This blog's title means "Cuban-hearted woman" (very loosely translated!). I settled on this name because it had a nice ring to my unschooled ear and, more importantly, because I think the Cuban people seem to have so much
heart, and they're in my heart for that reason. In general, the people I've met in Cuba are quite consistently open-hearted and big-hearted in the way they relate to each other or to visitors in their beautiful land. A piece of my heart now resides in Cuba, with the warm, wonderful friends I've made there. This blog is not intended to be a guide to Cuba, just a forum for my eclectic bits of writing – poetry, opinion pieces and information gleaned from my personal experience and reading.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Waiting, wiping: toilet paper is important in Cuba!

Right now, as I am writing this, I am waiting for a reply from my Sunwing rep about booking my April 2012 group trip to Club Amigo Marea del Portillo.

I don't want to use the phone, lest she call back. I don't want to stray too far from the computer, lest she email. So, I decided to occupy my time by catching up on a little online reading, starting with my favorite news blog, Havana Times. Front and center on the home page today is a piece entitled: "Weighing in on Toilet Paper in Cuba" by Maria Matienzo Puerto, whose down-to-earth writing I particularly enjoy.

It's funny that this piece has caught my eye because the "for Cuba" shelves in my laundry room have a heap of toilet paper, ready to pack for the April trip! It was on sale, so I stocked up. A few days ago, my hubby, Mr. Patient, asked me, "Are you really taking all that toilet paper to Cuba?"

"Yes," I said, nodding firmly. I could see he was struggling not to roll his eyes, so I quickly explained: "Toilet paper is light and bulky. My luggage is usually overweight because of all the stuff I take to give away. I figured the TP would balance things out, so I wouldn't be dinged with an overweight luggage fee at the airport, yet again. This is a cost-effective step in my travel evolution."

Mr. P. liked that answer, from the Canadian cost-analysis perspective, but I could tell he was still skeptical of the value, as perceived by the prospective recipients of these proposed gifts. Therefore, I went on to tell that I'd noticed homes did not always have what many women consider a necessity when we go "wee-wee," let alone producing "number 2." In the place of toilet paper, there may be other paper products, such as an old magazine or a child's coloring book (the latter is softer). It all depends on what is available to the household; if nothing is available, nothing is available.

Whenever I travel in Cuba, I make a habit of keeping small wads of TP in my pockets, purse and backpack, and I always advise the same for people who are part of my groups – particularly the women. And, when appropriate, I leave some of my stash behind, so the next gal to settle in for a pee (or whatever), will not be caught short.

So, I was very glad to see that my observation about the need for more TP in Cuba was corrobated today by Maria's HT piece. It's a shame that what many women consider a necessity is now a luxury for Cuban women, as she notes. I was shocked to learn that TP prices have shot up so much that it now costs 30% of her wages which, I am guessing, are average. If Maria lived closer to where I will be visiting in April, I would gladly give her a few rolls! Maybe one day....

Meanwhile, I hope she knows she has something more valuable than TP from me; she has my respect. Okay, you can't wipe your "toto" with it, I know, but respect has a certain intrinsic value, even if it's not particularly useful. Right?


  1. I'll save room for some TP in a bike box. Patiently waiting to visit Cuba!

    Mr. P.

  2. Jenny,
    Thank you for sharing your photos, they are wonderful. Also your comments about toilet paper. I was to Cuba in February (I have friends in Havana, both Cuban and Canadian)and brought an extra roll with me which I handed over to the Casa owner where I stayed. Mine was the big fluffy double roll while theirs was the recycled brown type. I understand the indignity that Maria was mentioning, while here in Canada, we seem to not give it a second thought and Can buy as much as we want, especially if it is on sale.Another thing other than that and hand soap, seems to be garbage bags of the kitchen catcher variety. I brought with me kitchen catchers as well as Zip-lock baggies because they are rarely available.Hopefully in a few years I will spend my winters there and help others, within my means, of course.
    Thanks again,
    Paul O'Marra, Kingston, Ontario.

    1. Paul, I usually take zip-bags too! I pack toiletries and other items in them to give away, knowing that the bags will be as useful as what's inside. Every little bit helps!
      Thanks for sharing,