Από την αγαπητή φίλη Τρούντι που είναι ένα ταξιδιάρικο πουλί και φέρνει πολλές φορές βόλτα τον πλανήτη, λάβαμε το ακόλουθο κείμενο γύρω από την επίσκεψή της στην Κούβα. Νομίζουμε ότι έχει ενδιαφέρον η ματιά ενός πραγματικού ανθρώπου όπως είναι η Τρούντι για να κατανοήσουμε πού βρίσκεται αυτή η τόσο μακρινή αλλά και τόσο κοντινή μας χώρα.
Hello Theodore and Xara,
I have returned from my long trip abroad -highlights were a week camping in the Sahara being led by Touareg guides, river trip in Laos, visiting with tigers at the Tiger temple in Thailand, 3 weeks of Ayurveda therapy in southern India, New year's in Cuba where I also swam with the dolphins, with family for Christmas in the US. Because I went to Cuba more as a journalist than a tourist, I wrote a report on my Cuban adventure and I am attaching it. Thought you might be interested. One day I will visit you and show you some unbelievable pictures. Or why don't you come to Kini to visit me? Just call me to make sure I am home. 71332 or my mobile 6936207464.
What have you been doing? How is your mother? I see you are still writing the newsletter. That must keep you very busy. Any important projects happening now? Let me know if you have any more meetings.
Have a good year. Love, Trudy
Have no idea about what's been happening last 12 days. Hardly internet availability in Cuba. One I found had lots of people waiting and the other one had 1 computer out of the six working so again lots of people waiting. Cubans are not allowed to have private emails. A friend I made there attaches herself to foreigners and hopes they will give her some time. Cost is $ 7 an hour.
Well, Cuba was an experience and a half. I am glad I went and I was lucky enough to meet quite a few locals who took me under their wing and talked to me at length about the situation there. I feel I got so much information on this country and though I was warned people would not open up and talk politics I found just the opposite. One person said she liked Castro but everyone agreed that the economic situation was a disaster and everyone was waiting and hoping for change. I spoke to a variety of people, from electrical engineer to doctor, biologist, taxi driver, salsa teacher, restoration expert, guides,sculptor,professor, housewife,etc. from young to old. It seems to be a country totally out of balance. Salaries are miniscule (a doctor makes $30 a month, the engineer and biologist $20) while prices are as high as Europe and higher. Because they can't make ends meet, people are forced to resort to any other means, mostly illegal, to compensate.
I found myself in illegal taxis (the old American cars from the 50's), in illegal restaurants, taking illegal snorkeling excursions, illegal salsa lessons, eating illegally sold foods on the beach (employees at large hotels steal food and sell sandwiches at half price further down the beach), bought illegal cigars in a home (the fathers working at the tobacco factories steal them), etc.Everyone has a racket and tries to hustle to get just a few more bucks. I saw a woman selling small cups of coffee through her living room window to people in the street. Or just walking up to some ruin a neighbor would hold up a small basket she had made, or a necklace, even in the museum one of the ladies guarding the place in one corner pulled out a lacy handiwork she had made wanting me to buy. If nothing to sell then just asking for things "for the baby" was one ploy. Or clothes or anything at all. One person blamed the blockade on the state of things but I think it is less that than the system itself. When a doctor or a biologist or lawyer or economist or computer expert or other professional leaves the job because of low pay and works as a waiter or taxi driver or ceramics sales clerk, because it is much more money, (all of which I saw) then something is very, very wrong with the system. Cuba is losing many professionals and best people either to emigration like doctors in Venezuela and other countries or to lower status jobs. One taxi driver loves what he learned (computers) yet is forced to be a taxi driver to make ends meet. Both the salsa teacher and the sculptor were state employed teachers but quit. The former is teaching privately illegally now and the latter had to resort to designing jewelry. He also told me that women don't even get pregnant anymore because the system is so bad. ( I did see only one pregnant woman, come to think of it). Also there has to be a balance between salaries and prices, not at all the case in Cuba except for the state subsidized stores that sell basic staples like rice and beans cheaply. I found most things very expensive and a look into the stores including pharmacies was abysmally poor in products. Half the shelves empty, lines in some places, but unbelievably there was a ton of junk food like cookies and chips and corn puffs and healthy food conspiculously missing. when there was an item there would be an overabundance of it, like shelves of mayonaise. I wanted to buy some cheese in the supermarket (I did see plenty of cows in the south) and available was exactly 4 wrapped pieces and all Gouda, nothing else. And only one type of ham in all the stores. There is the ubiquitous ham and cheese sandwich of mushy white buns with no vitamins. Cuban cuisine is rather bland and unimaginative though I did have something strange I have never had before - a full fish filled with ham and cheese.
With the exception of those who lost land due to Castro's reformation, most people supported the revolution, which continues according to all the communist slogans around the towns, but have since become illusioned. One person maintained Fidel does not see what is happening another says he knows damm well. As all businesses including tourism belong to the state, loads of money is going into state coffers. When a catamaran takes in 100,000 dollars a day (and many go out daily) and staff is paid a pittance you can figure the math. It is the distribution that is at fault. Even though free education and health care have been lauded in Cuba the sculptor maintained both have gone downhill. People are still leaving Cuba knowing they cannot come back. Like the computer expert's mother and the electrical engineer's doctor boyfriend. The electrical engineer is sticking with her job at $20 monthly only because she uses state time to do private jobs illegally and her boss knows nothing about engineering having been placed in the postion merely because of his party membership or loyalty. When I asked how does he supervise or evaluate your work, knowing nothing about it, she replied it is based on whether he likes you or not. And what happens if the next boss does not like you? I will leave though this option is not available to everyone.
Cuba is the most strangely run country I have every seen and due to necessity the people are inventive and creative and survival savvy. Witness how they keep those old 50's cars in running condition without spare parts. It is a beautiful country, very tropical and lush in places with wonderful beaches and weather and friendly people and despite every hardship there is a readiness for fun. Havannah's and Trinidad's architecture is unbelievably beautiful and even plain houses from the outside showcase a beautiful interior. In its hayday Havannah was much larger than I had thought as I saw buildings from 1824 several miles inland from the harbor. Some old buildings have been restored with funds from UNESCO but most are very seedy in need of repair and paintjobs. But the glory of it is still visible and one can easily imagine how beautiful it must have been and could be again.
I was lucky enough to get a good glimpse at their culture as well, as my new friends took me along to the huge natural cave turned into a disco, (where the young people marveled at my energetic dancing - probably I was the oldest one there - one unknown lady came up to me and said congratulations for coming to this dance), to musical performances nightly in the town square, to house of the troubadors, and invitations to many homes. I also stayed in private homes rather than hotels to get a better look at how they lived. Of course I encountered several glitches - twice arranged taxis did not show up, one host had never heard of my confirmed booking so I found myself in the streets of a new town in high season having to find somewhere to stay, my bus departed from another station than where I got the ticket and no one had told me but also a lady returned my bum bag I had forgotten in the toilet of the bus station having cleverly checked for ID and found the greek one with picture and even returned later to check if nothing was missing. Amazing, in a land where I had been warned of pickpockets even from the people themselves. Also found a sweater I had left on the beach.
It was a voyage of discovery and a glimpse into a dying system but beautiful land and unusual history and interesting blend of Africa and Spain. The whole experience was fantastically enlightening and astonishing. It was a fascinating trip and I am glad I came before he kicked the bucket.
Σύρος, 18/ 2/2008