The real blog starts here …… out of Cuba!


well not yet …… but just wanted to write a few things here before I get back on my blogging horse.  I didn’t realise how many people have been reading this and how some of them were not very nice people.  But hey they obviously found my life interesting so that says something.

We lived in a very beautiful house in Cuba, thanks to the film school.  WHen I arrived it was a house full of corruption with a pretty good business being run out of it.  I kicked them all out.  My first mistake maybe ……. the house was then burgled a few weeks later by people who knew exactly what our movements were and how to get in.

We had parties once a month for the teachers of the school to thank them for their love and support over the years.  To these parties we would invite a handful of Havana friends, diplomats, musicians, artists and personalities.  I did manage to do around 5 official dinners in 2 years but our house was always full of people passing by to say hello and sit by the sea and chat with us, people from all walks of life and many countries.  That is my spirit, my door is always open to friends.

Everything I bought online was using my UK credit card.  IN Cuba you can’t buy too much.  Family would transfer money for my children’s birthdays and we would buy things on trips for them.

We did not have one safe car most of the 2 years to drive my children around.  Rafa’s car was worse than anyone’s and had faulty brakes for most of the two years.  After a near fatal crash in the rain in my family car, Rafa hired me a car once for the school holidays and this has been jumped on by everyone from the fiscaleria to vicious little students.  It was the only time my children all had proper seat belts.

We were transferring money to buy a car as it was clear that the school would never be able to provide us with a safe car for an 8, 7 and 3 year old.

I am a self-confessed fashionista and I like to look good, friends arriving from UK and Guatemala would always bring me clothes ordered online or bought in the packa (second hand clothes market in Guate) and I had a very good taylor.  I left most of those clothes behind in Cuba when I had to run like a criminal.  But I will always be glamorous when I can manage it.  Style is not about money.

We left Cuba poorer than we arrived, which was quite an achievement!

Last summer when everyone was flying out for the summer we stayed in Havana through the heat of August and managed 4 nights in Cayo Santa Maria.  Partly as so much money had personally been stolen from us.

I will be back with more truths soon.  Children just back from the donkey sanctuary with grandparents!

But just to say that I received so much love and friendship in Cuba and was never really good at protocol, I just liked dancing a lot!




12 thoughts on “The real blog starts here …… out of Cuba!”

  1. Oh wow, what happened that you had to leave Cuba? I thought you really liked it there from previous posts (apart from the idiot tourists, of course), but it sounds like it wasn’t that nice after all. Did you lose everything you’d brought in, like all the electronics for the kids? That’s just terrible. I’m very sorry.

  2. Selena

    I did love Cuba but we had to leave for reasons beyond our control. I couldn’t write about it but now that we are out of Cuba and on holiday in UK I will begin to write the real story.

    CUba is a wonderful place and the problems we had were with bureaucrats and some two faced characters that we trusted and were wrong. But you know that I always trust people and its hard to learn that sometimes you shouldn’t.

    more revelations to come!

  3. Bureaucrats are always a problem in any country, I find. Will you be moving back to Guatemala or is it on to greener pastures now? I hope you find your place in the world where your children can grow up happy and you can still make a living.

  4. Oh lovely Jo… I had the feeling that something terrible happened, I am sorry that you had to leave everything and the people who loved and loved you behind in such a hurry. But look at it this way: when a door closes behind a big gate is opening in front of you. So chin up, keep your head high and walk through it with pride… the start of a new journey! LOTS of LOVE and see you soon!!!

    1. you are so right mi Paoliña!!! sorry did not get back to you the other night but travelling with 3 kids dampens your spontaneity! we will see you very soon!

  5. thanks Selena

    we are back in UK for a few months just to get the kids into school fast and then we will decide where to go next. Guatemala does not seem like the safest option right now but I have a lot of friends and family there so lets see. Right now I want to find somewhere safe where we will not be persecuted by the left or the right! and where there is no violence. WHo knows?

  6. It is amazing the amount of racism I have had to personally experience not so much in Cuba but in the so called school of tres mundos. Ever since I arrived in Cuba I was told to never trust anybody, especially in the film school. That was the advice given to me by both Cubans and foreigners. But I did, I trusted people and that is why I left with so many Cuban friends and on the other side maybe why I had so much stolen from me.

