Personal History for Arturo Mesa Imbernó
Title of Your AutobiographyRemembering: The Story of My Life
About the Author:I dedicate this to friends, wife and kids and to those who will take some time to read about me.
Date of completion.Started January 14, 2006. Eleven days after turning 38. Finished March 10, 2006.
Words of wisdom, favorite quote, or words to live by:"You live only once and basically, it is not enough.”
Just The Facts
Please enter the date you began answering these questions.January 14, 2006.
What is your name (first, middle, maiden name, last)? Do you like your name? If you could, would you choose another? What name would you choose? Who were you named for?Arturo Mesa Imberno. I am quite pleased with my name. They said they wanted a king in the family and so I was named Arturo. The other option they had was Richard, but in the end they decided to name me Arturo which is more likeable.
Are you male or female?What kind of a question is that? Definitely male.
In what country, state, and city were you born? What hospital?I was born at Hijas de Galicia Hospital in Havana City, Cuba. This is the hospital where more people are born in Havana because it is located in the most populated neighborhood in the city.
What is your birth order?I am the third child of three children. After my sister Barbara and my brother Alberto.
How old are you today? How old do you feel?I am 38 and feel like 10 with 28 years of experience.
Do you speak any foreign languages?Well I am writing right now in one – English - for my native language is Spanish. I also speak French quite well. I learned French at the school where I used to work. There was a free French course and the teachers were my friends, so I decided to take it and in the end it worked quite well for me. Right now I am studying German, there is a German course on television which I am following. It is not a big deal but I had picked the basics of this language when I was at the University and now I am refreshing the notion I think I am doing fine. I’ve always loved languages. If I had more free time I would probably go for Italian or Chinese.
What is your birth date?I was born on Wednesday, January 3, 1968
Are you right-handed or left-handed?Right-handed.
Are you near-sighted or far-sighted?I still have 20/20 vision which is quite surprising for the amount of reading I do and the time I spend in front of the computer. But there is a little refractory problem that I have and it gives me a bit of a headache sometimes, and so the doctor has suggested that I wear glasses
What is your height, your weight, your eye color? Do you wear corrective lenses?I have brown eyes and don't wear glasses or contacts. I wear these because of the headache, but they are not necessary for me. It is not the pair that I need to carry everywhere or anything like that.
What is your mate's name?My wife is Annet Gonzalez Mijares.
Are you overweight or underweight?Doctors say I am the right size for my weight. I am 1.68m and weigh 68 kg. I do some exercises in the morning in order to stay in shape both physically and intellectually. I have always believed in the power of physical exercise and since I was basically a child I started doing some and I keep doing them today when I am already 38 years old.
What is, or was, your occupation?I have been a teacher of English since I graduated in 1990, but have done some translation and interpretation too. Until this year I was very proud of my accomplishments as a teacher which finalized in a scholarship that I had earned to make a Master Degree in the UK. But I was denied this chance by the government ministry I worked for, so I decided to quit the job and I am on my own till I find something else that re-motivates me to continue my work. I have been a radio announcer too and a chess trainer, since I have always excelled in this game, and made some progress when I devoted time to it.
This situation at the ministry made me very sad because I have always thought that I had been born to teach languages and that really motivated me and with this chance that the British government had given me I felt that I was on top of the world. I had plans to write books and articles about this matter yet the news came that for no reason (other than the usual politics thing) I could not travel there and initiate my training. It was so sad that since then I have not really meant to work in education anymore.
What is your race? What is your religion? What is your political affiliation?I don’t know a thing about race but my ID says I am white (for whatever that means) and I have no religion whatsoever, other than the one that unites all human being under the fact of our being human beings. I don’t have any political affiliation and if I ever have one you can shoot me right there.
Do you live in the suburbs, a city, a town, or in a rural area? What is the population? Do you live in an apartment, a house, a condominium, or a retirement home?I have lived in Havana city all my life, and I have only lived in two houses - my folks’ and now my wife’s. The area is heavily populated and very noisy on weekends. It is actually much safer than many places in Havana but still I could use some quiet around me. You can also say that this is the suburbs, because it is a few miles from downtown, but easily accessible, and the homes are pretty comfortable themselves. This is a private house, very independent from other homes. There is a garden in front with a garage on the right side. Then the house opens to the living room which is quite spacious and then there are two bedrooms to the right. After the living room there comes a kitchen and then there is my bedroom. It was originally a terrace, but I brought it down in order to build a bedroom and a bathroom.
Are you allergic to anything? What is your blood type?My blood type is O Positive, and I am allergic to dust and moisture.
How would you describe yourself?I would describe myself as positive, happy, active sometimes hyperkinetic, workaholic, creative, respectful, sociable, a bit too sociable and relaxed, but always worried about the well-being of my kids and wife.
I can also say as to my faults that I am a little rancorous and vengeful and don’t like too many changes around me. I get easily annoyed when people don’t obey me (well “obey” is a bit strong but sometimes I think I am right I experience has always proved me right) or pay attention to me especially when I know that I am right. Sometimes I like to do things on my own because I have the trend of not trusting people when I need something badly and when I consider that if I want something done right, then I have to do it myself. This is another feature that I consider improper of my behavior, but I can’t do much about that.
Your Family and Ancestry
List the names and birthdates of your mother, father, maternal grandmother, paternal grandmother, maternal grandfather, paternal grandfather and other great grandfathers and grandmothers. What did you call them?Mother: Zoa Margarita Imbernó: 7-12-32 died 12-23-85
Father: Alberto Mesa Piñeiro: 8-22-27 died 5-11-1995
Brother Alberto Mesa Imbernó: 6-9-1962
Nephew: Andy Mesa Gómez: 9-3-1996
Nephew: Rainer Mesa de Armas: 4-3-89
Sister: Barbara Mesa Imbernó: 5-5-65
Nephew: Marcos Gil Mesa: 1-8-80
Maternal Grandmother: Regina León: 12-3-1913 died 12-20-1985
Maternal Grandfather: Juan Imbernó: 5-6-1910 died 4-10-1988
Paternal Grandmother: Rita Piñeiro: 7-22-1904 died 3-12-64
Paternal Grandfather: Casimiro Mesa: 5-5-1905 died 5-5-1975
Do you have brothers and sisters? What are their names? When were they born? Do you remember the first time you saw them?My brother is Alberto Mesa Imbernó. My sister is Barbara Mesa Imbernó. I remember my brother sleeping in the same room where I used to sleep, but only for a couple of years, because he left for Russia one day when I was about ten and when he came back I was already a young man. Until then he was all I wanted to be - very energetic, kind of cute, and very intelligent.
My first memories of my sister are when she was already a little woman because she had this boyfriend who lived with us and later became her husband and they had a child (my nephew) but we did not have much time together because she was engaged and I guess most of her time was spent with him.
Where was your mother born? Where was your father born? What circumstances brought your parents to the place where you were born? Were there people already there whom they knew, or did they come into the community alone? Was the community welcoming to them?My mum came from an eastern province (Ciego de Avila) with her dad, after he had divorced - she may have been his only possession of that marriage. There were other brothers but they all stayed behind. So he came to Havana and this is where she met my Father who was a hardware store clerk and who had been born in Havana. She found a job as a secretary just as soon as she arrived and settled immediately because of her writing skills and her beauty. So we can say that the community was welcoming and supportive. Yes.
Tell about your aunts and uncles. Did they play an important part in your growing up? Do you remember any special aunts and uncles?Mum had a couple of brothers and sisters, but we did not keep in touch for traveling was so difficult at the time. They came to our house once or twice a year, but mostly when I was little and I don’t keep a fresh image of them.
As for my Dad, he had two brothers and a sister. I still see them from time to time. They did mean a lot while I was growing because they lived nearby and I visited them and ate (wow I loved Aunt’s cooking) at their places now and again.
My uncle Enrique drove a truck and then a taxi. Whatever he drove home I always asked for a ride. He spoiled me sometimes. They all were so close (uncles, aunt and dad) that hardly did they get angry or had any discrepancies and they all worshipped my dad who was the biggest.
Did you play with your cousins? Who are some of the cousins you know best?Of course I played with them. There was a girl cousin who I particularly loved (who didn’t love a girl cousin once when they were young?) and we used to play a great many games. My cousin Enrique played a lot with us too, and my cousins Mirian and Alina were close, too. I sneaked into their homes and then came back quite late. Those were great family times.
As to the cousin I know best, Alina still lives in the same house that I used to visit as a kid, although the house has suffered a deal of changes. She has a child now. His name is Carlos and I go there and take the kids from time to time. We keep in touch because we live not too far away from each other and sometimes work takes me near her place. She is very easy-going and likes to talk a lot. She is very nice with my children and is always asking me questions about my work and my life and all of those things.
Was there someone your family was particularly proud of?Every one was very proud of my Dad. He was a jack-of-all-trades who solved everyone’s problems and had time for everyone and everything. No matter how late you came in with a problem, there he would go to try and find a solution for you. I still haven’t figured out how he managed to find time for everything. When I do, I might have become as great a dad as he was.
He had a lot of work. You can imagine how stressful it must have been to raise three children and to keep a house because mum had been granted “leave” since she was not able to use one of her legs. He would come back from work and get down to doing all the chores that needed doing at that time. He may not have been a very literate kind of guy, but he certainly knew how to raise a family and everybody knew that there was a guy to count on.
After mum passed away, we were still young and he dealt with all of us both as a mum and a dad. Being as he was, one might not think of another word but just the perfect father.
If you could do anything differently about your family, what would it be?I would have liked more time with my mother and her relatives as well. They all seemed so nice those few times they came around. And when I did visit them, they were very polite and quiet people. I always enjoyed staying with them and was eager to travel back the next year. I guess we’ve lost touch with all of them, those who remain I mean. My brother tells me that he visited the house recently and that there are some remaining folks who still share our blood. Someday I will take the trip and see for myself. I am just not the traveling kind. This is something I regret - knowing that there are others who share your name and there is not much I can do to have us all together. I would have liked them to call me from time to time or to drop by and visit as they used to do, but that never happens.
Did the family get together much casually, or did you have to travel and dress up to spend time together?Getting together was not part of our routine, except for my father’s part of the family that we used to visit every now and then, that was the official outing I would say. It was not too far away, and I would go with my father sometimes walking other times on a bike, and that felt great. As to the rest of the family, they rarely came along.
Was yours a religious family? Did you attend services together? Were these dress-up affairs?No, my family was not a religious one. We were baptized for whatever that meant, but we did not attend church or anything like that. I am aware that my mum was religious because I have seen some of her papers and her pictures, but somehow during the marriage, she preferred to let us choose our own doctrines – something that I really value, for I intend to do likewise with my children – than to have us go every Sunday to Mass or anything like that. Dad was not very religious, because he was more of a practical guy, but he did go to church with Mum when they met and he believed in the existence of “something else”.
Did your family say grace? Did you sit down at the table together for every meal?No, we did not say grace, though we did sit together everyday. My sister would set the table and I would get the water. My brother brought the napkins but those are very faint images that I have because both my brothers went to school for the week and I did not see them until the weekend.
Did your family take vacations? Did you go to the same place every year; a summer house or resort?We used to go to the beach a lot. Dad used to take vacations and down we went to the beach every day. It was like an excursion because we packed some bags with food and stuff and we spent the whole day there. It must have been terrible for him since transportation was so poor back then and we did not own a car or anything.
There was this woman whom I should have probably already mentioned. Her name was Asela and she was a bit older than my parents, but she treasured me and she took me to Varadero every year, a beach resort about 80 miles to the east of Havana. I loved these trips because the place was so beautiful and she did not have kids of her own, and I probably came in handy.
On Sundays I always had lunch at her house and there were other people invited too. I was little and found this quite amusing. But when it came to vacations, I knew that she would always rent a house at a summer resort and take me there. There was this year when she even booked for a tour around the island and I was so lucky to be invited. I guess I would never forget those days because it was the first time I saw the whole island and away from my parents. The entire journey was about 10 days.
Do you remember any special stories your grandmother or grandfather told you? Do you tell any of the same stories to your grandkids?They lived away and did not come around much, and my paternal grandparents had passed away before I was born. What I remember is that my maternal grandfather lived with us for a while and when he was there he taught me to play chess, something that I have always done. He tried to teach my brother, but he would not learn, and after spending a couple of weeks with him in front of the board I picked the essence of the game and started playing tougher everyday. He was also a very avid reader and that is also something I picked from him. To this day I keep reading books before going to bed, at least a page before falling asleep. I always wondered where the books in my house came from, because neither my mother, nor my father were great readers and now I think that they must have been brought my him.
What was your relationship with your parents like? Would you describe it as warm? Formal? Loving? Stern? Demonstrative?I can say it was warm and supportive. It was a close circle with parents and children and that’s as much as I remember of them. It was not very loving in the sense that they did not show much their feelings, but it was certainly supportive and protective.
My mother was worried about my education and my not becoming a street guy, and in that sense she behaved quite strongly sometimes, but that is not something I regret, because that is what is happening with me and my kids today. As to my father, yes he was protective and wanted to supply for all my needs (ours I would say) and that may be the reason why neither my brother nor myself are very much into making repairs around the house or anything.
Did your grandparents live nearby? How often did you visit their homes? Did their homes have a special cooking smell? Onions? Cookies? What did their couch feel like? How big was the kitchen? Describe their home as you remember it.I did not go to visit them very often, but my memories revolve around a big living room clock that made a very scary sound at night, but my brothers were always around so I did not panic. I also recall these great black beans she used to cook that smelled delicious but tasted much better. She was such a good cook that the 400 miles were worth the effort.
As to the house there was a reception hall in the front and then came the living room (where the scary clock did most of the panicking), then came a corridor that led to two or three bedrooms, a kitchen at the end of the hall, although I don’t have a view of the kitchen in my head, I do recall that there was a yard after that and in it, there were dogs, ducks, chicken, birds, fish you name it. I loved that yard and all the nature meaning it had.
Did your family ever have a reunion? What were some of the best reunions and why?Reunion for us may have been those times when my mother’s family came from Camaguey and spent some time with us. The rest was just the visiting to my aunt Caridad’s house. We did not entertain at home much or receive relatives or anything like that. It was all about being quiet I might say.
Can you remember any stories you heard about your grandparents when they were children? Do you feel as if you knew much about their lives?Sadly, I don't. I actually don’t know much beyond their names and nationality. Not too many people to ask around today. I have heard that my paternal grandma had nervous disorders and that led to an early death, and that her husband suffered greatly after that. He lived near the baseball stadium and sometimes we visited him because I always loved baseball, but I only have a vague image of him.
As a teenager, did you get along well with your parents, or was there trouble?Oh I loved my parents. I recognize that I was not a very easy guy for I got into trouble now and again and a good spanking was well deserved at times. But they were always very transparent people an wanted to raise transparent children so there was a reason for everything. I was the youngest - the child of their old age - and was granted a lot of permission and many more things my brothers never dreamt of.
How about your brothers and sisters? Did you get along with them? Do you remember ever playing a trick on your brother or sister? What pictures come to mind when you think about playing together?My brother and I used to play soccer together on the roof of the house. We did not have a yard but we did have a huge roof that was all fenced and safe so we would go up there and play soccer. You may imagine how he used to beat me up for he was six years older and of course much stronger than me. There were also some boxing bouts that used to last as long as he wanted. Boxing is very popular around here, so he used to give me names of famous boxers and let me win sometimes and then when he got the big names I knew what was coming, so playing was mostly that and probably some quieter games like chess, dominos etc.
My sister and I never played together. She was born already mature. I barely have any memory of her playing with me or anything. We did not have a very close relationship - something that remains today - but it was OK, as we were growing.
Did someone in your family cause your folks more trouble than the rest?Definitely me. I think that has to do with my being the last child and the one mostly spoiled. I remember that teachers used to ask me if I was really my brother’s brother and my sister’s brother, for they were so predictably well behaved that I had to laugh whenever a teacher asked me the question. I was expecting the question at any new class I arrived. It does not mean that I was particularly terrible, but I was always very active and could not stand one hour in the same place. I needed to talk to people, to interact, and teachers were a bit boring and they did not know much about interactive lessons or things like those. Then there was this incident with the police where I was involved, practically by chance, because we were just hanging out and having fun and there was a misunderstanding with the authorities, and the misunderstanding brought us a week behind bars, and that definitely marked my parents, they thought I was already spoiled and that they needed better care with me, but soon they had to admit that it had just been a mistake and that I really was in the wrong place and at the wrong time.
Have your pets been like family members, or just like animals? Did you ever have a dog that ran away? Try to list all the pets you've had through the years and their personalities.We had first this no-breed named Nati which was always on the roof, from where she used to bark to almost everyone and then came down at nights and behaved so well, because she knew that if she barked she would be sent back to the roof for the night. She died of old age.
Then came another no-breed black dog called Sunny who loved me so much that escaped from home just to wait for me at the corner or in the porch. This one was poisoned, and the sad thing I remember is that he did not die until I returned home that night, after I sat with him for a while and tried to feed him until, well, it happened.
After Sunny came a German Shepherd called Zenga – named for an Italian goal keeper. The dog was so playful and obedient that everybody loved him on the block. He used to play baseball with us. You threw the ball against the wall and he used to catch it in the air and that fact gained him fame in the neighborhood. Well unfortunately he was so playful that one day he ran after a couple of kids and we never saw him since. Those were the dogs that we had as a family.
But I cannot avoid mentioning this pet that just became a pet although originally he had been food. It was a rabbit. A male rabbit that we called Pancho. I used to practice sports on the roof of the house – that was quite large – and we started raising rabbits. Well this guy had the habit of escaping from the cage in the evening and every morning when I went upstairs to feed them, he was the first to come to me and greet me. Incredible, he was not afraid at all, he went everywhere I went and stood in front of the other rabbits while I was feeding them. Can you believe that?
My friends and I practiced sports in the afternoon and I left the rabbit out of the cage because I knew that he would leave anyhow, and besides he would not disappear. So my friends came and he slept under the weights bench while we were exercising. Everyone was astonished and everyone laughed at it. But the story did not have a happy ending for him. One night as he was out apparently a cat wanted to have him for dinner, but he decided to jump from the roof and he died. We were sad for a while because he was very unusual.
Did anyone in your family do handiwork? Needlework? Wood work? Was anyone particularly mechanical or artistic?Dad was the Jack-of-all-trades. He either did plumbing or electricity or electronics or carpentry, whatever. He was so skilled that if we had any kind of problem or whim he would come and do what we wanted and that’s probably the reason for our not being able (my brother and I) to even hang a picture on the wall.
Mom was not particularly creative but she would do some knitting and sewing and she had the most beautiful handwriting I have ever seen in my life and probably you wouldn’t see one like hers either. My brother studied engineering in Russia and devoted his life to electronics and my sister and I became teachers and we’ve been teaching for more than twenty years. As to artistic, well the closest thing to it was my early interest in writing. I have participated in many writing contests and have tried to publish my book of stories, but it seems so difficult from here, that sometimes I think it would not be published at all. I have also written some stories in English and they have appeared on some sites, not very influential sites I would say.
Maybe this is a good moment to include one. Here it goes:
Confessions from an Early Dad
It has been repeatedly said that a teacher is like a father away from home.
A little short from my sexual maturity, I started having descendants, but so unfortunate was I, that the stork brought the kids in bundles of five ten or even twenty, and quite grown up. She really had little mercy on me. The offspring who landed on my lap actually needed some fathering, maybe some spanking as well and a lot of guidance as to their next steps.
As every major event in life, this story started some usual morning. Can't remember whether there was sunlight or not; I leave the detail to the poets. I had hardly had a hint of Mr. Morpheus the night before that very special day. He is used to not showing up when aid is required. Anxiety and himself make a lousy match. In my case it could have been due to my Zodiac features ruled by an all out Capricorn with the purest of lineage. The morning never seemed to arrive but when it did, the realization that my dilemma was at the turn of the corner, well - the corner six-miles-away - began creeping through my stomach making me sick.
It was a lovely day actually. The blinds in my window started a mesmerizing talk with the rays that infiltrated to the living room. I was about to start a forty-five-minute journey by bus or camel since by then, camels had already been brought from Africa to my city and were being used as transportation of the needy given their speed and comfort. Not even that quest had frightened away the moment of my arrival to the final and eternal destination - "The Classroom".
Considering the fact that such a "mean" means of transportation can deprive people of the most civilized memories of chivalry, it was a deed to have forgotten the maneuvers to get onto the bus. Eagerness had worked his way through the veins. Twenty language students were in a classroom expecting the arrival of their new instructor. New indeed; his first appearance on stage. "Nice to meet your acquaintance". It was I.
I had recently graduated as a Teacher Trainer in Second Language Acquisition and was about to start the noblest of professions in not the noblest of schools. What a debut! And what made the joke even funnier was the fact that in my years I had mercilessly criticized those very teachers for whatever they did. But that day I was the one to receive the criticism. And they seemed to be very revengeful. It was an immediate disliking reaction what I felt for them. Students can be so mean.
To make matters worse for me I didn't even had the chance to start with beginners. They, at least, wouldn't have noticed my novelty, just my pair of brand-new jeans. Brought with the most intentional "ingenuity". I was recalling my former university teachers and how much they strove to get us to retell about our weekends or days off, or even when we wickedly claimed that our homework had been stolen at the bus or that we had left the notebook on the table after working on the homework till two in the morning and so on. How very cunning of us! How very patient they were! Well I was a student anyway.
So, as I was saying, my debut was among teachers as myself or as I would be some day with the huge scope of knowledge and experience I'd have if luck would forget about my doorknob. Apparently the student were craving language training, and I was the elected one. Not that my English was Great but that theirs was becoming Greek.
