Our Man (and Woman) in Havana
As a keen – enthusiastic rather than able – Latin dancer, I’m also hoping to check out the street music/dance scene where I’m reassured everyone can join in the dancing.
Finally, I intend to visit Jaimanitas in Havana, home to the renowned artist Jose Fuster, who uses the proceeds from the sales of his art works internationally to transform his neighbourhood into a Gaudi/Picasso-style streetscape.
These were my 3 pitches to Alan Attwood, Editor of The Big Issue. It was number 2 - the Cuban music/dance scene - that caught his eye, and has precipitated us into a frenzy of activity:-
For a start, if it's true that as I put it blithely 'everyone can join in the dancing', we need to ensure that we don't utterly disgrace ourselves. With our salsa, Peter favours elaborate, intertwining, spaghetti-style arm movements, which sometimes leave us anything but el dente. Our long-time teacher, Hooman, has done his research. He insists that we have 'only' (!) to master meringue, salsa and cha cha and we will be fine. We'll never look like the locals, but neither will we look like total fools. So we have our fingers crossed - crossed but not intertwined.
We are reading lots, including the classics 'Our Man in Havana' and 'The Old Man and the Sea'. While the other night we sat right through a very long film - 'The Motorcycle Diaries' - about the young Che Guevara. And our house constantly pulsates to the liquid sounds of Celia Cruz.
The Spanish is coming along, though unfortunately slowly, when one of the things we already know about Cuban Spanish is that it is muy rapido. And they drop some of their letters too, just to keep non native speakers on their toes - hence 'esquina' ('corner' in English) becomes 'quina'. But we are trying very hard and have managed to make all our bookings and lined up contacts via emails written in Spanish. Of course writing is much easier than speaking - you can take as long as you like and consult the dictionary, but still...
It's becoming very exciting, even though in contrast to the prospect of travel to places like Spain or Italy which provoke a universally positive response, many people have been less that enthusiastic when they hear our travel plans this time. The most common reaction is: 'Cuba! Why?' At first I admit this was a bit deflating. But as the departure gate looms, we see it more as an opportunity to keep our minds open and decide for ourselves. We will keep you posted.