said that this week we would just concentrate on the going to bed one as I placed the bed Velcro sticker firmly on one side of the week.  Paulo quickly retorted with a know it all sabe lo todo comment that the Velcro sticker was for making your bed.  For my purpose it is going to bed, I said.  Ahh but we know what it really is, he said.  I realised that I was already losing my sense of humour and patience and contemplated throwing the responsibility chart at the sniggering pair.  Then I promised them a special secret prize at the weekend if they manage 5 good school nights.  Then I remembered it was Paulo’s 8th birthday at the weekend so the whole idea of getting something special on Saturday was a bit redundant and as Paulo is the main ringleader on the not going to bed and being cheeky racket, with Nico a willing accomplice, my reward angle was already on rocky ground.

So this week I have a huge piñata birthday party to organize in the back garden and as I am just coming down from the success of our biggest party last Friday in the house, my enthusiasm for organising a children’s bash is slightly waining.  I have to admit to an inherent dislike of children’s birthday parties.  I know I have 3 kids and many years to go but I would willingly give someone a fistful of notes and let them do it for me with a small cameo role for present giving and cake cutting expected whilst I hang out with my friends and enjoy an early glass of wine to get me through.  I know I should revel and enjoy their happiness on their special day …….. but yeah well I just don’t.

So here I am enjoying one of my peaceful Tuesdays when I give everyone the day off and the boys are in school until 4pm after theatre and magic classes and I get chance to write and rattle round the house in my pyjamas with my little Lila the dog.  But I know that this is the quiet before the storm of 30 children descending on the house with puppet shows and jugglers to entertain them.

Also the Havana film festival is just around the corner and I have another couple of parties to organize and a very un-Christmassy Havana Christmas with my biggest goal being trying to find somewhere to sing Christmas carols.

Meanwhile the Cuba winter weather is here, rather better than a British summer and I am marveling at how fast my clothes dry on their windy seaside washing line.  Sad I know, but laundry is the only domestic task I quite enjoy, way more than organizing children’s birthday parties anyway.  To me nothing more satisfying than a fast drying by the sun and wind pillowcase smelling lightly of the sea breeze.  Hmmm maybe I am quite sad, but it is peaceful Tuesday when stroking my fast drying laundry is about as good as it gets ………… ,-)