Fun (or not!) with Fridges, Part 5: Rendering of Accounts (and refrigerator gaskets) / Claudia Cadelo

Photo: Claudio Fuentes

Photo: Claudio Fuentes

As Yoani called it in one of her posts. Yesterday was the Rendering of Accounts meeting in my CDR, but in an impulsive act I didn’t go. The truth is that I’m already repentant, I’m sure I could have written a humorous post.

The last time I participated in one of these meetings, a man who really took it to heart gave a most aggressive speech against the Ten Cent vendors at 23rd and 12th, who are no longer called that, but nobody knows what they’re called because nothing is worth 10 centavos, because they outdo themselves stealing pesos from the customers. They decided, those involved in the discussion, that they’d call down the police on the Ten Cent sellers, but they achieved nothing, either with the police or with the denunciations.

The next topic was the point about the refrigerator gaskets: the majority of my CDR, including me, didn’t receive our refrigerator gaskets for some “strange reason,” they just brought them.

Later they talked about bread, something relating to milk and yogurt for the children, the diversion of construction materials, among other problems without solutions. One woman said it was going on 20 years that we’d been discussing the same issues in these meetings… we must be persistent or completely mad.

Then they talked about increasing the surveillance and political ideological work, no one knows to what end, if all the real problems can’t be solved with that.

They want early release of the 5PE (five prisoners of the empire); said that the party was immoral, excuse me, immortal; badmouthed the United States, sang the anthem and everyone left, reluctantly, to go home and watch the soap opera.

Claudia Cadelo, 29 December 2008

Note: In conjunction with Miriam Leiva’s post about bank loans to buy saucepans, Translating Cuba has decided to re-post an old series of posts Claudia Cadelo about refrigerators, to give our readers a fuller understanding of how things work in Cuba. This is Part 5.

Fun (or not!) with Fridges, Part 4: They finally arrived / Claudia Cadelo

Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 11.02.14 AMMonday, November 24, 2008, 11:00 am:
I came running from work to meet the social workers who take the old refrigerators. Atmosphere of madness, all the old refrigerators rolling down the stairs, they say a neighbor was on the edge of tears. I too was a little sad, it hurts to see them rolled away after nearly a half century of working without fail. My Mom’s fridge, for example, they gave it to my grandmother like a wedding present, she was born in 1919 and got married when she was 16. It’s impossible to be indifferent to its death. I understand OLPL and other friends who aren’t changing theirs, but truly for me, although I’m sad, I prefer the change. In addition, it’s expensive to get rid of them, because I’ve been told there are people out there who think it is only exchanged, but no, it’s exchanged and charged: value 260 CUC. Luckily you can pay in installments. After 50 years they realize if they don’t sell them on the installment plan they’re not going to sell them, because with what are we going to pay.

There were two guys, I don’t know where they went, who loaded the refrigerators and took them down for you for 20 pesos.

6:30 pm:
The truck with the new ones arrives, as Claudio calls them, the “Comandantes Haier.” The odyssey of bringing them up and more, and thankfully with Yoani’s camera I was able to capture all of it, most of all Claudio and Ciro, posing before starting up.

For the social workers, who didn’t get lunch, I made them coffee. They told me they hadn’t even given them a snack the whole day.

Translator’s note
The “Haier Group” is a Chinese appliance manufacturer with a contract to supply energy efficient refrigerators to Cuba.

Claudia Cadelo, 26 November 2008

Note: In conjunction with Miriam Leiva’s post about bank loans to buy saucepans, Translating Cuba has decided to re-post an old series of posts Claudia Cadelo about refrigerators, to give our readers a fuller understanding of how things work in Cuba. This is Part 4.

Fun (or not!) with Fridges, Part 3: The coming of the refrigerator (II) / Claudia Cadelo

juan suarez

Photo: The piece by Juan Suarez for the exhibition “Monstrous energy eaters.”

Sunday November 23, 11:00 am:

I leave for work (yes, I also work on Sunday) and the Surveillance guy asks me where I’m going because they’re already picking up the refrigerators on the sidewalk out in front. Ciro’s at a student’s house giving a lesson, so he’s not home either.

We’ve spent this week waiting for the refrigerator, I haven’t missed any more work but many people have. Since that disastrous Friday of last week there have been people without a refrigerator until the following Friday; there weren’t any trucks so they couldn’t bring the new refrigerators. By chance we saved ourselves, because the list of those of us who were exchanging fridges was wrong and the president of the CDR wouldn’t let us get rid of them until it was fixed, and those who were fixing it stopped working, and so we were left with our old refrigerators.

