This was written on May 7, 2014, while I was in Cuba, along with other members of my church, to assist with the installation of a water purification system. This was my eighth such trip to Cuba.
I am at the convent under renovation in Pinar del Rio. We are doing living waters installation primarily to serve the nuns once the convent goes back into operation. The sister who called us was quite friendly, warm and informative.
A great deal of workmen are building a wall – mixing the concrete wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow. This wall is necessary because the renovation was partly necessary because of the theft of so many parts of the convent.
The sister just told me that the mother of the architect to this renovation died this morning. She calls all the workers together and they recite together a Catholic prayer.
I am sitting on the front “porch” looking out as the work has restarted. This is hot, hard work. Inside our two Cuban friends are busy installing the water filtration system and I’m staying out of the way not to impede any of this fine work being performed for this worthy cause.
I’ve never seen concrete mixed by hand in a wheelbarrow, probably for very low wages.
The worker has now pushed the wheelbarrow to the edge of the wall being built.
They had already built wooden molds at the top of the rather high wall.
Bucket by bucket they are raising the concrete mixed previously to the top of the wall, filling it by pouring the mix into the mold.
Just about all the other work – of about at least a dozen workers – is being accomplished manually.
A horse-drawn “carriage” passes – a frequent sight in Cuba.
The workers do have a few power tools as I can hear them even though they’re out of my sight.
We are on our way back to Havana because we finished the living waters purification system early.
The highways all the way from Veradera through bypass of Havana – to Pinar del Rio – are four to six lanes with a median. I believe they were probably built with Soviet Union foreign aid. Now in 2014 this highway system is bumpy and not up to modern standards.
Another oddity is that traffic is very light probably due to the low ownership of vehicles and lack of viable businesses.
There just isn’t much truck traffic, almost none compared to the United States. And there isn’t much rail transit either.
Scooters and even bicycles are limited in rural areas, but nonetheless present. A few horse riders go along the side as there is limited fencing of the system.
There are large groves of banana trees.
It’s 6:00 p.m., and I can’t see a car on our side of the median in the distance – although a few cars and a bus or two pass.
A “rural bus” passes – a truck with an enclosed back with eye level opening as people standing/peering out.
We pass a horse-drawn buggy pulling two men.
Bicycles are present from time to time. The second small “modern” car passed us. Here’s another horse-drawn buggy, a scooter and a bicycle and two pre-revolution cars for which Cuba is famous; and we pass another and another.
The modes of transportation perhaps vary more than other places at least to the degree I have noticed.
The drive is picturesque with attractive plants and hedges in the median, probably more WPA-type projects like we had during the Great Depression.
Now people are selling at the side of the road. Making ends meet in Cuba can be difficult.
One striking thing on this trip through this rural area is that most of the land is completely undeveloped with no farms or houses visible.
I see power lines in the distance and we pass a tractor cutting grass on the median.
We pass over a railroad with two sets of tracks; we pass trucks carrying containers that may have come from China; we pass a goat pulling a cart.
Now we are into an inhabited outskirts of Havana. There is some traffic and it is 7:15 p.m.
We are now passing through an attractive residential area – very light traffic.
We are in metro Havana. It’s said that Havana leads the world in urban gardening. The area that we have been going through would tend to support that accomplishment.