Above photo taken by Mike Davis!
Mike and I (Gloria) had a wonderful week off in Cuba in mid February, until two days before we returned home. We took a motor scooter into the remote countryside far from any town or tourist resort, to a cave that Mike had heard about. We didn’t get there. We were only a few km away from the cave when the front wheel got caught in a rut in the unpaved road and we crashed. Mike fell hard on his left shoulder and had the wind knocked out of him, bruising his ribs and cutting his knee. I scraped my forearm and had a big chunk of flesh ripped out of my knee. The blood was black. You could see the bone. “It’s bad,” Mike said.
A young woman came running toward us. “I’m sorry,” she said, unnecessarily, and in English. I would later have other Cubans apologize for our accident.
The young woman, named Gisella, gestured for us to come to her house, an unpainted structure with a thatched and corrugated tin roof, in better condition than many of the houses common to this area. We sat on hard wooden chairs in the shade of the front verandah. Her grandmother Raquel appeared with a plastic bag full of cotton wool and a pot of cold water drawn by hand from a well. They had no running water, but there was a well at the side of their garden. I tried to clean my wounds but ended up just packing cotton into the wound in my knee.
Gisella then ran half a km up the road to the only telephone nearby to call for an ambulance. When she returned she said it would be 20 minutes until the ambulance came, but it required two more runs to the telephone and more than two hours before an ambulance finally came.
Raquel served us hot coffee in probably their finest coffee cups. Mike and I both like lots of milk in our coffee, but in Cuba, milk is scarce and reserved for children. And tourists. This coffee was black but I prepared to drink it like medicine. It turned out to be loaded with sugar, also not the way I like it, but that day it was delicious, exactly what we needed.
While we waited, we tried to make conversation. A green hummingbird fed at tiny red flowers in the dry and dusty front garden. I said we have those hummingbirds in Canada. Gisella tried to entertain us. She brought me dried flower blossoms that she said were from a thick vine that climbs a tree. She disappeared around the corner of the house and reappeared with a dried cob of corn and hens, roosters and turkeys milling around her to eat the kernels. She picked up a hen and handed it to me to hold, giving Mike another one. I had never held a chicken before. It felt delicate and soft, like a bag of feathers, although its strong feet struggled against me until Gisella set it back down on the ground.
I noticed green fruit growing on a tree beside their house and asked if it was a lemon. Gisella said it was an orange, but it was sour and could only be used for juice. Moments later, grandmother Raquel came out of the house with a broomstick and whacked at the orange tree, knocking off the last two oranges. She went into the house and soon came back outside with two glasses of freshly squeezed and sweetened orange juice. I took one sip and burst into tears.
These people had so little, were what we would call dirt poor, and yet they gave us everything they had. All I could think was “They have nothing and they gave us everything.”
When the ambulance finally came, Mike tried to give them some Cuban money but tiny Gisella waved her finger up toward big Mike’s face, saying “No, no, no!” I was unhappy that she wouldn’t accept our money, but I had to get to the hospital.
Next: Cuban healthcare