Wednesday 1 May 2013
Urban Diary (in Havana)
There is hardly a breeze and the midday sun is hitting hard on the cobblestoned road. The sky is light blue. The longer I spend in my country of birth the more the sun is showing off its strength, a little at a time. As if it were trying to impress me. A few tourist-looking tourists watch a line of schoolchildren crossing. A few tourist-looking locals watch the tourists watching the children, ready for their next predatory move. The pavement under the children’s feet suddenly looks more solid, as in future-solid. On noticing this, my cynicism wanes a bit. But just a bit.
Winter never came to Havana this year, they keep telling me and when it did, it came too late and therefore crashed with a beautiful, albeit short spring which quickly turned into early summer. The schoolchildren fan themselves in the midst of the midday sun.
The line is not a straight one. Small groups of children shuffle about and talk to each other restlessly. Where are they headed? I wonder. They carry big rucksacks. Some of the boys have traded their white shirt for a T-shirt, whilst keeping their beet-red short trousers.
Now they file past the entrance of what used to be the Ministry of Education, a hideous construction that breaks up the architectural harmony in old Havana. The building still sits on Obispo Boulevard, Bishop’s Boulevard, mitreless and pointless.
I catch snippets of the children’s conversation as I press the shutter of my camera. What’s your favourite bird? What does your father/mother do? Why aren’t you friends with X anymore?
I carry on walking with my family in tow. On the corner of Aguiar and Obispo I run into a figure whose face looks familiar. He vanishes in the crowd. I turn and turn trying to spot him again. Where have I seen him before? Out of the corner of my left eye I detect a sharp and quick movement. For a split second our eyes meet. He disappears, making no sound but leaving the mark of a childhood memory lived thirty-odd years ago. I am suddenly brought back to life by the voices of the schoolchildren. Up above, in the light blue sky, the midday sun continues to show off its strength, a little at a time.
Photo taken by the blog author
Next Post: “Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music”, to be published on Sunday 5th May at 10am (GMT)