Oh boy is it cold here. I just can't believe how vastly different a place can be after less than four hours in a plane. We had windchill of minus 30C all day yesterday and the poor dog, though he wanted to go outside, once there he started limping all around because of his little tender feet getting all frozen up. He sure is different from Sara, nothing seemed to phase her. I caught him eating a steaming hot turd he'd just produced yesterday too. I banged on the window (he was out on the back patio) to stop him and then I ran to the kitchen and grabbed a baggie and ran outside (barefoot and in my robe) to get it, but he had already snarfled. It really is time to pick up some of that "forbid" product to add to his food. At least his poops are all perfect now.
I think I left part of my heart in Cuba. (Besides with the beau Orlando) I always know I had a good vacation when I feel all bluesy back home. One of the great things about being there was the lack of connection to the outside world. Cell phone didn't work and though we bought a one hour internet card, we only used about half of it to check on email. Actually Serge did most of the checking since he was worried about his clients. I really liked the fact we were unreachable. I spend way too much of my time at the computer, so to blob around reading was heaven.
I keep thinking about when I can go back. A lot of what I liked was talking with the people there about their way of life. Although technically a "communist regime", the fact of the matter is that it's a military dictatorship in complete control. There were many sideways comments like, "Fidel always eats well." When I got them to talking, they were very careful about what they said if other Cubans were about. There is no free speech there and talking against the system in any way can get you into trouble. Well, not you, but them. Everything is controlled by the government, and I mean everything. There were two soldiers residing at the top of the hotel scouting the waters for any Cubans trying to get out to international waters. Likewise, when the plane was taking off, soldiers with long rifles stood watching to make sure no one ran out to jump into the airplane's wheel well. And all along the highways, there were military checkpoints.
But when I asked every person (granted, the people I asked worked in the tourist industry so they probably had it better than many) if they were happy, they took a moment to reflect and answered with a genuine, "Yes." And they make under $20 a month in salary. Some of them get tips too which I'm sure makes them the envy of many. One of the worker's daughters got her first job as an accountant in town. Starting pay $6 a month. Can you imagine? There always seemed to be a lot of workers for not very much work. I heard that yes, they try to give as many people employment as possible. On the last night we had a farewell dinner at a restaurant in town. We were the only customers, 19 of us. There were 11 staff to serve us and then after we were treated to a show with 21 performers.
One of the guides was very open about things once we were away from prying ears. (They are encouraged to rat on each other.) She said that 20 years ago, before the tourist industry got going (a necessity once Russia stopped propping them up after the fall of the iron gate) people were happy because they didn't know what they didn't have. There was only state TV and no internet so they were isolated in their culture and didn't know much about the modern outside world. But now that they can talk with outsiders and see what they have been deprived of (freedom, the power to choose their leaders, the possiblity of wealth) there is starting to be some resentment. But what to do? Unless the military itself revolts, there's not much anyone can do. The people were really hoping for some change when Raul took power but that has not really happened. Kinda reminds me of Obama in that way.
They don't blame the US at all (in fact almost everyone seemed to have a long lost relative residing in Miami) for the embargo, though that has surely negatively impacted their quality of life. The US doesn't want to support the regime (but cough China cough is no problem) because it's not democratic, but it only ends up hurting the common person. I wish Obama would loosen things up so that they could have more goods. We gave a pair of shoes away and you'd think we gave the person a car. Basically everything is scarce or reserved for the tourists. It was really weird to see the bottles of shampoo inside of a locked display case as though they were Rolexes. Still at $4 a bottle, that's like two weeks salary for some. We really are blessed to have been born here in North America.