Vacation Exasperation

Daisy Valera 

I’ve always loved the sea.  It could be that this delight is one of the reasons I prefer to live in Cuba’s capital, where it’s so easy to smell the salt air and hear the pounding of the waves.

When I was little we’d seldom go to the southern coast.  I lived in Sancti Spiritus and it took three long hours of travel for me to finally put my feet in the water.

Now that I live in Havana I go to the beach much more often.  It doesn’t matter what time of the day; nor is it important that when I get home my skin is encrusted with salt or my hair is caked with sand.

The beach has the magical power to make me love the sun — so overwhelmingly incessant on this tropical island — and to make me to feel relaxed and unbothered about anything.

While I try to swim (I realize I’m a lost cause) I miraculously return to my childhood, when “left” and “right” were only the name of my hands, and where there weren’t any other classes than those they taught in the classroom.

Unfortunately, this summer I discovered I’d never gone to the beach in summer and that the sea will no longer be the place where everything is in its place for me.

I don’t know how it worked out that during this vacation period I decided to become a swimmer and the rest of Havana decided to do everything else on the beach except take a dip.

My deserted beaches have become places where everyone heads to spend their vacation and get away from the August heat that tortures our bodies.

Last Friday I was also one of those who went, though I found myself practically without space in the sand to lay my clothes.

I was finally able to find a small patch on the beach, but only after dealing with some little girl who threw a coconut that came close to splitting my head.

The boys without girlfriends were showing off their strength by giving free demonstrations of wrestling and doing flips in the air at the risk of breaking their necks.

I witnessed a disguised but frenzied pursuit: The young guys were salivating over “T and A,” but being careful to seem respectful and nice, while the girls primped and preened themselves as if high-fashion magazine models.

The shouts of the itinerant vendors competed with reggaeton at full volume, with all of this making my hair stand on end.

The water went from being crystal clear to gray, tinged with the dulling colors of plastic bags, disposable cups and candy-bar wrappers

But without a doubt, the worst thing was the alcohol.  It seemed that everyone around me was breathing their ethylic breathes in my face, while their faces reflected that giddy alienation that evokes a feeling in me of something between fear and disgust.

I couldn’t take it anymore.  I left after 30 minutes, sad for myself and for those who would have preferred to be somewhere else having a good time over this vacation period but didn’t have the money.

Going to the beach is the cheapest option here in Havana, it involves simply hoping on an urban bus and putting some bread and water in your daypack.

Otherwise, to take a swim at pools at the city’s hotels is terribly expensive and going to discos at night is also prohibitive.

So, the only solution for many to not spend their summer vacations here in the city sitting in front of the television is to go to the beach.

One thought on “Vacation Exasperation

  • Together with you I share the passion for the ocean and Cuba’s beautiful beaches. A few years ago I fell in love with Playa Pilar on Cayo Coco – magnificent in its serenity and away from hotels. I’ve returned there a year later only to discover that the sea bed that was once vivid and colorful with marine life was now shining from Crystal cans, with only few fishes being able to share their new neighbors.

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