Thursday, 21 January 2016

Extra Things

It is so easy for us in Canada to forget how fortunate we are. Here we are complaining about the price of cauliflower, while people in other parts of the world have never seen one. Here we are complaining about a store not having our shampoo in stock, while whole stores go empty in places like Somalia, Ghana, Cuba, and a whole host of places around the world.

Of course my focus is on Cuba right now. I'm putting together some personal care items along with few extra pairs of jeans to take with me as gifts for people I meet. These things are almost impossible to purchase in stores. There are whole market places with virtually empty shelves, thanks to the US embargo. I've been told that people in the tourism industry, particularly those who receive tips or gifts from tourists, are some of the wealthiest on the island, while many of the true local people have little or no access to things we think of as normal, even essential.

In some respects, spending time on my boat in summers past, time away from grocery stores, Costco, Walmart, has left me with at least a limited appreciation for provisioning stops with limited supply and high prices. I remember going into one general store up the coast only to find most of the fresh goods depleted, along with canned goods which were well onto a year old. It was hard to get fresh supplies, and what they had was too pricey for most people. The next time I went back, the store had closed forever.

We live in such a rich country. On almost every street corner there is someone offering wares which would seem near impossible in so much of the world. I live in a place where I can get specialized wheelchairs, when so much of the world lives with no access to any sort of wheelchair. I live in a place where I can choose from a dozen different stores when I want to buy apples, while so many places have never seen an apple.

Certainly many places have local goods. Certainly many places have their own national produce systems. It is the variety and plenty that makes it different for me, for us in this country. The people in Cuba are by no means poor. There is food, plenty of it, although not much in the way of variety. There is education for all, health care for all, housing for all. They just can't get toothpaste or tooth brushes all that easily. Or electronics, or books, or most of the other things blocked by the US embargo. And that's why I am packing some extra things.


  1. You said you brought some things like blankets to Cuba. Did you pass out any of your things to people? You were giving back to them and look how the bellhop and the lifeguards gave back to you.

    1. We gave a number of things away, like jeans, toothpaste, tooth brushes, chocolate. Mostly to the staff.