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Third Update from Cuba

Service and Study Update 17 May

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

Greetings from Havana!  It’s Tuesday and I’ve been in Cuba for 12 Days!

12 de Mayo – El Jueves

Wednesday night and Thursday all day was the most wonderful day so far in Cuba!  It was sunny but cool and breezy and very little humidity.  At Morning Prayer, the coming Sunday’s gospel text was read aloud four times…with a time of silence following each reading.  This is much like the process we use called the Oral Tradition Method or Gospel Based Discipleship.  However, we didn’t discuss the text during prayer.  Yo soy la puerta…I am the door or the gate…Jesus said.  In a city…in a country were many people live behind the security of a gate or door…this text takes on fresh meaning for me.  Jesus didn’t say I am IN FRONT OF or BEHIND the gate or door…but I AM THE GATE…I AM THE DOOR!  Lots to reflect on…even though I am not preaching!

I finished my tarea…homework…and left early after lunch to catch la guagua…the bus…to head to class.  It was a bright and clear day.  I got to my stop early and walked along the seawall.  The wall is built of concrete along the Malecon…similar to Lakeshore Drive in Chicago…Class went well.  We worked on the past tense of verbs and more grammar and translation from English into Spanish.  I got back to La Merced in time for dinner…checked email…then went to my room to do more homework and study.  It was getting more and more humid.  I went to sleep early because we were getting up at 4:45 a.m. to run.

13 de Mayo – El Viernes

I got up early to run…and it was extremely humid already.  After breakfast…I worked on my homework.  About 10 a.m. I went out to get some sparkling water…I thought it would be a nice option to regular water…wow was it hot and humid!   About 11 a.m., Gilberto asked if I wanted to walk with him to pick up the guitar that was being repaired by Pirez…a man in his 80’s…we walked to his apartment building in Habana Vieja.  He welcomed us in and offered us café…then he played the guitar that he repaired…he played a few Cuban Folk songs…his playing and singing was magnificent!  We headed back to La Merced…I ate lunch quickly and went to my room to finish my homework.  Class went well…la guagua…the bus was hot and crowded…dios mio…It was Friday…I had finished 12 hours of language class!  I worked hard this week…and I felt like I had reached a saturation point…so I looked forward to a little break from studying.  CATS, the musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber was advertized on a billboard in a public park.  I got off the bus a stop early to investigate.  It started on 17 April 2011.  Performances, the sign read, were on Sabado y Domingo…Saturday and Sunday, 5 p.m. and 9:30 p.m….perhaps I can find time to go.  After dinner, I checked email…watched some news and headed to my room.  This had been a long and challenging week…but I made it!

14 de Mayo – El Sabado

Idania, mi profesora in Spanish, shared a newspaper with me at class on Friday.  There are free concerts and dance performances in Habana.  One that interested me was at La Iglesia de San Francisco de Paula…a church just down the street from La Merced.  On Saturday morning, there was a concert of early music.  Gilbert and I decided to go.  We arrived just before 10 and discovered that it was a Children’s recital…on viola de gama (a larger violin), harps and recorder…AND it was advertized to start at 10 a.m. but was going to start at 11 a.m.  So, we sat and listened to them practice.  The concert was beautiful…rich in sound and the young people played marvelously.  After lunch, I did some reading and writing.  I needed to pick up a highlighter and Gilbert said there was a store on Calle Obispo that had them.  That afternoon, we were going to a Graduation Recital for Amanecer Amador Oropesa, who was graduating from Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) with a license in Laud or Lute.  A recital is required as part of your final exam.  The recital was wonderful…complete with pieces of classical music and modern pieces, several written by faculty members and Amanecer’s father and sister.  She was accompanied at times with a guitar, piano, another laud, percussion and bass guitar.

After the concert, there was a reception.  We made our way back to La Merced, had dinner, and after watching a bit of news…I headed to my room to practice for Sunday.  I was assisting at the Service at the Cathedral and needed to make sure my pronunciation went well.