    I would advise the next director when finally she or he is appointed, should not have a partner or a family and definitely not one, that is not Latin. I wondered why there had hardly been a director with a partner and never a mother with young children. Also I think there was a cultural gap ……… many people were never able to understand British irony and humour and also people think it is funny to steal, not something that has ever amused me. I was robbed 7 times in Cuba. 2 in the street, 5 in my house and 3 of those were by people from the film school.

    IN my writing, being frivolous and tongue in cheek was a front to hide all the racism and problems I was experiencing. As Monty Python says …….. always look on the bright side of life.

    But it is nice to be back in a country where you can talk openly and I will learn to trust people again.

  7. I’m very sorry for what happened to you and your family. It seems that you and your husband believed in the promised utopia of socialist Cuba and, instead, eventually discovered it was a tropical gulag. Sadly, the dictatorship that has destroyed Cuba has done so with the help and participation of many enablers like you, who refused to see or turned a blind eye to the terror, injustice, disenfranchisement, and crimes the Castro mafia brought with it from the start. But, in Cuba all goes well as long as you comply or in some way are deemed useful –ask the Canadians and Brits in prison you mention, they can all attest to it if they manage to get out. Your lovely house by the sea –where you threw so many parties– was probably confiscated from a family who decades past left in a hurry, probably grateful they could get out from the island-prison, but heartbroken nonetheless and only with the clothes on their back. They didn’t have the benefit, like you did, of shipping even one box out and were only allowed to take with them one small suitcase with 2-3 changes of clothes. And they were lucky they probably didn’t leave in a raft to face shark infested waters, like so many others who followed. They already knew what Communism was doing to their country, executing, imprisoning, silencing, dividing, excluding, exiling, confiscating,… destroying the nation and so many lives plus sowing a future of guaranteed misery, despair, and terror. When you arrive, I imagine to help build the new promised world in socialist paradise, you probably dismissed the tears and shattered hopes of so many because they belonged to “gusanos,”…until you were shoved aside. But, please explain why you turned a blind eye to the fact that your family enjoyed privileges not available to most of the proletariat. I ask not rhetorically, it would really be useful to know how seemingly honest people reconcile with that reality.
    I’m glad you are writing about your experience, keep it coming, it might help enlighten the many idealistic fools who still enable that evil system. I invite you to educate yourself on the crimes of that regime and raise your voice for freedom for the Cuban people.
    Best of luck and good wishes to you and your family.

    1. Hello Maria
      Thank you for your thoughtful words.

      I am not a Cuban or a latin and never will be no matter where I live or how many mixed race children I have, so I write as someone who has just been through one isolated experience of an interesting life living in many countries. I do not compare myself to the people who had to flee leaving behind family and a lot more, but I think my experience of feeling so persecuted gave me a tiny sense of what some of those people went through. I am no expert on Cuban history or politics but always try to keep an open mind and listen to different opinions. I do have sympathy for the plight of the average Cuban and respect their resilience, resignation and great sense of humour. I am not responsible for anything in that country and don’t believe too much in any kind of political ideology or systems which last too many years in any country, be it in the US or Cuba or my own UK.

      I did not turn a blind eye to anything and I find your comment a bit strange. NO foreigners go to Cuba to live like Cubans and the diplomatic community and international business and press earned a lot more than Rafa and lived well. (in fact I think the teachers at the French school earnt more than Rafa). I kicked out the corruption from my house and the habit of freeloading. I was appalled by the stealing and always made it clear. We never had a safe car, never mind an elegant one and most of my staff were custodios that I had to have on a strict rota as per labour laws, as we were robbed so many times. I think the fact that Rafa did not turn a blind eye to the corruption in the school was why we were kicked out with such a lack of dignity. He dared to touch the sacred cows and it went right to the top.

      A lot of my foreign friends actually want to get out, even though they are doing ok financially, they feel insecure and tired of everything.

