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Second Update from Cuba

Service and Study Update 12 May

Grace and peace be with you in the Risen Christ!   Feliz Pascua!

Greetings from Havana!  It’s Thursday and I’ve been in Cuba for a week!  Wow!

I got up at 4:45 a.m. to go running with Gilberto and the seminarians at La Merced.  Wow is that early. I started Spanish Language classes on Monday.  My teacher…mi profesora…is named Idania.  She teaches Spanish at the academy every morning and is available in the afternoons to teach.  We agreed to meet four afternoons each week from 2:30 to 5:30.  She and her husband live in an apartment building very near the ocean…just off the Malecon…on the way to Vedado…were the Episcopal Cathedral is.  I decided to take the bus. In Spanish the word for bus is el autobus or omnibus but in Cuba the bus is called la guagua because of the sounds the horn makes.  There are two kinds of currency / moneda in Cuba.  Moneda Nacional (local currency) and the Convertible Currency (CUC) which is tourists and pilgrims use.  It costs 40 centavos in local currency to ride the bus.  I catch the bus about four blocks from La Merced.  The buses are overcrowded, hot and people are packed sitting and standing.  So, I got on the bus…and made my way to class.  This is another insight to the way much of the world lives.

I was anxious about class but Idania, mi profesora, calmed my fears and we began to work on pronouns and present tense regular verbs and then the irregular verbs.  She builds in grammar work, writing and reading into each class or lectura.  The time seemed to fly by…and it was 5:30 already.  I got back on the bus and headed back to Habana Vieja…the bus was crowded until we passed the downtown area then it opened up a bit…and air could flow through the windows.  I decided to spend a bit of time each evening…before dinner…reading Spanish newpapers, books and articles in periodicals to see if I could begin to understand more of what was written so I spent about an hour reading  before dinner.  I had homework so after dinner I went to my room and worked on grammar and words…writing out nouns and verbs from memory.

On Tuesday, I needed to leave about mid morning so I could get to the Episcopal Cathedral and visit with Bishop Griselda before class started in the afternoon.  I took la guagua to Vedado and walked to the cathedral from the bus stop / parada in Spanish.  I met with Bishop Griselda.  She was happy to see me.  She leaves for the States and meetings with the House of Bishops and the School for Bishops on Thursday, 12 May.  She asked me to assist the Dean, Jose Angel…at the cathedral for the next Sundays.  She had a number of things to deal with so I excused myself so that I could check in with the Dean, Jose Angel.  Pepito, the Dean’s oldest son, welcomed me into their home.  Lucretia, his mother, served up a plate of rice and chicken for lunch.  Pepito and I conversed in Spanish and English over lunch.

After lunch, I made my way to the parada / bus stop…to get to class.  It was hot…and the bus was very crowded.  I stood the whole way to my stop.  Idania reviewed my homework and corrected my mistakes.  I did well she said…which felt good to hear.  We continued to work on the present tense of the irregular verbs for the first two hours.  After a bit of a break, we began work on the preterit or past tense of the verbs…which requires a new set of endings depending on the ending of the verb…ar…er…ir…Hay Dios mi! I left with homework for Thursday…Que hizo ayer…what you did yesterday.

I got back to La Merced and got reading for dinner.  I spent about an hour reading again. I was amazed at how much I could understand.  After dinner, I went to my room to write and read.  I fell asleep about 10:30.

I got up a little later on Wednesday…5:15 a.m. to go running.  Wednesdays are a free day for the priests at La Merced so they can sleep in…have a late breakfast…and spend the day leisurely.  They own a house east of the city about 30 kilometers in a town called Guanabo.  It is about 5 blocks from the ocean and they go there almost every Wednesday to swim, to read, to nap…so we left about 9:30 for Guanabo.  It was a beautiful morning.  Gilberto and I along with Raimiro arrived about 10:15.  After opening the house, Gilberto and I went to the beach for a swim.  It was wonderful and warm…and refreshing.  We got back to the house about 12 noon.  I read for a while.  At about 1 p.m. we headed to a local pizza place for real Italian pizza…the sign said.  I had a pizza with tomato sauce, cheese, onions and garlic.  It was delicious.  We got back to the house and I took a nap.  After my nap, I continued my grammar work for about an hour.  We then closed up the house and headed back to Havana about 4 p.m.

I am most amazed at how much the people who live here can make with so little.  I am humbled by their generosity and hospitality.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Elizabeth Larsen
    May 17, 2011 at 5:42 pm


    I enjoy hearing your stories via your blog. You sound like you are having a wonderful time. Keep on writing!


  2. Tami Walker
    May 17, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    Doug – Thank you for the updates from Cuba. Any chance you can include some pictures? It would be nice to have some “visuals” to go along with your stories.

  3. Julie Phyliky
    May 17, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Hi Doug,
    Why is it that those who don’t have find it the greatest joy to give? I think it is because they realize that one of the true joys is to share. When Bob and I were in Holand for those early difficult years that was what we did. ..Sort of a version of “Stone Soup”. We also were more likely to automatically rely on God. I can remember having a peice of toast at a friend’s house and being so thankful!
    I’m not sure I could stand the heat, especially on the busses. Glad you got to go to the ocean and swim.What an honor to be asked to assist with the Sunday services at the Cathedral.
    You are still in our prayers.


  4. Jane Reiman
    May 16, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    Father Doug:
    Thank you so much for your updates and your insights. What a wonderful opportunity for you and for all of us following your adventures.
    I can remember a time around 10 years ago waiting in Madrid for our flight home to Chicago and wishing I was taking the flight to Havana just to see Cuba. I still want to go there sometime, but if that’s not to be, I appreciate your being there and writing about it.

  5. Trish Braga
    May 16, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    Hi Father Doug: Sounds like a wonderful adventure; thank you for keeping us posted. Podemos hablar en espanol cuando revuelva. Did that make sense? Mi espanol es muy viejo. HaHa. Take care!

  6. Robin
    May 16, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    Thank you for sharing with us Doug. I am, however, tired for you just reading about your experience!

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