15 de Mayo – El Domingo

Got up…had some coffee and headed to the Cathedral.  Ricardo, a seminarian from La Merced, went with me for the service.  We had some coffee at the deanery then made our way to the church building.  They call church buildings in Havana…Templos…temples…which I find interesting.  The word separates the building from the people…the community which is what Bishop Brian’s emphasis has been focused around…The Episcopal Church in Minnesota…is manifest in every community…in its buildings but especially in its people…the People of God…the Communidad…in Spanish.  The service went well.  I prepared the gospel text only to find that the translation was a different translation and felt uncomfortable reading without preparing…I didn’t want to draw attention to my errors in pronunciation for the sake of the community.  I found out after the service that the Dean was planning on me going with him to Bacuranao…a community outside of Havana with an Episcopal Church called St. John the Baptist.  So, Richardo took la guagua back to La Merced and I stayed for lunch with the Dean and his family.  I had lunch with Dean Jose Angel and his wife, Lucretia and their sons, Pepito and Luise.  Before lunch, Jose asked if I could play the guitar.  I played a few songs in English then found a few in the hymnbook the Episcopal Church in Cuba compiled and sang them as well.  He asked if I would play them for the service at Bacuranao.  After lunch, I took a brief siesta.  It was hot…very hot and very humid.  We left for Bacuranao at 4 p.m. and arrived about 4:40.  The Episcopal Church has had a presence in Bacuranou for many years.  The Lay Reader was baptized, confirmed and married in the church some 70 years ago.  Jose felt confident enough in my Spanish that he asked if I would preside and he would assist.  I was honored.  Slowly…the Spanish word is despacio…slowly…and things would go well.  There were about 10 people present for the service.  After the service, Jose and I walked down to the house of two parishioners.  The husband was sick and they could not come to the service.  We visited for a bit then laid hands on him and prayed for him.  We drove back to Havana and they dropped me off near La Merced at about 7 p.m.  WHAT A DAY!  I was tired and fatigued.  The heat had really taken its toll on me and I was so thirsty.  After dinner, I called Dana…it was good to hear her voice.  She and our children are sacrificing a lot for me to be here.  I spoke with Gavin for a few minutes as well.  Then I called my sister, Debbie, in St. Louis.  My nephew Zachary leaves for China with his University Choir next week for a two week tour.  I spoke with her for just a few minutes as well.  Calling the states from here is very expensive and email can be a challenge.  I watched a bit of news then headed to my room to call it a day.  I needed to get up early…4:45 a.m. to run.

16 Mayo – El Lunes – 2011

Today I began my second week in Spanish Language class.  I got up early to go running and spent most of the morning doing homework…practicing verbs and tenses…and vocabulary.  It is still really hot and humid.  I left early after lunch to catch la guagua.  The bus wasn’t too crowded and I sat on the seawall…to enjoy the wind from the ocean before class.  My profesora and I worked on the future tense of verbs…that sounds exciting doesn’t it…but you would be amazed at how much we speak in the past and future tenses…and if you don’t know them in Spanish…it makes communication very challenging…that is…I can only speak in the present for so long…I got back to La Merced about time for dinner…checked email…caught up on the news.  The Official Communist Party Paper is called GRANMA after the boat that was used to begin the revolution from Mexico.  On occasion, the newspersons will read in its entire a length an editorial from the paper on the air for all to hear.  So this gave me an opportunity to listen attentively to words and phrases to try to understand the central points.

I headed to my room to do some homework and reading.  Vocabulary remains the challenge among many in learning the language.  Conversation remains a challenge as well but I am taking it day by day.

17 de Mayo – El Martes

Today is Christina’s 20th Birthday.  I am sad to not be home for her birthday but I hope to call this evening.  We remembered Christina and the gift of her life at Morning Prayer.   After desayuno (breakfast), I headed to my room to write my update.  I have been keeping a journal but it is too detailed for me to send.  It remains hot and humid in Habana.  About 10:15, Gilberto and I went to run some errands before lunch.  It was good to spend some time with him.  This is not a vacation…it remains work time for him and for me…so having some time to catch up was good.

I finished up most of my tarea (homework) before I left for the bus stop.  I had to write several paragraphs using the future tense.  Writing the text in English was easy…writing in Spanish…was more a of a challenge but it worked out well.  There are some particular things in Spanish just as there are in English that only using the language for a while will address.  Another challenge is the use of prepositions…such as por or para…for…so my profesora and I spend some of the afternoon reviewing participles and prepositions and I left with tarea for Thursday.

I remain grateful for this opportunity…for this time.  Know that you remain in my prayer.

Easter blessings,


Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Julia Phyliky
    May 26, 2011 at 12:34 am

    Thanks Doug fo r sharing this experience with us..WE are holding you in our prayers.

    Bob and Julie

  2. Robin
    May 20, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    You will be able to challenge Casey with your Spanish when you return. He will enjoy that!

  3. Vivien Johnson
    May 19, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    It appears you are receiving a really fruitful and busy time learning Spanish as well as having opportunities participating in Mass. You have even had an opportunity to play your guitar and get in a little entertainment.Riding the bus is about the same as Rochester as far as rush hour and the middle of the day.
    Hopefully you will continue speaking Spanish here in Rochester. We do have a friend who is a spanish teacher at John Marshall Hi.
    Hard work pays off. Our prayers are with you.
    Vi & ED

  4. terry klampe
    May 19, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    doug, sounds like you’re having a full experience. didn’t know that you would be taking such an intense course in espanol. i’m jealous. l look foward to hearing all about your trip when you get back. luego.

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