By Paula Henriquez
HAVANA TIMES — I know the issue of transport here in Cuba has been the subject of discussion many times before, but I feel like there’s always a lot more that can be said. Or maybe it’s because one is left wanting to vent. I’m not sure. Normally, I take the bus my workplace provides. It’s quite reliable, but, it breaks down sometimes, which actually happens quite often, and that’s when my headache starts. More than just a headache, it’s when I just want to disappear.
Let me tell you that I live in Marianao and work in Vedado. I never travel alone between these two neighborhoods, but with my 3-year-old daughter. Almost everybody I know calls me crazy for taking my daughter to day-care so far from home. However, a friend of mine “sorted it out” in Vedado and I was also in favor of this for many other reasons, but maybe I should leave that to be the subject of another article.
The fact of the matter is, when I can’t travel on my workplace’s bus, I have to wait around for public transport and I don’t need to go into details, enough of you know what it’s like to try and get somewhere at 7am in the morning. Seconds, minutes and even hours pass by without having any luck. Yes, you have to be lucky to be able to catch a bus, as we commonly say. Sometimes this happens because they don’t appear, other times because they come but don’t stop and the majority of the time, because I can’t get onto a bus with my little girl when people are hanging off… literally.
A good friend of mine asked me why I don’t just take a collective taxi every time I tell her about my morning adventures. I laugh and then I remember that this person hasn’t lived on the island for quite some time now and I can understand why she asked that question. And so I find myself forced to give an explication which doesn’t make sense for those of us who still live here.
In the end, I thank her because the daily grind in Cuba makes us forget that other worlds exist beyond our own, where subjects like these would belong in funny stories, even in dark humor, as it were. And that’s when I’m forced to tell her that my salary, the salary I receive as a working professional, doesn’t give me the luxury of being able to pay a taxi everyday. And so I spend my time waiting, trying not to give up hope but sometimes that’s simply not possible.
I always manage to get there in the end. However, by that time, a good chunk of my day has already gone and my exhaustion is enough for me to forget about my odyssey; I take my daughter to day-care and I go to work. I normally try to make my day cheerful and of course productive. I put my dreadful morning behind me and I focus on reading, writing or whatever other task I have to do in the office… Now that I’m seated and comfortable, I convince myself that tomorrow I’ll be a bit luckier and I prepare myself for another day…
Somebody calls me to the office and tells me that the workplace bus is up and running once again. I feel blessed and I forget about the last few painful days. Traveling on “my bus”, I watch with pity and solidarity all those people at those jam-packed bus stops, where it seems like they’ll never leave… I ask myself time and time again whether things will ever change. I would like to think they will, that at least my daughter will live to see it.
Is that being a conformist or just really hopeful thinking? Well you know what they say, hope is the last thing you lose…