Journal Entry April 13/12; A reflective entry written on my balcony watching the sunset and couples dressed for dinner walking on the sidewalk…
It was during my first trip to Cuba when I really began to understand the conditionality of human relationships and the possible survivalist mentality of bartering.
Following that first experience in this communist/socialist (you choose your weapon) country, I reflected on the experience that I had had years previous in Venezuela.
At that time, I was smart enough to know that I was not a particularly beautiful woman, and that beyond being blond and single (aka free-game-to-bed), it was not another notch-on-their-I-tapped-a forgein-chick belt, but what was in my wallet and passport that was truly prize-worthy.
Behind the bright, wide, white-toothed smiles and pressed linen service, there is an undercurrent that ripples and swells to white cap proportions when you’re making any kind of transaction here. And that bright, wide, white-toothed smile is reflected back with our own.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s getting another bottle of champagne delivered to your room, an extra towel, or a reserved seat on the beach. I have spent days trying to get a newspaper, although state-sanctioned, that is published for the citizens and not the tourists.
I have been asked for items of clothing instead of tips. I have been hustled on street corners by people trying to sell cigars, seafood and themselves. I have calculated in my own head how much I have to sacrifice to get what I want, all the while my counterparts doing the same.
There is a very minute difference between eyes smiling to draw you in and eyes disguising calculation. It is this undercurrent of how-much-can-I-get-from you without causing discomfort or loss to me, which forms the unspoken bond of transaction. How much can you spend/give without risking your own comfort?
The beautiful mystery of this visceral knowledge of bartering works both ways.
The fourth installment of my Cuban reflection coming soon…..