Now that we have left Playa Girón and are in Trinidad, there is now some internet, so i can update you on the groups progress.
In Playa Girón we started our volunteering; marine conservation, building a baseball field and catching the predatory lion fish which were introduced into the area by human error. Playa Girón is a small town on the coast, best known as the beach where the attempted Bay of Pigs invasion took place – however, it wasn’t so much the historical significance nor the idyllic white sand beaches that blew me away but the tight sense of community and family – the ‘mi casa, su casa’ philosophy. During our time there we were able to talk to a number of locals about there life in Cuba and they generally adopted a much more pro-Castro view than those in Havana. The close community there were tightly bound by their strong sense of family and their love of music and dance.
Our group leader in Girón was the slightly ‘loco’ but loveable Alfonso who is involved with the local baseball team and therefore oversaw our work on the basbellito. We worked on the field – building the second dug-out and improving the slightly overgrown diamond. Having worked on and off on the field during our two week stay in Girón, on our last day we played a game against the junior team for who the field is for. Despite the ten to fifteen year age gap between us and them, it’s fair to say that they claimed an emphatic victory (even with the generous concessions made to our team….)
We also volunteered to help out the local area by cleaning the beaches of rubbish. We initially went round with rubbish bags just picking up what we saw and then later made rubbish bins (or “trash cans” as the American contingent insisted upon!) to place around the beach. Materials are very hard to source in the area, so we had to make do with whatever we could find – broken planks and small tree trunks – leaving the finished products looking rather… ‘abstract’.
Our third volunteering activity was hunting the lion fish around the coast. They were introduced by a man-made error into the area and are a serious threat to the surrounding sea life. We snorkelled for the majority of the morning pointing out the fish to be speared and those that we caught we grilled and ate for lunch there.
As well as volunteering we did find time also for some relaxation in the picturesque surroundings of Girón. This included snorkelling, swimming, bike riding and cocktail making. Alfonso took us to a natural clear water pool in the middle of a forest to swim and then to the coast to watch the sunset. We also went to a crocodile sanctuary which was a little less disconcerting than the crocodiles we saw wallowing in the stagnant pools around the fresh pool to which Alfonso took us…
The gratitude and warmth which we received from the community in Girón was humbling. Alfonso threw two parties for us whilst we were there and the way which he spoke of the baseball field and the kids response to our work highlighted the importance of something, such as sports facilities, that are all too easily taken for granted at home.
It was a really fantastic experience working in the community and it was also great to be able to give something back to a country and culture that has given us so many experiences over the last 4 weeks.
We are now on our ‘adventure week’ in Trinidad – a small city with cobbled streets and full in parks and squares which are full of live music and outdoor salsa parties in the evening. Our group of six has now been reduced to five as one of our leaders heads home (safe travels Lizzie!). Before returning to Havana for our final ten days we will be doing activities such as riding on horseback to a waterfall and enjoying the buzz of the city in contrast to the rather more calm feel of Girón.
I will next update you from Havana after we have spent this week in Trinidad –