HAVANA TIMES — I have a friend who’s been living on an island in the Caribbean for four years now. From what I see in the pictures I found on the Internet and the ones she kindly sent me so I would see the place she’s spent the last few years in, it is a beautiful place.
I fell in love with the Bahamas, with its beaches, beautiful hotels, modern city, ancient traditions, pretty flowers, happy people, English language and salaries in dollars at first sight.
How could I fail to fall in love with this Caribbean paradise that is at once so similar and different from mine?
I dreamt of visiting her thousands of times. You don’t need a visa to travel there, just a passport and the money for the trip. Not too difficult, right? “Put your feet on the ground, love,” I said to myself. There was no way I could put together the money to buy a round ticket without any help.
I could perhaps find someone who’d invite me, why not? How many people haven’t been able to travel abroad thanks to the help of people they’ve met by chance, people who have helped them with an invitation and money?
“I’ll never meet anyone from the Bahamas,” I thought. I have limited access to the Internet and, when I connect, I barely have enough time to check my email or read the occasional, important piece of news. That wasn’t an option for me either.
“I could perhaps get a contract somewhere, I’m sure they need university professors down there. Several Cuban teachers have travelled to other Caribbean countries to teach Spanish.” But, since I had resigned from university, I couldn’t fulfill my dream this way either.
Seeing no real possibilities, I stopped thinking about the Bahamas. Little by little, I stopped thinking about its sea and its streets. I stopped practicing my English and reading up on its culture and traditions.
Sometime later, this friend of mine who lives there asked me, out of the blue, if I wanted to spend six months in the Bahamas, as she had to come to Cuba and had to leave someone she trusted behind to do her job for her.
Without thinking it, without even letting her finish her sentence, even, I said that I would do it, that I was dying to get to know that country (not to mention the fact I had never traveled outside of Cuba).
She paid no attention to my enthusiasm, however, and said to me: “First, I should explain to you everything you would have to do.” As she started giving me the details, I began to dream once again.
“You have to look after several dogs. They’re the apple of their mother’s eye.” “I love animals,” I said to myself, “particularly dogs.” “There’s five of them and they’re huge,” she added, “and you have to put up with mischief, without protest.” “I’ve never had to deal with more than one at a time, but, it doesn’t matter, I’ll manage,” I thought.
“The house is huge and you have to take care of everything, except cooking,” she added. “I’m a working mom, I’m used to doing all kinds of chores around the house,” I said to myself. “I sent you pictures of the house, you remember what it’s like, right?” “Who cares about the size of the house, when the dollars at the end of the week drive away one’s exhaustion?”
“The owners won’t mistreat you, but they won’t be your friends either.” “I don’t care about that. I’m not going there to make friends; I’m going there to work and get to know the country.”
“Lastly,” she said, “get ready to spend six months inside the house. You’ll only see the city when you get there and when you leave, no more, no less.”
“Come again?” I said. “Please repeat that. I’ll be a prisoner?”
I was willing to forget about my university degree and other academic titles and to do house chores. I was even willing to look after several, spoiled dogs and deal with less-than-friendly people, but, being imprisoned inside a house in a foreign (and beautiful) country, that I couldn’t handle.
That’s why I’m still here, for refusing to become the woman who loved dogs.