You can imagine what it might have meant for me to approach those people in front of whom I had uttered my first guttural sounds in English. It had been a long time since I had left high school but they remained being my "revered gods".
I respected them and admired them greatly. I had received my first advice from them - about my not studying humanities let alone science. They assured me that my favorite color was the color of grass specially when a storm was approaching. I did not quite understand that, but they were teachers. What was one to expect. What kind of relationship could there be between grass and university careers? That wasn't the question anyway.
Well, I had arrived. The room was great, as it always is after two months of vacation and being “studentless”. My pupils' faces said it all. I have learned to read more from those faces than from the complete collection of "The Book Of Knowledge". They were asking themselves: "And what's this guy gonna teach us anyway?". They looked at each other like fish out of water. They wanted to laugh their heads off. I didn't quite like that laughter either. "What's funny about a teacher if I may ask?".
I introduced myself and I had them do the same, so, it all went well for a while until the first dilemma showed up. I had forgotten among the nervousness of the moment whether Wednesday had the damned d in front or after the n. Yap, it was so.
It was the first Wednesday of September. I had never wanted so much to have started my teaching days on a Monday or Tuesday or even a Sunday. Whatever. But it was very Wednesday and it had to be spelled on the board. I even thought about leaving the board in black for the next two hours. They didn't know what I was going to show up with. But ethics spoke and I had to be formal. But how was I going to solve that problem?
My experience as a student told me to search for glasses. Thick, big, protruding glasses. The thicker they are the more intelligent the guy tends to be. So my savior was seated to the left, right in front. "Could you please write the date on the board?” I instructed him. And there he went, proud and useful; all the stage for himself. Wow, I loved the guy immediately.
That Wednesday I saw on the board looked so pretty, and else, nobody ever questioned it, so I started my first lesson on a lovely "Wednesday" morning at about 8:00 am in front of a great-dumbfounded audience that was witnessing the "birth of a star".
Soon after that, the show got on wheels and it drove on and on, for tenses and phonemes and graphemes and wording and on and on. At some point I came to the realization that Shakespeare had been quite a whimsical kind of writer. Language seemed so easy for my students while the immortal bard had taken so long in writing his masterpieces. Unbelievable. What could ever be the use of an auxiliary which doesn't really mean anything? Why do I need to pronounce a regular past tense verb with a T or a D or anything. And what's the use of an S in I-don't-know which tense. I even thought I was being pushy. I had my own doubts about my language back then.
I worked with them during four months trying to explain the whims of Shakespeare or Madonna, depending on the way you see it. Or even Eddie Murphy because what was spoken there reminded me of the "darka siraf" Bronx.
No wonder they hadn't protested when my Wednesday appeared on the board. They wouldn't have protested even if I had hyphenated the word in the middle. I would be today the record holder for a word misspelled for the longest time in history. I would have preferred the beginners though. Mistakes are harder to eliminate than what it is to teach the unknown. And, if at the end, they don't know, I would resort to advising them to something green like the military draft and that's it. By the way, I think I have heard that before.
And there I was, for another four more weeks trying to complicate their lives with oxymoron and hyperbole and you name it. Don't forget tenses and voices and moody moods. I think they hated me even more than Hamlet, or something in him they saw in me. Yeah, that was the question. I'm sure.
After a while I had to teach another class and those teachers remained to the mercy of a colleague, and vice versa. I didn't have any more chances to show around and see how they were doing. Though I did go to see my colleague when he was hospitalized for some dys-something.
But today I take pride in announcing to the four winds that my efforts were not in vain. Several years have passed and I have seen most of them again in different places very closely related to languages. I have seen them driving a cab and I have secured a couple of rides of course. Some are cooks and, as you know, restaurants are quite dear around here.
Those friends are a fortune and at the same time I avoid the hypocaloric diet I have imposed on myself. I have seen them as barmen, but I only drink in social occasions, whenever I have a "socio" around. I have seen them as photographers but if you get to see me you will know about the reason behind the lenses' disapproval of my looking at it. There is even one as a football coach. "God bless me." You see. I am a successful and brilliant professional. They all have something in common. Their jobs demanded a first degree language diploma. See. It was all to some avail. Ain't I a fully successful Daddy?
What did your dad do for a living? Your mom? Your grandparents?Dad was an electrician, but the kind no boss would ever let go, because he could do anything at his work. He used to work for a community service enterprise. Mum was retired after I was born, but she had been a secretary for a while. My maternal grandfather was a salesman, touring the city with his products, and my grandmother was a housewife. About my paternal grandfolks I never got to meet them and we never talked much about them so I can’t really say much.
Were you considered rich, poor, or middle class? Were times ever tough for all of you, or was it always smooth sailing? Did you have to go without things that your friends had?In this country [Cuba], at times things appear to be equal for everybody although I do recall sneakers I never had and toys we never could afford.
Dad worked for a salary which was not much but had to raise three kids that was exceedingly too much for his income. Mum being retired received a pension or something that was just symbolic for what that meant, but things worked very differently around here concerning financial stability. With just a salary you could do magic, however these things have changed a lot today.
Were your parents fancy dressers? When you think of them, what do you remember them wearing? Did your mother wear a special perfume you remember? Did your father wear cologne or after-shave?Mom was a lovely woman but she suffered poliomyelitis and she got a limp which dragged all her life. So she must have suffered a lot after that cause she never went out or dressed fancily or wore any special perfume. As to my father, he used to go to work on a bike and there was no perfume. I don’t even recall that we sold any after shave in Cuba at that time. “Boy we lived so happily!!” My dad did have a strong smell, but was not particularly disgusting or anything, it was just like any other mechanic or working guy. It was very usual in him.
What was it like when you took your mate to meet your family? Were they welcoming or standoffish?They never knew when I was being serious because I used to bring some girls just to listen to my records and others just for fun so we never really talked much about that. Actually I think they avoided the topic themselves. But I was engaged to a doctor-to-be and she met them and my father loved her and opened up the doors to her and even worried if we were doing fine. She was the only one that was taken seriously.
Was there one moment when you felt that your parents and siblings accepted your mate as a family member?Only for the doctor. They did not even take me too seriously. I remember that my parents did not want my brother’s mate to sleep with him in the room and he was already 16 or 17 so I thought that the same thing would probably happen with me, but I was so wrong. They did let me do it. I believe they tried different approaches with us three and they seem to have worked because the three of us became educated and career fellows.
What are the treasured pieces of furniture or family heirlooms that belonged to your parents or grandparents?No one in my family is much into heirlooms but I would say I treasure the following things most:
My parent’s bedroom -although empty now - My Dad’s collection of technical magazines. Mum’s poem notebook. Their sewing machine (probably worth a few hundreds) and their living-room set, still standing. I also have a dresser that is quite old and a little forgotten in the corner of the room, but I do not want to get rid of it, because it meant a lot to me. That’s where they put their clothes and they kept mine as a child, so I do not want to let it go.
How did the Great Depression affect your family?Never heard of that. Although we have had quite a few depressions around here if that is the intention of the question. I remember sadly the year 1990 after the fall of the Berlin Wall. We came into something called the Special Period that meant zero everything. We had to strive hard in order to make ends meet. People cooked together sometimes. There was no electricity, no transportation, and I don’t want to remember those times. In 1994, when things became extreme, one of my sons was already a few months old and I had to ride my bike about 30 miles in order to get some basic products. It was literally terrible.
When you think back on your mother and father now, what do you realize about their lives that you didn't understand when you were growing up?I never understood and quite still don’t understand how my dad raised us three on only one income and still have time and money for vacations and parties and restaurants sometimes. I guess I have to break all the walls in the house to see where he had the money.
Looking back, do you think your parents were happy with the circumstances of their lives?Yes. Specially the day my mother died I remember seeing my father crying so hopelessly that nobody knew what to do. He seemed like a child that day, and then I realized what my mother meant for him. And mom always looked very pleased and involved in her daily tasks and routines that took most of her time. They were all the time talking about the accomplishments of their children, how the bigger one had gone to Russia to make an engineering career and when he came back all the good jobs were in front of him. They always mentioned my sister’s high marks at the University and my chess skills and my getting out of the hole I got into while I was in high school.
Did your father have a favorite saying you can remember him repeating? Did your mother have a favorite saying you can remember her repeating?Dad used to have a saying that put into English would go something like: “At home we do not eat but we laugh our heads off.” But, the way he said it, made us all laugh.
The House of Your Growing Up
Do you have warm feelings about the childhood home that you remember the most?It was alright but I go there today and it is so empty that I feel sad about it. My sister lives upstairs because she built a house there and she has made a mess of the house. I can’t stand the way it looks. As a child I saw that house as a palace, big and always painted and beautiful. My special place was the big roof it had where I used to play with my friends and my brother. It always seemed so bright and so full of life that I get homesick when I see it now so empty and practically coming down if we don’t do something about it quite quickly.
What did your home look like? Apartment, walk-up, condominium, or house? What was the color? Was it stone, wood - other? One story or two?It was a one-story house with three bedrooms, a kitchen a small yard, a huge living room and a huge dinning room. Very practical and comfortable for us all. Everybody had his room, and my brother and I shared one that our father built of wood on top of his bedroom. After my sister married, her husband started to make a second floor in the house and that is where she now resides. The house was cozy and warm and I felt at ease there and very relaxed it had nice furniture and everything seemed to have there for ages.
What did you look out onto?My bedroom looked onto the yard and a friend’s balcony. I remember that whenever he and I had plans to go out to the beach or something he would throw little pebbles to my window so I would be awake early.
What was your bedroom like?Small for the two of us, but when my brother left for Russia I owned it all. I had two beds for myself and the shelves were all mine. And the window!! I kept in the room a lot of my most valuable possessions. I still keep some of my books there. The room was made of wood and had two big windows and a door that later led to my sister’s room.
Did you share it with your siblings, or was it cozy by yourself?With my brother as I have said before. But later it was all for myself.
Can you remember the pictures that hung, wallpaper, carpeting, etc.? Can you remember your telephone number and address?Calendars and practical stuff for me and my brother. A picture of John Lennon and the Beatles, and a few other teenager possessions. I think some calendars are still hanging there. There is funny story about the John Lennon poster.
In Cuba at the time John Lennon was considered a composer who incited the masses and was a bad example for the “Communist youth” who had to be formed here. So you can imagine what happened the day some guy visited my house and saw that hanging in the wall of the living room. Immediate hell. So I had to take it from there and put it in the bedroom. Fortunately things have changed and right now we even have a park in Havana called Lennon Park and it even has a statue of the leader of that prestigious band.
What did you do to make your room your own? Did you sleep with a stuffed animal or doll? What was your animal or doll's name?I decorated it with pictures of the musicians I liked at the times, like Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Queen, Journey and a few others. I also had my music equipment and a collection of tapes. Some books there too. I remember going to sleep at three o’clock in the morning several times because I was just reading or listening to the tapes.
Can you remember what you daydreamed about in those days?Well, traveling all over the world, becoming somebody famous, having a couple of kids and a loving wife, you know the usual things. Wanting to be strong, I would think that at 40 I would still be doing bodybuilding, but it is long gone and forgotten. I do take some exercises in the morning now and then but the idea of bodybuilding is gone.
What time did your mail come? Was it exciting anticipating the mail? Can you remember anything in particular that you received that was special?There was no regular mail delivered to us. A few magazines perhaps and correspondence I got with a girlfriend from the eastern provinces in Cuba. I loved reading her mail. Later on I participated in a pen-pal association and I met people from all over so it was exciting to get things from new friends. The postman knew my name and all because I was the guy that later collected more mail in the morning. And then, sometime much later I participated in correspondence chess, if you don’t know what that is, let me inform you that it is a sort of competition where you send one move and have to wait till the opponent sends his in order to answer. While the move went and came, a whole week or a fortnight went by, so the game could be over in a year. Right now these things are not like this because there is Internet and people get moves immediately. I have to say that even that way it was very exciting.
Was security an issue? Did your parents keep the door locked or did family and friends come and go with the door unlocked?The door was always open. It was traditional in the neighborhood, things have changed dramatically today but it was different back then. There were two main doors and they were locked and secured at night, but during the day both doors were wide open. The back door overlooked a neighbor’s yard and a few balconies of other people, but it was alright. There never was any problem as to privacy or anything like that.
How old were you when you were first trusted with a key?Twelve for sure. They gave me the key before they even gave it to my older brother. They trusted me before I guess. It infuriated him when he learnt but it was true as it was also true the fact that they let me go everywhere I wanted and at 16 he still had to give coordinates as to his whereabouts.
Did your family eat at the kitchen table or in the dining room? What food conjures up the best childhood memories for you?Always at the kitchen table unless it was a big party or family gathering. Lots and lots of beans and sweets and desserts that my mother used to make. Mum always fried these bananas and squashed them and then refried them and they were delicious.
What do you remember having in the refrigerator growing up? Could you graze freely or eat only at meal times?I was a bit of an night owl so when I came back at night from my outings, I ate all I found, and believe me what I found was delicious. Fruits, drinks, salad dressings, cheeses, and meat items.
What was your parents' room like (beds, bedspreads, easy chairs, etc.)? Did you spend much time in their room with them? Were you allowed to rest in their bed when you were sick?It always had a big bed where I used to sleep after I came back from the school. It had a big wardrobe and a lot of pictures on the wall. The bed was always arranged and it had these big blankets that I later inherited because I loved them.
There was also a big mirror and a dressing table for my mum, but I remember using it much more than what my mother did. My father had built everything in the room when he decided to get married with my mum. It was his wedding present, since he had the skill to do all kind of hand work, he did it and it was much cheaper than anything else he could have come up with, and definitely much more useful and nice. My mother always appeared very comfortable in the room, although it used to be plundered by my brother and myself.
As my brother and I grew older, my father decided that it was time for us to have our own space. The house had two bedrooms and the other had been given to my sister. So he started building a wooden room on top of his (we call it barbacoa in Cuba) and so my brother and I started using it and we would decorate it and make it malish. But in order to get to the room we had to go through my parent’s room and later a window was added and it looked at my sister’s room.
Was there much music in your house or was it relatively quiet? What type of music, if so? Did you play a Victrola, radio, record player, boom box, CDs?Radio, there was definitely a radio played at home, though we viewed a lot of TV too. My dad used to listen to Spanish singers a lot and mum loved and adored Julio Iglesias, she had a crush on him. I got a tape recorder that my brother brought me from Russia and I started recording rock and pop music. I used to play that music a lot partly because it made some people mad (people I hated) and partly because all my friends loved that music, too. There were few people with recorders then and I was the center of the music world at the time.
Was there a lot of talking going on? Did you feel part of the adult conversation?Not much talk actually. A few adult discussions that may or may not have included us but not really much of a family conversation.
Was there any place in your house that scared you (the basement, attic)?No, but I never really liked being alone at nights. It was not that the house was spooky or anything, but the place was big and it had a small yard that led to the roof, and the roof had access to some houses and I was terrified when my folks went out and I had to stay behind.
Was there any place you felt was really "your spot," felt comfy alone or maybe a hiding spot in Hide'N Seek?My bedroom and the roof from where I could see the entire neighborhood.
Did you have a lawn? Have to mow it? Did you have gardens of flowers, vegetables or herbs? Did you help care for them?No, nothing of the sort.
What kind of chores were you required to do for the family?There were never any required chores except for maybe take the garbage out and go buy the milk or the butter maybe, these little things. I never cleaned or washed or anything. My dad used to say that my responsibility was only to study and to do well in the exams, as to the rest he could handle everything. Today I am more or less the same kind of parent, because I do not let my children worry too much about anything. My wife and I get into rows sometimes because she thinks that children need to be raised with responsibilities and I tell her that they have enough time to worry about responsibilities. I feel that I was raised this way and it worked alright, so I see no reason for using the same kind of philosophy while raising my own children.
What was your favorite season at your house? Do you remember summer as too hot or exhilarating and perfect? Did you swim a lot in the summer? Did you ski or do winter sports in the cold weather?Summer was alright, we used to go to the beach as a family and we did a lot of swimming and rowing, it was all cool and fun. I never was much of a winter guy so don’t recall how they were. Oh, now I remember that my father used to prepare these big bowls of oatmeal that were delicious and then we used to play some board game before going to bed. Yes, that was definitely in the winter.
Were there books in evidence around your house? Was there a special room in the house considered the "library"? Which of your parents' books and magazines do you remember reading?Books and magazines were everywhere. Mostly children books novels, classics and technical magazines. My brother and I read about anything. In the living room there was a huge bookcase full of all kinds of books. There was always one to choose from. I can’t recall to whom the bookcase belonged because my father did not read things that were not technical and my mother rarely left the house, let alone to buy books, so, come to think about it, I don’t really know whose bookcase it was.
Anyway it was there and we enjoyed the literature and the teaching behind all those books. I think that this bookcase was the one that got me into writing. There was so much variety and so many interesting things to read about, that that must have awakened an inner interest for the letters, and so my first writings were not just out of the blue, it must have been a reaction to everything I had read, and for that I thank once and again to whoever had built or put that bookcase right in the middle of the living room.
Were you or your parents interested in the news? Which news stories made the greatest impression on you?No. None of us was until I grew older. Since I was at the University I have been reading news and articles and you name it. I even get summaries of some of the most important news items in pages like “Aldaily.com” and others that I have found very interesting, but back then I just sat in front of the TV only to watch the shows and programs that really interested me, like the music shows and the cartoons.
I can say those that impressed me were shows about the moon and the discovery of planets and people going to the outer space. I was also quite shocked at the fall of Russian socialism and thought that that was impossible to happen.
There were a lot of sports news that impressed me greatly. A few accomplishments by very great athletes, too. As to my father he had a very deep Spanish roots and he liked the programs that dealt with Spanish cultures, although he enjoyed “Westerns”, but he hardly ever saw any news on TV. My mother went for the music too and the soaps. That was all we watched at that time. Ah; I forgot to mention something very important; we had a black and white TV!!
Where were the telephones in your home? Were you allowed to stay on the phone as long as you wanted or was there a time limit?We never had a telephone. And even today we do not have. This is something very uncomfortable because you can imagine what life is like without it even more in today’s times when there is the rush of communication and the pressure of the days. Sometimes I need an urgent call and I have to go to my neighbor’s house and bother him, and some other times when I must receive a message I can only use my mail and that is not effective enough because most of my friends don’t have one.
Which door did you use mostly? Front door, back door, kitchen door, side door? Was there usually someone there to greet you when you came home?The front door. And it was the only available door to enter to leave the house, there was a back door but it did not lead anywhere.
What time did you usually eat dinner? Was the family all together?About 7.00 pm. We had dinner together everyday, except for the times there were good shows on TV and we ate in front of the telly. I must also mention and remind that my brothers were not much in the house, because was at a military school and later he traveled to Russia for five years and I was alone in the house and as to my sister, she was at her school during the week and only came back home during the weekend, so the rest of the days I was alone in the house, eating by myself or with my parents.
Were you proud of your house or shy about having friends over?I loved to have parties at my house. Any time I had a chance I invited people over, and if I warned about these invitations, my dad would start cooking something nice for the people who were to visit.
Did your parents have friends over often? Can you remember them having parties? Where did everyone gather? Did company come often for meals?Not many, but my father received visits from his workplace and they came for coffee or refreshments and stayed a while. If they came by car I would ask them to give me a ride and they accepted many times. Sometimes on weekends my brothers invited somebody from their school, probably a girl or a boyfriend and then all the nice china came out and I was so surprised, the meal was usually excellent. But these are the normal things that tend to happen in every home.
What time of the night do you remember your house getting quiet and preparing for sleep?Everybody went to bed at the time they wanted, we did not have a regime for sleep or anything. I usually stayed on the corner of the block talking to some of my friends or playing something and then I would enter after midnight, but nobody worried too much about it. There were times when after a long talk on the corner we decided to do something or to go to another place and that was when I knew that the return was going to be probably at 4.00 or 5.00 in the morning. My parents trusted me with a key when I was quite young and after that they did not mind much about my evening whereabouts, something that did not happen with the other two.
Did relatives or boarders live with your family? What were their quarters like? Were you allowed in there?We rarely had people stay the night with us. My grandfather lived with us for a few years but I was so little that I hardly remember anything about him. The only thing that I remember is that he was the one to blame for all my chess enthusiasm and all the competitions I have ever gone to.
Do you remember your house having a particular scent (cooking smells, aroma of flowers, laundry scents)?Can’t remember.
What was the street like where you lived? Did you have a front stoop or porch? Informal or formal?The street was crowded and all bumpy. We did have a porch and a lot of neighbors nearby, as kids we used to play soccer in front of the house and we used to play baseball too. You know, Cubans and baseball. But the street might have been a nice place at that time, but that was lost many years ago. Now it is a destroyed piece of path where not even cars dare to enter.
Can you remember excitement about a certain purchase (washing machine, phone, addition to the house) or repairs to the house?Our first tape recorder was particularly crazy. It was given to my sister on her 15th birthday and I remember sneaking into her room to listen to some of the firsts cassettes we had. Then came the black and white TV. I was little I guess because I do not remember very well when it came to the house. It must have been after I was 10 because earlier we used to play cards and checkers and dominoes.
If you could now move back into the house you grew up in, just the way it was then, would you? Why or why not?Well I happen to keep the house mostly as it was, but I guess that living there again will be a bit too hard for me given the amount of memories there are present in every corner of it. I would have to bring the family completely and even so I am not sure I would like to do that. I guess the neighborhood has a lot to do with that too. It is so destroyed that it is shameful the way it looks today. So probably the answer to that questions would be a no. I think that my children are living in a nice place and they are surrounded by nice people and they also have a nice house and neighborhood. I would not like to disrupt that and it may happen that if they have answer this same question they would say the say the same I am saying, but still, they are happy there as of right now.
