Monday, April 2, 2012

No Island is and Island: Chapter 11: The Porcelain Iron Curtain and the Big Screen Idea

This morning I get up early and get dressed quietly in the square tall box of a bathroom.  There was a tub that looked borderline inviting if only because it was about three times deeper than the tub in my kids' bathroom.  I'm trying to be quiet and let my Mom rest so I think yes, maybe I'll take a bath this morning.

I miss radio and Pandora but I have songs on my iPhone, so it could become a happy little moment for me in Cuba, especially with no kids banging on the door.

There is no stopper for the bathtub. I hunt for a switch or anything like that but there was none.  I thought to use a handtowel, stuffed into the hole, to fill the bathtub.

No handtowel. The only bath linens were one towel and a floormat.   I wonder if they use so few linens to save water and laundry.  Probably. I wonder if they would even want me to waste their too-precious-for-spaghetti water on a bath. Probably not.

I take a shower standing up in the bathtub.

It isn't luxury, but it's interesting. They provided cute bottles of shampoo and conditioner.  I appreciate that. They also provide a survival pack of pads and a tampon, because those consumer disposable hygiene things are nearly impossible to obtain in Cuba and a tourist could have a miserable visit without a little discreet help.

 I make a mental note to remind myself and to tell anyone who cares to make sure to pack this stuff when going to  Cuba, and lots of little packs of kleenex and wipes because, well you'll see.

Turns out that all those times my whole live I've been to Subway and got all frustrated because they only gave me one napkin, I have been in training for Mission: Cuba.

Having gently depleted my share of Cienfuegos' water, I  turn off the water and to dry myself off with only one towel for my body and my hair.

This is a big hardship, but I face it with courage and patience.

The only obstacle I can't really face is the menacingly quiet shiny silver bidet. 

I've seen bidets hanging out next to the toilets all over Cuba making me believe that the bidet is the toilet's overseas mistress who isn't welcome in American bathrooms.

Don't ask me how to use it, don't ask me if it was a "good one" or whatever. I don't know.  I couldn't touch this one in the hotel bathroom or any of the other ones I saw the rest of the day.

You know how some people wince at the mere word "sushi" and will not come near it? I'm absolutely fine with drawing a porcelain iron curtain of a line between me and bidets worldwide.

When I emerge from the bathroom Mom is dressed; we pass each other uncaffeinated and sleepy and hug.

We go down to breakfast together. It is empty and quiet but I get the feeling there might have been a crowd there earlier.  We order our eggs the same way as yesterday, the same way we order the next morning too.  She has scrambled with ham. Mine are over easy.

They don't bring water to the table for either of us. Mom makes a Starbucks instant coffee with the hot water from the buffet. I took a sip of it the first day and almost spit it out. Today I ask for a cafecito - a little cup of Cuban coffee, and the nice man in the starched white shirt brings me one. 

Mom and I settle into a little bubble of privacy we rarely have. I live 8 hours away and even when I see her a few days now and then, we can't sit like this because there are kids and grandparents and cellphones and email and life between us.

The most memorable part of our quiet breakfast was listing and reviewing the places we would be going.  The old cemetery. The new cemetery.  Punta Gorda. Playa Allegre. There would be lunch.  I think she said more after that, but my mind was full and nothing sank in.

Besides that, I was absolutely fascinated by today's lack of flies. Yesterday the windows were open and flies flew recklessly, drunkly through air and danced on the food like they were claiming Cuba as their own Amsterdam or Las Vegas.

Yesterday at lunch I asked Tia Lourdes what she needed, what she REALLY needed.

She put down her fly swatter and pointed at the ceiling. Dangling from a pre-Revolutionary light fixture was a strip of flypaper.  She asks for different flypaper, because clearly the flies here don't like THIS flypaper.

I nod my had and decide to ask a guy at Ace Hardware or capitalist haven like that to find me the strongest, best flypaper ever made.

Then I realized she couldn't even imagine what she really needed because she's on an island that the Sears Catalog and Lowes and Pottery Barn forgot.

What she really needs -- and what this restaurant needs (besides spaghetti) --  is screens for her windows to keep the flies out. 

We finish our breakfast and go back up to the room to get things for the family we will be spending our day with -- flowers for the graves and gifts for the living.