Summer has hit Havana big time. It is steaming and I have now totally submitted myself to the world of air con, seeking shade and ventilation whenever I can. The air is heavy and I feel a weight pressing down on me. I am listless and without energy and trying to wear as little as possible without letting too much of my 43 year old body hang out! (My Thai friend and dress designer has been whipping me up some nice little summer frocks).
I have to mop the sweaty foreheads of my children. I go out at night with a fan. I get sweat stains on my bras (I know!), I open the glass doors to the sea in the morning and no cool breeze welcomes me. The sea is like a tepid clear soup and I can see little stripy fish and small rays darting through the shallows.
I have also been without a nanny this last month. Although I liked Sonia I was beginning to doubt her effectiveness at dealing with the job. The things she promised never materialised, she clearly did not enjoy cooking and I needed someone more steady, tenacious, patient and in some ways more appropriate! One little example ….. She had taken it upon herself to take the boys to the supermarket round the corner and buy her feminine hygiene supplies in their company, at the same time explaining about the whole menstruation story, which I was not quite sure was her place or their time. Pretty horrifying stuff for 6 and 7 year old boys. They have not mentioned it to me so I am hoping that they were not paying too much attention, maybe too busy having a fight or trying to buy sweets or icecream.
Anyway this was the first time I really had to sack someone who has worked so closely with me, but once it was done, she marched straight out the door without a backward glance and I felt an incredible sense of relief. I had muttered stuff about what a great person she was but she was not the one for me and how it wasn’t working out …….. like a teenager trying to let down softly their school sweetheart.
The first couple of weeks I felt content, alone with my brood, washing up an awful lot, but peaceful, serene even (no really!). Now the novelty is wearing off and I want my freedom back. No time to write, no time to investigate the new world of DJs in Habana, no time to nurture my wonderful new friendships, no time for much and on top of being a slavish hands-on Mum I have to find the time to deal with the administration aspects of the film school which requires a lot of patience and tenacity. I have plenty of the latter but not much of the former. I have been interviewing many nice women determined that this one will be the right one. Phew!
My garden is taking shape too, which is exciting. The back of the house which faces onto the sea, I can plant nothing pretty as the salt and the wind burns it all so I am turning the entrance on the road side into my colourful sun trap of flowers and hanging baskets. Such things make me happy and Cuban garden centres are deliciously cheap and cheerful.
I am spending too much time cleaning up the poo and pee of the dog and the daughter. The puppy just seems to want to sneak into the house to seek out my Guatemalan wool rugs as her toilet. Saskia is getting the hang of the potty but is at times a little too enthusiastic as she rushes around proudly showing to anyone interested (mainly me) how it brims with steaming turd and a coulis of hot pee. Accidents happen!
Moving swiftly on to another topic ……. a supposedly hot shot American Hollywood director flew into town in his private jet acting like some kind of diva who needed to be received by everyone including my husband. He spent 3 days at the film school and was not an easy guest, asking many pert and naive questions. Doug Liman made Swingers, Mr and Mrs Smith and the Bourne films. Also the TV series The OC for those who like the latest Dawson Creek type offering about rich angst-ridden Californian teenagers.
He seemed to think that the film school would be delighted to accommodate him and they did in a most gracious manner, even though they had no idea what he was doing there. As requested, they showed his first film Swingers to the students and 10 turned up, of which a handful left half way through and the others snuck out before the credits had finished (ie no questions to ask the director) leaving Rafa clearing his throat and suggesting a beer in the bar. I wonder if he realised that the film school has received some truly great independent film directors in the last few months as always and are not easily impressed by the Hollywood machine although Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola amongst others have all visited. Doug’s parting shot to Rafa was: Be prepared we are coming back. We were not quite sure how to take that mysterious comment……. some kind of Hollywood film bay of pigs attack!?
More parties parties parties. My first proper dinner in the house, another monthly party for all the visiting teachers and students from workshops. Our friends the Norwegian Ambassador and his Mexican husband threw a couple of parties this month in their beautiful house round the corner from us. Norwegian day of the constitution also happened to co-incide with the international day against homophobia and less appropriately the Cuban day for campesinos (loosely translated as farmers, yokels or peasants depending on the context). There was a big lunch for all the workers on the film school farm which Rafa attended. Guzman the boss made a point of saying that these campesinos were definitely not gay! Or at least if they were they would never admit it ….
Stephen Bayley, successful British film director and the ex-director of the National Film school in the UK was back in town giving his extremely popular and successful workshops on the Meisner technique for actors and directors. The Cubans love him! They get enthusiastic and happy and at times even tearful and emotional when he is around. We threw a party for him after one of the performances in the Bertolt Brecht theatre in Vedado on a breezeless balcony.
Last night it was the British Embassy party in the amazingly beautiful residence in Vedado. I big turn out of diplomats but I spent most of the night hanging out with Stephen and the Cubans actors, musicians and DJs who are becoming my friends. Rafa had been climbing in the Sierra Maestra with some documentary students from the film school and was waiting for me tucked up in bed after an exhausting few days. And then the air con in our bedroom broke ……….. phew. Feeling hot hot hot!!
Still Cuba intrigues, surprises and seduces me ………. what the future holds nobody knows. People speculate and talk a lot about what the changes will bring. which is one of the things I will always love about Cubans. You can disagree but once you talk and talk you usually both end up with a smile on your face. People don’t get aggressive or shirty. Just shrug your shoulders and have another cold Mojito, life’s too short to get angry or upset. I’m learning …………….