Who were your best friends in your neighborhood? Do you still know them or know what happened to them?One of my best friends from childhood is Ricardo Romero. He lives a block away from my childhood home. I can say that right now he is into doing whatever grants him a few extra bucks, but he went to university and studied languages and had a lot of dreams like myself.
I guess he grew a little more practical at some point and realized that he needed quick and easy money right away. I visit him from time to time and he visits me as well. I recall those endless nights when we used to go to a stadium to train some karate and we would be there for hours and later we climbed a fence to sneak into a swimming pool where we would finish the training. Those were great times.
Another big chum of the times was Carlos de Armas who now lives in the States like many other pals from the childhood. We were together all the time, going to parties, beach, camping, etc. until the day he decided to go to America. He was there for ten years without seeing him but coincidentally he returned this year and we had the chance to sit and talk for a while.
The other friend I had was a funny guy named Carlos Alberto who also lived round the corner, just across from Carlos’ home. He was very funny and fun to be with. A lot of girls wanted to be near him, not because he was handsome or anything, but because he attracted nice people and was very creative and very rebellious as a child, like the “Rebel Without a Cause”.
Well he admired me very much and that fact together with his personal charm and pull made us very good friends. I remember that on some summers he used to carry a tent to the beach and put it there for weeks and I would always go and stay there for a while too. There were so many people going there, that I could not miss the chance to socialize and have a nice time.
Carlos Alberto always liked the music I heard and he had this big radio so when we were at the beach we would listen to FM stations and all the stations “had to be American” and that was where the charm resided. Being in Cuba you had to listen to American music or you were lost and no girl would come near you. So we would carry the radio and the fun was guaranteed.
Did you play at your home, theirs or mostly in playgrounds, the streets, fields?I played at their homes which were bigger than mine and had mango trees that were just excellent choices for a talk after class. We often went to the roof of my house which was quite large as well and we also went to a warehouse that was behind Carlos house and that it was most of the times empty. People left at about 4.00 and after that it was all for us.
We had to jump a fence and sneak inside, but it had a spacious yard inside and there we played a lot of games and practiced Karate too. I think that was our hideout for ages, I don’t recall when it was that we started going there, but I do recall that we always went there to play and that must have lasted for approximately 5-8 years or so.
Now on weekends we used to go to a hill about a mile from where we lived. It had huge peaks and a river across. It got pretty crowded on weekends because children used to go there with kites and other people went to do sports and to play in general. I remember this particular time that we were running and we had to cross the river. There were big logs that we used for the purpose and I was last and had to make it quickly, well, I fell to the river and the river was not exactly a very clean one, so I smelled terribly for a while and had to dash home.
What do you remember about your friends' houses and families?They were very welcoming to us. Ricardo had this big yard where his father used to have fish tanks and where there were equipment for exercises and we used to spend long hours at the yard. I loved that place because there was also a mango tree and after all the hard work and exercise we would eat all the mangoes we wanted and if you don’t know about mangoes and children, I can tell you that any child in just one sitting can eat 10 mangoes and live. Ricardo said that we did not care for the exercise or anything we just wanted to have mangoes.
At Carlos’ place there was a garage that was mostly empty and we used to hang a punching bag there and train for hours. Carlos parents were also welcoming and nice. Although we visited him a lot less because the garage was greasy since his grandfather had a taxi and he kept it there at nights. The next place in the list was my own house. We would go to the roof and then do whatever we wanted. We even played baseball and soccer there.
Did you have a secret path you used to take to meet your friend?Nah, that’s for movies and things like that.
Did you play house? Were you the mother, father, doctor, etc? Did you play stickball, ice skate, play basketball or baseball (what position did you play)? Did you go to the library?No, I never played house, guess my sister did a lot of that but not me. I did play baseball though I was not too good at that. I used to pitch for I was not very reliable in any other position. I did excel in soccer. People used to ask for me just to play soccer because I was quite good, but baseball, nothing like that.
As to the library I went there a lot. There was one in the middle of a big park around my place if I did not have any game to play I went inside and read for a while. I always loved reading.
Was there a neighborhood bully? Did that bully ever hurt you?There must have been but it never really affected us because we were all the time together and we kind of fought the same fights. Besides we were trained and nobody really wanted to mess up with some of use, specially Ricardo who could beat 3 guys at the same time. We were very close. I myself was never very strong but trained a lot of karate and so I always felt sure about myself. There was this time when I was coming home late with Ricardo and three guys stood in front of us to attack us and Ricardo pushed me out of the way and he hit just one of the guys and the rest just dashed out of the place. I lost some fights and won others but I never liked getting into physical confrontations.
Did you have a nickname? How did you get it? Has it stuck with you?I did not really have a lasting nickname, or anything that offended me much. I had some but they were very short lasting and never bothered me.
What sidewalk games did you play? Did you collect anything (bugs, baseball cards, marbles, etc.)?We'd play marbles a lot. That was the fashion of my times. People had hundreds of marbles and we played and won and lost. At home I had a thousand marbles or so. I would play a lot and won. At one point I collected stamps and coins but that did not really last long. My brother did have a huge books for stamps and two or three boxes. I think they are still lying in some drawer in the house, but I was not very motivated by the mere fact of gathering something and just putting it into a book. I needed more action and interaction.
Do you remember having the chicken pox, mumps or other childhood diseases? Were you ever seriously ill as a child? Who took care of you?The only serious disease that I had was hepatitis. I was in the hospital for a couple of weeks and then I had to follow a regime for another three or four weeks. It was terrible. Well while I was really sick, because after that I went home and had to rest all the time. My mother used to make these desserts for me that made me gain about 20 pounds. And besides since I was lying down all the time, I had the chance to read a great many books and in a way it was fun.
I was also born with a bit of allergy, but was not too seriously, it reflected on my eyes, they used to get very red and swollen, but fortunately those days are gone.
I also got a couple of scars while growing up. I remember the one in my chin that was while playing baseball. And this one in my lower lip that was while skating at school and my mother was cleaning the floor, I slipped and fell down 12 steps. You can imagine that if my mother did not die right there, she must have been very close to it. I got nine stitches in and another nine out. That is the first real trauma I remember because I was six years old and even today I see the green cloth that they put over my mouth and I see the huge poodle of blood that came from my mouth when I landed on the floor. Then I spent a week eating with a straw I could only have liquids. It must have been terrible.
Did you ever have a natural disaster in your town like a tornado, flood, or immobilizing snow storm?There are a lot of hurricanes in Cuba, some are nice but others really cause havoc. In the last few years people are more aware of the disastrous consequences of these phenomena but back then we were not aware of anything. I remember that my high school was brought down by Frederick, probably one of the most serious hurricanes that have affected us. Since then I can mention a list of all the terrible hurricanes that have decided to spend a summer in the island.
Fortunately my house had been strongly built and we did not suffer much, besides it was surrounded by bigger buildings that protected us against the rage of the wind. In the house where I live today I get scared whenever the storm goes beyond category two because there are a number of trees and one can fall on the top of the house causing great damage.
There is an avocado tree that has particularly kept me on the watch, because these trees tend to be fragile and it is a meter from the kitchen, so I fear that one day I may wake up to a breakfast rich in avocado. As to natural disasters, my father told me that once upon a time – and it had been confirmed by meteorologists - there was a tidal wave in an eastern province called Santa Cruz that razed the whole city causing 3000 deaths, they say it was the deadliest event in the history of Cuba. Waters from the sea were reported 10 km inland. There are pictures somewhere.
Do you remember a new family moving into your neighborhood? Did your family welcome them by sending food; were they hard to get to know; did they join your circle of friends?You know, I think because we kept to ourselves in the neighborhood, we weren't perceived as very friendly folks. We interacted, but that kind of interaction was very unusual. I remember that there was a family just across from where I lived that one day decided to move out, there lived three young women in the house and I was particularly close to one of them, so I suffered her departure and thought that the place might become empty, but then came a couple of brothers that were very nice people. I talked a lot with the sister and people began to believe that we were engaged, but the truth was that we had some things in common and we just wanted to talk.
What were your favorite board games?Chess for sure. I continued playing the game since and have gained national recognition and international ranking. I think of myself as a board game player because I have done well in chess but I also play many other board games, like checkers, domino, pool, cards, etc. I find it very easy to just sit down and have some fun over a board game, besides I learn the new games very easily and I am making constant progress in the new games.
Did you ever go door-to-door selling anything to your neighbors? Did you have a lemonade stand?Since I needed some money to go to parties and places I sold some shoes that my friend Ricardo made himself. Then I sold stamps and marbles, too. I think all children sell marbles. But as a child I had most of the things I wanted. If I sold anything, it was just for fun not for the need of a few extra dimes. Now when I got into higher education, and maybe because of the fact that I wanted money to spend with girls and friends, I did sell a few things that people produced and I tried to get a few extra bucks. There was a time when I even helped Ricardo to make his shoes and I would spend hours and hours in his room trying to make more pairs. That was when the tough life really started.
Would you like to have raised your children in a neighborhood like the one you grew up in? Why or why not?Absolutely not. It was dangerous for me, and scary at times, but I was there from day one so I was used to it - perhaps except for the day I saw two bullets less than a meter away. Besides the place is quite dirty and not very hygienic and I would not want that for them. I would not take away the joy of playing in the park they have where we live. It is huge and they know most everybody there and if that were not enough, well there are other two parks next to that one and there is little traffic so there is no harm in letting them go out on their own and play.
Did you have any imaginary friends growing up? Did your parents play along?Never. But all the time I was playing with the sword, the enemy was the same - someone I had to defeat.
Were you afraid of the boogeyman or the monster under the bed?Not at all. I was afraid of loud noises and do not like at all the sound of those big trucks on the highway making all the noise, I did not like then and I do not like it today.
What were your favorite books, poems or bedtime stories as a child?Now this is a great question about my childhood, and adulthood. Oh how I loved to read! I must have read 20 books a year. Trying to put them in chronological, growing up order, here are some of my beloved books from childhood to present day:
The Mystery Island, and many others by Vernes and other adventure story writers. Some Russian literature too and Gabriel García Marques and Bennedetti. Some poets too, like Ruben Darío, José Martí, Lorca etc. I remember that I read Poe too, somehow later. The Catcher in the Rye was an excellent book that I read and that made me cry a lot. I also read The Little Prince and Lassie. After I read Lassie I never stopped having dogs at home.
Did you go to camp? Did anyone from your neighborhood go with you? Do you remember any of the counselors or groups of kids? What did you do at camp?Yes I went to camp every year for about five consecutive years. We played games, met people, and ate, ate and ate. We learned about other people’s habits, danced and sang by a big fire. I loved living with new friends. Loved talking to the "adult" supervisors. I craved for the end of the year to go back to the same place. In Cuba there is a city that was the city for students and now is some I don’t know what, but then, people went from all over the country and met and played and in general had a great time. It was by the sea and had been particularly built to guarantee children’s satisfaction and to have a fantastic time. We lived in that city for about two weeks and then returned home, but the time spent there was absolutely amazing. Even today when I go by and see the place I get homesick and remember the marvelous days that I spent there.
What did you ever do that got you into trouble with your parents? At school? What were the punishments?I missed school every now and then, just for the sake of it. Sometimes I escaped to a river and then got caught and that caused hell at home. I guess I never tried it again. Punishments don’t recall them, but I was spanked a couple of times, probably my parents did not know about spanking not being too educational, but in my case (in most others too) it worked.
Did you attend a religious school? Did you bring those values with you into adulthood?No nothing about religion was ever discussed at home. I think that religion is something that you have to discover with your own experience. It must not be taught as something imposed from above or from your parents. If parents are to do a good job, they must leave the door open, but they must not teach it as such. I may tell you what it is and what it entails, but I must not impose that on you, you have to discover for yourself (not by anyone’s influence) and then decide your position about it. And that is precisely the philosophy I am trying to follow in the education of my children. Sometimes it gets very difficult because there is too much influence from other friends and from other neighbors and sometimes from the grandmother and grandfather and we have had a bit of discussion about that. I believe that their own wit must be the judge of their religious beliefs.
Was your neighborhood a good, safe place in which to take walks? Do you remember any incidences?My neighborhood was not safe but I had been born there and everybody respected me, but it was not a very good idea to be tempting destiny at two o’clock in the morning. This particular night, I was coming home from my girlfriend’s (one has to visit girlfriends) and this bunch of guys had the genius idea of beating the hell out of the returning-from-a-visit guy, but the guy lived in the first house from the corner and when they just hesitated a second in their “to do or not to do”, I was already in the porch and opening the door. For just a second I escaped and guaranteed an intact denture for the dentists to come. Apart from that I don’t remember any other incident with me or with my acquaintances.
What was a perfect day when you were a child?Going to the beach with everyone at home and going to have pizzas together.
What is your first memory?I was between three or four when my father allowed me for the first time to go out by myself and ride my bicycle with the kids in my block. That’s really the first memory of being me. He had given me the bicycle because I was about to start school and that was supposed to be an incentive to get me into being interested in school.
What were the names of neighborhood landmarks? The ice cream store? Drugstore? Barber shop? Grocery store? Flower shop? Shoe repair shop? What do you remember most vividly about them?Movies. There were a lot of them at just walking distance. The Apollo, The Fenix, Atlas, Florida, Moderno, Acapulco and many others. Apollo was a pizza-movie complex where we used to go a lot. I changed movies every night. On Thursdays there were premieres, on Saturdays you could go for the action films and on Sundays for Classics. I used to go to the movies a lot. Now I rarely go, but then it was my most favorite activity. Sometimes we just hopped from one movie into the other and the other and probably at midnight we went downtown for a cup of “Coppelia” ice-cream and a chat with some chicks and then probably a park where to speak with them more “privately”.
Now that you are an adult, what advice would you give to a child about childhood?Read.
Dream, dream, dream.
Play play, play.
Love the loved ones
Is there anything else you would like to write about your childhood?More family outings, more family traveling. I think that if I missed something it was probably that, but I happened to be oldest of all and my folks were already 50 by the time I was 10 and they did not go out much. That is the danger of having children at an advanced age. When they are young you are old and tired and then just one day and out of the blue – pum they are gone and you are on your own, and you had never thought that that could happen to you, especially in these tough days where you need more than just a shoulder, you probably need a backbone too. I will not have a child at an old age because of that and if someone asks for my opinion on the matter I will tell him the same thing.
Elementary School Years
What was the name of your school? How big was it? What did it look like? Was it a private or public school?I went to Raul Gomez Elementary, very small. Ten to twelve groups of kids, very big park around. Then Alexander Flemming High School, just across from the park - where I got the first scar in the chin. Then Pablo Lafargue University - Language Faculty. Lovely place next to the see and to a swimming pool that guaranteed my return to escapades. Lovely neighborhood and girls.
Did you ride a bus to school? If so, did you like riding the bus? Do you remember anything that happened on that bus?I walked to school until ninth grade. At high school I took a public transport, nothing exciting at the time. But at the University I had to take two mysterious buses, and they never showed up. So after the first bus I would walk about a mile to the University, but the area was so nice that I would not mind walking, besides many other people walked along.
What did you learn in school that you still use to this day?I had a great education. There's so much that I learned from K through 12. At the university I learned languages and that has been so useful in every day of my life. I learned to write too and I always appreciate that for writing is so important for me.
Do you remember being afraid to enter first grade? What did you think when you first saw the classroom?No. Actually I was desperate to join my brothers’ mysterious disappearances.
Do remember "getting" a concept? Cursive writing, maybe? Do you remember the moment when you realized you could read? Was school work hard or easy for you?Now that I think about it, I think I grasped concepts quickly. School work was not difficult but I spent a lot of time on it, not trying to rush through something. But what I did enjoy was reading. I guess I had gone to school already knowing how to read, because it was so easy for me.
Did you like physical education / gym class? Did you feel you were good at sports? Were you picked first or last for the teams?Oh running, running, running. Something like Forrest Gump. They took me to marathon and to every competition around. I was not a quick runner, but a tireless one, so whenever you run pass me, I laughed cause in due time I would certainly run pass you and then your expression had suffered a much serious change. I also directed chess teams, and went to national championships.
Do you remember shopping for school clothes? Getting excited at what you would wear the first few weeks? Did you ever go to school where you wore a uniform?Uniforms. We always go with uniforms until University. And my parents worried about them, not me.
Did you eat lunch at school or go home? Did you bring your own lunch? Did you have a lunchbox? If so, what did it look like?I always ate at home and then came back to school in the afternoon. At the University I had lunch at camp and I enjoyed it. There was this man that my mother had hired to go to school and pick me up and then to take me back after lunch and a bit of a rest. He was one of these guys that people make fun of and yell things at him, so I was a bit embarrassed at the guy, but he was very nice in the end and did not have any troubles with me or my parents.
How did you get to school...walk alone, with friends, bus, parent, neighbor?1-12 walked
What did you do in the summertime when there was no school?I remember going to the beach a lot and to camps in school programs. I would disappear for a week or two and that was so nice.
What was your first grade teacher's name? Were you in awe of her? How about your second grade teacher or third grade teacher...or others?Nieves was her name. We referred to our teachers by their first names. She was lovely and very serious. Big tall woman. Never seen her since. I remember Jaime, third year because he used to spank us with a wooden ruler. He was a karate teacher too and guess he needed action all the time. So he would make us stand up with both arms extended and he hit us in the palm with the ruler if we moved. Very interesting educational concepts that he had. There was a literature teacher in forth that was very educated and taught me a lot as to public behaving and stuff, and the first English teacher in 5th was a nice guy too.
Do you remember any visitors that came to your classroom like the mayor, an actor, a cowboy star?Interestingly, I don't remember any famous people ever coming to my classes, even in college.
Do you remember any field trips your class took? If you lived in the city, did you go to a farm, factory, big museum?As part of the education policy here, we linked school with work so we were required to go to the country side and work with the farmers for a month or so. Somehow it was nice for the number of friends you made and for the knowledge of the country life.
Did you say the "Pledge of Allegiance" to start the day? Did you say a prayer? How did you feel about those topics as a child?Nothing of the sort.
Were you ever the new kid in school?Not really.
Did you win awards at school? Were you ever a star in music?I won sports awards but apart from that, nothing. As to music I appear to be kind of deaf for music.
Who was your best friend in elementary school?Good question, and quite sad. Julio Cesar was the guy but after 3rd grade he disappeared and never saw him since. I had lunch at his place now and then, he had a beautiful sister and a lot of toys in his house. Our mums we very good friends and I even stayed to sleep on certain occasions. He also had a huge fish tank and I enjoyed being there with him and playing and just eating his mother’s lunch.
Do you remember the names of any school books? Do you remember the illustrations in them?A literature book that was a collection of children stories. There was a particular story of a kid who had to defend his country and the mother thought he was going to school and she did not see the couple of hand grenades he had in his school bag. There was a picture of him behind a house, hidden, and ready to launch the grenades. Quite sad the story.
Did you have a hobby during those years? Did you ice skate, build things or perform magic, etc.? Did your school mates know about it or did you keep it to yourself?I trained karate with my friend Ricardo and no one knew about it. It was not a good idea to go around showing that you know some martial arts, because after that if people are going to fight you then they will not use their hands to try to beat you, they would use something harder.
Were you in a scout troop or any other organization? Do you remember the leader? Any projects? Any impressions?No I was not.
Who was the principal at your elementary school? Were you ever called to the principal's office? If so, why?Don’t remember at elementary but in high school I was once called to his office and boy did he look scary, although he was short and had the custom of speaking two sentences and looking at his shoes. Funny, but scary.
What did you think of the older kids? Did they seem sophisticated to you? Were they doing some activity that you just could hardly wait to do?They did seem stronger. Many of them liked to body-build and they were so bulky that I looked so small next to them. They did not seem sophisticated at all, actually they seemed like farmers to me, though they were all from my town as well. I have seen them today and still appear to me like farmer and still appear bulky guys.
What was your attitude about school? Were you excited about it, bored or just tolerated it?It was alright. Some days more exciting than others. I would say that there were fun grades and there were dull ones.
Do you remember kindergarten? What do you remember?I did not go to kindergarten. I spent that year at a neighbor who received children at home and took care of them. But I have great memories of a kindergarten, because my sister went to one and it was near the house. What I recall mostly about this place was that there was a small swimming pool where you saw children all the time. I always though that that was so fun that I craved for my mother to put me there. The swimming pool –though long gone now- is one of those little places that you remember from day one and makes you nostalgic when you see it again. The place remains as a kindergarten but not the pool, it was so small and nice. It’s a pity they did not do anything to restore it.
Did you have any friends who went with you all the way from elementary school through high school? Are they still your friends?Ricardo and I met around there and are friends to this day. We went to all grades together, enjoyed a lot of things and went through a deal of hardships, but I do not recall a single fight or discrepancy between us. I remember fights with the rest but I do not recall one with him.
Did you have a favorite teacher?Not really. I think I started appreciating teachers later in life.
Do you ever remember your mother coming to your school for any reason? What was the usual punishment at your school for wrongdoing?Yeah !! One afternoon she went straight to my seat and to my horror opened the cover of the seat and what did she find? A collection of stamps that I had decided to “sell” (wrong action at home). Punishment? A locked room and a locked week.
Do you remember having to stand up in front of the class to read a paper or a story?Yeah !! I sang once, can you believe it? I had spent the week trying to learn that song, because it was particularly long and had a lot of verses in it, but I managed to learn it and did very well. I think that if I try to remember even today, 30 years later, I can sing most of it. As you can see memory is a big factor when it comes to teaching.
Can you remember a historic event that happened when you were in school?Well from this side you can’t forget the day Mr. Posada Carriles decided to play God and kill 73 innocent fellow citizens. I remember the director reading a note to everybody and then the mourning. A day to be erased from the existence of “humanity” if it is to be called humanity.
