Central America Tour – from Cuba 9/23/10

September 29, 2010

I am on tour to Central America, Cuba, El Salvador and Mexico, a part of the Culture Program from the Japan Foundation and the Japanese Embassies. I have gone to many countries in South-Central America under this program, but I had never been to those 3 countries! I am at the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica, from Havana to San Salvador. Actually I was at this airport in 2008 when I was performing in South America. I remember the shops and the layout in this place, and it is kind of funny to be at the same coffee shop today.

First of all everything was so new to me in Cuba, and I don’t know what I should start writing–. Of course Americans are not allowed to go to Cuba, except artists or people with special permit, but I am Japanese! So this was legal! Even though I was a legal tourist I needed to obtain a tourist card to enter to Cuba and exit from Cuba. It is not a good idea to get Cuban stamp in our passport. The same difficulty apply to Cuban people. Except few special people most of Cubans don’t have chance to go to abroad.

The interesting thing is that they have 2 different currencies, the one is set 1/24 of the other. Cuban people use this 1/24 currency, and they get the salary with this currency too. The average monthly salary is about 20-30 dollars, but we have to think 20-30 x 24 = $480-720. It is still very low—-. So many people struggle to survive every day lives. And they get food stamps to cover the basic food. But again the stamps do not cover everything–. One of the greatest things is that anyone can receive any free medical treatment, heart bypass surgery, cancer treatment, and etc. But people can’t buy houses so the only chance to get the house is to wait until someone in the family passes away. They face the shortage of many items in everyday life, but it is great to see the low crime rate and low drug problem. Currently China and Venezuela are the big support to Cuba, and people speculate that Cuba will be open to USA during Obama presidency–.

I conducted a master class at Lyceum Mozartiane de las Habana inviting students from the music schools. I was very impressed by their preparation, good technique, and understanding of their repertoire. It was really fun to share their music and give some suggestion to them. Next day was my concert at Basilica Menor del Convento San Francisco de Asis. This is a beautiful concert hall converted from the convent. Thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Ambassador of Japan many Ambassadors and diplomats came besides many music lovers!

The day before the concert some of Japanese musicians and I were invited to the official residence of the Ambassador of Japan for the special dinner, and we had a great time sharing our musical chat. It was so special to see my Japanese music colleagues in Cuba!! Maestro Fukumura was to conduct the orchestra, and he invited a guitarist, and a band neon player form Japan. Besides us Japanese musicians the embassy invited the Cuban musicians as well. Most special thing was the Japanese Ambassador and I played Mozart E Minor Sonata together. He plays violin well, and he has played for the fund raising and special occasions.

I have 2 concerts planned in El Salvador. On this trip I have been taking “Airborne” regularly to prevent getting sickness. It seems working! My trip continues to El Salvador!

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