A 42-Day Weekend / Dora Leonor Mesa

Today in Cuba it’s normal to find a private day care center with no tables and chairs for the toddlers. The reasons are varied.

Cuba lacks adequate infrastructure funding and a policy to promote entrepreneurship that favors the incorporation of women into business and services.

The plastic or wood furniture is expensive, a small plastic chair, no more than 40 cm high costs about $12 US (10 CUC), a “modest” figure, similar to the monthly pension of any retired woman who wishes to engage in the care of infants, and half the national average monthly wage.

School furniture is not sold in stores and specialty catalogs are not available to the citizen-entrepreneur.

The only possible alternative for the average citizen is to order the furniture you want from a private carpenter. The selection of cabinet-maker should combine price, quality and delivery time of the ’product’. Quite difficult in a country where customers must adapt to the interests of business owners, whose motto seems to be: “Take it or leave it.”

We finally found a carpenter and we ordered a table and 6 chairs. The price seemed reasonable for furniture that didn’t turn out as we expected, no varnish or paint. The man, always full of excuses and good intentions, asked: “Not for me to say the price. I do this to help children. “

In my enthusiasm on learning that the little ones would have their space to learn, I ran to tell the owner of one of the nursery schools:

“This weekend they will deliver the little chairs and table,” I cried, euphoric.

Big mistake. The delivery date was later changed two more times. The delay was short — 20 days — given the problems of lack of electricity and the materials included, the payment anticipated and our picking up the furniture ourselves.

We had to find another carpenter. With the experience acquired, this time we engaged the other owner in the purchase of the new furniture, two tables and 12 chairs. For all of us, the value of the furniture was high, socially and financially, for this daycare is in a poor and turbulent area.

The owner of the carpentry shop said with conviction and seriousness:

“This weekend my employees will finish the job. Don’t wait to come and get them.”

The man kept telling us the same thing every week. For the third time gave us a new excuse. Fed up, I decided to talk to the husband of the owner, a tall, burly man with a scowl. He kindly agreed take on the business. In any event, there was little lacking for the confrontation.

In total, the “weekend” lasted 42 days, besides the usual “discretion” with the price, payment in advance as “collateral” and transfer to the place on several occasions. Of course, missing paint, table covering, children’s cutlery, etc.

We soon forgot our disappointment on seeing the little ones sitting in their seats. There are not enough chairs, but the parents and families in the community are very surprised. They discovered another Cuba with groups of people who want, not for profit, the best for their children. Now it is gratifying to see how the families give more respect to the recommendations of educators and owners. Before the tables and chairs, advice and warnings fell on deaf ears.

February 28 2012