Is there anything else you would like to write about the school years before high school?No, I had a lot of freedom and did a lot visiting to friends and girlfriends. Good years.
Life in a Small Town
What was the name, state and population of your town?10 de Octubre. Havana City. No idea as to population, probably 100,000. It is the most populated municipality in Havana City and I happened to have been born there.
What was the main source of the town's income?We have a global economy but there were quite a few industries around.
Did you have the pride of having a farm or business handed down from generation to generation?Not at all. I was the first language specialist in the family.
Did you ever dream of leaving your small town?The small town, the small province, and probably the small country too.
Holidays and Celebrations
Do you like your birthday or dread it? What birthday do you remember the most?Oh I love my birthday! Keep them coming. I had this neighbor who used to give me presents and take me out. Besides dad bought cakes and presents too and everything was so great. I still take birthdays very seriously.
Did you get to choose the meal on your birthday? Were birthdays considered a "big deal" when you were young? Did you raise your children to think they were a big deal?Hugely a big deal. Absolutely I got to choose the meal and help plan the details of my birthday. My children have been raised to know that they are big and will be big for many years to come.
Did your family make birthday cakes or did you buy them? What were the favorite flavors? What kind of birthday parties did you give for your children?No we bought them but I loved some special dessert my mother made and she knew that there was nothing better for me. For my children I still celebrate them big time. I prepare the house buy stuff children’s stuff and have a photographer come along. And then tan tan tan tan tan.
What were the most important religious holidays you celebrated throughout the year? What was the significance of the holiday (i.e., why were you celebrating it)?New Year is the biggest celebration around here. We celebrate it for days on end. Nowadays, and particularly after the visit of the Pope, we are celebrating Christmas, but this was something that we had never done. So our country, although deeply religious, has had to conceal that sort of belief and in the newer generation, like mine, many of us were not raised under the dogmas, so it is not possible to make us see red in something that we were told was yellow, if you know what I mean.
How did you celebrate each major holiday?Christmas - quietly on Christmas Eve and with family. I tend to invite a friend who lives by himself and who is a very nice person, so we bring him home and prepare the meal, if it is Turkey fine, or whatever the choice (no many choices actually) we buy some rum or wine and make the holiday worth it. After that, more rum into the night.
New Year's Day - a big everything. We prepare the huge meal this time. It has to be pork, otherwise it is not new year. We also have this root that I don’t know where it came from, it is called Yuca, we make it with lemon and garlic and it has an unimaginable taste, that combines with the pork and the congri very well (ah, congri is rice and beans cooked together). We also buy the wine and the champagne which is usually reserved for midnight. But then the most mysterious thing happens. I wake up all those who fell asleep during the night and kiss them and wish them the best in the year. Just then I go to the bathroom and fill a bucket with water. Once it is filled, I throw the water out to the streets. As the tradition says, it is to cast wrong spirits and to eliminate bad luck.
Labor Day - “funny, at work. Laboring.”
Thanksgiving - big feast
What holiday did you especially like? Which holiday was really not much fun for you?I loved them all. I guess the best were when everyone was around, eating too much, and just laughing.
What were some of the best memories from any of the holidays you celebrated?There was one New Year that about midnight I had decided to go to sleep but then when I got home I thought about a girl friend of mine and then went down to her place and the next thing I knew we were engaged for the next five years. It was very funny because I had talked to her so many times and in all of these occasions she had said No, I was losing hope and felt bad about it, but then she kept coming home and speaking with me and all that, then at about midnight I said to myself, what the hell, I am going there again and I am going to try one more time and it really worked.
What was served at your holiday dinners? What do you remember about these dinners?Pork, Salad, Yuca (if you don’t know it I recommend you search what it is and how it is prepared specially in Cuba) Black beans and white rice, chips or fried bananas, pork skin and many more.
What are some of your memorable birthdays from your life? Were any birthdays particularly difficult because you reached a certain numerical age?The most memorable were after graduation, the students never forgot to make a big party at them.
Is there a holiday present or birthday present that especially sticks out in your mind?My bicycle of course, what else would a boy say?
But there is another that I won’t forget.
I came to work and oddly enough there were no students sitting in class –it should be mentioned that I teach adults – so I came and nobody was there. After a while I started getting anxious and a little bit pissed. So I came out to get some air and I saw the first student, a very beautiful blond woman who had been nominated the secretary for the day.
She came to class with me and we talked for a while until she considered it was time. She asked me to go with her to a club that was a block away, because she wanted to buy cigarettes so I accepted and went with her. To my surprise and shock, all my students were there. They had rented the place in order to celebrate my birthday. Nobody had forgotten and what was worse they had all been planning on the day for a long time. It was a very nice experience, although I confess I was very nervous when I started seeing people at the club.
Did you have a shower for a wedding or baby? Do you have special memories of these events? Who was there?No nothing like that.
How did you celebrate New Year's Day?At home, watching the shows on TV and eating a lot. Ah we are used to throwing a bucket full of water outside the house to take away the evil spirits or whatever. I just don’t know, I just do it. OK?
How did you celebrate Valentine's Day? Did you and your schoolmates exchange Valentine's in elementary school? What was the best Valentine's Day for you and why?I love Valentine's Day. I bought flowers and yes exchanged Valentines’. All of them have been more or less the same way, so no bests. I get presents, she gets presents, but as long as I have the right person to give the present too, it will be a great Valentine.
Did you ever get flowers or candy for Valentine's Day? Any other unique present on that day? Do you still send and receive Valentine's card to this day?No. I must have but don’t really remember. We are used to sending and receiving cards or mysterious notes and then the usual present from your girlfriend or boyfriend, and then you are supposed to give yours. That is the tradition in Cuba as to Valentine’s.
How did you celebrate Easter or Passover?We do not celebrate Easter
Did anyone ever dress up like the Easter Bunny to surprise your children? Was church in your schedule at Easter? Did you color Easter eggs?No we do not share that nice tradition.
Was Mother's Day an important day? How did you typically celebrate it?Yes, one of the most important. We bought a cake and mum felt so good and well taken care of. We got her cards too and we read the others she received. We would also spend the day on food for her and on all the other activities she usually did, so that day she is absolutely free to do whatever she feels like doing.
How about Memorial Day? What did Memorial Day mean to you and your family?That’s for Americans mostly.
Was Father's Day an important day? How did you typically celebrate it?Just like mum’s. Cakes, postcards and presents.
As a child, what did you do on the Fourth of July? What do you do now?This day coincides with children’s day in Cuba but as to the real meaning of it, we do not do anything.
Labor Day signified the end of summer. What were some of the best Labor Day weekends you experienced?We do not have that celebration either.
Do you like Halloween? What have you gone dressed up as? Did your parents make your costume or did they buy them? What was Halloween like growing up? Do you remember the pals you Trick-Or-Treated with?Another non-typical celebration here.
What did you usually do on Thanksgiving in your youth? What do you do now?It is really the exact same tradition, cooking the evening before to make a great feast for the afternoon of Thanksgiving. A big group of friends and family dropped by and then we would either drink wine and talk into the night or go to a bar.
What do you do on New Year's Eve normally? What was the fanciest New Year's Eve party you ever attended?I love New Year's Eve - either having a big black-tie, elegant party for 30; a quiet dinner with a few friends; or spent in bed. New Year's Eve cannot be ignored! I have the habit of preparing this huge table for us on New Year’s Eve. I wake up very early and go out and start looking for the things I am going to prepare then I come home and start the cooking with everyone in the house. In Cuba we have the tradition of buying a pork leg, and then we go home and start frying the skin and eating the skin with a couple of beers. After that we have a small lunch and we leave it all for the evening when we have the big meal and the big table. I set the table in such a way – I may have been a waiter because it looks so beautiful – and people get mesmerized and we open a bottle of champagne. All the money goes for that day and the next day, does not matter. That is exactly the way we Cubans are.
Do you remember a holiday you had to spend alone? Which was the best holiday of your life? The worst?No we were always together.
Any advice to a new parent about celebrating the holidays? Any regrets?Think of the children. They have a world of fantasies; don’t break them. If you have a dollar, use it for the birthday, he would appreciate it, and if you have a hundred, use it too. The child knows the effort that you have made. And more importantly he will remember and love you for it, so do not start to think too much about whether to celebrate it or not. Always do, and when he gets older fifteen or more do as well. H will still be a child and feel like one, and that is very beautiful and it tells them that you really care, and caring is the most important thing when it comes to loving and raising children.
I have two of them and till this day, I have not stopped celebrating their birthdays, (six and twelve) sometimes I have had just a cake and a little car for a present and some other times I have had hundreds of things. Whatever the case they always appreciated it and enjoyed the party in the company of their friends. That is really worth doing.
What did Christmas morning feel like when you were a child? Was it hard getting to sleep the night before? What are some of your holiday religious rites and traditions?Wake up earlier than my parents to see what was in store for me, but mysteriously my presents did not sleep home, they only appeared after my folks woke up. I never really understood that part and the Santa thing.
Where did you go to high school? What was your mascot? What were your school colors? Do you remember any of the cheers? What was your favorite song during high school? What type of music was popular?At a big high school near my home called Cepero Bonilla, a national hero. It didn’t have a mascot or color or anything. The music that was traditional was the American music of the 70’s (does that sound familiar?) I don’t think we have many traditions as to schooling.
Who were your friends? What did you like about them? Who were your favorite teachers?My best friend in high school continued being Ricardo, we were always best chums. And my best teacher was the chemistry teacher. I almost make the mistake of studying chemistry but fortunately the spell broke one night at 12.00 midnight.
What kind of extra-curricular activities did you do in high school? Were you on the school paper? A sports team? Were you a class officer? A cheerleader? A nerd? Were your friends involved in the same activities as you were?Running and chess. Always running and chess. In high school at a certain point when I started to do very well in chess I did became someone people looked at. I started to go to national competitions and (was excused from school) sometimes so you can imagine how envious my buddies were. There was a master in chess in the school and he was from the upper leagues, and people never thought I was going to beat him, I was just a kid, well on the summer camp one night he beat me once and the next thing he knew I beat him twice. Wow !! that felt so good. Me being the best of the best, it was a dream come true and the guy promoted me to higher categories where I started looking at chess differently not just a sport. My studying years were about to start.
Were you ever honored at school? Varsity letter? Homecoming court? Valedictorian? Do you remember the students who were?Me a leader?
Do you remember any students you felt sorry for because other students made fun of them or took advantage of them?Several, but it happens in every aspect of life, doesn’t it?
Were you a diligent student or did you have a more casual approach?Casual is a cool word.
Did you study a foreign language? Did those lessons stick with you? Were you ever able to use that language on vacation or in your community?First English, see the result right now. Then German which I used at a very important chess event in Havana and guaranteed me a couple of extra bucks and then French which I have used several times. Languages for me seem like having a beer or going to a restaurant. I remember than when I was already working as a teacher, there came this opportunity to study French and I sat in a class and felt so comfortable and relaxed. I am sure that whoever is above brought me to the world in order to learn languages and to teach them.
Did science or math come hard to you? Did art or English come easily? Do you remember any long papers you wrote or any special projects?I hated science and math and loved English and art. I do not remember projects but participated in a few English contests, which in the end earned me my right to study language at the University of Havana. I failed a few science subjects. I remember that I had already been accepted for the university and I was very proud about it, but I had not finished the school year and there was the Physics course to pass. The exam came and I was so excited that I failed the test. You can imagine how stressed I became after that. Fortunately I was friendly to a couple of guys who were really geniuses and they came home and helped me study a lot. I was very close to losing my studies at the University.
Who did you go to your prom with? What did you wear? Did you dance much?Oh I’ve seen proms. It’s when he invites her and they go together to the final activity before graduation and usually they kiss. Good films. Wrong country though.
Were you a beatnik, hippie or rebel?Hippie and rebel. During my times there were very few of those and we were regarded as antisocial and against revolutionary activities, but we just loved the music and did not know what hippie was.
I actually got into troubles at home when I tried to hang a poster where there were photos of American rock bands. The neighbors said that those people represent .... and I had to put it down. Unbelievable. John Lennon was prohibited and now there is even a Lennon park with a statue and all in Havana.
I remember that we wore those tight jeans, so tight that you had to wear powder to get your feet in and out of the jeans, and we would combine the tight jeans with the very loose shirts two sizes above mine probably. These people were very common here and I was one of them for a while.
Women used to dress in a similar way but with very long chains and big bracelets and dark lip sticks. Yeah, I was close to some of them and my friends, Carlos and Carlos Alberto liked to dress like that and liked to go to places were these people used to meet. Carlos Alberto looked very funny because he was very fat and tall and he was the one that wore the tightest jeans and the loosest shirts and he looked so funny. His mother must have made the shirts from sheets or something like that.
When we went to concerts, there were many other people dressed similarly, and started drinking stuff and talking crap so one day I decided that the fun part of it had gone. My friends did that for the sake of it but some of the other guys were acting very weird and what one day started as a harmless fashion turned into something violent and there were confrontations with the police and with people and I did not like any of those things, so I gave the jeans away and refashioned the shirts.
Did you have hobbies, read a lot, enjoy political debates, bands, or just hanging out with your friends? Did you have a part time job? Did you babysit? Did you do volunteer your time?I thought everything I did was meaningful. I went to concerts, went out with friends, dated, put tents at the beach and stayed there for days, etc. Nothing more meaningful than that. I started reading a lot and writing, too. That was the moment when I started writing. My friends liked the kinds of things I wrote about and I got a few girlfriends with the poems so they liked them too.
I did not keep hobbies but hung around with friends until I met the doctor. She was a very beautiful hippie too, and we had gotten so close in the outings. She was the one I spoke to on the New Year and we decided to start a relationship. She had rejected me 10 times before but who knows a woman’s mind. She said yes to me and we spent the next 5 New Years together. It was very beautiful and romantic while it lasted.
Were you popular? If not, did it bother you? Did you buy a class ring? Was it a big expense for you?Yes, somehow, but not too much, or too impressive.
Where did your crowd hang out? Did you go to a diner, drugstore, library, friends' houses, etc.?My place and theirs, too. We went to the beach a lot. And we went to “Coppelia” which is… let’s see.. the hmm Central Park? – kind of, in Havana. We walk up and down and we sat to see girls go by and we talked to them Ah, girls also went there to walk up and …
What were the clothing trends when you were in high school? Did you follow the trends?Yes, tight pants and loose shirts. We always dressed that way. When the Americans started bomber jeans I caught a few too and sneakers. I followed the trend for a while, but not for long, besides when you are from around here it comes natural in you. You would not wear a striped pant because it is not just logical or an orange shirt or high heel boots, it is just not logical, but if people from the country side see you wearing those, they probably would. I would not do that even if I saw Ricky Martin with those. By the way he likes orange.
Who was your principal? Who was your gym teacher? Coaches? Did you spend much time at the library? Was homework easy for you?Yes, the library was always my hideout, and the principal changed quite often.
Did your parents like your friends? Were you happy in high school?Yes they did, because we were nice people anyway, despite the clothing and the decibels, besides they came from “nice families” whatever that means, and they had a plan in life. I was surrounded by engineers, doctors, physicists and architects –to-be.
Were you in a clique or sorority? Was it a good decision?No.
Did you ever skip school? Where did you usually go after school? Did you do homework after school? Did you work in high school? Did you ever get disciplined in high school?Yes, usually. Sometimes I just stayed home and did not really do much, specially on the cold mornings. Homework we had a lot but they were not very difficult at the time. After school I used to go to Ricardo’s and we practiced Karate into the night.
I was not particularly disciplined or recall any bad times there.
How did you usually spend your weekends? Did you do chores around the house? Did you spend more time at one friend's house than anybody else's? At whose house did people gather? How did their parents like having all the kids around?We went to Carlos’ house a lot and we would sit on the porch and listen to music for hours and played games and later in the afternoon we played soccer and baseball. His parents were nice with us, we were invited to dinner sometimes. At home I had a couple of chores like buying a few things, but that did not really interfere with my life and I did them quite willingly, unless there was a big line.
What did you discover about yourself in high school? Did you learn a skill that you could take out in the world with you? Were you sad when it ended, or were you ready to leave it all behind?I learned that I was gifted at chess and developed my skills that later put me into important tournaments, but I did not have much time to study and did not carry on with that as I should have, something that I have to regret about, for I was gifted and should have carried on.
Another thing I knew was that I was into languages for sure, and that I did pursue fortunately. I started getting private English lessons at a neighbor’s house from Asela - I mentioned her earlier. I soon found out that I was cool with English, and I started understanding the Beatles and Led Zeppelin and it was fun, then I registered for a language major at the University and since then have been involved in that.
Were you philosophical - a deep thinker?Oh yes. Better put I have always been a day dreamer.
Have you ever attended a high school reunion? What truths did you learn about your classmates, if you attended? What truths about your community that you might not have thought about before?We never really met after that. I have come across some of the people and done the usual catching up but nothing too formal. This is something I have always been sorry for. I had met so many nice people at the time that it is just incredible for me to believe that they were just passing clouds that you would not see them anymore. We never actually thought about reunions and today I am sorry for this. I would love so much to see them.
How important were your high school years in your life? Do you ever dream about those years? If you could have one conversation now with yourself when you were a high school student, what would you say?I think they were so important because I learned a lot of life skills, survival skills, and many other things. I would probably tell myself to make better use of my time.
How would the young adult you were view the person you've become?Too serious and too straight I am sure. At some point I got mature, very mature. One day I saw myself telling my students not to do the things I enjoyed doing a couple of years back and that made me laugh. I think this is the reason why I tend to match with my students. I give them time to enjoy and time to learn, but I definitely got more serious about life and more environmentalist and more concerned in general. It’s funny the way I changed. I must be a prefect experiment for an analyst.
Is there anything you would like to add about your high school years? Perhaps the best day of your high school years?Best day? There were really many. I honestly can't think of a best, or a worst.
If you went to college, where did you go? Why did you choose that school? How much was tuition? Was it difficult to afford? Did you receive financial assistance or a scholarship? A loan? Was your school large or small? What was it known for?I attended the Higher Institute of Foreign Language in Havana, very nice place and very professional. It was a big school with a lot of nice teachers and located in the nicest place in Havana. I chose that school for I had already become aware of my potential for languages, besides the choices I had were not too motivating for me. The school was famous for the language staff (mostly English) and for one more thing - girls. Besides the location was picturesque. Very beautiful. Today it has become one of the most important Ministries in Havana. I did not have to pay tuition because education is free in Cuba and so I did not need financial support, just the money for the bus and lunch, that was all.
What was your living situation? Did you live in a dorm or a room off campus? Who was your roommate? Did you get along? How did you decorate your place? Were you comfortable there?I traveled back and forth, sometimes I stayed with friends at the boarding school, but since I lived in Havana, I did not need to stay overnight. I enjoyed being with all those friends who had very similar interests to mine and who in general were happy to spend the coming 5 years with me. They were all from the country side and they were lovely people.
What was your major? Why did you pick it? Were you ever able to use anything you learned in college in real life? Did you change colleges or majors partway through? Why?My major was translation and interpretation, I chose it because I loved English and knew that I was skilled for that. Actually the whole five years were quite smooth for me. I don’t recall ever studying into the night (studying as such, not pretending to study with a couple of friends or the usual female company).
Have I used it in the real world? I use English everyday of my life. I think that every single penny I make today is very related to my knowledge of the language. I have been a teacher most of my adult life, both for state schools and privately and that has put me into a favorable position because in Cuba everybody wants to learn the language because that would guarantee you a good job in tourism or a place where you would be in contact with the dollar economy.
So for that reason I have made the best out of my studying years. Besides I have also been a translator what has also given me a few extra bucks. I get hired sometimes for very definite jobs, say a week or two for a couple of hundreds and things like that and it is very profitable if you see it from this perspective. Those jobs do not abound in any other field of the economy. And besides, when I was a DJ for a national radio station, I did English voices and it was fun and lucrative. Very lucrative.
Did you join a sorority or fraternity? Was it important to you?No. That is not usual here.
When you first got to college, were you thrilled to be away from home? If you were homesick, what did you do about it? Write letters? Cry? Confide in someone? Or try to hide your feelings? If you were thrilled to be at college, were you quick at making friends? Who was your first friend there? Did you remain close through the years?I was very thrilled, not for being away, because I was not really away, but for knowing the people from other provinces and for being into higher education.
My best friend was Lizzet, a young girl who sat next to me from day one till day last, year last. I cracked a joke once in front of her (not to mention that she was extremely beautiful, so I meant to impress her). It went like this: She was asking me if I came from far away and I said that I did not, then a couple of girls passed in front of us and I replied: “they do come from far away”. I knew that they came from South Africa so I was waiting for her to ask me and she did. She smiled a kind of very-funny smile and I knew immediately I had won. So we sat next to each other after that.
Were you on any sports teams? If not, did you follow them? Were any of your teams champions or near-champs?Chess and running remember. There was this marathon once, but I was known as a chess champ, however this day they saw me dressed for running and said “what is a chess player doing at a national marathon” I smiled and said “Tell you at the finish line”.
I was third at a “National Marathon”.
Was there any professor who made a special impression on you? Good or bad? What subject did he or she teach? Were you able to take more than one class from this person? Did he or she ever make a comment about your work that stuck in your memory?My first, second, third... just about everybody. They are still teaching around and although I know I learned the profession well and have been recognized as a good teacher, I still see them as Masters. There was one in particular that I still recall with love and sorrow – he passed away – despite his relatively young age. His name was Gustavo and he was very gifted for a number of things, but he had a drinking problem and it lead to health deterioration. Well he became my Translation teacher in third year and in class he was very serious and a little too serious at times, concerning the teaching of Translation of course.
