Saturday morning brought a bilingual Bible study, but not until we played a circle game that had something to do with ducks, quacking and ending up sitting on each other’s knees in a circle. A great ice-breaker but perhaps not with sweaty people first thing in the morning!
Our passage for study was Luke 2:41-52, the only story in all of the Gospels of Jesus as a child. If I’m honest I wasn’t expecting much from this morning. I think that this passage is overused with young people, so much so that it’s become a bit of a cliche.
It’s good to be wrong.
Izett, a young Cuban minister, led us through an exploration of the passage from Jesus’ point of view, asking ‘Why was he there? What did he see? Who would he meet?’ before delving into the possibilities of the passage for young people and for the church.
Is this a passage that says take young people seriously? That’s a hard generalisation. After all, Jesus was no ‘average’ young person. But there are things in there that we need to hear about the place of young people, about learning for our elders and making time for each other.
The language barrier proved challenging in this conversation too, but then perhaps that adds to the understanding of the communication problems young people face as they talk a different language from adults.
Callejon de Hammel
After lunch we ventured out on what was easily the hottest day so far. Our magical mystery tour landed in Callejon de Hammel, a bright spot in the crumbling sprawl of Old Habana.
The street in a poor and dangerous was taken over by a former French-German arms dealer turned good guy and turned into an art project.
Cuba has a very strong African influence on its culture, music and religion. Callejon de Hammel celebrates this Afro-Cuban fusion through street art. The walls of this little street are covered with murals depicting Afro-Cuban religions. It is a riot of colour and shape with sculpture, strange shrines and objects. It’s beautiful. And strange. And vibrant. And alive.
For the next few hours we had some time to wander Havana. Luis dropped us near the shops and a market. The group separated and disappeared to hunt for souvenirs or somewhere with air conditioning.
Avril and I spent the afternoon with Jen, chatting, wandering along the seafront and puting the world to right.
We found the bus and joined Luis and ‘Sandro who were engaged in a deep conversation about life I think. I have no idea what they were talking about but it looked important. It was interesting to watch these two very different men engage with each other; old and young, black and white, from different times and places, but full of respect and love for one another.
The rest of the gang piled on the bus and a spontaneous outbreak of Scottishness occurred. The mp3 player gave us some sing along songs and we were soon belting out 500 Miles by the Proclaimers and The Fratellis’ Chelsea Dagger as we drove through the streets of Havana.
The evening was one of the key points of our visit. It was a time when we would hear and see something of Cuba and we would tell our hosts about Scotland. The evening was a fairly random occasion, but filled with laughter and fun.
Both presentations featured dancing with our hosts showing us some co-ordinated salsa moves before we introduced them to ceilidh dancing.
Did you ever wonder why different cultures have different kinds of dancing?
I never really gave it much thought. Until now. There is something sensible about a gentle dance that involves small steps and not that much bouncing around when it’s 35C in the shade. There is nothing sensible about bounding and spinning at 100 MPH through a 5 minute Strip the Willow when it’s that hot! I thought I might actually collapse! I had to go upstairs and wring out my t-shirt!
The Cubans loved the ceilidh dancing but it was just too hot to do much more. we promised them we’d teach them some more sedate dances on the last night at our party.
It’s strange sometimes how community forms. I think today I noticed that. A group of young people who didn’t know each other at all are now friends, some for life. There are lots of reasons for that. At first it was possibly necessity. They were put together and have to live together but it’s more than that now. They aren’t a group now. In just a few short days they have become a community. What’s more encouraging is that they are an open and welcoming community. And I’m proud of them.