4 Apr 2020

Great expectations and Cuban travel

These three kids have a new baby sister! I believe they'll be adding another room to the house this summer. I'll be looking forward to seeing this growing family and their expanded home in November!

A few weeks ago, I was busily preparing to lead a trip to Cuba, sending out information to my group members and making sure all the booking details had been finalized. Now, in what would have been the home stretch before the anticipated April 15 departure, I would have been knee-deep in packing. I would have been determinedly trying to stuff as much as I could into two suitcases weighing no more than 50 lbs./23 kg each. That's the typical pre-trip pattern.

If the world had continued as usual, I would have had my suitcases laid out on the sofa bed in the den with beach towels, bundles of clothing and an array of other things piled nearby. My personal items would come later; they generally take up only a small percentage of allowable luggage capacity since most of the things I take to Cuba are gifts. 

This time, I'd planned to take special gifts for some growing families. When I was at Marea del Portillo this past October/November, I learned that four young women I know were due to give birth right around the time of my next expected visit. For two of them, this will be the first baby, another will be having her second child and the fourth is on her fourth. 

A few days ago, I received a brief email from the excited father in the latter family to say his wife had just birthed a 7.2-lb. girl. He was rushing off to the maternity hospital in Manzanillo, about 2 hours from their home. I'm still waiting for further messages to tell me the baby's name and reassure me that mom and babe are okay. Is there more danger of contracting COVID-19 in a large hospital than in a small community? I certainly hope not! [APRIL 10 - UPDATE: I've received word that the name chosen for this little girl is "Betsy Ruth." I had suggested several names, including Betsy, which was a special nickname my father had for my mother; nobody else called her that. My friends chose that to honor her and Ruth, to honor me, since that's my middle name too!]

Instead of thinking about what gifts to take for my friends, I'm now concerned about how they're doing. Will they be okay in these difficult times? How much will they be at risk as they go out and about to get food and other necessities? Will they even have soap? [Soap had been in short supply recently, so I have bags of bars ready to pack and go!]

In Cuba, people typically need to shop more frequently than many North Americans do and, unfortunately, they must often stand in line to wait their turn to enter the shops. As well, in that highly social culture it will be a big challenge not to greet friends with kisses and hugs! So, social distancing will be difficult for people in Cuba for many reasons.

This will be the first time in over a decade that I haven't taken a trip to Cuba in the first quarter of the year. I won't likely be able to go to my "second home" in Marea del Portillo until the middle of November, even though I'm sure the travel ban will be lifted long before that. This will be a long year but I'm already looking forward to big hugs and many kisses when I'm finally able to see my friends again, and to meet all the newly minted babies!

By the time I see this young man again, he'll be a father for the first time!

Keep smiling,

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