Cuba, 1993, Final Edition
After retiring from teaching in California at the age of 57, Concordia resident Genevieve Heath packed her bags and traveled the world. Of the seven continents, she only missed one – Antarctica.
Among my mother’s favorite trips was a 10 day excursion to Cuba in 1993. In going through Mother’s personal effects recently, I discovered an interesting hand-typed account of her trip. Today, the final installment – in Bengie’s own words.
Never been to Cuba? Climb aboard our Time Machine and go back in time. Fasten your seatbelt. It’s 1993 again. After a week in Cuba, your trip is nearing its end. Arise refreshed! You have a few more busy days ahead of you …
Throughout our trip, we had enjoyed spectacular weather, as one might expect from a Caribbean island country; however, today? Rain! And boy, did it pour. But no rain showers would dampen our schedule. In the morning, we returned to Old Havana visiting the Museum of the Revolution and the Havana Ballet Theater.
We also visited a Cuban cigar making plant. Afterward, as an example of Cuban hospitality, the guide who had given us the tour of the ballet theater came out to offer us the sanctuary of the theater until the rainstorm passed. We politely declined and caught a taxi back to our hotel. Nobody minded getting a little wet.
Saturday was another interesting experience. We traveled to Pioneer City where Cuban doctors treated children of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The treatment facilities were once the homes of wealthy Cubans who escaped Cuba before the 1958 revolution. These houses were all different with interesting architecture.
A hospital had been built in Pioneer City, as well as a dental facility; however, those unfortunate children of Chernobyl lived in the homes with an adult supervisor, then taking treatment in the hospital as outpatients. The only exception were children too ill to leave the hospital.
I asked how many of the children did not survive the treatment and the doctor said they had lost only nine children.
Nearby was another gloriously beautiful beach where the children could swim in the surf and play in the fresh open air. They attended school, taking lessons in both Russian and Spanish. After visiting the clinic, we were taken to one of the homes that had been turned into a restaurant and were served a nice lunch courtesy of Pioneer City.
Returning to the hotel we were taken to a neighborhood “Sabado de la Rumba” – a typical Saturday afternoon dance in an open courtyard. The dance troupe were all in native costumes and entertained for about two hours, before inviting audience participation.
Then came Sunday – our day of departure back to the US.
We were on our way to the airport by 9:00 a.m. for an 11:00 a.m. departure. Once again, Cuban time figured in our flight departure – we didn’t get off the ground until 1:00 p.m. for the 50 minute flight to Miami – which meant that we missed our scheduled flight to Chicago.
After an exhausting effort to get our tickets changed, we didn’t leave for Chicago until 7:00 p.m. that night; then, changed planes again for San Francisco where we arrived after midnight. My bag was lost but finally made its way to Sacramento, near my home.
So, after those 10 glorious days in Cuba, what are my impressions?
For starters, we saw no obese people – food was too scarce. Most of the “touristas” came from Mexico; although many also came from Canada. We saw very few tour busses.
On a positive note, we did not see any rock fences with shards of glass on top, as I have personally seen in many Asian and South American countries I’ve visited.
We did not see very many garbage throwaways – empty bottles and cans.
Much damage had been done by Hurricane Andrew and repairs were delayed by lack of materials and finances. Many of the homes and even the hotel where we stayed had about 10 feet of water standing in the lower level. Miraculously, only three people died in the Hurricane Andrew disaster.
The Cuban people suffer from lack of medicines, clothing and food; however, wherever we went, we Americans were graciously received and invited in for coffee, tea or juice. These generous and gracious Cubans offered what they could give – their friendship.
Basically, Cubans are a happy people, accepting their lot. Feeling as they do that however difficult things are, life in Cuba is better now than it was before the 1958 revolution.
Two blocks from our hotel was a seawall, and along that wall was a six-lane highway. You could cross those six lanes on foot at any time of day or night because there are so few cars on the road. Yes, there were taxis, but very few private cars.
Gasoline was allotted to two gallons per month!
Those who have private cars save their rations for necessary travel.
On the day of our arrival in Cuba, no newspaper was published due to lack of newsprint. Here in America, we take so much for granted each day. Whoever heard of a day without a newspaper? I sincerely hope the blockage to Cuba will be soon lifted. There is a ready market for American goods. Moreover, exports from Cuba to the US would help their economy immensely. As would a healthy invasion of American tourists.
I wish you had been with me to enjoy this fantastic adventure.
Have passport, will travel.
Note: And R Michael adds: “Until Friday! Stay safe!” Rmykl@yahoo.com