Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Our Last Trip to Cuba #15: Like Gilligan

My students took an exam two Fridays ago that I couldn’t grade for an entire week.  On the syllabus it says that they only have quizzes and no “EXAMS” but this “quiz” is actually 10 page-long essays because I intentionally mislead my anxious students so they wouldn’t disappear before the class even warms up. 

Not knowing grades immediately is hard for them. I know this because Zoe checks her grades 5, 10, 15 times a day. She expects her grades to updated quickly and to always know exactly where she stands in her classes by checking her grades like I check my bank account.

This is a bit of a problem for my students who come to college expecting grades to be posted quickly because I wasn’t raised to teach college that way.  130 students writing 10 essays each equals a vague number that Liberal Arts Math from 1986 tells me is “a lot of work but part of being a professor.”  

I tell you all of this because I have started each class this past week with “I haven’t graded your exams yet because I have to finish writing this entire book before my Mom’s BIG birthday – ya’ll know how hard it is to get something nice for your parents.”  In my whole life I have spent 12 days in Cuba over three trips with my mom.  We have only travelled together for 12 days out of our combined 100+ years in life, and every minute of those trips was sacred and worth being recorded in stories.

My students understand, they agree I need to find balance and be a good daughter.
Or maybe the word “agree” is misleading: a few nod their heads, some exhale and take mental naps while most of them just text away in text land, and I think they wonder if I tossed their exams in trashcans or into ditches like those crazy postal workers we rarely read about but remember forever when mail doesn’t come.  

The entire week has passed and so has my Mom’s birthday but I’m not quite done with the story, we have the entire last – and MOST EVENTFUL -- day left to discuss.  I post their grades and also post bloopers from their quizzes so that we can giggle together.  Then I get back to writing.

When I left you my Mom and I were dropped off at our hotel by a sketchy driver who we now love forever.  We walk through the empty lobby, the stand by the mirrored elevators and wait for one to come for us while I notice again how many things have Che Guevara’s face on them. He’s like the Zack Efron of the Cuban Revolution and I’m not sure that Che would love that his legacy has been Cuba making money off his image selling anti-capitalist t-shirts, postcards and calendars.

Mom  changes her pants, I slip into something else and we take sips of our shared bottle of “safe” water and fall asleep quickly. 

I turn the white noise app on my iPhone to SUPER HIGH and pray there won’t be all that banging on the wall again tonight. 

There isn’t. The night passes quickly and dreamlessly.

I wake up before my alarm to pleasant silence.

The sun is already up so I get out of bed and open the sliding glass door and step out to our tiny balcony. 

For a second I think I hear a loud plane overhead and I get ridiculously excited and for a moment I lose myself in being Gilligan lost on an island hoping for a quick rescue but no, the sky is quiet and empty; a boat skittles across the bay near the Hotel Jagua and slows down by the Cienfuegos Yacht Club right out of my sight line.

When I go back to the room my Mom is awake and getting dressed.

It takes me less than a minute to be ready and then we are off to breakfast.  We don’t say it, we never say it, but we both know this will be the last day that we will see TiaLourdes alive on this earth.

We have come to say three days of goodbye, and today is our last day.