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A Month in Havana-Part V

On patience and old-timers

Part5-6In Cuba, you have to be patient. Things either happen or they don’t happen, but if they do, you get very excited about it. It took two days for toilet bowl covers to be installed in our bathrooms (they seem to be a hot commodity here), and a second fan-for our kitchen, arrived after six days. But, oh my, how happy we were!
Cubans have learned to be patient-through not having, not having enough, through waiting for changes and waiting in lines. There are always lines in Cuba. For a long time, they were lines for any type of food and transportation in jam packed buses and trucks with makeshift benches. Now, the longest lines are for banks, mobile phone cards and rent-a-computer-with-internet-access places. As for changes, especially in the economy, any Cuban you talk to will tell you they are not happening fast enough. For almost fifty years everything was at a standstill-ideologically and economically. Russians who were based here in the three decades after the victory of the Revolution lived in their own enclaves and rarely showed the desire to socialize with the Part5-5 locals (they even used to bring their food from Mother Russia, so they say), and Cuba was painfully isolated from the rest of the world. For a number of years, all of the country’s efforts were put towards The Great Sugar Harvest, unfortunately they never really made the goal, even though the whole country would be mobilized and everyone would be sent to the countryside to cut sugar cane-teachers and artists included. It is understandable that since the first changes were introduced not so long ago and Cubans can now have a taste of private business enterprises, they are hungry for more. They want to have more liberties when starting and running their own Part5-8 Part5-4businesses, they want to be able to buy new or newer cars and not have to drive museum pieces with Lada motors, door handles falling off as soon as you touch them. I have to admit, some of those old-timers are really beautiful and have been lovingly restored, but they are uncomfortable, unreliable and they pollute the air everybody breathes. But the perseverance with which they manage to keep those clunkers alive for such a long time is to be admired, I’m sure you’ll agree. And just when I thought I’ve seen it all-the mishmash of different door handles and side mirrors, seat covers made from old curtains, shift sticks holding on with duct tape-I am surprised once again by their endless creativity. We’ve come across a Polish Fiat with a rear bumper made of concrete, and it’s not just a bumper, it’s a piece of art!Part5-9
Hopefully though, there will be less and less of these tourist photo subjects in the coming years, so snap away, my friends. As for patience, I sincerely hope that Cubans will retain this rare virtue they have mastered over a very long period of time.

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