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#177377 - 03/17/09 01:26 PM Re: Back From Cuba [Re: meredithbead]
Eagle Heart Offline
Member

Registered: 03/22/05
Posts: 4876
Loc: Canada
Thanks everyone. It's been a whirlwind of unpacking, laundry and restocking the pantries here.

The spirit of generosity continues! Out of many stories of giving, this one amazed me. It was our last week there and we were out of almost everything by then, except the clothes that we had been wearing and would be giving away before leaving Cuba. When we put together all the bags for our family in the village for our last visit, we didn't have enough to give something to everyone who would be there. So I prayed for the "multiplication" of whatever we needed.

Then hubby met a group of older women who were avid bridge players, but there were only 7 of them and they always needed an eighth person, so hubby often filled in. This was their first time in that part of Cuba, so they asked him lots of questions about our experiences. They were quite sparked by his stories, and began to give us bags of stuff to give away to our family in the village. Everything they gave us was exactly what we needed to ensure that everyone in the village received a little something, even if it was a pair of socks or toothbrush. (Because it was so cold there this year, socks were surprisingly popular! When we gave the old grandmother a pair of socks, she immediately put them on and then gave us a huge toothless grin and big sigh of relief. It was too funny!)

Then the next day, we went to a Cuban friend's house to play dominoes. We'd been there many times before and had noticed the poverty of the older woman living next door. So we brought a few little things for her granddaughter who lives with her. You would have thought we brought her a million dollars by her reaction. So when we got back to our hotel, we desperately went through all of our bags to see what was left (not much) and put together a little package for her and took it to her the next day. She was crying as she carefully took out each item, saying "angels of God" over and over.

So later, hubby was telling these women, and well, they all went back to their rooms and came back loaded with bags of more stuff!! And money to give to her. So we went back to her house on the last morning with all of that stuff, plus what amounted to $240 of her Cuban pesos - you cannot even imagine the reaction. She couldn't believe it. She had never held that much money in her hand at one time. It was heartwrenching.

[And this particular story continues...one of the women emailed me and told me that her group is going to be collecting items for us to bring back next year...especially underwear (all sizes) and toothbrushes, two of the things we never seem to bring enough of.]

This is just one story of this amazing spirit of generosity that we saw at the resorts this year; we kept seeing it over and over again throughout our six weeks there.

And I learned that God doesn't just multiply bread and fishes...we definitely gave away more toothbrushes than we brought!!!


Edited by Eagle Heart (03/17/09 01:28 PM)
_________________________
When you don't like a thing, change it.
If you can't change it, change the way you think about it.

(Maya Angelou)

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#177388 - 03/17/09 02:31 PM Re: Back From Cuba [Re: Eagle Heart]
orchid Offline


Registered: 01/21/07
Posts: 3675
Loc: British Columbia, Canada
A wonderful story of giving and glad that you were there to witness the recipients' gratefulness.
_________________________
http://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/ (How cycling leads to other types of adventures, thoughts)
http://velourbansism.wordpress.com


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#177391 - 03/17/09 03:04 PM Re: Back From Cuba [Re: orchid]
Dotsie Offline
Founder

Registered: 07/09/08
Posts: 23647
Loc: Maryland
Oh Eagle, it's so good to hear your voice again, and with such great stories. Love that last one.

I'd love to send you something to take too. Please tell me needed items, or if I should send cash - whichever would work out best.

MInd telling us aobut your very first trip and how this got started? I'd love to hear. Also, wehre in Cuba? I'd like to Google it.
_________________________
Founder Emeritus of Boomer Women Speak and the National Association of Baby Boomer Women.
www.nabbw.com
www.boomerwomenspeak.com


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#177394 - 03/17/09 04:38 PM Re: Back From Cuba [Re: Dotsie]
Eagle Heart Offline
Member

Registered: 03/22/05
Posts: 4876
Loc: Canada
Our adventures in Cuba began with hubby's two brothers. They first traveled there for vacation about 20 years ago. They were staying in a resort in Playa Santa Lucia, in Camaguey province of Cuba. One day, bored with sitting around the resort, they ventured out in a car...I can't remember if it was a taxi or if they rented a car. Anyway, they took the car way off the paved roads, along an old dirt road that led them along the coastline and eventually into a tiny village called Punta Gunado. It hardly looked like a village because most of the houses just looked like stacks of sticks with thatched roofs. But they continued along the dusty road until they saw an old man sitting in a backless rocking chair out on the front "porch" (a slab of cement). They stopped, got out of the car, and went and sat with him. They only spoke French, the old man and the people who began to gather around him only spoke Spanish. But somehow they managed to communicate. My BIL's soon realized how impoverished these people were, and more importantly how utterly cold the old man was. So the BIL's went back to resort and the next day returned with a bag of clothes - sweaters, pants, even used underwear (I know, it sounds gross, but believe me, it was much appreciated!) By the time the BIL's left Cuba, they left with only the clothes on their backs, they had given everything else away to this family.

That was the beginning. Our family has adopted their family, and over the 20 years since, we have all seen firsthand the great improvements in their lives. Now all the chairs have backs, most people have new underwear every year, and we speak more Spanish and they speak more English (some even speak a bit of French). The original BIL has since passed away, as has the old man. The old man had been on his death-bed for many weeks, but the story goes that he knew our family were coming and waited. My BIL's (and my hubby on that trip) arrived and went to visit him the next day and the day after, the old man died, asking to be buried in the first sweater my BIL had brought him all those years ago. The family still tells the story to this day of how he waited to see them before dying.

Hubby started going in 1994 after retiring from the military (before that, he wasn't allowed to go to Cuba). I started going in 2003, because hubby's family always went in Jan/Feb and I could never get the time off work. And since I was working for National Defence as well, I wasn't allowed to go to Cuba either until I retired.

So that's how it started. There's a very strong bond between our families. A few years ago, when my BIL was there on what would be his last visit, he was visiting the family when he had an accident, didn't make it to the bathroom in time. Our Cuban family all gathered around him, every single woman, man and child, tenderly undressed him, filled a tub with all of their precious (rationed) water, carefully and lovingly bathed him, washed all of his clothes and shoes, redressed him in some of their clothes (most of which he had given to them over the years) and took amazing care of him. Never wrinkled their noses, never blinked an eye at the mess or the stench...pure loving kindness.

Our family will NEVER forget that kindness or the love those people showed him that day. That forever cemented the bonds.


Edited by Eagle Heart (03/17/09 04:40 PM)
_________________________
When you don't like a thing, change it.
If you can't change it, change the way you think about it.

(Maya Angelou)

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#177418 - 03/17/09 08:35 PM Re: Back From Cuba [Re: Eagle Heart]
Dotsie Offline
Founder

Registered: 07/09/08
Posts: 23647
Loc: Maryland
This is an amazing story. Has anyone journaled about this through the years? Is there a way for you all to communicate during the year? I'm guessing not. Can't believe what a little boredom led to. It sounds liek you've adopted a village, not just a family.
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www.nabbw.com
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#177425 - 03/17/09 09:30 PM Re: Back From Cuba [Re: Dotsie]
Edelweiss3 Offline


Registered: 11/19/08
Posts: 1758
Loc: American living in Germany
You know what I thought while reading your post, Eagle? I thought what an amazing husband you have, and how wonderful you compliment each other. The joy of giving; - it’s more than special to be able to share something like that.

Will you be posting photos?
_________________________
As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.
Goethe

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#177434 - 03/17/09 10:14 PM Re: Back From Cuba [Re: Dotsie]
Eagle Heart Offline
Member

Registered: 03/22/05
Posts: 4876
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Dotsie
This is an amazing story. Has anyone journaled about this through the years?
Nobody has written anything down, but everyone in our Cuban family knows the history; just this year, one of the women retold the story about the first meeting while everyone was gathered in the house. I guess that's how it's all kept alive.

Quote:
Is there a way for you all to communicate during the year? I'm guessing not.
We all write letters back and forth, but they take 6 weeks to get through - that makes it about 3-4 months before the original writer receives a response. And we have to be careful what we write, because censorship is still alive. We always have to be careful not to inadvertently endanger our friends with what we write. One of the saddest realities in terms of communication is that they think they can email us, but very rarely do the emails make it through, and our emails back to them rarely make it through to them, but they don't know that (and we can't discuss the "why" of that with them), so they think we're just not answering them when they write to us. We do send Christmas cards back and forth.

Quote:
Can't believe what a little boredom led to. It sounds liek you've adopted a village, not just a family.
That's why it gets harder and harder every year to make sure everyone gets a little gift - every time we go back there are more people there! There are about 30 people in our "core" family, but when you add cousins, fiancees and new babies, it's more like 45-50. Plus we also try to share stuff with the hotel staff and their families, as well as other people in another village we go to frequently to play dominoes with other friends. I would say that altogether, we doled out well over 125 gift-bags this year. In each bag we try to put toothbrushes, emery boards, nail polish, needles & thread, medicine (Tylenol or Aspirin sample packs that have been donated to us for the trip), a skipping rope for girls and either a hot wheel car or frisbee for the boys, hair scrunchies, combs, pens, pencils, erasers, underwear for the children, socks and at least one specialty gift like a crank flashlight, stove lighter and/or Swiss Army knife (I buy them in lots on eBay). We also bring mosquito nets, and other various things that we use during our time there and then leave behind (swim goggles, towels, clothespins, etc.)

