A daylong excursion has been planned which means boarding Chinese Bus #5050 promptly after my casa particular breakfast. First, I’m served a daunting fruita plate with a pineapple smiley face, however, the coffee’s pretty decent even though the eggs, in crepe form, come with a side of ‘Disk o’ Spam’.
Our first stop is the Atkins plantation, Soledad. Until La Revolucion, this place had been the island’s largest sugar grower and processor. Despite its derelict condition, Soledad tells a long story of ‘enlightened’ exploitation. Cuba’s complex relations with capitalism, colonialism, slavery, America, and a host of smaller, fascinating, but no less important, issues contribute to the feeling that Soledad is still somehow inhabited by ghosts. The woman who shows us through the main house seems to have singlehandedly taken on the project of preserving the plantation and telling its story. This is an enormous undertaking against ridiculous bureaucratic and cultural odds. The story she tells just compounds the inescapable time-machine qualities of this visit.
The Escambray mountains are piled to the left of us as we travel through their foothills. Our destination is a government resort, Villa Guajimico. It’s a bungalow colony essentially, perched on the limestone cliffs that gird most of Cuba’s Caribbean coastline. After lunch, Tim leads most of us off on a hike to a snorkeling lagoon. I do not feel like it, so I find a breezy table under a thatched cabana and type away while hydrating. Ann Hood displays a similar reluctance to tromp through the tropical dry forest for the sake of decorative fish. We are snarkelers. Secluded al fresco napping is also possible. I feel like I’m resting in big hand. The walkers and snorkelers return from their hike complaining of being bitten by something they call ‘sea nettles’. Many have unhappy welts about their necks and chests.
We’re supposed to eat dinner at our casa particular, but since I’m solo in my casa, I feel disinclined to dine alone. I complain my way into eating with Brandon at his casa particular, on the second floor terrace with visible sea over both shoulders. This may be one the best meals of the trip so far. We just keep ticking them off. Certainly the cutest chef.
At eight o’clock we rendezvous at our headquarters, Angel y Isabel, for student readings. We have three minutes apiece. I read ‘Up N. Monroe St.’ and ‘Enchantment under the Sea’, two new poems. Brandon records the evening, ostensibly for his podcast. My peers praise my set of burlesque tercets.