An index of the Cuba series appears at the first post.
August 3, 2015
When this day dawned, I awoke with the sure knowledge that today we would conquer the beach! Lorenzo’s family slept in just a bit, so I accompanied the extended family to the beach, only three blocks away. It was lovely, with palm trees, pretty sands, and a seemingly endless, undulating sheet of water. I didn’t waste any time getting in. The strip of sand was only about 20 yards wide, after which palm trees emerged from berms of sandy scrub brush and flowery vines. The water? Well, it felt like the “great bathtub:” the Gulf of Mexico.
I floated higher with a swell, then dropped with a trough. It was like joining with earth’s heartbeat. I felt for shells and stones with my toes, but most were in a narrow band where the water gave way to sand. Lorenzo’s family joined us about half an hour later. We paddled around and shot each other with squirt guns. After an hour and a half, I returned to shore, where I sat in the shade of a palm tree while wearing my ridiculous broad-brimmed hat. It’s a sentimental hat for me, since I learned I had won my department’s teaching award while wearing it the first time. Something had told me it was time to get out of the water. Oddly, my back started feeling scaly.
Noel Coward once sang that “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.” I wanted to go on a solo adventure, despite the heat of the afternoon. Our tourist map showed that a commercial center was a mere five blocks away. Surely I could walk that far! I kept in mind Lorenzo’s advice that Cuban streets have two sides: the shady side and the idiot side. Unfortunately, the height of the sun in the sky did not leave much shade anywhere!
I soon discovered that “centro comercial” meant “convenience store,” and the shop did not have what I was looking for. I persisted to the next shopping area on the map, but I had trudged twenty minutes by the time I reached it. Sadly, the little stands by the road weren’t quite what I wanted, so I pressed on to other shops in sight. I walked into another convenience store that sold exercise equipment and footwear. When I opened that door, I waited for that moment of sweet relief when the air conditioning hit my parched skin. Sadly, it didn’t come. The air conditioning was out! With my few words of broken Spanish, I acquired a pair of flip-flops for Lorenzo for 6 CUC. I trudged back to the rental house, feeling flat from the heat. When I arrived, I swallowed a cold liter of water. I was glad to discover that drinking water was all I needed in order to start sweating again.
Although the family invited me to several activities that evening (such as a bit of hilarity at my bad squash skills), I stayed put at the beach house. Something wasn’t feeling quite right for me; I was probably dealing with a touch of heatstroke, plus the realization that my time in Cuba was nearing an end. My back had continued to grieve me since the beach time. When I had access to full-length mirrors a few days later, I saw why. My back was a continuous sheet of red from my shoulder blades downward. I certainly put a bottle of aloe vera lotion to good use.
The power went out from 6:55 to 7:10 PM that night. Soon after it returned, a new house began blaring music at high volume. This home seemed to have a special fondness for Autotune-heavy tracks. In my unhappy state, I grumbled to myself about the just deserts of people who play their stereos so loudly. Then I remembered a funny moment when Lorenzo’s two nieces-in-law simultaneously belted out the chorus to a song in English about single ladies. It seems almost everyone in Cuba occasionally wears a T-shirt featuring an English phrase. That’s no guarantee that they will feel comfortable speaking in the language, though.
We played a few card games before we retired to bed. We discovered that my silly beach hat was a good prop for playing the Great Dalmuti. Lorenzo’s five-year-old son seemed to enjoy wearing the hat, so I left it with him. May he have many happy memories in it!