My landlady and friend Barbara Rosales was suffering from abdominal pain for days. Finally, her husband took her to the hospital where she was admitted for appendicitis. Unfortunately her appendix had already burst and she had to spend five days in the hospital after the surgery. On the third day I was invited to visit with her husband and son. I wanted photos, but I was sure that my camera would not be allowed into the building so I borrowed a cell phone. Because I read a lot, I was not surprised by what I saw. The building itself was in dis-repair, although it appeared as if work was in progress. After a very long wait for the elevator we arrived at the recovery ward, three rooms lined with beds. Initial impressions: old, understaffed, dirty, nurses not in uniform, and of course no privacy. This was definitely not the much vaunted model of socialist free healthcare that most are led to believe exists throughout the country.
To be fair, this was a very small neighborhood hospital, but I was assured that most hospitals for Cubans are similar and some are worse.
Drinking water in used soda bottles.
Guests wander everywhere.
Another ward through the doorway.
Barbara’s son helping her to move.
Barbara’s husband trying to make her more comfortable.
The next bed. Note the pillow.
The floor was filthy.
Barbara’s husband looking for an outlet with power inside the nurse’s station.
2nd floor area open to the sky.
2nd floor hallway
Two elevators (only one worked)
2nd floor area open to the sky
Outside in the entrance way.
Outside the entrance.
I like to observe people.
Often times what they do and how they do it can be entertaining.
For Cubans, hailing a cab is more like hitching a ride in the U.S. The taxis have routes that they drive all day long, So if one stops, you first have to ask if it’s going past where you want to go.
Instead of putting out a thumb, the favored method seems to be variations of finger waving.
One Finger Up. (optimist )
One finger down. (tired )
One finger hidden. ( gift offering ? )
Two fingers horizontal. ( confident )
The peace sign.
Four fingers horizontal. ( testing one’s nerves )
Four fingers vertical. ( the lazy method )
Two and Two. ( not easy, obviously a pro )
Ebaristo, my little Trinidad shoeshine friend recently complained that his hearing aid was no longer effective. I researched all the models and brought him the most powerful one I could find that was similar to what he had.
He was so appreciative that he quit for the day and invited me back to his home. I photographed him with his granddaughter and we drank coffee.
One Tough Cowboy
Yes, real cowboys still exist.
Thanks to a friend, I was invited to spend some time living on a working ranch and photographing day-to-day cowboy life.
Joe Maher is a tough, but soft-spoken all business cowboy who hires out to cattle ranchers to round-up, rope, tag, and drive cattle. His reputation precedes him. I heard him called a miserable SOB from more than one source, so I was a little unsure about going to live in his house for a week.
I found Joe and his wife Barbara to be kind, genuine, hospitable, and unpretentious folks.
Joe also raises horses for sale. Wherever he goes at least one of his dogs is following, ready to help move cows by nipping at their heals.
Working with young colts and fillies is where Joe’s soft side shows through. Make no mistake, these horses are not pets. They are well cared for, but they spend most of their time outside to condition them to the uneven terrain they will be working in. Even so, the horses come right up to Joe as if to say hello.
Watching Joe work was an experience I’ll not forget. I heard it said that one cannot tell where Joe stops and the horse begins. They move and seem to think as one.
I designed and sent them a photo album with some of my favorite images.
Thank you Joe Maher
What do children really need? Do they need expensive toys and organized sports to be happy? Do they need the latest fashion?
A happy home life and an active imagination will do a child well.
We had a prime open air window seat for a quick lunch at Kilometro Zero when this young man came begging for money for refresco. I told him no, we were eating, but he would not go away.
He would back off a few meters, then approach and ask again. I was as forceful as I could be, but he would not leave.
On the sidewalk after lunch I flashed this youngster a CUC and told him he would have to earn it by posing for a photo. He seemed a little unsure, but I got him across the street into some better light and snapped a few images. Robert was translating on the fly and told the young man he was earning the money and it was not a handout. I suppose he bought a cold drink because it was very hot, but at that point it was his money.
My latest trip to my favorite island was to help a longtime friend. No, not a Cuban, but an American-Cuban, Robert Ortiz. Robert and I have known each other for 15 years. We are both photographers. Robert operates a successful wedding and family portrait business. I dabble in everything except business.
Robert made a commitment to find the father he had not seen in decades. He knew his father lived in Havana, was not in great health, and was at least 82 years old. I was asked if I could help. I must say, it was an honor to accompany Robert and document his reunion.