Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Friday, January 31

Cuba has free health care for all.  Lots of emphasis on prevention. Clinics within walking distance in every Havana neighborhood. More doctors than drug stores.  Longer life expectancy than we have (but if we lived on mostly rice and beans, and walked everywhere maybe our life expectancy would go up?)

We visit one of the clinics and have another power-point style presentation - they're like a bad rash, they've spread everywhere. This one is on an old CRT monitor.  Like from an Apple II.  Two women in white coats talk, one grim humorless woman in a navy top does not. Just watches, her head swiveling back and forth.

"Looks like the population dropped right after the revolution" Craig says, and is met by stunned silence.  Theirs, not ours.  But a lot of people died, a lot of people left.

Then someone asks "Are people encouraged to have more children?  Due to the aging population?" and we get an earful about how Cuba Is Not China, and the government does not regulate the number of children.  Spectacular misunderstanding, and it hits a nerve.  We were just wondering with an aging population how they pay for all this.  Oh right - the government own everything and sets the prices.

  We ask where they get their medical equipment - third and fourth hand, mostly.  She says "from Russia" and it gets translated as "We make it here."  Okay...but they have a bio-tech industry and have invented a diabetes drug (apparently not available in the US.  That embargo thing cutting both ways.  For a change.  It's not just the cigars anymore).

Leaving to march thru the treatment rooms full of patients (can you imaging that happening here?) we are told it's okay to take photographs, just not of the people.  

As we are heading out I notice Miss Humorless Navy Top has a shiny new iphone sticking out of her pocket.  First one I've seen that wasn't attached to a tourist.  Hmm.....

On the way out I take a photo of a spartan kitchen, and Miss Humorless sweeps down and starts shouting at me, "No photos of people!!!"  I try to show her the photo - without any people (this isn't my first rodeo) and she gets snarky and threatening.  I can walk away and write her off; the people who live here cannot.  I feel just a little of what it must be like to live like that, and it is terrifying and stultifying.  Why would you ever take a chance?  

I say a silent prayer of thanks for where I am lucky enough to live. And a prayer for those who live here.  If there was ever any doubt, it's clear now that she's here to keep an eye on us - and she must be pretty high up the food chain to have a shiny new iphone.  

We go to a model day care center, but all but two of the kids have been sent home: power is out.  Apparently it's not that uncommon, and it's a big problem for the families who need day care.   This is a very poor neighborhood.  An in Cuba, that's saying something.
A few well-worn books, 
some well-loved toys.  
We have brought stuff - crayons and paper and art supplies.  They give us each a sweet drawing by one of the children.   On paper, which we know is precious.  I am framing it and hanging it in my bedroom.

This must have been a family home:
The kitchen hasn't been remodeled since the Revolution.

Abelardo takes a photo of a little girl with his ipad and shows it to her.  She is fascinated by the ipad.  
There are lots of posters on the walls - we joke that this poster is "Twelve Ways To Get To Miami".
Off for a cooking lesson and a visit to Hemingway's house.  More later.

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