Everyday Absurdities in Cuba

By Nike

A line to buy sausages.

HAVANA TIMES – Let me tell you about some of the absurd things that are happening in my country.

Smokers are going crazy looking for cigarettes. One morning, while going about my everyday business of trying to find food, I ran into two smokers. One of them said to the other.

“How are you getting by with smoking?” To which the other replied, “There is a lot of dust in this town.” The first one was left stunned and lowered his mask to ask more clearly, “I was asking about cigarettes not dust.”

The other smoker repeated his answer, “I understood you, but it’s the dust that makes me smoke the most.”

Confused, the first smoker turned to me and asked, “Did you understand anything Mrs.?”

Having heard the conversation, I shrugged my shoulders and began to laugh under my mask. The man walked off repeating “We’re going bat crazy.”

What’s your hurry?

An older friend of mine, a 70-year-old woman, told me that she went to the ration store on Friday to buy her diet quota of cocoa powder with lactose and sugar that she is entitled to once a month. Going in, she saw the woman who handles these products elsewhere.

The woman asked her to be served, but the saleswoman told her to come back on Monday. The woman told her that she didn’t have anything for breakfast. The sales assistant got annoyed and said that if my friend had managed to get by the whole month with water and sugar, then two more days won’t hurt her.

Another case of absurdity involves an older woman who began to feel itchy all over her body at night. Her daughter took her to the doctor. The doctor explained that this was due to a mite that came in dust particles from the Sahara Desert. He said it attacks children and old people because of their delicate and soft skin, and that there isn’t any medicine in this country to treat this mite. The only thing he could recommend was for the woman to buy sulfur at a privately-owned religious articles store. 

Another absurdity. There are kiosks called agronomist clinics in every municipality. Seeds, fruit tree seedlings, even rakes, gloves and other useful tools for gardens are sold there.

Waiting months for the new prices

A friend who was interested in buying a pair of gloves went to one of these small stores. The saleswoman, who works her hours and gets paid for them, told her that they have been waiting for new prices to come since January. She said they can’t sell anything until these prices come in. In the meantime, she sits behind the counter and works her hours every day. My friend saw some seedlings that had grown so big they would break through the roof soon if they aren’t sold.

Recently, an elderly woman went to buy her rationed bread roll at the bakery in my neighborhood, and the baker was talking on the phone. After a few minutes of waiting, the woman told her that she was in a rush and for her to give her bread roll. Without letting go of the phone, the baker replied and said that you don’t go to the bakery in a rush.

But maybe the greatest absurdity of them all is linked to the price of rationed bread rolls going up. This bread used to cost 5 cents, but now is costs the same as bread sold outside of the ration booklet. That is to say, there is no price difference. Nor are there any differences in quality, it’s the same bread.

Well, anyway. A few days ago, a man went up to the counter in the bakery and asked for his rationed bread roll. The woman serving said that there wasn’t any bread being sold via the rations booklet, that the bread was being sold freely. So, the man, who had gone with his rations booklet, made a dire gesture and left without buying bread. We are more adapted to the rations booklet than we think!

Last but no least

The latest absurdity happened yesterday, to a cousin of mine at one of these new US dollar-debit card stores.

It turns out that after buying two items at the same store, she went to another one where she was only able to buy one product, because when she went to buy shampoo (an item that can’t be found elsewhere), the sales assistant returned her card after running it through the machine. Without further explanation, the clerk told her that she couldn’t purchase more than three items on the same day. My cousin had to wait for the next day to come before being able to buy shampoo. Do they want dollars or not?

Maybe the smoker was right, we’re going bat crazy.

Read more from Nike’s diary here on Havana Times.

Nike

I was born in Havana, Cuba. All my life I have had the sea as a landscape. I like being close to it, feeling its breeze, its smell, as well as swimming and enjoying the wonders it gives us. Thanks to the manual skill that I inherited from my parents, I have been able to live off crafts. I work primarily papier-mâché, making puppets for children. I write for Havana Times for the possibility of sharing with the world the life of my country and my people.


3 thoughts on “Everyday Absurdities in Cuba

  • March 17, 2021 at 3:02 am
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    Lmao this is the worst dirt you can find for your anti-Cuban rag? Oh no the shop attendant was kinda harsh with a customer oh the humanity! This anecdote means that we have to abandon socialism in Cuba!

    Cuba is free since Castro. Deal with it. Or perhaps you would rather see yourself as a comprador under Batista, or the colonial US regime? I’m sure you think you can get a free Cuba under capitalism. Like yeah bro the island that’s like 200km away from the coast of Florida and was a protectorate of said country for more than 50 years will definitely be allowed to be independent. You’ll own the sugar plantation, definitely. They won’t sell it to American businessmen and hire you as unskilled labour. Stop asking so many questions bro.

    Maybe you should have your sponsors talk to the US gov about the embargo that has cost Cuba 60 BILLION dollars so far if you want Cuba to become prosperous.

    Yeah newsflash for the readers, Cuba (because of the embargo) has very difficult Internet access. The “Havana Times” is not based in Havana, nor do their editors currently live in Cuba. Why are you people trying to make it look like you’re authorities on Cuba? The only media I trust is Granma

  • March 16, 2021 at 4:12 am
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    Thanks for this article, Nike. Very strange and frustrating to live in that economic system, for sure. I would like to see photos of your papier mache work (por favor). If and when Americans can return to Cuba, I might buy some for the families I know there with children. Muchas gracias, amigo! — Bob en el estado de Tennessee

  • March 12, 2021 at 2:20 am
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    Kafka-esque.

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