Powerless in more ways than one

A country without oil still relies on horse-drawn carts

Slowly, slowly, I’m coming back to life.  Last night I went down to dinner with the gang, and only had 3 glasses of orange juice.  Today, Gail and I slept in til 10, then joined the group for lunch. The sleeping in was easy after Gail informed me that she had the same thing that I did.

It’s interesting to watch our group–the first day everyone was cleaning their plates.  Now, we have realized that the Cubans are more determined than a horde of Jewish/Italian mothers to stuff us at every meal, and everyone is taking it easy.  We packed up half our lunch (which was the standard salad/rice/black beans/chicken) and sent it home with the guide and driver.

Then we went off to visit a museum of Santeria, the African/Catholic synthesis religion which our guide claims is professed by 70% of the populace.  Boring, boring, boring.  So the African slaves took their religion and glued on the Catholic saints.  Twice the mumbo-jumbo, twice the fun.

Coming back we were driving along the ports of Havana, and I noticed that most of the cargo cranes were the old style, designed to work with breakbulk cargo.  I did see a set of container cranes in the distance, but I can’t tell what percentage of the freight goes to what cranes.  I wonder if there are any of the older cranes in the entire Bay Area?

Power.  That’s tonights theme.  Not political power, but electrical.  There just aren’t many lights on.  I haven’t seen a single incandescent light–the hotel has a few halogen lights, everything else is compact fluorescent.  There are streetlights along the Malecon (seaboard) and one or two main avenues, but the city is eerily dark at night.  There are some tall apartment buildings I can see from our window, and they are just dark, dark, dark.

There is a “mall” next to our hotel–so I went exploring this afternoon once we got back.  Gail was napping, recovering. I found a store selling appliances–and noted that there were clothes washers, but no clothes dryers.  Too much electricity usage.  Yes there were televisions, stereos, refrigerators (small), fans and plenty of other commons small appliances.

Then off to the grocery–not quite like Safeway, but a decent selection. The part that amazed me the most was the incredibly cheap liquor–not just the local rum, but all of it.  6 packs of Corona $1.50. A bottle Gordons gin $15.00.  That’s one way to keep the electorate happy.

On to gasoline–there isn’t much, and it’s darned expensive. Over $4.50/gallon.  The old cars are cute and romantic, but it isn’t as though everyone has one.  Our guide is 36 and doesn’t have a drivers license; he says the government pretty actively tries to discourage people from getting one by onerous regulations and FIVE separate driving tests.  If the people don’t drive, the country needs less fuel.

I particularly like the "eyelids" over the headlights

Yesterday, while I slept, our group went on a long road trip.  Gail came back talking about the people standing on the side of the road holding out gas money hoping for a ride.  Passing through miles of agricultural land, Gail noticed that it was being tilled by hand: there weren’t the usual farm machines adding to productivity.  Many of the buildings they saw had thatched roofs, indicating a lack of capital to purchase decent roofing and fuel to deliver it.

It’s dinner time, and we don’t have a group function.  Gail and I are going out exploring the neighborhood for someplace more authentic than this hotel.  Check back to see if we survive the experience.

One thought on “Powerless in more ways than one

  1. A picture is worth a thousand words. . . These are great! As is your commentary about power, or lack thereof. I’m really enjoying your Cuba report . . . forwarding your blogs on to my adult children.

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