On Vacation, Taking Care of Business

By Osmel Almaguer

Havana Street, photo: Caridad

How difficult it is to take ones vacation at my job at the Cuban Book Institute! There’s always a lot of work: a new campaign on this, another festival of that, book launchings here, paperback sales over there – and with us having to promote everything. The president of the Institute believes that each activity that we carry out, no matter how small, deserves to be covered by the media.

Another issue that makes our situation difficult is a shortage of workers; most of the time the staff is only 35 to 40 percent of what’s budgeted.  Therefore when somebody leaves, those who are left feel the effects: the staggering workload weighs down even more.

That’s why we have to “cut a deal” to be able to take vacation time; that’s to say, to come to an agreement among ourselves and with the head, so that she doesn’t go nuts when she finds out.

Five days ago I become the privileged one who was able to take off for 12 of my 20 accumulated days.  However, the only thing I have done is rest, because I don’t have much money and no one to spend my vacation with since I left without planning, since otherwise it would have been almost impossible.

Next week my friend Jorge will also go on vacation.  We’ll pull together some money and head out for the beach, the cinema, the theater or Lenin Park – which are the most affordable places for most people, for relaxing on the cheap.

In the end the same thing happens to most people as to me.  Most of the vacation time is spent resolving problems that – were there not so much red tape – would be very simple to solve, instead of taking us an entire day, week, or two weeks.

But paperwork in Cuba gets unnecessarily complicated, and functionaries – sometimes corrupt, hardheaded or, like us, short on vacation time – contribute to this complexity.

Using a little economy, intelligence and good will, we must solve many problems before they cause or combine with others and put to test the nerves of the most cool-headed temperament.