Contrasts

Sunday, November 10 – Preparing for the workshop and the privilege of being a tourist

Sunday – it’s quiet on the street at 7:30 and the first morning sound is a rooster crowing from the house across the street.  Slowly I begin to hear more sounds, footsteps on the street and a few voices.  It’s a very different feel from the weekday morning bustle.  Our driver Carlos picks us up and we arrive at the school early and wait for Anyel to unlock the doors.  It’s blistering hot and humid again.  We are let into the studio and begin unpacking our suitcases of supplies.  Eduardo arrives and the four of us unload more things than they have ever had in this room at one time.  They are most astonished by the quantity of brayers.  The printer is a highly coveted item and will serve not only this workshop, and these classes, but also the entire school.  2-1/2 hours later we have unpacked and organized for the workshop, tested the printer and the plates and ink.  In this heat there is no need to modify the ink, it’s soft and pliant.  We mixed the gum Arabic from powder with the expert hands of Eduardo and Anyel – they have done this before, although their gum is coarser – closer to the source.  I’ve bought highly refined powder.  We test it with a ph strip, also a new thing for them.  We have filled an entire closet in the classroom with supplies – dozens of cans of ink, hundreds of printing plates, spray bottles, ink knives, sponges, paper, and more.  It’s satisfying.

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Once we lock everything up in the closet, we catch the car and drive over to Roberto’s.  He’s fixed lunch for us and Eduardo and Monique, the Hampshire student that is his charge right now.  After a sumptuous lunch we linger and tell stories.  We are getting to know each other!

Shel and I walk home from Roberto’s.  The streets are getting more familiar and we are more comfortable moving among the locals.  We pass a theater where people are lined up for a performance, in their Sunday best.  Knowing we need vegetable oil for the class tomorrow we attempt to go the mercado, but it’s closed, so we decide to go to the Hotel Nacional for mojitos and the view.  It’s decadent and feels otherworldly, but also so weirdly comfortable.  We linger for a couple of hours, writing a few postcards, strolling the grounds, drinking mojitos.  Whether we like it or not, our Americanism comes with privilege and entitlement and we easily slip in and out of it.

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