Well guess what? He had made it to a National Chess Championship a couple of years back and when I face him in chess (don’t forget that I was already considered unbeatable) well I could not even make a draw in five games – what a disaster. Then he told me that there was a lot of studying involved in chess and I had not studied any of the authors he mentioned.
I think he was the one who imposed on me the habit of studying chess, and this was something I did not stop doing in the next ten years. He considered that I was the most gifted chess player in the school (odd enough after the beating) and nominated me captain of the school team and we trained a lot. But things did not sop there.
He was also the lead singer in a rock band in town that I loved very much. I always loved rock music and then there were very few rock bands in Cuba and this band was very good. I went to all concerts and festivals and one day out of the blue, when I arrived at one of the concerts he was there on stage, absolutely transformed as Dr. Jekyll and I could not believe what my eyes were seeing. How could a man so professional at what he did for a living and then so professional at a professional sport, turn into a rock star out of the blue?
his was something that struck me as unbelievable. How many skills did the guy have? And you had to listen to him, his voice was so powerful and nice, people went crazy - all the rock fanatics who usually know a lot about that kind of music. Well we became very good friends and we would play chess now and then and he gave me tickets for his concerts and all.
We even went to a strong competition together when my skills at chess had improved a great deal but still he beat me when we had to face each other. I was this close to win for the first time in my life, but in the best part I failed to notice a hidden move and it cost me the game. I have to say that I admired him enormously and I was very sorry and sad when I learned that he had passed away. He could never overcome (despite his intelligence) his drinking problem.
Why was it important for you to go to college? Was it an expected step in your community, or were you the first in your family to go for a degree? What motivated you most? Love of learning, or just getting through?I just had to do it. I needed to enter into an academic world that has to be around me every day of my life. I feel that it was the kind of training I needed more for my cultural growth than anything else. When you go to college you see the world differently. It’s true that in those years I picked a skill that would make me earn a living for the years to come, but it is also true that when I was there I began seeing the world from a different angle and I began seeing myself inserted in the world from another perspective. Until then I was just a kid with a will to live and after that I was somebody who had something to say and something to share with the rest. I have a responsibility and I have to accept my task as a teacher and do it with pleasure and love.
Were you able to get home for the holidays? What do you remember about going home once you began college?I went home every day.
Did you change much at college? Did your parents notice? Did you friends back home notice? Did they mention it to you?I did change. Before college I was just a hippie and fun lover, after that I just saw so much value in the fact of being alive that I thought I would not have enough time to do all I wanted to do, like studying, working, writing, raising a family and becoming someone - what does not mean forgetting about music or fun - but knowing that there is plenty of reasons to live for and to do something out of your stay on earth.
Did you remain friendly with anyone you met at college? Did you visit each other over the years? Did you keep in touch by letter before affordable long distance and e-mail?You mean those who still live in Cuba? Many have left the country. I do not visit them because the ones that live in Cuba, live very far away, in other provinces and transportation is a serious problem. There are two or three who do live in the city and we come across one another from time to time and we do the usual catching up. Concerning my closest friend Lizzet, she called me once because there was an opening for a job in her enterprise which is a powerful one (Lloyds Register). I include it because it is very famous worldwide. I made all interviews and she gave good references and I was there for a while, but the just was only part time, not for long. Since so many years have passed I have lost touch with many of them.
Did you have a number of casual love interests or one special person throughout college? How did this experience change you?Lizzet was the first but after we became friends and friendship lingered. There was another woman in my college years and we were together for a while. Now, there was a doctor-to-be that really meant a lot and I kind of matured with her and we stayed together for a good number of years. That is the one at New Year remember?
Was your class work difficult or easy for you? What were your study habits? Did you pull all-nighters? Did you cram with friends, or work alone?I'm proud to say that I really enjoyed every subject I went through, and did not really had to make much effort to pass it. My reading habits sufficed me to pass the strongest subjects. As I became more fluent in the language I avoided sleepless nights. I read and read and then performed well in class of course because the vocabulary improved and the grammar and then my language interests began to manifest and even in German I did very well. It was fun to be there learning the language that I loved.
Were you involved in campus politics? What issues "impassioned" you? Did you protest? How did you feel about politics during your college years?I have always hated politics. There is so much lying and abusing involved in the word that I have never wanted to have a thing to do with that. I’d probably clean streets (and may the cleaners excuse my comparison) than be a politician and act as one.
I was impassioned yes, about a number of things, music, girls, friendship, sports. We had a lot of debates as to sports, usually soccer and baseball. I was also impassioned about literature and writing. We began reading literature in English, you should know that it is not the same to read an original than a translation, and so we began reading the English Classics and the best sellers and all the good literature that the English Speaking Countries have to offer, which is quite bulky and we started appreciating your culture more and more. Today, despite many of the criticism the American Society receives I consider that it is one of the richest cultures existing today in every manifestation of Arts.
Did you have a part-time job while you were in school? If yes, what did you do? If no, why not?I started teaching English as soon as I learned, but I did this unofficially. Fortunately I did not have to support myself while studying and this I don’t know if it is good or bad, the thing is that it allowed me to go through those years quite smoothly, meaning that I did not have to worry about anything else but the studies.
What did you notice about students from other parts of the country? Accents? Different taste in clothing? Religious differences? More conservative or liberal ideas? Did you learn to be more tolerant? Do you have an example of how you learned to be more tolerant?They are very serious people and not as plastic as we guys from the city are. They stood for you if they had to and this is not common in the big cities. I remember an incident with a heavy guy from another class who stole a dictionary that I had. Well that night at the boarding school it was discovered that he had taken it and two of my friends were stopped from kicking the shit out of him and they remained anxious.
The next day when I arrived at school I was informed about happened and I told the two friends to forget about the incident, it was just a dictionary (actually it was the one everybody used in class) but in the break time the bulky guy came with an ugly face to tell me I don’t know what.
Needless to say that my friends could not be stopped this time because the guy outgrew me by a head and a 60 nice pounds. He never came back after that. Friendship was more important.
Another thing I remember from these people was that it was more important than a nice pair of slacks or a particular accent. Some of them were religious but that did not interfere with the relationship with others and more importantly they did not impose their creeds or beliefs. I always laughed with respect at their clothing fashion because they looked at the city boys and girls for a hint as to what to wear, but since I was not into that, they criticized me because I was supposed to show them what to wear.
On the third year salvation came. There was this city gay guy who joined us in class and continued with us for the next two years and he was a clothes designer. Guess what, contrary to what I had thought, because he was gay and the country guys were very country side guys with all what that means, they became very good friends and he even started making clothes for them. Wow I never had to worry about that anymore. I think he designed a bathing suit for me too. He took measures and all that.
Was there one class that particularly inspired you? Was there one that felt just impossible?Interpretation. Very challenging.
Political Economy. An enigma.
Spanish Grammar: Impossible
English Grammar: Insufferable
Did any famous performers or lecturers appear at your college? Who were some famous graduates from your school? Anyone you could tell would be a big success even then?We were not often exposed to guest lecturers which I would have liked more of. As far as famous graduates nothing of the kind.
Do you think you made the most of your college years, or would it have been more advantageous for you to have gone to school later on?Yes, I think so. I learned what I needed there and thanked every teacher for that. And let them know too. Today odd enough they have registered for my courses, particularly one that I have designed on Self Access Centres, which are centers designed to promote self learning, a field where I have made most of my studies and although they show their surprise and shock when they see me, I have always let them know of the importance they had in my formation.
Which do you have fonder memories of - college or high school?Definitely college.
Did college ever start to feel like home to you? Or was it always just a stopping-off place?Home and family. Ah, I met my wife there. See. Definitely home
Did your friends back home who didn't go to college treat you differently when you came home for holidays or the summer? How did it make you feel?They were proud of me. I never felt different or not welcome. I was just the guy who had made it, and we often met and talked and still did the odd outing from time to time. What lead us into different ways was not the fact that I had gone to college, it was the fact that we all got married and left and that some of them left the country and have lost touch.
Were you the same person when you got out of college as when you entered as a freshman?Definitely more mature worldly aware, enlightened and motivated to make a difference.
Have you ever been to a college reunion? Was it fun, or sort of sad? Did you see anyone there whom you were surprised and happy to see? Anyone you did not care to see?Most of us have left, trying to find economic improvements which is something that no one can criticize. If anything, those who stayed behind are the ones to be criticized. Probably some did not go because they had their own families by then and was harsh to start afresh in a new environment.
I have actually never criticized that position because there is no point in being around life after a certain ideal that is just hearsay and has proven nothing but trouble and misery and poverty of wealth and spirit.
So if they decided to go is because they were not willing to spend the rest of their lives exposed to those things that in the long run will undermine your spirit.
I do not mean at all that following the American Way of Life will be the answer. No. What I mean is that following the rude reality of some stubborn governments is certainly not even the option, because people suffer, children suffer and there is little time on Earth to even hesitate.
These are not the times for sacrifice, there have been and there may be again at some point, but today there is a choice and my friends slept on that choice and in the morning they took the decision that would take them to better sleeping hours, and I admire that. They did not want to show a poor future to their children, and I admire that and they certainly did not want to dwell in the uncertainty of what to eat next, and I admire that too.
Did you attend any kind of graduate school? Please share your graduate school experience.We did a lot of postgraduate courses and training that has enlarged my CV. But we do not have the same standards as to postgraduation. They are usually shorter sessions, probably a couple of months, what may have lasted longer was the French Language course that I took and the Class was small and the people cam from different walks of life and did not share much, the only thing that united us was the teacher and the interest in the language, but the nice and overt experiences were very few.
Is there anything else you would like to add about your college years? Any advice you would like to give to someone just starting out?Your first priority should be studying, exploring, and thinking. Besides there is time for everything while and after studying. Do it all and do it all well, and put your heart into every little thing you intend to do.
What was your favorite radio or television show growing up?As a kid, I watched a lot of serials for children that were based on famous books by Vernes, Dickens, Dumas etc.
Did you ever go to see your favorite performers in concert when you were young? Who were they?I have always regretted not being able to do that. But what else can I do. I would have loved to see Journey, Zeppelin, Queen, and so many others.
What radio stations do you listen to now? What talk radio shows do you like? Have you ever called a talk-radio host and had your voice go on the air?I was a big radio listener and even became a DJ at some point for a tourism radio station. I did English Voices, so I had my fun.
What television programs do you watch now? What are the shows that you really enjoyed through the years?I really don't watch television - there just isn't anything that interests. Yet I watch CNN for the news and the music shows and some films, too.
Have your tastes in entertainment been fairly mainstream, or have you gone for more unusual music or cinema? Do you like jazz or foreign films? Do you go to poetry readings?I have always liked music from the seventies and that has never changed. I don’t go to poetry readings but I write short stories and some writers meet at my house every other Saturday. We sit here for a couple of hours and since we have similar interests as to writing and since we are neighbors, we do that. We give out our stories and we spend the next two weeks reading them and trying to find mistakes or better options for what we have written, in order to improve our story telling techniques. This is what I do as to Arts. I also like the movies a lot. But I do not like any kind of movies, I am very selective and would have to see a good actor or a good review to see the film.
What kinds of artistic outlets have your undertaken in your life? Poetry writing? Photography? Painting? Piano playing? Ballet?Short story writing. I started at age 20 and have never stopped. Some years stronger than others, but always writing.
If you could be anything having to do with the cultural arts or entertainment, what would you have done? Have you ever appeared in theater or in a civic organization's show?I'd be a writer. Actually I still plan to go for that.
What is your preference in music? Do you follow current music or do you prefer the old? Do you like music on in the house or silence? What are your most favorite songs? Make the list as long or as short as you would like!My favorite singers are Steve Perry, Freddy Mercury, Sherryl Crow, Cranberries, Rod Stewart, Brian Adams, Avril Lavinge, Mana, Santana, Aerosmith, etc. It is a mixture of English, Spanish old and modern music. I like to sit down and listen to some music for a while, or when I am doing the odd chore, but I have to be quiet at home and enjoying that and something else. Right now as I write this there is a Toto album sounding from the stereo.
My big time favorites if I can make a top ten as to songs and albums it would be something like this:
Dust in the Wind Kansas
Dream on Aerosmyth
Mary Jane Alanis Morrissette
To love somebody Van Halen
Eighteen and Life Skid Road
Stairway to Heaven Led Zeppelin
Bohemia Rhapsody Queen
Hotel Califormia Eagles
More than a Feeling Boston
When You Love a Woman Journey
Open Arms Journey
Sweet Home Alabama Lynyrd Skynyrd
American Pie Don McLean
My world Beegees
When did you get your first television? Was it bought so your family could view a special show or event? What room did you put it in? How much did it cost? Was your family one of the first in your neighborhood to have a TV?I don’t really remember. I think we always owned one. First black and white and then color. Now when I married I had to get one and that was really hard. About 250 USD and that is quite expensive here. But then there is the comfort that my children do a lot of TV viewing since they like the cartoons so much and when I do not want them to go out I just rent a video and we watch it for a while or until they forget about going out.
Have you bought any new home entertainment gadgets lately? Do you own a VCR? A CD and / or DVD player? iPod? Tivo?I tend to keep up with technology, especially to give some pleasure to the kids, so I have a VCR a DVD and a computer. I don’t know what a iPod is or a Tivo.
I think that when you are going to have a child specially today in such hectic times, you must think carefully before you do it, because there is a number of items of which you must be aware of. For example a child needs to hasten his knowledge of things and the world, so it is absolutely necessary that he have a PC where he can read and learn and practice what he knows, not to mention all the fun he can get from one. Besides television can be very entertaining and educative too, so you must guarantee that as he grows old, and there is the fact that you may want to record his life as he grows older, for that you need a camera and a VCR. It is complicated because some things are unaffordable, but it’s the least you can do if you want to raise a child in today’s world.
Are you a theatergoer? Do you go in your hometown or only when you visit a big city? What are your favorite plays?No. I am not a theatergoer. I have been to the theater only to please my wife. Then I admit that I enjoy the show. It usually happens. I have been to the ballet and to some concerts that I have liked, but not the kinds of concerts I would like to see, like the bands I previously mentioned. Air Supply came to Havana once, but I don’t really like them much.
What movie affected you most in your life? Do you remember the way the movie looked mostly, or was it the story line? Who were the stars? Was there music in the movie that you remember? What movies have you wanted to see more than once? What was the last movie you saw? What was the first movie you saw?The best film I have ever seen was “Back to the Future” any of the three parts. That is the most precious bit of creativity I have ever come across concerning movies, and the acting was just so great that I still have images of the old doctor saying “Marty, you are in danger” or “A bolt of lighting” or the best “ I’ve already been there” and many other lines. I just hope my kids see films that have the same effect as that one had on me. I counted the days before seeing the next. No film has been so exciting for me. I liked Indiana Jones too. I remember that I wanted to see Zorro many times and The Black Tulip by Alain Delon. The first film I remember having seen was La vida sigue igual by Julio Iglesias, and the last was Shrek II with the children.
Did you ever own any records of Broadway musicals? Which ones?No.
How many hours of TV do you watch a day? Do you watch more now that you used to? What show have you continued to enjoy through the years? Are any of your favorites in reruns now? Which TV shows do you wish they'd bring back? Which TV shows are really dumb, but you like anyway?I'm just not a fan of television. But anyway I do about two hours a day, mainly on films and news and some sports too. I would love to see the same serials I saw when I was a child. I have noticed that in these last days I am enjoying television much more than what I did 10 years ago. There are more channels here today and some show very interesting science materials and that may be the reason why I am sitting in front of the TV more often. The other reason may be because I am growing old and my life is more quiet today. I consider that TV hours most be dosed, especially in the case of the younger generation. Cartoons and adventures that is OK for them, but in the case of the Soap and the films, that is another story and parents should have some control of what their children watch.
Which comedian makes you laugh the hardest? Do you like them squeaky-clean or do you go in for the racier type? Did you ever buy comedy albums? Did you listen in a family group?Robin Williams and a couple of the new black guys on films but I don’t remember the names.
Did your kids ever like an entertainer whom you hated? Like Elvis? Who is your favorite Beatle? Did you swoon over any of the crooners? Do you actually like any of the performers your children and grandchildren like? Who are they?I'm just not the swooning type. Well I don’t really think that my children or the children of the next generation are going to be too mad about Elvis. Times have changed and music has changed very dramatically. Around here there is a lot of Reggeton which is the music of the Black population and the young. You would never see a change more dramatic than that.
Probably my parents said the same thing about the Beatles and the people I loved. I am not crazy about these groups, but insistence is a good teaching method, and after some months of listening to the same music, you kind of miss it. So, sometimes I myself sit in front of the TV and watch some of the music programs and enjoy the songs.
About the Beatles, well let me tell you that all my friends from childhood discovered them at the same time I did, and this brought us closer. That was why we met sometimes at Carlos house and would sit and listen to them and try to copy the songs. We loved the Beatles and I love them today too. Every now and then i listen to the old tapes and choose one or two from them. I particularly like the Album Sargent Pepper and the Ballads, I love the Ballads.
Did your parents read to you? Did you read to your children? Are you a big reader? How important is reading to you? Do you have an author whom you follow? What are your favorite books? Make your list as long or as short as you'd like!My folks were never very big readers but they did teach me to read a lot, and right now I am a big reader, probably the biggest around. I used to read to the children, but there is no way I can compete with the computer or the videos.
I have had many authors whom I have followed, but today the author that has impressed me the most is the Argentinean Julio Cortazar. Since I am a story teller I have read many of his works, but from a critical point of view, to see the way he told and wove his stories. In the process of analyzing his works, I have discovered amazing things that i have tried to use in my stories. He is a master of story telling and as such I try to read everything that he wrote.
Following are my all-time favorite books:
The Prince of Tides.
A Collection of Short Stories by Julio Cortazar
A Collection of Short Stories by Edgar Allan Poe.
Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
Catcher in the Rye by Sallinger
Crime and Punishment by Dostoievsky
A hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marques
Don Quijote by Miguel de Cervantes.
As I lay dying by William Faulkner
Los Miserables by Victor Hugo
Do you and your mate enjoy the same types of entertainment? Or does each of you have a different set of friends with whom you attend performances?We share the love of the language so we share the music the films and many other things. She is more giving to going to the theater and seeing plays and shows and operas if she had that chance, while would go for the humor shows, the musicals and the films.
Who are your favorite artists in your time or in the world? Have you sought out gallery-going in your life? What are some of the best galleries you've visited in the world?I don’t have any defined favorite artist. And I have only visited museums in the country. Can not really say how good they are.
Favorite poetry? What lines from poems stick in your mind?- Once upon a midnight dreary...
- Me gustas cuando callas porque estas como ausente...
- Puedo escribir los versos mas tristes esta noche...
What are your most treasured "artifacts" or pieces of art that you have picked up along your path?Big smile. Not much of a collector, but there are a few wood figures that I tend to keep.
What was your first real job? Did you start out in an after-school job that had any relation to what you ended up doing?I started working only after I finished the University and the first real job was a teacher, and the second and the third too. Since I entered the classroom I have not wanted to leave. I was lucky enough to have been asked by the teacher staff at the University if I wanted to join them as a teacher. You may imagine how happy and proud I was.
Describe your career.Here is my Resume:
NAME: ARTURO MESA IMBERNO
DATE OF BIRTH: JANUARY 3, 1968
MARITAL STATUS: MARRIED
BA DEGREE IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE 1990
MAJOR IN : TRANSLATION AND INTERPRETATION
OCCUPATION: PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH
English Teacher at the Institute of Foreign Trade
Translator at the same Institute
Previous Employment and Job Experience:
English Teacher at the Institute of Foreign Trade (1995 to present)
English Teacher at the Faculty of Medical Sciences Dr. Salvador Allende in Havana (1993-1996)
English Teacher at the Institute of Foreign Languages Pablo Lafargue (ISPLE) in Havana (1990-1993)
Translator and Interpreter for different organisations and institutions 1990…(part time)
Radio Announcer at the Tourist Station “Radio Taíno” 1997 (part time)
Post Graduate Courses Taken:
The Methodology of Teaching (ISPLE) 1990
Basic Computing (ISPLE) 1990
Basic German Language (ISPLE) 1991
The Methodology of Research (Med. Fac.) 1993
Advanced Computing (MINCEX) 1994
Business English (MINCEX) 1995
Windows 1995. 1997
Foreign Trade Techniques and Practices (MINCEX)1998
French Language I. (MINCEX) 1998-2000
Santa Lucía Summer Course Developments in English Teaching 2000
Principles of Commerce (MINCEX) 2002
Self Access Centres (CUJAE) 2002
Strategic Marketing (MINCEX) 2003
Self Access Centres (CUJAE) 2003
Workshop on Creative Writing (UNEAC) 2003
Post Graduate Courses Delivered:
Teacher Training Workshop
The Translation Skill (ISPLE) 1993
Language Development (Medicine School) 1994
Linguistic Competence (MINCEX) 2003
Autonomous Learning (MINCEX) 2004
Self Access Centres (MINCEX) 2004
Translator and Interpreter for a number of Events 1992 to date
Geli Conventions 1998 to date
Lecturer at a Language Convention in Florianopolis Brazil 2001
TELEFE (CUJAE) 2004
Other Professional Activities:
Examiner for doctors to participate in the South African Mission (1994-1995)
Tutor for undergraduate teachers. ISPLE 1990-1993
Trainer for talented students at Medicine School “Dr Salvador Allende” (1994)
Translator for the International Festival of Youth and Students (Havana 1994)
Opening Speaker at Language Convention Florianopolis Brazil 2001
Runner up for the Hornby Trust Scholarship (1993)
IELTS Examination [1993 (score 7.5)]
Mastery of English
Fair Knowledge of French
Basic Knowledge of German
Mastery of Translation and Interpretation Techniques
Domain of Computer Science
Romance and Relationships
Do you remember your first kiss?Yes, her name was Arelys, but can’t tell much more, because she disappeared just as soon as she appeared. The first kiss was very romantic because her father was building a wooden room on top of the house and she was going to live there. We were a couple by then and she invited me up. When I was there she said not to go and it happened. It was very romantic and in the right place. We did not last long but it was beautiful.