      Parties. I was invited to an awful lot of extremely elegant parties by the international community, but I think mine were very down to earth and mostly done on a modest budget, I just had a great location and good music. I threw them once a month for the visiting teachers and was always trying to find a way to make them fun but inexpensive because that is my nature. I am not from a particularly wealthy background but I was brought up with a good education and a sense of values. And yes the madness of Cuban society is something not easy to understand from the outside. We both struggled a lot with the hypocrisy that was revealing itself, but in the end, knew that we were there for a limited time and had already decided to do the minimum contract time. Nothing seems real or right in Cuba right now but I cannot speak of what Cuba was before. I think my husband was more disillusioned than me as he was very emotionally involved with the school and the ideology. I am just a mother trying to do my best and share my crazy life with other like minded souls.

      I will admit that I did change my opinion of ‘Miami Cubans’ whilst I was living in Cuba as I now realise that there are a lot of good people living both sides of the straits and nothing is black and white.

      Apparently the house belonged to one of Batista’s senate, he built it for his French lover so I presume he had a wife and family somewhere else. But to be honest I don’t miss that house. I tried to make it more beautiful but it was never mine and always felt like that, a borrowed palace on the sea. I am temporarily in a little terrace house in England and I look out on to a lovely field and trees and it is cosy. It is not so spectacular but feel happier in my little home.

      I will be writing more about my future now but I am sure I will write a few more blogs about Cuba in the next few weeks. The next post will be about coming home to my own country after 10 years. There are a few Cuban characters that I want to write about though ……

      thank for taking the time!


  8. Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I would prefer to communicate with you privately and that you not publish this coment. My personal email is Feel free to write back at your choice and whenever, if you wish. I imagine you are very exhausted in all senses from your Cuba ordeal…
    I sympathize with what you and your family went through and certainly do not judge you (ultimately, judgment for all of us is, in my humble opinion, not of this world). The things I pointed to seem obvious from your account. I have very esteemed friends and colleagues who are former journalists who self-censored in Cuba, even formerly high-ranking members of the Cuban “Communist” elite and defectors (intelligence officers). Each one has his/her own reason.
    I try to understand the Cuban tragedy from all angles, as compassionately and dispassionately as possible. However, I do not hide that my quest is to try, in the small ways I can, to push for freedom for the Cuban people (and not because I want to go live there or in any way participate of a future Cuba!).
    Perhaps I made assumptions unfairly. That your husband accepted a position at a state-run / state-owned institution from a one–party, Communist government, is presumably agreeing to its terms and objectives. Human rights abuses and the absence of most fundamental individual freedoms has been well documented since the start of the Castro dictatorship. Sadly, your story until you fell in disgrace (i.e. your journey to and into Cuba) is just one example of the weak international awareness and outcry against a tyrannical and criminal system of government.
    The global solidarity the Cuban people need is is essentially one of basic human dignity, it is not an ideological issue.
    I realize you are tired and want to move on with your life, but consider continuing to write about what you saw and experienced in Cuba. I bet you have already helped enlighten some people.

    1. I just read this again Maria a few weeks on. And you are right about so many things and I hope we can make a documentary about these issues – you and me. I know could get a really good team together …. all women telling it how it is!

  9. sorry Maria the post automatically got posted as I have accepted you as a contributor. I could try to find a way to take it off but have to admit to not being very technical in these matters and I think your words are valuable.

    I agree with everything you say and I too will keep fighting for the people of Cuba to be allowed to become more internationally aware and to have the dignity to earn a decent salary and enjoy the human rights that the internet and travel allow.

    I thought the school stood outside a lot of typical Cuban problems but in the end I was wrong …. it was the same old hypocrisy and politics. It was known as the island on the island but it seems the irony is that the little island had become just the same as the big one but was lucky enough to have the money from black market beer sales to pay for international teachers to arrive from all over. For me that is what makes the school great, without the teachers and workshop students and international personalities there was nothing exceptional anymore. From the regular course, there were mainly students from Latin America and a few from Europe, getting a good deal and full of entitlement. Hardly any students from Asia or Africa anymore as there used to be …..

    I have your email lets keep in touch and let me know if you want me to try to remove your post. ANd yes I will enlighten people about the real Cuba that I experienced first hand, but in time. I am making notes of future topics but really need to leave it behind ….. at least for a while.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *