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Granma International, English Edition

Brigade Jose Marti
September 1 - September 22, 2002


A few days from a travelstory of Arnold van Wezel

Workingcard brigade Jose MartiIn total we had three gatherings for the brigade Jose Marti. The last one was helt on the Cuban Embassy on the 27th of July 2002. On the 26th of July Cuba was celebrating a national holiday, because 43 years ago Batista attacked the Moncade Barracks. On the brigade-gathering I gave information about the purpose and use of having a brigade and about international solidarity. Each one of the brigadists was very enthousiastic and without any patience to leave for Cuba.

Finally the big moment had come on the first of September 2002 to fly towards Cuba. Prior we asked permission to record the brigade on film, and this request was granted. Unfortunately we couldn't leave together for Cuba. Wim will arrive on September 8, but he waved us out on Schiphol. He was very jealous because we left already.

After a prosperous flight we arrived on the airport Jose Marti at Havana. The time-gap between Cuba and Holland is six hours. Getting ready on the airport took a lot of time, also dued to the temperatur of 23 Celsius. I'm certain that we all will have an unforgetible time here.

September 8, 2002

We got home at three o'clock in the morning (yes indeed, it's my home for here and now) and it was a big party. One bottle of rum for four persons and of course the Cuban Cola, a lot of music and dance.
Little sleep was given to us. At 06:30 we were woken up to go to Soroa. The Cubans requested us to be at the square early, to get information about the work that has to be done that day. They were too late themselves though... At 08:00 they wanted us to leave by bus, but it took as long as 08:45 for us to be complete. We're in the middle of agriculture together with Campamento Julio Antonia Mella. After one hour of travel we arrived in Soroa.

After arriving I immediately climed up, taking a path that doesn't deserve to even be called "path". All clay is being taken by the rain and what's left is only stones and steep slots. Normally I walk up in one breath, but now I had to stop four times, which probably has to do with my age. Some pieces ar soo steep, that you can only walk step by step at a temperature between 20 and 24 degrees Celsius. Once getting on top it certainly is worth it. Heavy breathing and sweating as hell we arrive on top at an attitude of 300 metres, distance 1 mile. We don't keep track of time here...
Because at the top it got too crowded, I left there after 15 minutes. There are allways people (brigadists) who stand on the edge, dispite all warnings that the rocks are wet and slippery. On top there's a circle with a middle of 5 metres. While going down I saw the parapet torn and broken. It's very dangerous if you think about it. This needs repair, it's not safe at all. If this will not be repaired, they should close down this site.
After I sat under a waterfall (and again). It's gigantic when the environment shows itself like this. Muscles in the neck and shoulders are massaged in a natural way.
It was difficult to see a piece of the bothanic gardens, probably because it was out of flowers. After I took a delightfull dive. We had to get out at two o'clock because dark clowds were heading to us form the mountains. I even couldn't recognize the green colour of the trees anymore, that is how gray it was because of the rain.
In the evening I got Wim from the airport, together with Ralph. The driver drove like a mad man, but we were smart enough to have barained a price-deal of 20 dollars. That wasn't too expensive if you realize that the distance from the Campamento to the airport is about 25 miles.

September 17, 2002

We slept late in the hotel. The food is very different from the food in the Campamento. We devide in four groups, so we can take four visits. I visit a provincial childrens hospital. Outside we visit a lecture about the hospital. Healthcare is very good. Only in Cienfeugos childs-deathrate is 5.8 on every 1000 born living babies. This is also being recognized by the international world healthcare organization. All over the country this rate is 7.8, equal to more developed countries and a huge lead to lesser developed countries. This has to do with the fact that each 300 civilians have 1 familydoctor, so there's always someone to act when needed. One handicap is the fact that medicins all have to be imported which makes it very expensive.

During the questionround the brigadists act surprised that healthcare in Cuba has all that is needed. They probably didn't expect this on Cuba. The hospital looks sober, but it's clean. A little paint here and there wouldn't be ugly at all though. The chlorine of the desinfection is smelling. There are no long waitingterms. Two months is maximum. In Holland this is a lot worse, emergancies not accounted for. After this we leave for the inner town. The temperature now is 30 to 33 degrees Celsius. I'm sweating a lot and very much like taking showers.

In the evening we got a cultural evening, which meant that musicians peformed (mostly elderly misicians, about 70 years old) and one group of younger musicians (about 12 years old). A fine evening organized by the Cubans. After this we went to a disco in the hotel. Sometimes days and nights are very long, because the Cubans expect you to dance all night. Sometimes I'm really tired, so all I do then is watch. Probably my age has something to do with it. A perfect day has past again.

Arnold.