What kind of dating did you do in high school? What is your favorite kind of date - even now?I don’t have a favorite kind of date - anything is usually fun
Were you always attracted to the same type of person? Did you like the strong, silent type, the bouncy blonde?Every woman has her charm and I have no prejudice as to anything. Though I tend to have certain knack for the big bodies and the cute girl in reading glasses
Who was your first love? Did you think it was going to last? Who broke whose heart?Arelys as I mentioned before. I thought it would last and she said the same thing, but the next thing I knew she was probably saying the same thing to somebody else.
Then came an Indian girl called Violet, we were together for a while and she visited me more than I visited her something which must have awakened my sixth sense (do we have one?) but it did not. And then came a girl from the country side called Leyanis - ah she is on TV these days - who promised me that she would ... and live happily ... but to this day I only see her on TV and she does not seem to notice me much.
Do you believe you can be in love more than once?Yeah, it could be.
Did you know when you very first met your mate that this would be your life's partner? Did he/she know it?There was instant whatever you call it, but it took a while to mature. We went together to the beach that day. A day of school – it was winter- and then we spent the afternoon at the beach. We promised a few things and said a few lies but in the end it turned out to work alright.
Describe your wedding, your outfit, your spouse's, your Mom's, your Dad's, the bridal party, the church or hall, the reception, the food. If more than one wedding - tell all!I was dressed in white and so was she. I had to walk a lot to make it to the place on time and was dressed so funnily. There was a car that drove passed me and the people shouted “Don’t do it boy!” “Think it again!”, etc. I was very nervous.
But even more nervous I remember was my father. I was his last mission, and fortunately it all went well for him. My wife looked very sensual and young and beautiful and elegant. We took a lot of pictures and keep them somewhere. We had a party at home where we changed and shared with friends. Then we went to the Hotel that was by the beach. It was all fantastic until the evening when I had my first bout of asthma. Can you believe it? What would you have done?
Was there anything unusual in your wedding vows? Were your knees knocking? Who performed the ceremony?No nothing like that. The ceremony was held in the Wedding Palace (that is the way the place for wedding is called here) near my house. I even walked that day. The ceremony was headed by a secretary who does the rituals for everybody. It was nice and rainy but we enjoyed I very much.
What do/did you like best about your mate? (A physical attribute, his/her being, his/her laughter, his/her smile, his/her mind.) What term of endearment do/did you call your mate?Nice smile, big behind, nice face, big hips, nice posture.
What were the hardest times of your relationship? Was there ever a time that you thought it might really be over?Who didn’t? A couple of years back, I got a bit angry quite often and burst quite often too. So this particular night she had not done what I had implored to do. So when I came home she was there not even worried about it and I thought that she had given a shit what I had said. So I knocked two or three drawers from the closet and hit the wall and got very pissed and fled to my house.
I stayed there until the next day and when I returned she said that if I slept outside again it would be over. So I thought that instead of an explanation for her not doing what I had said, I got a reprimand. I did not react to that but I knew that she would not apologize and I would probably sleep outside at some point very soon. Well, luckily things got better and I still have not joined the spider webs in my bedroom.
Who were the biggest crushes in your life? Name your other heartthrobs through the years.I never really had crushes on people I knew I'd never meet. Sure there were people I admired but I never lusted for them. I did like and still do Julia Roberts, Claudia Schiffer, and Shania Twain.
What song do you consider the most romantic?Yesterday by the Beatles. There cannot be another as romantic as that one. The very mentioning of the name gets me romantic.
Did you date much before your chose a partner?Yes! I tried a few girls before I got serious. I went out a lot and met a lot of people. I went out with neighbors, friends, you name them and I had some fun too.
What was your last relationship like? Were you unhappy when it ended? What did you learn in that relationship?Very beautiful at the beginning and very ugly in the last months. It was the doctor-to-be. Yes it was sad, but it was going down the drain anyway. Lesson? Someone must lead somehow in the couple.
Everybody has bad habits -- what drives you craziest about your mate?Not paying attention to me.
If you had to do it all over again, what qualities would you choose in a mate now?Wit, Respect, Charm, Talent, Enthusiasm, Spirituality, Supportiveness and Slimness.
Did you ever have an unrequited love?Yes. Quite a few. Some knew others did not, but I tended to like people too soon and too often.
Have you gone ahead and chosen a mate just because they loved you first?Yes.
Is there a fragrance/perfume/cologne that always brings to mind someone special (or not so special) when you smell it?Still do. I am weak to fragrance.
What anniversary gift do you remembering giving? What anniversary gift do you remember getting?Outings is what I do and a couple of presents. She does the same to me.
Are you a romantic? In words or deeds?Not very.
Did you have an engagement ring? What does/did your wedding ring look like? Would you trade it for a bigger, shinier one? Do you wear both rings? Are they inscribed inside?Yes, a silver sort of ring for the exchange of rings at the wedding party. I did not change it or swapped it I just keep it, it means a lot.
Who is the most loving and romantic couple you know?That's a good question. I really don't know. Well, OK, there is this couple that I think they may be thought of as the most romantic I know. Let me explain. His name is Eduardo, I mentioned him earlier when I was talking about my friends. Eduardo is a famous guy in town, famous because he had spent like ten years without a mate and all of us had gotten married and were having children and all that. We thought that he was going to remain single for the rest of his life.
I took him to my school once to follow an English Course which was going to be great for his professional career but that was going to put him in touch with a lot of girls, so I was hoping that he would pick one. No way!! We had all lost hope, but then out of the blue this beautiful blonde girl came along and they started dating and eventually they got engaged.
Right now they are married (I was the best man) and they seem to be the perfect couple. They are hugging and kissing and walking hand in hand all the time. Whenever one of them comes up with an idea the other one would immediately indulge and accept the other’s ideas. Maybe it is too soon to say that they are the perfect couple because they have been married for two years, but it all seems to be going well there.
What have you learned about yourself?I have a bit of a strong character and not very romantic. I am self sufficient. I have a good sense of humor. I am a good entertainer and I don’t have much patience and I can burst sometimes. I think I am a good father, too.
Were you afraid to become a parent? Why, or why not?No. I always thought that I was ready for that, and have enjoyed every single day of their lives. It seems that all the effort you make gets a reward in just one smile one joke by them, one crazy idea. It is really a blessing to have kids and I thank God for the two kids he has given me.
What's your favorite dessert? Can you prepare it yourself?We call it here Flan, do not know in English, but it takes about 6 eggs, sugar, milk and a caramel in the bottom of the pot. I can prepare it myself.
Where is your favorite beach? How far did you have to drive or bicycle to get there?Oh, our summer was spent at the beach. It took us about 30 minutes by bus plus thirty other minutes waiting for the bus. Back and forth. We did not own a car (mind you, Cuba) Later on I rode a bike and got there in an hour. Just for fun.
What is your favorite perfume or cologne? What fragrance gives you the nicest childhood memories and which one gives you the best adult memories?I prefer aftershaves, anything very soft and almost hard to smell. I don’t like those strong perfumes neither for men nor for woman. However I like Alicia Alonso, something we produce here and Diamante Negro.
Name your favorite books.The Prince of Tides.
A Collection of Short Stories by Julio Cortazar
A Collection of Short Stories by Edgar Allan Poe.
Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
Catcher in the Rye by Sallinger
Crime and Punishment by Dostoievsky
What is your favorite rock group?Journey.
What are your all-time favorite movies?Back to the Future. Probably 18.
What's your favorite beverage?Anything, depending on the situation. I like to have a drink of whisky from time to time.
What foods do you look forward to eating in the summer? Autumn?Pizza with mushrooms
Yuca and mojo
What is your favorite sports team? Did you ever have a sports figure that was particularly important to you? Do you attend games or watch on T.V.?Real Madrid, as to soccer. My sport idol is Zinadine Zidane. I have had many sports figures, from Maradona to Zidane today. Soccer has been my passion and I have gone through a great many personality in that Sport. But I have also been fan of other sports like chess and then I can’t help talking about Capablanca one of the best personalities my country has ever produced, then Fischer –who did not follow him – and then Kasparov, very conflictive guy at present but during his years, nobody ever came close to endanger his kingdom.
I have admire other people like Michael Schumaker, Andrea Agassi, Sergei Bubka, Carl Lewis and the list would go on for pages.
Do you have a favorite Broadway show or musical? Who is your favorite author or literary figure? Who are your favorite movie stars? Who are your favorite TV stars?Favorite author is Julio Cortazar.
Favorite artist is Van Gogh.
Favorite movie star Julia Roberts and Harrison Ford.
I definitely don't have a favorite TV star.
Different times of life are satisfying for different reasons. Which has been the most satisfying for you? (i.e., Three kids and station wagon stage, when you became the boss, when you were pursuing your education? The least satisfying?)Right now. I am deeply satisfied right now. I have achieved a lot and am working on a very important project which is the publishing of my book of stories. Once I achieve that I would probably feel great as to accomplishments.
Who are your best friends? Why are they your best friends? How long have you know each of them?My best friends through the years:
My father. Who always was there for me specially in my hardest times. Oh I miss him so much.
Ricardo Romero. Childhood friend and still.
Carlos de Armas. Childhood friend.
Eduardo Mendez. International Chess Master. Very close to me and supportive when things were wrong. (the guy with the perfect couple)
Oscar Fernandez. Chess Master and very close to our family. He comes home all the time and we do exercises together.
Ricardo Fundora. Ex- drinking partner. We don’t drink anymore.
What is your favorite holiday? Where do you celebrate it? Where did you celebrate it when growing upProbably New Year. I love cooking a great feast for everybody and then setting a big table.
Where is the special place you go that gives you calm? Who is your favorite person to give you calm? To make you laugh? To listen?The coast gives me calm. Also the Botanical Garden in Havana. It is very far from the city and the transportation is difficult to make it there, but once you are there you just forget about everything and see the world so differently and you just find so much peace, that it is amazing.
I don’t have a particular person who gives me calm. I may have a friend or two with whom I talk and with whom I may have a drink and maybe that action would give me calm, but there is nobody to that effect.
There is really one person that makes me laugh my head off. You can imagine who he is .My older son! He is 12 and he makes such faces sometimes and cracks such jokes that I can’t even imagine how he can make it. I know that I make faces and try to make jokes all the time and have taught him a thing or two, but it comes so natural in him that you can’t help laughing out loud while in front of him. I would probably put him in an acting group or something like that because he does have a talent.
I am calm when I am reading good literature. I like the quiet of my room or the garden to sit down and enjoy a good book of stories or a nice novel something like that. I also enjoy studying and preparing classes for my students and activities that they might enjoy.
What's your favorite restaurant? Favorite dish?No, I don’t have a favorite place, but there is a particular restaurant in Havana called “El Aljibe” which is very nice. It is located in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Havana and the environment is great. The food is absolutely amazing (the times I have been) and it is not particularly pricey, probably normal.
The place was built to resemble a farm with the wooden tables and the wooden chairs. I would have to say that it is probably the best place to eat in Havana, except for maybe the chic-five star Hotels.
Have I had too much? Yes, quite a few times, but I am so lucky that I know when I am about to pass out and then stop drinking immediately. The one I always recall was a day my girlfriend (wife now) and I had a party at school and when we returned -I had had a few - I told her I was going to stay at her place to sleep. Imagine the fuss there - a man staying at her place. Impossible. Well I sat at sofa and I saw the next day right there.
You can imagine my embarrassment in the morning.
Is there a toast you use time and time again?"To laughter, to love, to health."
Is there a prayer you use time and time again?No.
What is your favorite saying and what does it mean to you?Not particularly.
What is your favorite flower? Favorite color?Favorite color is yellow I suppose. Flower, probably tulips.
What is your favorite time of day? Are you a morning person or a night owl?I am a night owl. All writers are. It is the perfect moment when you can find quietness to write and create.
What were some of the best days of your life?Upon Graduation
Some of my birthdays have been great
What do you prefer for breakfast on a weekend as opposed to during the week?I love having egg and bacon, also yogurt and coffee.
What are your favorite restaurants?It is called “EL Aljibe” You get the nicest chicken in the world and also rice and beans for only 12 dollars. Besides the place is very attractive.
What recipe are you famous for? Did anyone ever insult you regarding your cooking skills? What dish you usually bring to a pot luck or picnic?I am not into cooking but can do a few things. I make great beans and everybody praises it.
When were you first introduced to coffee? How do you take your coffee? Do you have a favorite mug?At work there were times when they only gave you coffee. There was no choice. I never drank before that and actually mocked at my father for drinking so much. But this afternoon and really needed something to strengthen me and I had the coffee, after that I have never stopped. There is a cup right here, right now, blue with red flowers that has been sitting here all morning and that has seen coffee twice in the last hour I have been writing. I drink coffee sometimes, other times I go for tea or soft drink, but in the end I go back to the old coffee mug.
What is your favorite Campbell's soup?My mum’s were the best, definitely.
Do you follow any nutritional "rules" such as strictly vegetarian, kosher, organic, etc.?No, but I mind the fat a lot and try to include as much fruit and vegetables as possible. I eat just about anything.
Have you ever had breakfast in bed?Love it!
Have you ever been on a successful diet? If so, how many pounds did you lose?No. I am the right weight for my height, or so they say. However I recall that when I was child I had Hepatitis and I gained 40 pounds at least. Imagine I was lying in bed doing nothing but eating desserts and nice foods. Well after I was well, people laughed at me a lot and I did not like that, so I bought a rope and started jumping rope for two weeks, it was absolutely successful, I lost 20 pounds and turned the other 20 into muscles and looked great. Since then I have always been careful with my weight.
What's the water like in your town? Is it drinkable? Do you drink bottled water by choice?I usually boil it because of the children, but I would drink it from the tap if it were for me.
What personal staples are always and always in your kitchen or refrigerator?A few spice bottles spread around the kitchen, some garlic and onion. Some cheese in the fridge, mayonnaise, bread, crackers, and a couple of canned food in case of emergency.
What's the best snack? What's the best dinner? What do you usually have for lunch?The usual ham and cheese sandwich. And for dinner the usual beans and rice and the pork steak with yucca. You will never find a man more traditional than myself. I guarantee you. Grilled salmon is a thing too. Ah, I love caramalis or squid I don’t know how you call it. It is delicious.
Describe some of the picnics you've been on. Family? Romantic? Do you eat seafood? Have you ever eaten it at the shore?I have definitely not been on enough picnics or any that I particularly remember.
Do you have a favorite cookbook? What cookbook do you remember your family using?My father had a book made by some clippings from magazines and it is huge. I still keep it somewhere, my wife uses it from time to time.
Do you like farmers' markets on Saturday morning? If so, what do you buy?Oh! I go there every Saturday. I buy onion, garlic, lots of vegetables, and some fruit, too.
Are you allergic to any food? Anything you cannot stand and will not eat?I'm not allergic to any food. I hate the smell of anis. Anywhere you put it I know where it is.
What is your weakness? Sweets?Ice cream probably. And yogurt
What do you consider the best pizza? What's your favorite Chinese dish? What other ethnic foods do you like?I don’t have any experience on that. I have hardly ever been abroad.
What do you remember as either of your parent's specialty item? Your grandparents?Oh great soups she prepared. And my grandmother made great beans.
What tastes do you still crave from your youth? Good 'n Plenty? Necco wafers?None of that. Probably some ice cream flavors that do not exist nowadays.
Did you ever have a memorable meal on a train? When you are by yourself in a hotel would you rather eat alone in your room or by yourself in the restaurant?No I always want to be accompanied by someone when I am going to eat. And I have rarely eaten at a train except for a sandwich
What was your favorite lunch in school?Fish steaks. They were cooked so deliciously that I often craved for my friend’s.
What do you remember about your first trips to the grocery store as an adult cooking for yourself?I can’t remember the day, it seems like I have been going there since i was born. The first meals I made were probably tortillas and rice or something light like that.
What's the most delicious meal you've ever had?At Aljibe restaurant I have their specialty chicken and the rice and beans.
Moments From Your Adult Life
Did you and your mate often go dancing? Where? What music did you dance to? Did you and your mate have "our song"? Which dances were popular?Yeah we did. I was not a great dancer but there was always the time for the romantic music, I would dance three or four songs with the same girl and then you never knew. It was the years of Roberto Carlos, and if you made it to that time, you would probably make it home with a catch.
Today with the hustle of the times we rarely go dancing and I am not the best person to dance with (she is though) but we have a couple of “our songs” which are “Left in the dark again” by Barbra Streisand and “You are beautiful” by James Blunt.
When you and your friends got together, what did you do? Whose home did you go to most often? Did your children become friends with your friends' children? How did you meet the friends you are most comfortable with now?We met at my place or at Carlos’. We were a bunch of six kids from the same block and we would go everywhere together. We were still going to places till we were almost adults, it was a very close group, it seems to me that we never had a disagreement or anything.
One of the most memorable moments were spent at the beach together. We would go there with a tent a spend a week away from our parents and surrounded by girls and with a big battery radio that would guarantee the “American Music” and thus the “female company”. It was definitely great times. I think I have a story of the times somewhere.
What kind of movies do you find yourself drawn to....adventure, epic, violent, comedy? Do you go to movies now as much as you used to? Why or why not?I adore movies. I don’t’ go very often because the quality of the movies in Havana is very poor and sometimes the films are politically biased or they don’t show the best films so I’d rather curl up on the sofa and watch a film that I have rented. I do this very often on Saturdays, when on TV you can watch three films on the national channels and then sometimes i just feel like watching more films and I stay watching one or two more that I have rented. I prefer comedies, dramas and adventure.
What books do you like to read? Novels, biographies, romance, science fiction? Do you have a specific part of the house for books? What is the last book you read? Why did you choose that one? Where were you sitting when you read it?I love novels or short stories. I am always reading one. Yes, at the house where i was born there is a library that I keep enlarging. Anyway, no one is ever going to complain since no one lives there now. The last book I read was a collection of modern British short stories.
Are you friendly with your neighbors? Do you sit down for an evening together on the porch or patio or are you merely cordial with them, nodding acquaintances? Have you ever had a neighbor whom you've loved and lost? Were you close to a family that later moved away?Yes, I have a couple of nice neighbors, I sit with them sometimes and we have a drink or watch a film together. Sometime ago there was a bunch of us who used to get together every night and play some domino until very late. Now those times have gone because many of us have certain jobs and certain responsibilities and although we may play sometimes, we don’t have much time to do it on a regular basis. I have missed many of my friends at the place where I was born, but I guess I can survive.
Are you a member of any club or social group? Have you ever spent time doing charitable work? If so, why was the charity important to you?I belong to a group of Language Specialists that is called GELI. This a group of professional language Teachers and Translators mainly who gather once a month and discuss the latest events and the latest trends as to methodology and the like.
There are many of the people who studied with me so it is always nice to go to the meetings and to see them. This Association sent me once to Santa Lucia which is a summer resort in Camaguey Cuba and which was an excellent event sponsored by the British Council and delivered by a couple of British Teachers that was one of the best workshops I have ever attended. It was very up to date information and the work and the debates were very serious, not to mention all the fun we had after the sessions were over. The event was celebrated in a hotel next to the sea and we had the all-inclusive category.
You can imagine all the food and booze that we had. We also made very good friends with people from other countries. I forgot to mention that it was an International Event and so there came people from all of Latina America. As to clubs, I have never participated in anything except for the old chess club.
I think that the charitable work is done every day of your life, you don’t need to be saying “I am a member of the ....club” to do charitable work.
Is there anything you need that you don't have?Time, more time. A few extra bucks would do me good too.
Do you take a little respite for yourself everyday? For example, a drink before dinner, a walk before dark, or a quiet moment in a spot where you're all alone to collect your thoughts?I take little respites throughout the day. I do a lot of daydreaming while I am walking and spend a lot of time alone at home, so I do a lot of meditation too. I am quite alright with myself.
How do / did you exercise?I like to work out about three times a week, and I have my own gym at home. I also jog from time to time and play soccer with my kids when have the time for that. My friend Oscar comes home three mornings a week and we do some bodybuilding and some regular exercise in order to keep in shape. This is something I have always done since Pancho the rabbit, remember him?
I think that you can do whatever job and assume whichever responsibility if you have a sound mind and body, so ever since I have notion of myself I have always enjoyed doing exercise and practicing sports. Right now I do not play soccer because I have an old injury in my right knee that stops me from joining the older players, but still when I have the chance I join the kids (my kids and others) and I play just for the sake of running a little bit.
What do / did you do for fun?Read, write, converse, see sights, swim, listen to music, raise the children. Visit old buddies, teach language. All of those are fun for me. Probably many other things too.
What are your hobbies?I like to write and to play chess. These are my most regular hobbies, and the ones I have been doing for many years.
Have you ever had a time when you had to concentrate on getting back on your feet? If so, how did you wait out your time? At times did this challenge seem too great?I recently quit the job because I had earned a Scholarship in England and the Director denied this chance to me and so I was so pissed that decided to leave the job.
It has meant a big change in my life, because I had been working in that place for ten years and I expected a bit of respect for that and appreciation, but he did not care and denied me the chance to have a fabulous degree in the field that I like and where I have been working for a long time.
I have had to concentrate on getting back on my feet and it has not been easy being home working and not teaching, something that I love, but I decided to leave because I have some respect for myself and for what I do.
