What is it that I remember most about Cuba?
Well, let’s get the distasteful memory out of the way first.
The toilet paper. It is rice paper thin and comes in rolls with perforations like normal toilet paper. But there the comparison ends. In Cuba the perforations never work, so you need two hands to tear a piece off, one to hold the roll and the other to tear the paper. It comes off in shreds. You need to tear at least 2 feet off because you need to fold it many times to make sure it doesn’t disintegrate into nothing when you use it. It is not pleasant. Nor is the fact that you can’t put it down the toilet, you have to put it into nasty little plastic bins provided for just that purpose which sit beside the toilet
OK, enough of that.
As always it is the people I remember most. Cuba was a surprise because of the racial mix. There is every color, every shape, every size under the sun. There are black descendants from the slaves, brown central american hispanics ,white descendants from the Europeans, white Russians and their descendants who moved here during the communist period and then the mixes of all those getting together and having babies. It is a true melting pot.
And political correctness is not part of the Cuban culture
It is an island of folk struggling to survive. But the very young know nothing of this. They are like little children everywhere; cute and innocent
As they grow a little older, the innocence still remains. They still have hope. With the optimism of children everywhere they believe their lives will be good and prosperous
They have limited access to the web and to the outside world, but somehow they keep up with fashion. Still bright and full of hope they want to look like teenagers everywhere
Please don’t ask me what made me stop and take this next young man’s photo. Might it have been the sign just above him that suggested his work and his working hours?
Another few years and reality strikes. The years keep passing by, and life gets hard, but they are still ready to laugh
But far too soon the hard life takes its toll and they age before their time.
But they are never ready to give up. They wear tight clothes, too much make up and let their hair down
Sadly, there are many who can’t even afford to do that
The constant struggle to survive shows perhaps more on the men’s faces, and they rarely show the sense of fun that the women do.
But the occasional one still manages to strike a pose
But the face I will always remember is the young man taking a break from work.
Looking at him, you would think he didn’t have a care in the world. Life is good. But he too is striking a pose.
Life is not always good in Cuba. There is no doubt that the average Cuban is educated, intelligent, healthy, musical, and athletic. And it is also true that we never saw a homeless person in Cuba. We certainly saw people asking for money, but we never saw them sleeping on the streets. But despite this they struggle. However educated they are, however hard they work, they don’t earn enough to live on. They may have somewhere to live but very often it is not anywhere most would want to live.
And the real tragedy is they are only 100 miles from Florida. But moving to the States is just as difficult as staying in Cuba. America no longer welcomes them as it once did.
All they have is hope, and they have had to set that aside until there is a change of leadership in both the US and Cuba.
Say farewell to Cuba, but keep them in your thoughts.
But before I go, let me tell you about our last night there.
Santa Clara has very few restaurants for tourists and those that it has are pretty basic. We had read about one in a little hostal not far from where we were staying that does good food. We go there for dinner, with very few expectations. Like many restaurants they have lobster on the menu. Here, they take the entire lobster, shell and all and cut it crosswise into 3″ chunks and cook it in a slightly spicy tomato sauce. My plate is piled high with lobster. There must be at least two of them. It is without doubt the best meal I have had in Cuba and it costs just $15!
How can you beat that?
Well I just might be able to. I need you, dear readers, to cast your mind back to the very first blog I wrote on this trip. It was about the flight from San Francisco to Miami when I introduced you to the worst flight attendant ever to fly the skies. In case you have forgotten:
5 weeks later we are eating lobster in this little hostal in Cuba, and who should be our host:
How weird is that!
Now we can really say;
Farewell to Cuba