It has been two days since I posted my last article about tourism and Covid-19 in Cuba, and things are progressing as I expected. Yesterday no fewer than three restaurants in high-traffic tourist areas told me they are closing this weekend, and the staff are worried. The same four guests who were at the Posada de Chacón hotel are still there, but all of their upcoming reservations have canceled. The staff is having a meeting to decide what to do next. Another friend works in a historic hotel in Old Havana that currently has zero guests. To walk through certain streets that I have known for years is like stepping into the Twilight Zone. Where did all the people go?
For me, nothing has changed still. None of my plans have been canceled, I have not gone hungry, my vacation has gone on exactly as I would have expected… with the exceptions of many incredible things that I did not plan for, and came up. Some of my friends’ businesses (both where they work and which they own) are now closing… effective Saturday (after I have left). Some of the waitresses and others who interact with the public have taken to wearing surgical masks… so if they are serving my coffee and they are suddenly called upon to remove my spleen, all they are missing are scrubs and gloves. The waitress last night wore one, but pulled it off to talk to us, and kissed my friends as we left. However useless the masks are normally, this girl went out of her way to make hers even less protective.
Watching the sunset last night over the water from Miramar was breathtaking, and the only two indicators that anything was different were the waitress’ mask, and the shockingly small number of habaneros who were walking around Paseo de Mar. The sunset was majestic, and the evening was spectacular. We might easily forget that after the battle of Passchendale, the poppies grew beneath the crosses row on row. No matter what disease or war or strife there may be, the sun will still set in the west, and you could have still sunbathed during outbreaks of Ebola or SARS or Spanish Flu or the Black Plague.
However serious this outbreak is, the world has come together to contain it. As with SARS some fifteen years ago, Covid-19 will soon be past us, and life will (as it always does) return to normal. We can only hope that it does not take too many more lives before that happens.
On Friday I am flying back to the US, and I do not know what to expect. I know there is a list of countries from which non-citizens (among which I am counted) are not allowed to return, and as of this morning Cuba was not on that list, as sent to me by United Airlines daily. My day job is still there, and while my plans to travel to my offices in San Francisco are on indefinite delay, I will go into the branch offices in Los Angeles to collect a laptop for my new contract Monday morning. Nobody will use the term ‘business as usual…’ there is nothing usual about it. Life will go on, and whatever else happens, it is imperative that we remember that this is not the new normal, but a blip in our history. Things will return to normal in a week, a month, whenever. When they do, we will remember the way we were treated during this crisis… and others will remember how we behaved.
My advice? Don’t Panic. The dolphins aren’t fleeing, there is no bypass being built. Know where your towel is, and everything will be okay.
…now where did I put my Babel fish?