Shabbat Shalom from San Cristobal de la Habana
26th June 2009
I have missed lighting the shabbat candles, this past Friday I was at a hotel in Omaha, Nebraska; the Friday, I did light the candle but much later in the night when I returned from Santee Indian Reservation in Niobara. The Friday before that I was at home in Paris, when I could light the candles and say prayers of thanks for all the good things happening around me/us. The Friday night before that was spent aboard Continental Airlines Flight from Houston to Paris…
Why bringing up lighting of the candles for jewish shabbat when I am about to leave for France? To my parisian life with its newspapers and cafes and nice wine and champagne?
It is 3 30 pm in Havana and I was supposed to leave at 5 pm to Jose Marti International Airport to catch my evening flight to Paris. Being dogged by a premonition, as the clouds climbed up the sky, I called Air France in La Habana.. There was a recorded message to say that one could check in at www.airfrance.com 30 hours before departure, what use is that to me with no access to internet here in Havana?... a crispy cuban voice came over and fired rapidly at me with an educated Habana accent.. Senor.. el vuelo es anulado… the flight is cancelled.. ah well.. why fight this divine intervention? I did not ask for any reason.. just to find out what time does the flight leave tomorrow.. and whether I do have the same seat.. Yes, the upstairs seat is still assigned to me and she reminded me, without explanation, without compensation or without asking whether I needed any help, that I should be at the airport at 12 noon!
Normally we tend to blame airlines from poorer countries for such a behaviour, but Air France is well known for this lack of care for its passengers. If they do get to you, they are polite and even elegant, and of course they dress well and talk well.. but I thought of Cubans from the provinces who had come alone or with their families for their long expected visits to Europe, most possibly to other points than Paris; what about the tourists who had spent his last calculated cuban CUC and is now at the airport waiting to enter the departure lounge? Would he spend the night at the airport? Where the amenities are minimal and the food abyssmal? I do hope that they have made some arrangements for stranded passengers at the airport.. since they could be put on the flight on Air Europa to Madrid and then connections.. or some other european airlines, Virgin and BA from London; Lufthansa from Francfort, Iberia from Madrid or at a pinch Cubana itself… but I doubt it, the people manning the desks would think of these tasks as being to cumbersome and it is so much easier to tell people to come and check in tomorrow than thinking about their personal hygiene..
Ah well, the shabbat will be here soon, I may not be able to count the stars, it is very cloudy here, it is threatening to rain with its usual thunder and lightning.. ah well life in the tropics…
I am sorry to arrive in Paris one day late, but this is the third consecutive trips to Paris that I have been delayed, today, on 29th May, my flight to New York and then Paris was delayed and transferred to Houston and on 24th April, my flight to New York was cancelled and my trip to Paris postponed via Houston. I will make the most of my extra few hours in La Habana, this city of faded portals and unending affections.