Jorge Milanes Despaigne
HAVANA TIMES — Elsa arrived at Havana airport and when she got to baggage reclaim, she discovered that there was a hole in one of the suitcases. She didn’t know what to do. She felt lost and after thinking about it for some time, she decided to not make a complaint. She just picked up her things and went home.
But, she spent the next few days feeling very lost. I knew because she had called me on the phone, she wanted to meet me to give me a present, but I could tell she was being evasive. As if she were making sure noone would see her.
After talking to me, she confessed that she hadn’t wanted to run into Osmel as he had lent her the suitcase that was now damaged. As well as feeling like she needed to buy him a replacement suitcase, she was also very embarrassed.
You always have to make an effort to travel, and for Cubans you have to make even more of an effort; more so when you’ve never traveled before.
Those who can and decide to travel for the first time are exposed to an extreme psychological process which starts off by getting leave from work to travel if you work for the State, among other things: the visa with all of the paperwork, lines, early mornings getting to the embassy, etc. that this entails; the ticket, having a valid passport and finally, to look for suitcases or bags that friends and family can lend you, like in this case, as they are extremely expensive in Cuban stores and hike up the price of traveling.
A small suitcase, which can hold approximately 10 kg, costs about 10 USD in most countries. Osmel’s suitcase cost him 300 Czech koruna, with 27 kurona being the equivalent of 1 euro. In Cuba, Elsa would have to pay over 30 CUC for a similar piece of luggage.
The day she came to visit me, luck wasn’t on Elsa’s side (or maybe it was) as she ran into Osmel in the corridor and he ended up taking away any importance from the situation by telling her that there wasn’t anything to forgive. “It’s just a suitcase, that’s it,” he told her. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she told Osmel what had happened.
This isn’t a one-off case. When my brother was traveling back from Ecuador, he had a similar thing happen to him and some of his belongings were even ripped and he couldn’t recover them. Even though airlines are responsible for baggage, recovering lost or broken objects is a tortuous process, in vain a lot of the time.
“Even though there are often mishaps like these in airports across the world, I have found that it’s much worse here in Cuba,” Osmel said, who calmed his friend down because friendship isn’t lost over something so insignificant, according to him.
Reality is that embarrassment peaks when something like this happens and it makes you think twice before traveling ever again.