Tuesday, December 20, 2016

SOLS Tuesday: Stupidity, and Lessons Learned, in Cuba

Here is a slice from a week ago that I couldn’t post because Cuba’s access to the Internet is so unreliable.
            My daughter and I were on the second day of our people-to-people tour in Cuba. “People-to-people” means the tour group is out from 9 to at least 5 every day, with guides, walking tours, educational talks, and generally a surfeit of information.
            Tuesday morning an architect met our group of 26 in the Plaza de Armas, in Havana, where in 1519 monks celebrated the first mass on the island under a huge tree. A church was built there some years later. We then walked through a little park and past a statue of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, who declared independence from Spain in 1868, which didn’t finally come until 1898. As we then approached an imposing building, which the architect explained had originally been a governor’s palace and now city offices, I saw a man selling maps. A map enthusiast, I hadn’t been able to get one before.
           I stopped and asked how much. Three CUCs (the Cuban convertible peso used by tourists), he said. I’d been carrying my smartphone, for taking photos, a notebook and pen, for taking notes, and our group’s itinerary, and put all of these down on a nearby empty table. Took out my wallet, paid for the map, and picked up all my stuff to join the group.
            You’ve already guessed what happened. A few minutes later I reached for my phone to take a photo of the decorative columns on the front of the governor’s palace – and it wasn’t in my pocket. It wasn’t with my notebook. It was gone.
            I went back to the table where I’d put everything down, and it was now covered with tourist magazines and brochures. No phone in sight. “I’ve lost my phone,” I said loudly, now searching through my pockets again, and in my purse. No luck. Our tour director had me empty everything out of my purse and my backpack. No phone. The local tour guide asked the woman if she had a seen a phone, but of course she hadn’t.
            In my panic, I couldn’t even remember what the map seller looked like, and felt doubly embarrassed, first for being so careless, second for being such a “typical American tourist” and not even noticing the local vender I was buying from.
            For the next 20 minutes, I beat myself up: how could I be so stupid? how could I be so careless? how could I not notice what I was doing, or who I was buying the map from? But basic optimism came to my rescue. I’d traded my phone for a city and country map that I really wanted. The phone was replaceable. Fortunately, it was only a few months old, so there wasn’t much on it, and I can afford the replacement. The pictures of Havana’s famous classic cars were lost, but I was able to get more shots of those in our remaining time in Havana.
            As for Cuba, it is well worth the trip. If you can manage to go, I strongly recommend you do it. Go Ahead Tours would be an excellent way to start.