Plumbing, hotels and general infrastructure:
Many of the women I traveled with have been lots of places, including Latin America and Africa, so they were not upset by plumbing problems, etc. This set a nice tone for our trip of tolerance, patience and adventure. Our accommodations were quaint, the showers erratic. But everything was quite adequate and clean and there were no major problems. Lots of people lack phones and few have Internet. The broadband is inadequate in Cuba and will not be expanded for a few years (Venezuela is running a cable from their country to Cuba).
As a result of all this, everything is hard: you can’t just phone someone and say you’re coming: you have to phone someone in their town who has a phone and try and get them a message, etc. You can’t just land in Cuba and look in the yellow pages or on the net for a destination or event you’re interested in. You can’t just jump on a bus or train and go see something/someone an hour away; you have to get a ride or make special arrangements. If you get somewhere, you might have trouble getting back home. Everything is harder than we’re used to.
I’m very grateful to the women I traveled with and to our guides who made it possible for me to see Cuba on its own terms. It’s tempting to compare it to the US, but it’s not the US. What they have done and are doing is quite remarkable.
On our trip, we each had meetings set up according to our vocations, medical, education, music, etc. I met with law professors and lawyers about family law and other areas of Cuban law. It was fascinating to learn about how Cuban law has evolved from Spanish law, as has California law. In some dramatic ways, Cuba has stayed closer to the Spanish colonists: criminal defendants do not have the right to a lawyer, for instance. Cuban does not use juries; but cases are decided by panels of jurists in which the fulltime professional judges are always in the minority: one of three, or two of five, for instance. Cuban citizens have the right to petition the government about large and small matters; and this right appears to encompass some of our rights found in our Bill of Rights. Cuban laws are being examined and major changes are being considered, such as allowing criminal defendants attorneys. I did locate a retired law professor who has written a proposed new family code. I was not able to meet with her because of the holidays; but I met with a colleague of hers and hope to eventually reach her and review the proposed new code.
I highly recommended this interesting and beautiful country. It is possible to travel there legally for study or research in your area of work. Eventually, I hope our government will allow travel for simple cultural exchange: to see and understand a neighbor country.