Summer Vacation: We're Broke, We Can't Get a Travel Permit... It's Time for Some TV and Home Repairs

Very soon, in just a few weeks, hundreds of thousands of Cubans will take their summer vacations, among them the students who will enjoy almost two months off until September comes again. The summer break happens when the temperatures are at their highest, and all the analysts believe that social strife reaches its maximum boiling point at the beginning of August. The combination of heat, scarcities, and the school break gets on the nerves of those adults, in particular, who dream of keeping their family cool, fed and calm. Many parents must leave work because they have no one to look after their children and in the majority of work places the productivity declines in July and August.

What will we do this year? It's a question easily answered because, among other things, there are few options to choose from. We know that many of us will not be able to leave the island because we need a travel permit to board a plane, as well as a visa from the country we are trying to visit. On top of that, the cheapest possible ticket, to some place close to home, such as Cancun or the Dominican Republic for example, would cost the entire year's salary of two highly placed professionals. The option to vacation outside our national borders is a luxury very few can allow themselves.

Similarly, we probably can't leave our province because to travel by bus or train we would have had to buy the tickets last May, after waiting in line for several days. If we don't have relatives to offer us hospitality, then we would need a sack of money to pay for a hotel or a room in someone's house. As a general rule, people only travel to where they have family, and as a result most of the eleven million people living here barely know even twenty percent of our country.

In summer the beach calls to us, especially on this narrow island where, at its widest part, the coast is never more than sixty miles away. But swimming in the sea becomes a problem, particularly with regards to transportation, especially when everyone has the same idea of taking a dip in the ocean. Once we arrive at the beach and are lying on the sand under the relentless Caribbean sun, we discover that most of the gastronomic offerings must be paid for in convertible pesos, as must the umbrellas. This summer, in addition to the monetary difficulties, we need to add the potential damage that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico might bring to our northern shores.

Like last year, we will make our children believe that there is a new seal in the aquarium and that a pair of lions at the zoo have produced a cub; perhaps they will once again raise the circus tents, and the movie theaters might schedule matinees for children. Some singers will organize concerts; and alcohol - along with the ubiquitous domino games - will be among the options chosen by boys. Finally, we may decide the best choice for killing time on vacation is to sit in front of the TV.

There will always be some pessimist who says the programming is basically the same, with the same movies and cartoons repeated over and over, but that's not true. Each summer they release something new, especially American serials and films which, with "helping hands," make it here. In part because of the blockade, and in part because of the lack of liquidity in the country, these materials cannot be acquired through normal channels, but thanks to the dispute between Cuba and the USA we are able to enjoy television programming here without paying a dime to those who created and produced it.

Holiday boredom eventually leads us to those corners of the house needing repair. The chair that wobbles, the sink with a blocked drain, the outlet that gives off sparks, the old clothesline that no longer supports the weight of the laundry, and the toilet tank that has sprung a leak. In short, there are many corners where things are deteriorating over time and we must dedicate some moments to them when we have a few days leisure.

And so, when the holidays come to an end, we hear from our colleagues at work only about the new chapters in the American serial Doctor House, and the difficulties of repairing the light in the kitchen.