Tuesday, July 12, 2005

As the World Turns

The world is quite full of drama these days, isn't it? My one tiny hope is that I may help people think a little differently after reading my blog, or at least help them see an issue, a group of people, a set of ideas in a different light. I venture farther and farther away from the preachiness and soap-boxing days of my idealistic youth everyday, but that's a good thing, I think.

I got an email today from the Latin American Working Group about the impact of Hurricane Dennis on the Cuban people. So far, 16 people have lost their lives, and almost the entire province of Granma has been demolished. Forty people have been killed in nearby Haiti (the first free Black nation in the West) as well, which has already been suffering from civil unrest and poverty for decades. It's telling that Cuba, a socialist country, rarely has hurricane fatalities because it has built an infrastructure that can evacuate people quickly and effectively, while Haiti's US-crippled democracy leaves little for ordinary folk to rely on. Several people in the southern US states have also died. I pray for the survivors and the victims and hope the world helps these countries recover.

I visited Cuba two years ago this summer, and it was an incredible experience. For once, I felt as if I was in a country where I wasn't crazy for believing that a government has a responsibility to care for the basic needs of its people—namely, to provide a free education, free health care, food and shelter. For the first time in my life (that trip being my first outside the US), I was in a country where people took for granted that they could visit a doctor whenever they wanted and never have to pay (it's actually true, I had to get treated for a minor ailment by a doctor and was laughed at when I asked how much I owed them. My US-born-and-bred mentality couldn't fathom not paying for medical treatment.) I got to hear people talk about the use of solar power to power Cuban homes with electricity, and got to argue with folks about whether institutionalized sexism and racism really was dead in this socialist society (the short answer: of course they're not, but Cubans have a more sophisticated public discourse on both topics than many Americans give them credit for). I was embraced by an Afro-Cuban woman on the streets of Barrio Chino (Chinatown) in Havana, even though I had never met her before and was only asking for directions.

So it makes sense that I would feel a tug on the heartstrings when I hear of the hurricane's impact on the Cuban people. I would love to go to Haiti one day if it would help the Haitian people in their struggle for a real, sovereign democracy, without interference from the US, their 'Big White Brother' from the north.

But of course I also long to go to the Philippines, my 'homeland', where my ancestors are from and where my mother left her family behind more than thirty years ago. But that journey seems a long way away; it's too difficult, too painful, and too important to be treated as any other trip. But it will happen one day, maybe sooner than I think.

I've been thinking a lot about travel lately, ever since I heard Chitra, my VONA novel workshop teacher, say to another student, "Travel is good for a writer" or something to that effect. I've traveled quite a bit in the US, but not much outside of it, and I'm feeling the pull now of the open sky and sea, of lands far from home that are strange to me. I think travel would be good for me, too, not only as a writer, but as a human being. It can help open my eyes to new realities that books, newspapers and second-hand stories can only hint at.

But for now, back to writing, until an opportunity to hit the road arises.


No comments: