Cuba – 2003 – A trip out of Havana

Whenever we travel to countries like Cuba we are conflicted.

We want to visit these countries that lack Democracy and decent infrastructure to see how the people live. We hope that our money spent there will help those in need. By going there we hope to learn something.

Our trips to these places are not a statement that we agree with how these countries are run.

We took much over the counter medicines with us to give to the pediatric hospital in Havana and to other clinics in Cuba.

They suffer with the lack of supplies and basic items, despite what some other famous or infamous people might say.

We were lucky to have a family member who had some medical items that they gave to us and we were able to bring them to Cuba.

We brought surgical tubing, gloves and some colostomy bandages. From what we saw, the plight of medical care and supplies there was not good.

Hopefully these items will help. We went to Cuba and saw for ourselves what it is like in the hospitals, the university, and the country at large. It is a sad state of affairs.

Apparently toilet seats sell at a premium as most bathrooms had none.

The windows in many buildings had no glass in them.

The roofs of many buildings were caved in and or gone and people were still living in them.

The brand new Mercedes bus was waiting for us in the morning out front of the hotel. Yes, there are thousands of old American cars around the city and the country. I don’t whether that is a testament of our cars or of the Cuban car owners ingenuity. However, there was one very old Jaguar parked in front of the hotel that caught my eye. It was there everyday that we stayed there.

The bus took us out to Trinidad to see a different type of architecture after our morning lecture. The bus still smelled new.

So off we go onto the freeway and head into the unknown. There are few cars on the freeway. More than in North Korea, but not many.

There were some large trucks carrying sand and gravel for road repairs and the like. Did you know that if you have room in your car you are supposed to pick up pedestrians that you might be passing in Cuba. Yes, how friendly and perhaps dangerous.

The bus soon makes a funny noise and goes silent. Oops. Something has happened and we pull over to the side of the road. The driver gets out and makes an appraisal. Bad, very bad.

There is water pouring from the bus. Apparently the radiator hose has broken. He has a spare, of course and replaces it after the engine cools some.

We find plastic bags in the bus among the passengers and proceed into an orchard and luckily there is water in the furrows around the trees. We drag our bags through the water and bring it back to the bus and fill the radiator. It was a good way to break the ice and get to know everyone.

The driver turns the key and nothing happens. The motor is blown. We wait. Then an old school bus comes down our way and stops to rescue us. Thank goodness it is empty.

We load the school bus and it takes us to the next place of civilization a few miles down the road. It is a small bodega and gas station as I recall. The floor of the school bus was interesting. It had holes in it from the size of a large walnut to that of a small child. I could see the asphalt passing by, quickly below me, as we drove down the highway. Perhaps that is why the bus was empty.

By the way, if your bus or truck breaks down in Cuba, it is the drivers responsibility to get it fixed. Remember, there is no private enterprise. Everything belongs to the state. Also, everyone makes the same amount of money per month. The doctor, the brick layer, and Fidel. Sure he does. It’s about twenty dollars per month I believe.

Eventually another bus came and picked us up. Times like these are what makes traveling interesting for me. The group had some time to talk and were placed in a situation where anything was possible. The conversation was natural and we all something in common besides wanting to come to Cuba. We were stranded in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in Cuba, and had time to get to know each other in an interesting situation.