I don’t think anyone has the right to crush your professional growth no matter who the person is, and then I even went to see the Minister to find a solution and the guy very cold heartedly said “sorry” and I had to quit.
I have felt terrible because I knew all what expected me in England and I knew all the knowledge I would have brought but there was nothing I could do.
In Cuba you are not your sole owner, you have to wait for other people to decide for you, even if you earned the scholarship in a fair competition and even if it was not going to cost a dime to them, they felt that they had the right over me because I work at their place.
After all that I expressed my dissatisfaction over the incidents but it did not make me take the place. I was feeling down for a couple of months. I am not working yet but have discovered many things that have made me gain strengths again. And I think that it was a terrible set back for me but I will stand up and show those assholes that I am a better person than what they are. Life will necessarily have to smile at me again.
What has been the worst time in your life?The previous situation, for all the effort that had involved the process of winning the scholarship. And the fact that I had to write reports everywhere as to what I was doing and why. It was a national call and many people showed up and the first cut was reduced to ten and then five and finally me. Later on I had to take an IELTS examination which made me study a little bit and when all of those efforts had given results then some dumb ass with a huge position (as is the norm here) said “Sorry”.
Have you had to take legal action against anyone? Has anyone ever taken legal action against you?No, and no.
If you're retired, has it been a positive or negative experience? If you are not yet retired, what are you looking forward to? At what age would you love to retire?I don’t want to retire right now but I would like to write books and have time for that.
Did you ever have to help a family member, mate or friend through a difficult medical time?Yes. My father when he went to hospital with pneumonia and we had shifts the three of us. His health began to deteriorate while in the hospital until what had to happen finally happened. I am very happy that I was there for him.
What magazines do you subscribe to? Which do you pick up every once and awhile?Cancer. I have always been terrified of cancer.
Have you ever had surgery?No. Except for a few stitches while playing baseball
Do you think you're using all the brain power you've been given?Hmmm. Good question. How much brain power was I given?
What item have you saved through the years that means the most to you?I would say a few books. And the marriage.
Politics and History
Who was the best president of any country ever? Who was the worst president? Which president of the United States did you admire most? Did you ever meet a famous politician? What happened?I hate politics but felt that Kennedy was a fine man. Worst president is clearly George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States. I have never met a politician nor do I want to.
Do you have a strong political party alliance? Have you ever worked on a campaign? Have you ever worked at a polling place?No, no and no.
Which domestic problems are most important in your town today? In your country? In the world?At home we have education, health improvement, ageing, and sanitation, and pollution. As to world problems we have terrorism, globalization, poverty, welfare, interference in internal affairs etc.
What have been your causes over the years? What did you do about issues that bother you?I am very concerned specially about environmental issues and try to get people to see my views and to see the importance of the little things that are geared towards preserving the world we are living with. I have a few stories that I have written about the environment and maybe this is a good moment to insert one:
The first time I ever considered murder, cold and premeditated murder, was after a windy February morning when I had finally blown out from so much thinking and pondering.
The sun seemed reluctant to meet me that day. My mind had been busy at work for quite a while, fabricating the scheme for her disappearance. I had definitely had quite enough of her and felt strangled inside.
Seeing no sun committed me even further to my evil thoughts. She appeared and reappeared in every one of my dreams and was filling up my little pores left for patience. I had lived a straight and leveled life up to that point. I had drunk the wines of experience and walked the paths of the knowledgeable, and meant to go ahead even after what was bound to happen.
My space had become very limited and cramped with her presence, so much had she taken from me that I had no other choice. It was in my past and present, and now the future depended much upon it. I had to wipe it clean. I had to release my avenues of mud, for mud was the remaining obstacle.
Murder was such a strong word for my ears. If I really meant by it depriving and wiping and erasing I wasn't quite sure. I just wanted an ounce more of privacy. The motive was quite clear and justifiable, but the act as such was still to get some shape in my head.
Every morning I came across her old and wasted stare and her thoughts became ever so transparent to me. Whether or not she really despised me was not my concern then, it might have been my imagination, but the dice were already cast. She was doomed. I was not going to come across her shape anymore, or dwell in her sight. No more shadows I longed for my daylight. She was old and strong and clumsy I would say. With a firm heart. With a tall and erect standing.
Her skin was tanned by seasons of exposure in the open. Hair face and body had been thoroughly tailored to fit her home. Her bruises were a century old and gave her an air of ominuosity. Her language was the language of the dark and the words of the wise for if there had ever lived a wiser creature it was undoubtedly her. Much to my delight or my discomfort.
She had learned of long forgotten battles and had met rains and suns and moons. She had lived a queen among her kind and a glorious queen. She had cast spells upon crops and soils had bowed in front of her as if surrendering their quests, she had unraveled curses and lived, but mine was proving a solid one.
I thought about her death once an again but did not come up with the right plan. She would be missed for sure and minds would turn against me and eyes would size me up in search of a clue. I had thought about all. Drowning was too long a death. Stabbing too strong, burning too hateful and poisoning too harsh. I would have chosen a rat for such a death, and remained remorseful.
My hands would have trembled at the first minute. I would have been reduced to the circle of the weak. It had to be the most natural of possible deaths, one in which there was no shred of suspicion , and one with which I could convince myself in the long run that it had really been death. But it was hard to come up with something good and effective at the same time. I thought about the moment when she was no longer going to share me, I would be for myself from there on, and all and everything was going to be mine.
All mine, to do and undo at my wish. And this moved me to go on. I needed my privacy ever so badly as my life back. Then it occurred to me that an accident might be the answer to my problem. In midday it would hardly sound fishy, and on I went with the plan. I was going to start being nice to her to deceive her wit, her being weary. So I would start having conversations and listening to her speech. I would sit about her realm to awaken her pride and confuse her. But then I thought that that might trigger a feeling of danger, and I wanted it surprise. Full and utter. I had to act as usual, live as usual and do as usual. The act was conceived in the coldness of my room, darkened by the vision of the outcome, I would just wake up one morning and do it. An accident cannot be embellished too much for it may appear odd. Then I would resort to the mercy of the Almighty.
I might have conceived the most brilliant of plans and yet the courage might not have assisted me in the last minute. It is not a game thing to deal with someone else's life and live with it. With someone else's breath and breath again, with someone else's boundaries, awakenings tiredness.
Who was I anyway to deprive her of her bond with Nature, her roots to ages. Murder then I knew was a murderable thought for I could not do it and just go away with that, for much that it hindered my space and time and life she was there, and there she had to be. Or was she not?
No more thinking I allowed myself, it might have kept me pondering for rings and generations. Off I went. Out into the yard with what was left of a wooden and steel saw that had lived better days. Moved by the braveness of a twisted mind, torn between the rightness of her space or the wickedness of her absence. In the last minute there is always a push from beyond.
I climbed through her boughs towards its top I started mercilessly severing one by one the arms that had learned of storms and bird language, the arms that had warded myself of summers and that had roamed in the path of the winds. That had had secret underground chats with the creeks. I cut and cut and cut till the let of her last had dropped. When she was just but a pile of carcass on the ground, I grouped her pieces together. Then I aimed for her heart, it was midnight already, no breeze or moon or mercy from above. Only leaves hitting my face.
I can say that I am also concerned about the right of children to a decent life and the rights of women. And the rights to a fair life.
Which campaign slogans stick in your mind? Why?We in Cuba are not into presidential elections or anything as you should well know.
Have you ever gone against popular opinion or beliefs and, if so, has this caused any problems?Um, yes! I live in a macho society and my opinions concerning women’s right have brought me into a couple of disputes, but they have only been arguments, nothing more serious.
Have you seen racial injustice first hand? Have you ever been the target of prejudice?Well racial injustice is seen everyday, somehow there is racism around these parts, though the government has tried to avoid it, it has proven impossible. People don’t just admit it but it is present. So far I have not been the subject of any discrimination.
Is there a government policy that you strongly disagree with? Did you ever demonstrate about it?Yes, of course, and quite a few, but demonstration is not a solution in Cuba. Definitely not.
How do you feel about the United Nations?The what? Does that still work?
Do you think the welfare system is run correctly?In Cuba, yes.
Are your social security benefits what they should be?Yes.
Do you follow local goings on in city government? Have there been cases of corruption or scandal that rocked your town?There have been cases like that everywhere, but it is all part and parcel of the fact of being political. That is why I hate politics.
Have you ever run for office? Did you win? Have you ever been on jury duty? What was the case? Did you decide the defendant guilty or innocent? Was it a hard judgment call?I've never run for office and I've never been on a jury. I have no desire to experience either.
What are your feelings about the space program? Where were you when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon? Do you believe we actually landed on the moon?I guess he did. I think I was about to be born at the time, mum told me. I think there is so much more we need to do to improve our own planet before spending billions and billions to explore others.
Do you own a flag? Do you display it?Yes.
Did you build a bomb shelter and, if so, how did you supply it?No. What is the point. There are intelligent bombs that take you out of the shelter.
Do you mostly vote for losers or winners?...
Where were you when Franklin Roosevelt died? Where were you when John F. Kennedy was shot? Where were you when Robert Kennedy was shot? Where were you when Martin L. King was shot? Where were you when you heard about September 11th?I wasn't alive for any of these moments or consciously aware.
Name a LIFE magazine cover you especially remember....a TIME magazine cover....a LOOK magazine cover.I remember seeing the faces of political leaders staring at me from TIME magazine and thinking, "You should try a little harder."
What do you think was your country's grandest moment during your lifetime? What do you think was your country's lowest national moment?Grandest moment - probably 1959
Lowest moment - depression 1990.
Do you believe in gun control?Yes.
Is there a time in history you think it would have been fascinating to live in? Why?Right now somewhere else.
What direction do you think the country is going in today?The country is going crazy. That’s what is going on. The economy is going down the drain and people don’t seem to care. Prices are reaching the stars and nothing happens.
Sanitation sucks, there is garbage everywhere you look and there are mosquitoes and mice everywhere. This is more the feature of the city because I have been to other provinces and that is not the case although they have other problems to worry about.
Hospitals are becoming inhospitable and the good doctors have a mission to go abroad.
Transportation sucks, you need to go out with money in order to take taxis which are very expensive and in very bad conditions if you want to make it anywhere.
Housing is the biggest problem we have ever had.
Food has doubled the price and the good items are only to be found in the dollar markets, so if you don’t have access to dollars you are screwed.
Sometimes I really can’t understand how people can survive with a miserable amount of money they receive every month as a salary which only covers 10 days of the month.
Imagine what can happen to a family with children and that needs to feed them to dress them and to provide for shoes and a bit of entertainment from time to time. In my opinion the future is bleak.
Have you always been proud to be an American? How does being American feel differently than being an American 40 years ago?I am not American. I am a Latin American and if the fact of being Latin American in some way means some sort of scorn or means that you will be looked at over the shoulder or as something inferior, then the same will have to apply to any other race or any other nationality, because we all come from the same origin and we all have equal genes and equal descendants.
What does your nationality mean to you?I don't care for this question. I've never been one to see race, religion, gender, sexual preference OR borders.
We have all been made the same (if we were made) and we all share the same features (if we have a biologically origin) so race, nationalities, gender and sex are just items to stress the power of the powerful and to control those that are already and somehow controlled. A Peruvian, a Chinese and a Venezuelan are as human as an American, a German or a French, and racism only shows fear and weakness instead of might and superiority. It shows that your foundation is not as solid as those who do not stop to think about where you are from.
How have your political views changed over time? Have you become more passionate and political or do you kind of just ignore politics nowadays?Ignore it. Although there are things that make you ponder if the human brain is as perfect as it is said. Some actions human make in the name of love or in the name of peace are just unbelievably cruel and unacceptable.
If one animal kills another of the same species, fine, he is an animal, but that is just unacceptable in the “upper race” if it is to be called that way.
Humans should only worry about making ourselves more humane and less prone to diseases and extinction. Some countries believe that they have the right to kill and control who lives and who doesn’t.
Other countries control even the breath you take and that is as criminal as the other one, and some other countries use terrorists actions to scare normal people and is as criticizeable as any of the other two actions. If this is civilization, the word has been wrongly defined by Webster’s Dictionary.
Is there anything more you would like to add about politics? Perhaps a favorite quote that is your abiding philosophy?No. I just hope my children can have a different opinion when they have to write about these things.
Your House Now
Some people prefer to describe the home in which they lived most of their years rather than the home in which they are living now. What is the address of the home you would like to describe in the following series of questions? What are the dates you lived there?My place now is fine. I have lived here for more than fifteen years. This is where my children were born.
Why do you like your home? What do you dislike about your home? Do you have an attic? If so, what is in it?It is big, it has room for everything, it is comfy, there is a big garden and the back yard. I don’t have an attic but homes like this one would rarely have one. It is only one floor. I think I like all about the house, if I dislike anything, it would probably be the noise in the surroundings.
What is the most comfortable room in your home? What is your favorite chair? Favorite place to read? Where do you usually sit to talk on the phone? Where do you usually do your computer work?The living room. I read in bed and in the rocking chair which is in the living room. I also read in the porch. I have my computer in the living room too and that is from where I do my work and write my stories.
Do you have the same furniture as when you were raising your children? Do you have the kitchen you want? How would you change it? Enough room for books? How would you change your current home if you decided not to move? What addition would you make to your house now if you could?Well maybe more space for books would be fine. My kitchen is small probably that is where I would make the changes. I need to have it enlarged and refashioned. I need to buy a few more things for the kitchen, it is very traditional and the kitchen ware are very traditional, there are very few gadgets of the latest generation. As to additions, I think it is quite alright as it is.
There is little room for books, although this is not a big problem for me because I have the other house where I can have as many books as I want and so I put them all there. If I decided to stay here I think I would probably enlarged the living room too. I would build some sort of terrace on top of the house, a place where you can sit and have some comfort and some relaxation. Maybe invite a few friends and play domino or chess while away from the normal fuss of the house. And more importantly is the fact that I would definitely have to build a room for exercises, something like a gym with a few equipment and dumbbells and weights. If I envy the rich people for any reason this would be it, The gym in the house.
What type of trees grow on your property? Describe what your garden looks like each year and what is in it.I have an avocado tree and a few things in the garden. I don’t know the names of the plants. It is my wife’s thing.
What do you see from your kitchen window?My neighbor’s kitchen window.
What is your decorating style now compared to the decorating style with which you were raised?...
Tell us about your dream home. Where is it located? What does it look like? What is special about it?It has lots of glass, hardwood floors, an all white bedroom and bathroom, a walk-in shower, garden tub with Jacuzzi, gym, his and her offices, four-poster beds with feather beds, a small movie theater, a large area outside for entertaining, and a guest house.
What have been your personal landmarks in your life? (e.g., restaurant in your neighborhood, gas station, museum, barn)Museo de Bellas Artes in Havana, The Malecón, also in Havana. The National Hotel.
What grocery store do you use? How much do you usually spend each trip?One that is half a mile away, but that has just about everything I need. I usually spend about 80 to a hundred Cuban pesos, which is around 5 USD.
Favorite drug store? Know your pharmacist by name? Favorite drycleaner? What's your favorite book store, hardware store, cookwares store?Favorite book store is down at Vedado. It is a mixture or new and old books, but very interesting. I love the place and go there whenever I am around. As to the other places, I don’t have favorites.
What time do you get up in the morning?Lately since I am not working I get up at about 8.00, but I used to get up at 6.30 every day.
What part of housework do you dislike the most? Do you have a housekeeper or a handyman?Bathroom. No maid, but it is not a bad idea to think about one, specially for ironing and cooking.
What's your daily routine?8.00 Breakfast and Prepare children to go to school.
9.00 Write in the Computer.
11.00 Do some shopping.
12.00 Lunch and some news on TV.
2.00 Perhaps a little nap. Perhaps
3.00 Back to the computer.
5.00 A few private English lessons.
8.00 Dinner and some TV. Some.
9.00 Play with the kids and help with the homework.
10.00 Wash dishes and prepare some snack for them.
10.30 Back to the computer. Or TV.
Is there someone you talk with everyday?Wife, children.
How did you spend your time outdoors? How do you spend time outdoors now?Biking, swimming, walking, jogging, and just being outside.
Do you have heirloom quilts? If so, who made them?No, they are all gone but I owned my mum’s. It was nice to know she had made it.
Do you keep old photos and take many pictures? Who was always the photographer in your family? What kind of camera/s do you have? How do you feel about the new digital photography?Yes I keep a few photographs, but i don’t own a camera now and I don not really take pictures. Cameras are too expensive in Cuba. The new digital photography is very nice but a lot more expensive.
Do you lunch with friends? Who and how often?Yes, when I was working I always had lunch with a few teachers.
What is the first thing you see in the morning when you awake? What is the first thing you do in the morning? What routine do you have before you go to bed at night?My wife mostly and then my kids. I usually prepare the children for school early and then make some coffee for me and my wife. Before going to bed I sit in front of the TV and watch something to get me drowsy. Then probably I drink a cup of milk, and then I am ready for bed. Some nights I read a lot before falling asleep.
Are there other aspects of your daily life that you would like loved ones and others to know about you?Well sometimes I don’t think that my work is properly appreciated and that hurts me sometimes and makes me feel angry on other occasions.
Are you usually late or early?I am a Swiss watch for everything.
Are you more comfortable speaking or writing? Do you enjoy talking on the phone more than writing letters?I'm definitely a better writer than speaker. The phone is alright for me.
Do you have any superstitions?I don't know if what I have is superstition or just habit, I do a few things out of seeing people do them. For example whenever I open a bottle of rum I pour a couple of drops on the floor, people say that that is for the saints. I also knock on wood whenever somebody mentions something wrong that could happen. And some other things too. But I am not sure if I mean exactly what the other people mean. I really don’t know how much I really feel about those things.
Do you have certain days of the week you do certain chores?I clean the garage and the yard on weekends.
Do you eat your meals at the same time everyday? What do you most often eat?I usually do, but sometimes dinner is very late and skip it if it gets too late. I eat a lot of vegetables and above all rice, rice and rice. WE are Cubans.
Do you sing in the shower?Used to.
Do you garden? Vegetable, flower, herbs?No. My wife does.
What is the first thing you usually do when you come home from work?Take off the shoes and change clothes.
Do you play the lottery? Have you ever won?I don't.
Have you ever been addicted to anything?Coffee now.
Do you have a habit you'd like to break?Coffee now.
Have you ever smoked cigarettes?No.
Do you doodle? What patterns?Not a big doodler.
Are you a list maker?Definitely. It really is what keeps me organized and able to achieve a lot.
What is your bedtime ritual? Do you read before going to sleep or watch a late-night talk show?Both.
Do you do crossword puzzles most every day?I like to do crosswords but I don’t really do much right now.
Do you read the Bible or a daily devotion / meditation book?I read the Bible as a boy.
Where is the desk in your house? What do you usually do there?Living room. But it is not really a desk for many things.
Is there somewhere in town you stop every day? Every week?My friend Oscar. We chat a lot do exercises together, play chess. We share all these habits.
Do you make New Year's resolutions? Did you when you were younger? Did / do you ever keep them?Mmmm, not really New Year's resolutions but I would always set forth my goals for the year. When I was younger I don’t think I thought enough about those things.
Describe what you look like now. Have you been happy with the way you look? What did you look like as a teenager? As a young child? If you had to name a famous person whom you looked like, who would it be? Who would you most like to look like?Well kind of intellectual guy, small 1.67m and 67 kg. My hair has gone white most of it though I am 38, neither fat nor thin. I've never really been obsessed with my looks but I do make a point to stay in shape. I have looked like these for a long time. I have not become a different guy with age, no. I have always been careful with the weight and the physical appearance. I look like Christian Slater in reading glasses. I am fine with the appearance, I don’t have any role model or anything like that.
Has your appearance played an important part in your getting along in the world? Do you think it's been detrimental or beneficial?Well that would apply for a woman, but for a man it hardly affects you when you have a point to make to your mates and friends. I am not a handsome man or an ogre, but I really don’t think that that counts much. It may count for trivial things and trivial people but not for the things that matter in this world. I’ve met people that are physically impaired and are the people who have impressed me more for their intelligence and wit.
What is your best feature? Your worst? Do you have any birthmarks or scars that differentiate your looks absolutely from anyone else?I am pretty common as to looks, you would not say of me: the guy with the blue eyes, or the broad-shouldered fellow.
Have you ever considered plastic surgery? If so, did you end up doing it? If not, why not? In all truth, are you vain?No. Don’t think I would, and my nose could use a little twist.
What would you change about your appearance? Do you wish you were taller or shorter?Maybe taller yes. But not indispensable.
Do you remember getting your first suit and tie? Your first pair of nylons and heels?I love the long hair look but I don't come from the 60s so it's difficult to answer this question. I had long hair when I was younger and it may have been the influence. I think it was probably the best decade of the 20th Century - it turned everything upside down and questioned so many things about our culture. It did not change me because I have had my time to think about things and the features that I have kept in my growing up have been kept intentionally and not because some fashion made me keep it.
What is your family look?I look most like my father. No family trait but he was the same build I am.
Have you ever had any facial hair? Did you try different styles of mustaches and beards? What is the natural color of your hair?Yes I have tried mustaches and beards but in the end I decide to shave. The natural color of my hair is light brown although right now most of my hair is getting white. Most of it.
What fashion trends have you seen come and go? Do you prefer traditional clothing or eccentric dress? Did you have long hair in the sixties?I think I have been aging for a while. It has been a few years since I started to have gray hair, but it really doesn’t matter much.
Do you tan or burn?Tan sometimes.
Travels and Leisure Time
What did you always like best about the weekends? Did you have a usual routine?The free time to read, enjoy with friends and go out and maybe to sleep.
To what cities in the United States have you traveled? Do you have a favorite vacation spot?None whatsoever. Unfortunately.
