In the second week of August, JB & I decided to take a drive a few miles to the west, here in lower Michigan, to a rural area of numerous Amish farming communities. I always take my camera because one time when I didn’t, there was a perfect photo of two draft horses, with a hay wagon backed up to a barn door, waiting for the hay to be unloaded before going for another load. Oh how I want that image that is perfectly composed in my brain.
Most of the time having a camera is a frustrating experience because the Amish do not want to have photographs of themselves because they consider photos to be “graven images” or idolatry. There have been several times when I could have taken a photo while they were facing the other direction (and I did this once) but I haven’t been able to get past the guilt of such blatant disrespect, even with my advanced skill of rationalization.
So I take photos of hay fields on cloudy days in a misty drizzle.
The purpose of our little excursion was to go to the Amish bulk food store to get a few things – and the granola I love to eat on ice cream. I always think that our automobile is strangely out of place in the parking lot – although they do welcome our business.
I was fascinated with transportation in Cuba – especially how people move from here to there to work, shop and visit. I also enjoyed seeing how people used transportation to make money, for work. Above is a man who was selling eggs on this residential street in Trinidad. I also took a photo on the fly of a man driving his horse and cart past. When I edited the photo I realized he had eggs in the back. These are cobble stone streets – a rough ride for an egg.
As in all cities, we saw many people walking. It took me a few minutes to figure out that this man is carrying a cake. I wonder what type of celebration is planned.
Bicycles are a very common form of transportation. This man has turned his taxi bike to a delivery bike, at least for today. The government controls most forms of production and services, while keeping wages very low. Consequently people are very creative and resourceful in finding ways to make money, seemingly outside of government control.
I acted quickly to get the next photo when I realized the cargo was a hind quarter of a hog. It could be on its way to a restaurant or someone is planning a big gathering with roast pork. I bet there will be beans and rice – a staple of Cuban meals.
This farmer’s cart with fresh produce is obviously bringing joy to this women as she is thinking about supper for her family.
One of the reasons Trinidad was my favorite stop on our trip, was because three of us had time to walk around a neighborhood to see people living their day. We observed many working hard and throughout the trip learned that most people have a hard time supporting themselves and their families. They are having to live their day-to-day lives with major shortages in basic materials and very low wages.
I’m not sure how I came to the conclusion that the U.S. embargo beginning in 1960 is to blame for the severe poverty in Cuba. However, the more I listened to descriptions of daily life and thought about this issue, I came to the conclusion that the U.S. government policy cannot be blamed. U.S. domestic laws don’t apply to other countries – so Cuba is free to trade with the whole world, minus the U.S. What appears to be creating the poverty in Cuba are the economic policies of the Cuban government. I will share more observation on this topic in future posts.
One of my first observations was how few cars there are in most places, and the wide variety of ways people get from here to there. In the cities we visited, like Havana, Trinidad, Cienfuegos, and Matanzas there were taxis – some in a form familiar to us and others not so much.
In the countryside and small villages there are few cars, and people used a wide variety of means available to them to get from here to there. The customs of travel were ‘foreign’ to us but our guide gave us some glimpses to how it worked, like the people holding a 5 peso note out in front of them were attempting to get a ride to another village. I was also surprised by the number of people who relied on horses for both personal transportation and for business. My next Cuba post will be on business transportation.
It feels so good, when in a foreign land that is so different, to see something that is familiar.
And something to excite our memory.