DIVING by Ula Grace
As we put on our bulky Scuba gear I smile in anticipation of the underwater trip we are about to take. I haven’t been diving in a couple of years so I’m a little nervous. But as soon as we get in the water that all goes away, and I immerse myself in the beauty and mystery of the ocean we are part, if only for a short time. We swim deeper and deeper toward our destination: a sunken ship. I am so enthralled by the fish that I fail to notice the huge shadow in front us until it looms up ahead recognizable as a boat. We swim over it. It is it’s own whole habitat, separate yet in union with the ocean. There is all kinds of coral and underwater plants growing on the hull and deck, and along the railing of the ship. Fish are everywhere, miniature purple ones swimming in schools, and large ones swimming solo. It makes me sad to leave this underwater paradise.
This installment in Ula’s Cuba Stories takes place in Playa Girón.
To read other stories… THE CUBAN DIARY
Photography for this story courtesy of Steven Gutmann
A RIDE AROUND THE CITY… by Ula Grace
The wind rushes through my hair as if in a hurry. We breeze down the ocean side highway in our neon pink Caddy at the start of our tour of Havana.
Our first stop is the Hotel Nacional, a hotel built in the 30’s and famous for housing people like Al Capone and others. We speed toward our next destination: Vedado. On the opposite side of Havana as Old Havana, otherwise known as Habana Viejo in Spanish. Next the Plaza de la Revolucion, with the black outlines of Cuba’s greatest now dead heroes: Ché Guevara and Camlio Cienfuegos. Below Ché there is his famous quote “Hasta la Victoria Siempre” (in English “For Victory, Always”).
We leave the plaza and drive onward. My favorite place is next: The John Lennon Park. I had been waiting to go here throughout the whole drive. We arrive at the park to find dry, scraggly, yellow grass and burning bronze benches, one of which a bronze statue is lounging with the words “Ustede puede decir que soy soñador pero no soy el único” (in English “You may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one”). I rush out of the car to sit next to my Idol for a picture, but I have to sit on my bag because the bench is too hot. As we reach the bench we are met by an old man holding a pair of eyeglasses for the bronze John. He carefully places the glasses on the statue and waits for us to finish taking pictures. As we walk back to the car, I look back and smile to see how carefully the little old glasses man handles the little bronze glasses.
We go next to a lush green park and stop for a beverage. When we leave I decide to sit on the back of the seat and my auntie Krissy sits up with me. We ride like that to our next stop: a green house that my mom specially requested to see. But we couldn’t go inside. To end our tour, our guide took us through a tunnel under the ocean to a castle. All in all it was a fantastic tour in a ridiculous car and was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Another installment from our Foreign Correspondent, Ula Grace, as she recalls her visit to Cuba with her parents Krista and Steve.
To see other stories… THE CUBAN DIARY
WHERE THE REVOLUCIÓN STARTED!
The Comandancia in the Sierra Maestra, near Bayamo
NOTEBOOK ~ LEAVING CUBA
As I leave Cuba, I think about these past few weeks and how amazing they have been. I think about all the dives we went on, the two wreck dives and seeing the ships loom out of the darkness perched on their underwater precipice. Horseback riding through fields of tobacco, trotting on the red muddy cart track, surrounded by cliffs of a reddish hue. Lounging in the sun on the white beaches of Varadero by the sparkling turquoise water. Walking through the sweltering streets of Havana, marveling at the crumbling façade on colonial buildings. The plane wheels are spinning faster and faster as we speed down the runway, the nose of the plane tips up and I sit with my body pressed against the seat, the seatbelt tight in my lap. We’re in the air flying at incredible speed, to me this is as normal as walking, I was flying soon after I could walk and then I learned to swim. I look down on the ocean and see the green spit of land that is Cuba recede from view and blue gradually became the only color in sight.
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TedBook’s Foreign Correspondent, is on her way home, her mind filled with stories to tell. She sends this dispatch as her plane takes off heading north. More to come…
Ula’s earlier stories are here…
Foreign Correspondent Ula Grace
Finally news from Cuba! TedBook’s Foreign Correspondent and Travel Editor, following in the footsteps of another author that spent time in Cuba and liked cats, here Ula is trying out Cuba’s most famous export. We anxiously await her next post.
Guest Photographer… Krista Strutz
Ula’s earlier stories are here…
There’s salsa music playing while I sit on the cobblestone steps watching people dance. If I stare straight ahead I can see over the red-tiled rooftops of Trinidad. I see the ocean, a great expanse of blue condensed into a thin line on the horizon. One of the dancers is a little girl, she’s wearing a bright pink shirt. She’s accompanied by her aunt or older sister. She looks to be about nine years old and already a great dancer. Her dark hair is pulled back into a neat bun and adorned with fake flowers. At the end of the song, they leave the dance floor. I see the cobblestone stairs beginning to fill with people. It’s fun to watch the band play because they all dance to the music with the rest of the dancers. The music they are playing is traditional that has been turned into rock. I convince my mom to dance with me, but neither of us can lead so we dance by ourselves, until a man in a red sweatshirt starts to dance with me. He’s a good dancer and conscious of the fact that I’m not the best. As we dance to the salsa, out of the corner of my eye I see someone join my mother. They are dancing faster than we are. When the song ends, I go back to my chair only to be asked again by a gentleman about 70 years old. We dance by the table my parents are sitting at. He also dances slowly, but as the song goes on we dance faster. When the song ends, he kisses me on the cheek and then we leave.
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Another dispatch from our Foreign Correspondent, Ula Grace, traveling in Cuba with her parents Krista and Steve. A few days prior I had received an email from Krista, here is an excerpt…
And now we are in Santiago. Last night, with the help of a new local friend, we snuck Ula into a fabulous and seedy house of music, and danced! (the locals said I dance like a Puerto Rican – whatever that means!) Fantastic! Heading off on another memorable overnight bus to Trinidad tomorrow, and hopefully a little beach time. We really like Cuba in general; the people are very nice and helpful, the streets are incredibly clean even within all the colonial decay. And people are very surprised and pleased when we tell them where we are from!
I am curious to know what ‘dancing like a Puerto Rican‘ means to a Cuban… it can’t be good. Anxiously awaiting Ula’s next post… and Krista’s… I’ll keep you posted.
THE CANVAS by Ula Grace
As I look down from above, I see a vast canvas waiting to be inscribed upon with memories and experiences. I see a scene of everlasting beauty, created out of the continuing story of the amazing people who make up the Cuba we know today. I see a masterpiece created by waves of blue that fade into the green that is Cuba. I see where the unblemished blue dissolves into the clear aquamarine that accompanies the shallow water near the shoreline. Where the navy seeps into the translucent blue of the shoals, I see a spray of deep azure that at first glance mars the surface of that perfect transition. As I continue to gaze, I see deeper, I see how the azure completes that chapter in the story of life…
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This is the first dispatch from our Foreign Corespondent, Ula Grace, as she explores Cuba with her parents. A world… seen through the eyes of an almost 13 year old student at Spring Street International School in Friday Harbor… that most will never visit. To see the start of this journey, click here… ULA GRACE… Foreign Corespondent … and stay tuned for her next post.
Ula is a world traveler, visiting many countries since a babe in arms. To help establish her credentials, here is their Christmas card from last year…