It's fun shopping around for bargains. I look all year for one extra-special gift to bring to Sarah, my adopted abuela (grandmother). Usually something like a beautifully boxed soap, special linens...this year I brought her a beautiful fan we bought in Madrid and a flowery pillow sham for her bed. Simple, lightweight, but she loves these silly frilly things. A couple of years ago we brought her a Spanish Bible - it's still her most prized possession and something she could never have afforded to buy on her own - as far as we know, you still can't even buy Bibles in Cuba.

Anyway, sorry for rambling. It's our passion, and it's hard to stop!
_________________________
When you don't like a thing, change it.
If you can't change it, change the way you think about it.

(Maya Angelou)

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#177437 - 03/17/09 10:20 PM Re: Back From Cuba [Re: Eagle Heart]
Eagle Heart Offline
Member

Registered: 03/22/05
Posts: 4876
Loc: Canada
Edelweiss, I'll post some photos, probably next week. I used to put together a webpage with pictures and stories, until we realized that we were inadvertently putting our friends at risk by putting their faces and names in public like that. So I'll just post a few fun pictures here once I sort through the hundreds we took!
_________________________
When you don't like a thing, change it.
If you can't change it, change the way you think about it.

(Maya Angelou)

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#177442 - 03/17/09 10:50 PM Re: Back From Cuba [Re: Eagle Heart]
chatty lady Offline
Writer

Registered: 02/24/04
Posts: 20267
Loc: Nevada
Eagle please correct me if this next thought is wrong on my part BUT when I once offered to send along some items with you didn't you say, "no" because it was too difficult to carry too much stuff? I would love to send you a check so you can give them money or buy whatever else they might need. Would that be all right?Your stories are so touching and its hard to imagine the poverty unless seen first hand. YOU need to write a book about this one day when and if things change in the Cuban government.
_________________________
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http://charleen-micheles.blogspot.com/


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#177466 - 03/18/09 12:06 AM Re: Back From Cuba [Re: chatty lady]
Eagle Heart Offline
Member

Registered: 03/22/05
Posts: 4876
Loc: Canada
Chatty, to be honest, I just don't know what to say when people offer to send stuff for Cuba. At the top of my reasons why is that we just don't have the time, energy or mental resources to provide accountability or even reasonably accurate feedback to anyone who donates. In the past people have donated stuff that's too heavy or difficult to pack, and then have been upset/disappointed when we told them we couldn't take those items. We know the people we're buying for, we customize much of our shopping to the specific people on our list. If something someone sends us doesn't match anyone on the list, we can't afford to waste precious weight/space restrictions on stuff we can't use.

Weight restriction is a constant barrier to taking more stuff. We've discovered that by going first class (not as expensive as it sounds) our weight allowance doubles, so it ends up being cheaper to fly first class than to pay hundreds of dollars for extra weight, which is what we used to do. We also have restrictions on the Cuba end as to what we're allowed to take in. If we take too much of one thing, they notice and stop us.

The other concern I have is that Cuba is the spark of passion that God has put in our hearts...but I believe that God gives everyone a different spark of passion for different causes to each person. Yours is for animals and strays and volunteer work in various areas of your own community. Others here have a passion for other causes...I don't want to take money or energy away from THOSE passions. I celebrate and prefer that people channel that money and passion into whatever area they feel most drawn to.

In large part, I share our experiences here, not only because this is my second home and it's natural to want to share my heart and adventures with my sisters, but also in part to show how easy it can be to change people's lives. A pair of socks, a toothbrush, a package of needles, a new pair of underwear, a skipping rope...such simple things, yet they bring such joy.

So I don't know what to say in response to kind offers like yours. I honestly don't want to seem ungrateful, but I also don't want to make anyone feel obligated or to draw resources away from your own neighbourhoods and passion-areas. Does that make any sense? By the time you would send a check to me, we would lose money to banking administrative services, then more in the exchange to Cuban pesos - and I would not be able to keep accurate records to provide accountability for every cent. That alone would bother me. I would be able to tell you that it went to someone who needed it, but not exactly who or exactly how much of it ended up in their hands after all the service charges and exchange fees.

But your offer touches my heart and I thank you.
_________________________
When you don't like a thing, change it.
If you can't change it, change the way you think about it.

(Maya Angelou)

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