After a red-eye flight from Cuba to Toronto and a three hour drive, Alex and I were safely home by 5:00 am this morning. Fortunately, I didn't just drop her off at her house, for it was locked. Her mother apparently was awake, but the dog didn't bark, and she didn't see my truck, so Alex slept through the morning in our spare room.
Ten days in Cuba is a good reminder of all for which we have to give thanks. There, even mention of Castro's name can have you brought in for questioning. One never knows who his true friends are; who one can trust, or who will stab you in the back. Cuba is not the only place where this is true, but it is true there to an extent it is not here. Contrary to glossy fliers advertising the nightlife in the tourist magnets of Havana and Veradero, life for the average Cuban is bleak, indeed. When they think of Cuba, most Americans think of classic cars. There are plenty of them there, but get away from the tourist centers, and they are dull and dented rattletrap jalopies held together by wire and Cuban ingenuity. Most all of them sport diesel engines, the original interiors are long gone, replaced by nondescript seats and little else.
There are modern vehicles, too, but away from the tourist areas, the most common form of transportation is horse cart, walking, bicycle, or bici taxi, pedal-powered two-seater vehicles that are ubiquitous in the cities outside Havana and Veradero. The lack of vehicular ownership ensures however, that people congregate as they wait to hitch a ride or gather to talk because that's what you do when the pace of life is slowed to a walk.
Living conditions that are common for what passes for middle class wouldn't be tolerated by the poorest of our poor here in the states. There are constant shortages of food and the stuff of ordinary daily life such as soap or toilet tissue. My hosts for the week live in a small, cramped cement block house with only cold running water that barely drips out of the shower head, an open air kitchen with a single hot plate for all the cooking needs, with no internet and television limited to two state-run stations (which is why there have been no nightly posts since a week ago last Tuesday).
I'm not trying in any way to disparage the Cuban people. They are warm-hearted, generous, and gracious. But they face daily challenges that would leave most Americans frustrated and angry. I always enjoy my time in Cuba and come home having received far more than I could possibly have given. I am thankful tonight to be home, with all the blessings great and small that being home means.