New Everyday Absurdities in Cuba

By Nike 

HAVANA TIMES – I wrote an article with the headline “Everyday Absurdities in Cuba” here on HT a while ago, that’s why this article has the headline “New absurdities…”

It’s hard to find milk to Cuba. When people get sick, many are given a pound of powdered milk per month, via the ration booklet and with a medical certificate. This allocation is called a “diet”. There are also beef, fish diets, etc. This etc. isn’t to mark an infinite list, I’ve added it here because I’ve always found the three letters used to abbreviate the word etcetera very elegant and as this article is about absurdities, it seems like a good time to use it. Anyway, back to milk diets.

A neighbor tells me that he went to the doctor because he has unbearable stomach acid. After different tests, he went back to the doctor with the results. This morning, the excitement of possibly getting a milk diet made the acid go away. Even so, he told me that he explained to the doctor that he felt intense acid in his stomach at the time. The doctor carefully checked over the paperwork with the tests my neighbor had done. Then, he gave them back to him and told him that an ulcer is in fact developing in his stomach.

My neighbor, who is nearly 80 years old, asked him excitedly for the milk diet. The doctor told him that he hadn’t heard him properly and explained that the ulcer is currently developing and that he won’t be able to get a milk diet until the ulcer has formed properly.

There is a building near my house that took 25 years to build. Plans were made for 55 apartments, but as a consequence of the crisis in the ‘90s – the wrongly named “Special Period” -, only 33 apartments were built. The cement cistern for water storage was made for 55 apartments. One fine day after the construction work was completed, a health inspector appeared.

She told them that the water tank was too big for the building and that it would need to be reduced, and she ordered for a concrete truck to come and fill it a little with cement to reduce the tank’s internal space. Luckily, there weren’t any materials because of the “hellish” period and the resdients in that building now enjoy an abundance of water.

Today, moments before sitting down to write this article, I was walking with a friend towards my house, when suddenly he grabbed my arm as we crossed the street and told me that the left sidewalk is better, while I told him I prefer the one on the right. For a moment, my friend looks at me bewildered. We burst out laughing, imagining if anyone listening to us would have thought we were having a political discussion. 

A few years ago, I received a police summons at my house, telling my niece could go to the ID card office. That’s because she turned 16 years old over six months ago. In Cuba, this ID card makes you an adult and is compulsory.

The police’s information about my niece’s age was correct, but it failed to recognize that my niece left the country for good, nine years ago.

Absurdities in Cuba are never-ending, and they are always a sign of the context in which they appear.  The following is a very recent example.

A neighbor woke up 100% convinced that she didn’t have anything at home to cook. She opened the freezer out of habit and found a bag of chicken that she immediately put out to defrost. She went out to try and find root vegetables and beans to accompany the chicken.  When she came back, the bag had defrosted and when she opened it she discovered that it was garbage.

Read more from Nike’s diary here.

One thought on “New Everyday Absurdities in Cuba

  • No matter where one lives in this world absurdities abound. As the author explains some absurdities are more head scratchers than others.

    Here is one extreme headache from Ontario, a province in Canada, where a women was mistakenly declared dead by not one but by two Canadian government agencies, together, in tandem. The Canadian Broadcast Company published the story. “Woman mistakenly declared dead by Service Canada for almost a year demands answers” (CBC News · Posted: Sep 08, 2022).

    The women’s husband had his marital benefits denied by the Canadian Revenue Agency because according to the Agency he was now a widower to his consternation and amazement. Really, they say, my wife is dead when in fact she is standing here smiling beside me, the husband humorously quipped to the news agency.

    The original mistake occurred with a provincial agency called “Service Canada” where their bureaucrats had entered an “. . . incorrect update that she had died in October 2021.” To add insult to injury it took the so called “dead” women “. . . another five months of calls and visits to have the record officially changed.” Five months!! Talk about absurdity. It took a person this exorbitant amount of time to convince a bureaucracy that a person making a claim is in fact alive and kicking.

    Service Canada assured the CBC and reassured all Ontarians that “It said this incident is not a regular occurrence.” For the sake of all living beings in Ontario and Canada, we hope not. But the absurd story does not end here. There is more absurd aggravation piled onto the poor women trying desperately to rectify her life.

    She spent countless hours in line waiting (a Cuban custom – sometimes Canadian) to be interviewed by an agent who told her to submit bureaucratic forms to be submitted to different Service Canada departments. After waiting eight weeks the agent told her, wait for this, Service Canada “ . . . had missed a form and she had to come back to Service Canada and go through the process all over again.”!!! What!! Ouch!!

    I am sure even a really dead person would have rolled over in their grave after receiving that unequivocal, unwelcome, whiplash. No need to worry she was told as her case would “now” be considered top priority and be rectified with urgency. Since when does any bureaucracy act in “urgency”? Like any bureaucracy a headache case is passed from one agent to another with neither knowing what the right hand is doing. “”Every agent said the same thing, ‘Someone is taking care of it,’ ” she said, noting that some of the agents said they had no idea what was going on with her case because they weren’t involved in previous conversations with agents.” Not absurd, just typical.

    In conclusion, it took the poor women almost one full year to have her absurd mistake corrected. Nike writes: “Absurdities in Cuba are never-ending, and they are always a sign of the context in which they appear.” True. Absurdities will occur wherever human beings exist and absolutely absurdities are, and will be, never ending. We just have to live with them.

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