To what foreign countries have you traveled? What cities? What were some of your favorite cities and why?To Brazil only. I enjoyed Sao Paulo and Porto Alegre. They were very beautiful places and very different from the things I am used to seeing.
Do you vacation with certain people or is every vacation different?Every vacation is different.
Have you ever camped?I'm not much of a camper. When I was younger I did with my friends from childhood, but after that, zero camping.
Is sitting around a fire one of your favorite things?Oh I’d love to, but there have not been chimneys where I have lived.
Have you always been glad to get home?Always glad to leave, always glad to get home.
Have you ever taken a trip alone? Did you like that?Not very much, but my trip to Brazil was like that and actually I enjoyed every minute of it, although i would have liked to have my partner with me.
Have you met someone on vacation with whom you correspond to this day?Yes, a couple of friends from Brazil, she is a teacher just like me and we shared a lot of experiences while I was there and she showed me all there was to be seen.
Do you enjoy flying?Yes I do.
Do you have other thoughts or memories you would like to share about travel or leisure time?I would like to travel more and see the world out there. There is so much to see and do and one wonders how is it possible to live for about 80 years and not being able to watch what the world has in stock for you.
Where are places in the world you would still like to see / which you had been able to see?The whole globe. I would like to see so much of the world we are living in and then understand a few things in those places. People talk about Europe and I have no idea about that place. They say Rome, Madrid, Lisbon, Amsterdam, and then I get sad because I have not been able to say the places, I have little geographical knowledge of those places and they are so great and so famous.
On the other hand there is America. I cannot believe that I would live a lifetime on this world and that I would not set my feet on America (The Monster as they call it here).
I would so much like to visit New York especially. I think that my journey on earth would be very sad if I don’t do that.
I would also like to see some of the Asian culture like China and Japan. They are so different from any idea we have about culture and religion, that I would love to see those things for myself. And then Australia and Canada and Chile and Mexico.
What are you driving now? How many years have you had this vehicle?Nothing, I have never owned a car.
When did you get your first car? Did you buy it yourself or did your parents help you?Idem.
What color was your first bike? When did you get it? Who taught you to ride a bike?My father did, the color was red and I rode all over the city. I even escaped and went to the beach with it, or to the sea front for a quick plunge. This is something very funny because the next week after my father gave me the bike, I went to the sea front wall and rode all along the wall which is a stretch of about 5 miles and I was so happy riding my bicycle next to the cars and buses, if my parents had known they would have gone crazy, but guess what? They knew.
There was a woman from my block who saw me and she told dad, fortunately he did not make much fuss about it but made me promise that I would not do it, and me as a normal kid promised and so the next trip was even nicer and I took a short to plunge into the water. I would bring the bicycle to the rocks and from there a small jump for about 15 minutes and back to the house after that. I kept doing the thing for about a year or two until my brother said to me once, you know, don’t tell them, but I went to the front wall and jumped in the water – oh really? I asked.
Did you ever have a motorcycle?Never.
What is your dream car? Did you ever own one? If money were not an issue, would you still buy it?Someday I'd like a little black BMW or Mercedes convertible.
Who taught you to drive? Did you learn on a stick shift?Don’t know.
How could motorists be more courteous today?No, definitely not.
Moods, Attitudes and Philosophies
Do you like rainy days? What do you do on them?Love rainy days. I rarely take an umbrella. I like to stay in bed and read and have a drink of some wine and listen to some music. It did not deter me from going out and do the things that I had to do, but lately I am getting discouraged from going out on a rainy day.
As an old dog, have you learned new tricks?I adore change so definitely I like learning new tricks. I try to learn things every day. One day without learning is a day lost.
What heroic attributes do you have? What not-so-heroic-at-all attitudes do you have?Hmmm. I suppose I don't shy from responsibility. I respect people very much no matter who. I respect and defend old people and women and think every body should do the same. I love children and find myself playing with them even if I don’t know them.
Would you say you're a doer or a procrastinator?Absolutely a doer.
Would you say you're blessed? How so?I have passion, energy, a sense of urgency, and I feel that I was raised with good values.
Did you ever follow instinct instead of logic or judgment?All the time, on certain occasions I feel that I am doing the right thing and discuss this with my wife, but most of the times experience has proved me right.
Have you been able to trust your instincts? What do your instincts tell you?Absolutely. I always do and I usually don't regret it.
Are you afraid to cry?No! Films make me cry sometimes. Mostly American-Hollywood-Insignificant-films are the ones!!
Are you a pretty good fighter? Physically, with words, or something else?Words and example. If I had to fight alright, but I’d rather not, I try to inspire people with my own example.
What makes you angry? How do you handle being deeply upset? What behavior can you simply not tolerate?I can’t tolerate lack of wit and betrayal. When I am upset I just disappear from sight and you better leave me alone until I regain the feeling of being a social being. Was that redundant?
What are you like when you're sick? Do you like being taken care of or left alone? Have you ever had a bad diagnosis?Taken care off, cause I get pretty ugly and you would not notice it.
What's your pet peeve?When I get home late and the kids have not taken a bath or have not had dinner.
Do you consider yourself hard working or lazy? Are you patient or impatient? Do you consider yourself a Type A or more kicked back personality? How has your personality and temperament changed through the years? Any special circumstances where you changed because something dawned on you?I believe that I have been hard working, a bit impatient and through the years I have been more impatient than before, and I think that this is because I have grown tired of people’s mediocrity.
Are you a jealous person?Never jealous. Anyway if someone wants to betray you, they will no matter what you do. Besides jealousy is more a disease than a personality trait.
Do you have a tendency get the blues? Did anyone else in your family? Does there seem to be a dominant personality trait in your family? Worriers? Hypochondriacs? Constantly happy?No I don’t. Actually I am very optimistic about life and always think that things will improve. As to family traits there were a lot of nervous breakdowns before me, but I have never gotten into one.
Are you easy or difficult to get along with?Definitely easy, I get along with almost everyone.
What character trait have you seen in someone else that you might like to emulate?I'd love to be more relaxed about things sometime. I get angry when things go wrong and it is not my fault, then I would like to take it easier and say what the hell, but I just can’t.
Would you say you've lived in the moment or dwelled too much on the future or the past?I definitely live in the future. And that has a lot to do with my constant daydreaming. I never look back on the past with sorrow or anything, I always think that the future will be better and that I would have all i have not had so far , so I am very optimistic at all moments.
Would you rather live near the mountains or lakes? Are you a city mouse or country mouse? Do you like to be alone?Mmmm. You know, come to think about it, the mountains would be such a nice place to write and read and just enjoy the sights, but maybe only the weekends, I need the hustle and bustle of the city and above all I need the shops.
How private are you? Do you live with an open door policy or is your home your private sanctuary?Oh I really am an open person, and this gets me into conflicts because my wife likes solitude and privacy.
Do your friends call before they stop by? Should they?Call?? Oh yeah, when I own a telephone.
Do you believe in God or another higher power? Do you pray? Where do you do your worshipping?None of those, although sometimes i think there should be something else.
Do you seek to know more about the afterlife? What do you think it is like?I like the topic very much and have seen documentaries and stuff, but the more I see it, the more convinced I get that one has to do what ones has to do here. Did that make any sense?.
Do you read your horoscope in the paper? Have you ever gone to a psychic?I don't read horoscopes. I know I am a Capricorn and don’t want to know much about Capricorns because every time I read a horoscope I discover that many of the things that have been expressed there coincide entirely with me, so I don’t want to know about maybe the future of my life and then get scared. And definitely have never seen anyone to read my mind or anything.
Is there something that you believed for a long time that you don't believe any more? What changed your mind?I have been very down to earth for as long as I remember.
Are you a dreamer or realist? How would you describe your personality?Well I dream a lot and have my feet on the ground most of the time. How do you buy that? I spend my time alone in thoughts and what ifs... but when I get home and look around me and the things that depend on me, I just become very practical because I don’t want any flaws concerning the raising of the children or the family.
Whom do you confide in, or do you keep your troubles to yourself? Whom do you call for comfort?My friend Oscar.
Who comes to you with their troubles? How do you think you help them?Many of my friends come to me with their troubles. I always tell them some words that might help them, some encouragement if that is what they need and maybe some support too. To be honest I received a lot of that after my incident at my work so I cannot but do the same thing that I received when I was down and I needed a hand.
Looking Back or 20/20 Hindsight
What were your favorite years? What were your favorite ages?I like my life right now in 2006. I feel that I am strong. I am focused on the future, not on the past.
What are the important dates in your personal history?March 8th, 1994. Eddy’s birthday.
August 20th 1999. Pedro’s birthday.
What do you think other people think of you? Do you think they see you the way you really are?I guess I am very transparent. Some people may think I am quite straight but when they get to know me they always confess that I appear to them quite hard to get along with.
During my teaching years I got a pretty clear picture of what people thought of me and saw in me and that made me very proud, because I am usually seen as someone you can count on (and my students did) and as someone serious at the same time. Exactly the idea I meant to convey.
People used to say that I looked a little strict and at the beginning people tended to get away, but as days go by, everyone starts feeling comfortable and in a few days the classroom is very nice and friendly and open.
I have an experience that may portrait this fact, and it happened to a girl that later became a very good friend of mine. On the first day of her course, the director of the school had said a thousand things as to regulations and the things people were not supposed to do and all the don’ts at the school.
Later when she entered and the course began and once inside the vice director told them another array of reprimands and things that were not supposed to be done and all the don’ts that had already been said by the director. Finally she entered my classroom and she said that the first phrase I said was “ I think you have been told all the don’ts and no one has told you the things you can do.” And then suddenly everybody relaxed and I got my desired atmosphere in class.
What was the hardest thing that you ever had to do?Realize how stupid the superiors worked around me were, when I was denied my possibility to make a Master Degree in England.
What has been the angriest that you've ever been? What did you do about it?When I was younger I used to hit the wall with my fists with all my strength and that made me scared sometime, because I thought I was going to lose it someday.
How have you seen prices change over the years? Have you had a struggle being able to afford the things you want and need? Have you ever felt wealthy?That is my everyday struggle, trying to make ends meet and it is really hard at times. I am far from being wealthy, and sometimes one gets tired of so much fight and there is nothing as a reward after all the fight. You work work and work and you never get any richer or anything, just the usual needs and a very rare luxury once in a blue moon.
What was the first funeral you attended? How did it affect you? What was the last one you went to? Are they getting easier or harder?A friend’s mother when I was in high school it affected me because he was so sad for so long that I did not imagine what would happen to me when that happened somewhere near, and then next year my mother died and it really marked me for good. The last one i went to was the funeral of a friend at my block. He was very strong and nobody thought that something like that could happen to him, but we were all wrong.
When do you first remember feeling like an adult? Did it come early or late in life?I think it happen when I was at the University, neither early nor late, just in time to do the changes I wanted done.
What fads have you seen come and go? What do you like about how society has changed since you were a child? What don't you like about how society has changed?Well I don’t think I have seen many changes in society for the better, everything is a mess in the world we live in and the richest people have a hard time getting richer and the poor...you know.
I just don’t think things are any fair today and would give an arm and a leg just to see changes and not seeing so much hunger and disease in Africa for example, less violence in the ex-Russian republics, less interference on the part of some governments in other countries affairs and things like those. I just can say that if the current situation continues this way, we are all doomed.
Do you have definite goals? Did you achieve them? Are you still working on them? Any new ones?I've achieved some and have been denied others, but I still have a long way to go and plan to go ahead.
Did you have a year of living dangerously or recklessly?Never.
When you really think about your childhood, was it completely carefree, or did you have worries even then?No worries make children happy.
Were you the same person you are now when you were a child, or were you very much different?I have changed a lot. I am more serious and responsible. I am more conscious of the world and the mind of people. I suffer for the stupidity that surrounds the human race when all we have to do is make a better place and forget about everything that leads to destruction and death.
Can you summarize where your family has been emotionally, and where it looks like it's going?They are all with God now, I mean my parents. Emotionally they will always be with me, since they taught me how to walk in this world full of stones and how to endure and carry on. I don’t think that morally I can ever let them down.
What was your biggest mistake?I should have kept my father’s boat and learn to sail it. When he passed away I did not want to inherit many of his possessions. I saw them as sacred belongings (such was my opinion of the guy) although he had sold the boat before, I would have been able to buy it if I had told him. It would have guaranteed me a fortune today, but I guess I did not think about the possibility of his passing away.
If you could change anything in your life, what would you change?Oh I would have liked more sympathy and company from my two brothers, we are so much apart and so very different that I do not think we will ever gain what we have lost.
Who did you trust and / or respect most in your life?Definitely my father.
Did you have any real vices / bad habits?No.
Would you prefer a burial, cremation, mausoleum, Viking funeral, or something else?Guess what, I have never thought about that. But I think that a normal coffin would do. After I am gone, I am not going to worry too much about my ¨well being.¨
What do you want said about you at your eulogy?
There was passion in him, or he tried it hard.
Do you have any fears or phobias? Have they changed during your lifetime? How much have they affected you?No fears yet. Perhaps the fear of being too ordinary and not giving the right impression to the people that surround me and the people that really care for me.
Is there a character trait that you'd like to pass on? Would you like your descendants to have your sense of humor or your knowledge of something you think is important?Sense of humor yes, but the way things are going my kids will outwit me on that. I believe that I would also like my children to have the gift that I have for languages –the big one seems to have it – Because knowing a language is already a career, like driving and knowing computing. Those are jobs in themselves. So if you know a foreign you are guaranteed a job and a few extra bucks. Not to mention the amount of information you will have access to and the cultural level that you will get and the ability you will have to speak with people that no one else will be able to understand. This is what I would like my children to grasp.
If you could be cloned, would you want that?Don’t know, maybe not.
Have you ever had a feud that went on too long with anyone? Is there someone you just plain don't get along with?When I was younger I had a feud with a guy that ended up in a fight for two consecutive weeks, Non stop. Our parents had to go get us after school because they knew we would go into action, but I guess that was a childish thing to do.
Do you remember a time when you were acutely embarrassed?Not really.
What was your proudest moment in life? Second and third proudest moments?Being the main speaker at a language conference in Brazil. It meant that everyone was there waiting for what I had to say about language education in Cuba and a few language teaching concepts, I have always considered well knowing. It meant that I had a concept to share with people of my same profession and education. I was so eager from the day I learned that I would go there to do that, and I enjoyed every minute of my work there.
Another important moment was the day I entered into FIDE rated players. My chess instructor told me that Gary Kasparov and I were on the same FIDE list (of course he is on top of the list and I am somewhere in the bottom). But that meant the culmination of a number of years of training and efforts and competitions. I was very proud of that.
I also get very proud when I see my children’s’ slow and steady efforts in what they do and in what they are studying. For example right now I am teaching them English, the two of them (11 years old and 6 years old) and I see the way they are reasoning and producing a few words and sounds and I get very proud and aware that they are developing not only the skills in the language but also the capacity of thinking which in the end is the largest skill of all. I have to admit that I enjoy the teaching act and that I enjoy the mere fact of seeing them think properly.
What person or persons affected your life the most?Absolutely my father. I have always wanted to follow the example of that illiterate poor and irrelevant man. He taught me so much, without saying one word.
What was your biggest challenge? Was there something that you just did not want to do but had to go ahead and do anyway? How did it turn out for you?My biggest challenge was coming as far from my childhood as I did. And then working at every place I have wanted to work. There has not been one place i have not been able to work at.
Have you ever witnessed something that you can't forget?My folks’ death. I was there when they both died and it may have been that I was young and not ready for the moment, but I see those days very clear in my head.
I remember as if it were yesterday that I was coming home from school of my 12th grade and I opened the door of the house and the neighbor met me at the door and he saw that I was singing as usual and he looked at me and said, “You don’t know yet?”
The next evening I was at the funeral service and what I remember most was the fact that I did not want to go to the coffin and see her. It would have been nice but I did not do it. I was 16 or 17. I guess it was a childish thing to do.
And then I remember that other day when I came back home (wife’s home) after a night at the hospital taking care of my dad and then when I went to bed my wife woke me up and said your brother is outside on a bicycle and then I did not need to go out because I already knew what had happened.
Those were the worst days of my life and they just don’t seem to go away although 21 and 11 years have gone by today.
Have you ever felt betrayed? Have you ever betrayed someone else?No. What you see is what you get. As to being betrayed yes, probably a couple of times I have felt that my friends or the people who are supposed to be there for me have failed me and betrayed.
It is very hard to live in these times of hardship and remain loyal. People are easily bought and even more, around here when there is so much need and when people try to make profits out of thin air, no matter who gets hurt along the way.
This last incident I went through really destroyed the vision that I had of the people who have the power to help you and the people who are supposed to represent you.
I refer to the incident at work of not being allowed to take the Master Course in England. I thought everyone would be happy and proud of having a teacher at the Center with the great honor of being allowed into a British University of world prestige.
But instead of that, what the situation created was a lot of envy proper of the people who are poor in spirit and who are not able to do things for themselves, and when the situation reached the higher spheres, instead of their support, what I received was their backs and no solution whatsoever. Unfortunately you can’t just get a plane here and disappear. You need to have permission from your Minister and that did not happen.
How would you describe yourself?I would describe as a man eager to make a change, a bit of a dreamer, positive optimistic indefatigable, creative social and pretty easy to get along with.
What has held your emotional stability together through the years?Humor.
If you started an organization or business what would it be?Something on developing people’s creativity. I hate mediocrity and I believe the brain has enough power to turn every person into a creative being, out of their favorite pastime or skill. If you have heard about Multiple intelligence you will see what I am talking about. There is something there in everyone and something that must be exploited and let out.
If you could have designed your life from infancy up, how would it play?It’s been fine this way, but definitely somewhere else.
If you hold a fundamental truth or believe in a universal principle, what is it?You live once.
What was the happiest moment of your life? The saddest?Happiest - hearing "It’s a boy!”
Saddest - when Dad died.
What are the most important lessons you've learned?Anyone can teach you something.
Are there any words of wisdom you'd like to pass along to particular family members or friends?Effort does not count. Nobody mentions the guys who made more effort, but those who were champions.
How has your life been different than what you'd imagined?By now I thought I would have been more comfortable financially and all what that thought would have meant.
How would you like to be remembered?As someone who tried hard. There were times when I meant to be remembered otherwise, probably be remembered for some great action or some huge achievement, but unfortunately (and fortunately I realized) I was born in the wrong place for that. Today, I just want to be remembered as someone who had tried. That is all.
What does your future hold?????????????????
Is there anything that you've never told someone but want to tell this person now?Mom, I wish I there could have been more time with you.
Is there something about someone that you've always wanted to know but have never asked?I can say that I have always wanted to know how and when was it that my sister and my brother turned into those cold people that they have become, especially with me.
I remember that we shared so many things when we were little, or when our parents were alive and then out of the blue there is a strange woman living there and a strange man that I have no idea who they really are.
It is the same blood that runs through our veins and yet, she is someone there and he is someone there too, not the warm, loving and caring brothers that you expect brothers to be. I have not asked them for obvious reasons, but would like to do that one day.
I have even asked myself if it was I the one who changed, but I am sure that I have been the same and more than that, I have been the one who has tried to keep the relationship working. That is the probable question I would put to my brothers.
Any secrets that you don't mind sharing now?Surprisingly, I really don't have any. What you see is what you get.
What do you like about yourself? What don't you like so much?I suppose I like that I work hard and am optimistic, What I don’t like is that sometimes I expect too much of people and on some occasions I tend to be rancorous, and that affects me. I act like that specially with people who are closer to me and since I expect the best from them, when that best does not happen, I get disappointed and feel bad, and if the action that person has done, affects me, then I keep it as an elephant would do and probably will do something to make you be aware of what you have done. That, I don’t like about me
Please write about the importance of your religion or spirituality. What role does religion play in your life?No religion at all. My religion is purely personal and has no relationship whatsoever with any creed or God worshipping or anything.
My religion is mine and no one else’s. I believe in honesty above all, I believe in the fact that there is a human race and that the race has to do things for itself if it wants to survive and prosper in the world.
Unfortunately the race was not bestowed with an intelligent brain, otherwise the world would be a better place. The race was just bestowed with a thinking mechanism, that at times thinks but at some other times it only acts as the mechanism that it is.
It only acts in the form of instinctual behavior that is closely to the animal kingdom than the supposedly conceived superior animal. It is us who have to do and do well and quick. There lies my religion. I trust that one day the human being will be able to get rid of the chains that tie thinking and will be able to construct the real world we deserve.
But it has to be devoid of religion, leadership, frontiers, race and all those ties that restrict and impede the proper thinking of the unique race. My religion so far Is the capacity I have of doing the good at all times and not hurting anyone and not affecting anyone either. I hope one day people think likewise and we can really start creating a ¨Humankind¨ as such.
And, finally, what is the meaning of your life? What is the most important thing you've learned in life?To give, to love to share and to enjoy. I believe that above all these are the things that really mean something. One has to go about life worrying about money and making ends meet and hardly do you have time to have fun, to do things for your own pleasure. I believe that one has to enjoy things and share with people and really get the best out of this short stay of ours on Earth.
Add Questions and Family Documents
Please include the questions we didn't ask, or add some family documents. Letters from your grandmother, perhaps, or a family history written by another family member.I am about to start a new stage in my life, because I am going to start a new job and seek new opportunities. Things might change from now on because as always I will give my soul again in the new attempt and will go for it. I may fail or I may succeed, whatever happens, you may rest assured that I tried hard and meant to change things around me and around those who are with me.
However circumstances may get in the way again and against such circumstances it is very difficult to fight from these frontiers. I wish I even have the strength to fight that. As John Lennon once said,
“One day they will understand our rage”.