cronechronicler

Exploring the poetry of everyday life

Cuba 2012 – Love Songs Written on My Heart: Introducing Jose and Finding Nemo

on January 28, 2015

Jose was not quite our drum major but I think we would have followed him anywhere as he introduced us to his Cuba. He was a tour guide unlike any I have encountered on my travels. Jose incarnated the history of a people while introducing us to his everyday existence in Cuba. His mother’s family was from Spain and he was aware of his more affluent European roots. He now lived with his wife and two young sons in his mother-in-law’s home. That is how Cuban families manage on barely life-sustaining incomes. Jose, his wife and her father had jobs while his mother-in-law took care of the house and her grand children. Jose had worked hard to make it possible for his family to acquire the resources to add on a room of their own. I say resources because no one has money to buy lumber, tools and other things necessary for construction. Bartering skills and materials is a way of life. Cubans have devised a brilliant underground solution to get around the limitations of poverty. Jose explained to us that in Cuba there are un-legal things as opposed to illegal things. The people are masterful in defining and balancing on this thin margin. Jose’s work as a tour guide was not his first choice but it is one of the best paid means of employment in Cuba, always excepting the Government. His heart’s desire was to lead bicycling tours, which he did in the off-season for tourists. (Except for U.S. citizens people from around the globe visit Cuba.) When we asked Jose questions about Cuba that he was uncomfortable answering he would smile and say, “It’s complicated.” His grin and ability to laugh at the ironies of life in Cuba were endearing.

Though Jose spoke fluent English our tour bus driver spoke none. He helped those of our tour group, including me, who found getting off the bus problematic. It’s always that bit between the last step and the ground that is daunting. The bus driver gave us warm smiles. With my high school Spanish I could say “gracias” but wanted to say more. I had noticed the orange fish with bright white and black stripes hanging from the rear view mirror of the bus. As an educated grandmother I recognized the fish was Nemo. One day getting off the bus I said “Nemo” and the bus driver grinned. We were discovering a common language. Pointing to myself I said “abuela”, which I knew was the word for grandmother because I live near a restaurant by that name and learned the translation from its menu. He pointed at himself and said “papa”. Then we communicated with fingers about how many children and grandchildren we had between us. A couple of days after our conversation the bus driver appeared with a step stool to bridge the gap between the bus and the ground. We beamed at each other. Our message was sent and received.


8 responses to “Cuba 2012 – Love Songs Written on My Heart: Introducing Jose and Finding Nemo

  1. You learned a means of communication with Jose and he sounds like an interesting person! It does seem “complicated” in some areas for figuring out the lifestyles so I’m glad you had a quality guide 🙂

  2. Luanne says:

    I love that you thought of saying “abuela”!

  3. Your story here sent little shivers of delight through my veins as I remember communicating this very same way and the delight it is to find ways to break down the barriers of language . I have never visited Cuba but your pictures of such a vibrant and hearty community living in Cuba has made me thirsty to explore the country for myself , there seems to be a whole new world in that country and your articles are so helpful in letting us discover that world .

  4. vivachange77 says:

    I get goose bumps just reading your comment. I am awed that words can create such a depth of connection. I’m glad you get what a remarkable thing it is to have a chance to meet the people of Cuba, Thanks. ❤

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