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Am I Living in Cuba, or Never Never Land?

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Focus on a fixed point and you'll see that we are, in fact, advancing. Graphic humor from Santana

Everything moves clumsily, heavily. Even the sun seems to take longer than normal up there. The clock knows nothing of precision and the minute hand is stuck. Making an appointment with the exactitude of three-fifteen or twenty-to-eleven is the pure pedantry of those in a hurry. Time is dense, like guava jam with too much sugar.

"If you hurry, your problems double," the clerk warns the customer anxious to get home early. The man sweats, drums his fingers, while she cuts her really long fingernails before even hitting a key on the cash register. The line behind him also looks at him with scorn, "Another one who thinks he's in a big hurry," says an annoyed lady.

We live in a country where diligence has come to be interpreted as rudeness and being on time as a petulant quirk. An Island in slow motion, where you have to ask permission from one arm to move the other. A long crocodile that yawns and yawns as it lolls in the Caribbean waters.

Someone who manages to complete two activities in one day might feel fortunate. It's common not to be able to find ways to do even one. There's a hitch at every step, a sign that says, "Today we're closed for fumigation," "We don't serve the public on Friday," or Raul's phrase, "Without hurry but without pause." Delay, postpone, suspend, cancel... the verbs most conjugated when you face any procedure or paperwork.

The turtle's pace is everywhere. From the bureaucratic offices and the bus stops to the recreation and service centers. But the big winner of the award for having "the blood of a turnip" is the government itself: Three years after the fiber optic cable was connected between Cuba and Venezuela it is still impossible to contract for a home Internet connection.

Two decades of the dual monetary system and they still haven't published a schedule for the elimination of this economic schizophrenia. Fifty-four years of single-party government and there is no sign of a day when we will have the right to free association. Half a century of government blunders and mistakes and they haven't even begun to hint at an apology.

At this rate, one day they'll re-baptize the Island "Never Never Land," a place where clocks and calendars are banned.


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