Waiting for Cuba...
Ah, Cuba, when will you be able to soar?
listening to some Afro-Cuban jazz (Telmary's "Libre" CD) and thinking
about what to tell you regarding my November trip to Cuba and the
current state of life there. I would say things, in general, are
incrementally better in most ways and places, compared to the past
summer of discontent. Prices, however, remain exorbitantly high for most
Havana and areas where tourists have begun to return in significant
numbers are doing the best – when tourism is thriving, there are more
spin-off opportunities for income, as well as employment within this key
industry itself. Tourism, in some ways, is both a blessing and a curse.
Food and energy resources must be directed to resorts, in order to keep
guests happy, local people employed and money coming in. This means, as
I interpret it, that less touristy parts of the country must make do;
there doesn't seem to be enough of everything to go around all the time.
Supplies come and go, including food staples and fuel. But, everyone is
getting by and nobody's starving.
In planning my November trip, I'd originally booked a stay at Club Amigo
Marea del Portillo, my beloved second home, which hasn't been open
since the onset of COVID. Unfortunately, as I found out today, it will
not be opening at all this season. Or, more correctly, Sunwing is not
offering packages or flights to that location at this time. I certainly
hope they will deign to return service there next winter! I also hope,
most fervently, that the resort will be able to open for "off-the-road"
guests, without flights. Even if people must fly into Holguin and travel
4-5 hours to get to Marea del Portillo, I think some would, and I'd be
happy to help facitlitate such an adventure!
When Sunwing cancelled my booking at Marea del Portillo (it was on their
website and they were taking reservations earlier this year), I opted
to rebook at a similarly small, laid-back resort called Don Lino, which
I'd heard good things about and had been wanting to visit for years.
But, the stars did not align. Don Lino's generator had a problem and,
since it was vital for supplying fresh water, they had to abruptly
close. Four days before I was scheduled to fly to Holguin, expecting to
stay at Don Lino, Sunwing advised me that the resort would not be
re-opening until the end of November. They offered to refund my
money or upgrade my reservation to a pricier hotel in the area and,
since my bags were already packed, I chose the latter.
At the beginning of November, I spent my first week at Brisas
Guardalavaca, which literally translates to "Breezes Keep the Cow." I
didn't see any cows while I was there, but there was often a nice
breeze! Compared to what I'm used to, it was pretty posh and
significantly larger, but it was very welcoming, the staff was top notch
and the ocean setting was lovely. If you have a Sunwing voucher to use,
I can certainly recommend it!
being purely a tourist at an easy-breezy resort, I was eager to shift
gears and get on with the real reason for my trip – to visit my Cuban
friends! I was armed with a suitcase and a half of gifts to share, and
my arms ached to share their warm hugs. I started in the charming and
historic city of Holguin, moved on to Bayamo and Manzanillo, then
finally, I landed in Pilón, where I stayed for a fortnight. With Casa de
Noel (a Cuban B&B) as my home base, I visited friends in the
villages of Marea del Portillo, Mota and Niquero. It was all quite
delicious, as was the food.
Everywhere I went, whether at the resort, in cities I visited or the
homes of friends, I ate well. There wasn't as much variety as at some
times but there was enough, and it was prepared very well. I'm lucky to
have good friends who look after me, and often feed me too much! Since I
knew my friends would go the extra kilometer whenever I dined with
them, I made a point of taking food for their households, in addition to
other things like acetaminophen, which is the best thing to take if you
contract dengue fever.
Dengue fever was on the uptick in some regions due to the lack of
consistent electricity, which had been a problem for several months.
When I visited Pilón earlier in the year, the power supply had been
somewhat erratic. The situation worsened over the summer but, by late
November, the pattern of outages was more regulated, at least. It was,
essentially, 4 hrs. on/4 hrs. off. Since I knew this on/off cycle would
be happening, I took a rechargeable fan, which I grew quite fond of
during my stay.
It's hard to fathom how people have been coping with this current issue,
among others, over the past few months. I'm glad things have improved
in this rural part of Granma, though it can only be defined as modest
improvement. They are not out of the proverbial woods yet, and they
can't really see edge of the forest, but there is a faint path. So, they
keep moving forward, with all the poise and aplomb they can muster.
And, let me affirm, the Cuban people I've encountered are not lacking in
poise, aplomb and a whole lot of other admirable qualities!
They have not given up, and I won't give up on them. I will keep
thinking about possibilities, ways to support and encourage them. One
thing I've done since returning to Canada is to set up a Facebook group
for my friend's B&B, Casa de Bárbara, in the village of Marea del
Portillo. She and a mutual friend in Holguin will arrange transportation
from the airport and back, along with a night in Holguin before/after
the flight, and a tour of the city, guided by an English-speaking young
man who's studied local history. I'm also considering a version of this
trip for a small group (maximum of 8), perhaps in late March. If you're
interested, please let me know by the end of this year, if possible, or
early January at the latest.
Since the year's end is fast approaching, let me close this email with
my heart-felt wish that 2023 will be better for everyone in Cuba and
elsewhere! The people of that beautiful island deserve the opportunity
to thrive, not just survive. When given the chance, they will soar.
Meanwhile, hug your family and friends, stay healthy, savor life and enjoy the holidays!
Peace and joy to all,