Cuba – 2003

Page One – We went to Cuba to see the country and her people. There were few secrets about life there. We knew about Fidel and his failed political ideas. Sadly some people still think that system works. It does not.

We brought in two suitcases full of medical supplies. Some were given to us by a good friend who had a program going to help get needed medical supplies to eastern Europe and he gave us some of his left overs. My wife, who worked in a supermarket, bought over the counter medicines over a period of time and had amassed a good quantity of items also.

At the worst, we thought that they all might be confiscated when we arrived at the airport in Havana. They were not.

The travel company that we went through had a special license with the American government that allowed U.S. citizens to travel with them to Cuba without fear of sanctions. We learned a great deal and are very glad we went.

We flew directly to Havana from Miami. The airport in Havana was quite small at the time and the formalities of entering the country were over soon enough.

We had wrapped or bags in plastic wrap as per the instructions of the Miami Airport. I think that that stopped the Cubans from going through them. It would have been difficult and time consuming to unwrap them.

We stayed in a fine hotel in Havana on the side of a public square. No locals were ever allowed in the hotel. It was strictly for foreign tourists. It had CNN and a fine gift shop. The items in the gift shop would never be available to the citizens of Havana.

Each day we had a lecture in the morning from well informed teachers about the history and architecture in Cuba and then went out to explore with them.

The average income at that time was ten dollars U.S. per month. All trades and skills were paid the same wage at that time. A doctor or a truck driver would make the same amount of money per month.

The local markets had little on offer and what was available was not very appealing. The fruits and vegetables that we saw in the markets were not very fresh and there was little variety.

Hum, why do communist countries always seem to be short of food stuffs and manufactured goods? Oh, that’s right. It’s America’s fault.

The communist system just needs more time to get things squared away. Oh yes, perhaps three or four hundred years might be just the right amount of time. Give me a break! How many more generations of people must suffer and die before the world figures this out?

Man will not work at his best if he is not rewarded for his labor with comforts and financial gain. That is how we are wired. The happiest man is one who works hard and makes an honest living and is able to take care of his family and perhaps have the ability to move up in society. That usually comes from hard work and, yes, some good luck. If he has no possibility of progress and advancement in society through hard work and hours of study, then why would he bother?

The city is still a beautiful one as it melts down around us and her citizens. At first glance she looks historic and sophisticated with her broad boulevards and wide covered sidewalks. But first impressions can be deceiving. Remember that special girl or boy in 7th grade? Exactly!

With more close examination it was soon apparent that the roofs of all or most of the concrete buildings had collapsed and the rain had been coming into the buildings for years. Then I noticed that most of the window glass in theses buildings was long gone. You could see the sky looking through a fourth floor window of what once was a nice apartment. As you looked to where the ceiling used to be, there was the beautiful, blue, Cuban sky.

Many of the buildings were completely gone except for the facade that was facing the street and which was being held up by large steel supports that were bolted to the floor and then the walls. The money for the up keep of these buildings was not available from the government and then the inevitable occurred. If the buildings had been in private ownership they would all have survived, most likely. Governments do few things well, and Communist Governments are the worst of the lot.

Our guide was a wonderful Afro Caribbean woman. We asked her where the medical items might be put to their best use and we followed her advice. We had some surgical tubing, surgical gloves, syringes and some technical equipment. Our guide contacted the Children’s Hospital of Havana and arranged a meeting with the director of the hospital so that we could give our items to the hospital.

It is important to know that at this time the hospitals were reusing their gloves and surgical tubing while there was an AIDS epidemic looming.

The over the counter medications were given to an unwed mother’s clinic and to a doctor who ran a clinic out in the country side. More about that latter, on page two.