I’m running to leave things at work under control and then head back home, which I make in the record time of one hour, including the ten peso cost of a car between there and here to get here faster.

When I get home a neighbor is shouting at me: Go back! Go back! They’re not going to pick them up from us today! He gave me a small attack of hysterics which fortunately passed quickly when I saw the face of the president of the CDR who has spent the last week taking meprobamate and who was on the verge of strangling somebody. She’s more exasperated than I am. In her work they give encouragement in foreign currency and if she fails she won’t get it.

They say it’s coming tomorrow.

(to be continued)

Claudia Cadelo, 26 November 2008

Note: In conjunction with Miriam Leiva’s post about bank loans to buy saucepans, Translating Cuba has decided to re-post an old series of posts Claudia Cadelo about refrigerators, to give our readers a fuller understanding of how things work in Cuba. This is Part 3.

Fun (or not!) with Fridges, Part 2: The arrival of the refrigerator / Claudia Cadelo

refrigerador22Chronicle of an absurd day (incomplete but will be continued)

Thursday, 9 pm

The president of my CDR, whom I’ve already said is the best, shouts at me that the fridges will come tomorrow. What time? Who knows.

I go down to try to find out what she knows, I have work in the morning and then I have another job in the evening until ten at night that I don’t like to miss.

The owner of the house must be present, if they’re not there another person can buy it but then that person will be the debtor.

According to the Cuban government I’m the housewife, so I can’t go to work because the debtor is my mother and she can’t come either because she’s waiting for her refrigerator too, at least the owner of the house must be there. Besides, what mysterious reason would keep a housewife from not being there to receive her refrigerator, particularly when the one she has hasn’t kept things cold in the summer for years?

My neighbors advise me to go to work in the morning, because the refrigerators always arrive late, I decide to sacrifice my night job, call the boss, etc. etc. etc.

Claudio’s digital camera is broken, a call to Orlando to see if he will lend me his, it’s complicated; Lía’s incommunicado; Yoani will lend me hers but Ciro isn’t here to go get it.

I go to bed.

Friday, 7:15 in the morning

I’m leaving for work; the phone rings, it’s the president of my CDR, saying that I’d better not go to work, they called her and they’re coming at nine.

Call the other boss, Ciro worried. Two colleagues tell me they spent THREE DAYS waiting for their refrigerators. I hang up the phone, not happy with this information. Continue reading

Fun (or not!) with Fridges, Part 1: Cold Water and Eternal Debt / Claudia Cadelo

refrigeradoresPhoto: Truck with old refrigerators in my neighborhood.

Amelia is about 50 and lives alone, her husband died in the war in Angola and since then she’s received a miserable pension through the Veteran’s Association. As she doesn’t work for the State, tough she is still of working age, several times they’ve tried to take from her the pittance of 200 Cuban pesos she receives as “financial aid.”

Since she exchanged her refrigerator for a more energy efficient one, her life has been complicated: she has cold water but owes the state 2,000 pesos in thirty monthly payments, plus late fees, which she hasn’t been able to pay. For some months an “inspector” has visited her house weekly, to tell her of the really bad things that are going to happen in her case. It all started with a fine, which exceeded the unpayable debt itself. As that didn’t work, it moved on to the blackmail of threatening to remove the refrigerator, and finally the threat of a trial.

Amelia knows she can’t raise this sum, and her inspector, gaining confidence as she looked him in the eye, confessed to her that he has not been able to meet his own commitment to pay for his refrigerator, either.

In a bizarre “Year of the Energy Revolution,” an epithet that was written below the date on every official document and on school blackboards during all of 2006, Fidel Castro decided to update our home appliances. The energy itself never came, but our lightbulbs, fans and refrigerators were exchanged for new ones, along with promises that we would pay for them on the installment plan.

Some years later, a rather high percentage of Cubans owe thousands of pesos to the State, Cuban Communist Party meetings demand of their militants that they “ensure compliance with the commitments in their nuclei and their neighborhoods,” and, incidentally, “set an example by settling their own debts.” But after 50 years — Party member or not — the common denominator of the average Cuban is insolvency. This bankruptcy of the family economy is the result of government mismanagement, which now demands that we pay what we have never earned.

Claudia Cadelo, 30 June 2010

Note: In conjunction with Miriam Leiva’s post about bank loans to buy saucepans, Translating Cuba has decided to re-post an old series of posts Claudia Cadelo about refrigerators, to give our readers a fuller understanding of how things work in Cuba. This is Part 1.