RE: Not Just Tourists suitcases
Dear ***, and the other NJT volunteers:
I’m pleased to report that we successfully delivered our four cases of medicine and medical supplies to Cuba and have returned with suntans (already faded) and memories (still rosy).
Unfortunately, what we did NOT bring back was our completed NJT forms.
Here’s what happened.
We travelled on *** Airline, which, as you know, allows a generous extra baggage allowance to passengers taking part in programs such as NJT. This airline does, however, ask that all humanitarian aid be marked as such, so we printed up some special labels and taped them to our NJT cases.
Whether it was those stickers or something else that raised the curiosity of the Cuban officials at the airport at ***, we found ourselves pulled aside for an examination of three of our cases (the fourth, for some reason, whistled through).
A confused official scrutinized every item in each case, and then called others to review our NJT forms. Finally, the airport doctor was summoned. She checked the contents and with a smile, gave her approval. Much paperwork followed, but after an hour, we were on our way. Next time, we will try to avoid the stickers.
We first brought three cases to the hospital in ***, a coastal town. A fair-sized, two-storey building, this hospital has received NJT cases before, and the chief nurse and her assistant (photo 1) were pleased to accept our cases and sign the forms.
Again this year, however, our goal was to provide some of our NJT items to a facility in a non-tourist area that normally would not receive such aid. So two days later we set out with our remaining case for *** in the centre of the island.
This town, we discovered, has no hospital, but with some help from a passerby, we found a dilapidated but orderly policlínico. Here indeed the physician in charge (photo 2, with nurse) was unfamiliar with the program, but she was delighted to open the case and see the items within, and readily put her name to our forms.
From there we pointed our rental car south for some sight-seeing, the signed papers from both the hospital and policlínico tucked in the side pocket on the driver’s door.
Our goal now was a fishing village on the south coast, again in an area removed from Cuba’s major cities and resort regions. After many bumpy roads and a few wrong turns we arrived at the playa, or beach, where our car was instantly surrounded by small boys who clearly don’t see many tourists – some were astonished that we could speak only a little Spanish. The worldliest of the lot (photo 3) then asked us for “mooney, mooney,” but we gave them candy bars instead of coins.
By early evening we were back at our hotel on the north coast, unloading our rental car. The NJT papers were nowhere to be found. The next morning, I remarked to C that I remembered seeing one of the boys at the playa making paper airplanes, and she said: “That’s where they went!”
I think she’s right. Maybe they fell out of the door pocket. Or something.
So that, I’m afraid, is what happened to our homework. Thank you again for the opportunity to part of the NJT program, which we know brings medical supplies to those who truly need them, and which enrichs our travels immensely.
If you give us cases next year, we promise to be more careful with the paperwork.
(Learn more about Not Just Tourists here.)