Waiting in line

Cubans wait a lot in lines. You have to queue for the grocery store, bank, communications store to get internet cards etc etc. And most of the time there are people cutting in lines “i’ll just as a quick question” to avoid the line and get an answer for what they are looking for. Or greeting people they know, asking what they want for lunch etc. When arriving to the line you have to ask who is the last one “ultimo” and follow this person. This is very convenient when the area where the line is formed is in the sun or if people are waiting in multiple lines at the same time. However, there is always that one person who messes things up, usually a foreigner but Cubans do that too so don’t be embarassed if you don’t get the system, neither do the Cubans all the time. Last time at etecsa when buying internet cards there were two foreigners who didn’t know the system or blamed on the Cubans not understanding their English/poor Spanish. So all you have to know is “ultimo” and point at people looking like a question mark.
I must say I felt amused when I was standing in line to exchange money and in front of me was a schoolboy with one dollar of convertible currency. So there I was behind the ultimo waiting in line laughing in my mind. Even though we have to remember that this one dollar is a big money for a cuban who earns about 20 dollars per month, although I heard that doctors got an increase and they are thinking of increasing teacher’s salaries too.
Having a visa in Cuba allows you one month stay, with possibility to extend certain months depending on the type of the visa so I am looking forward to this process of first waiting in line at the bank for stamps “sello” (looks like a stamp works like a cheque) and then going to wait in line at the immigration to register for the next month. During my first visit there was a man in a uniform giving everybody a speech how we should wait seated, take our turns and stay disciplined. People didn’t as usual. You can get the stamps from a bank, I recommend using cadeca for money exchange and bank for other purposes only because the lines are lot longer in the bank usually. However, that is one of the few places where I have seen given numbers for the queue.

 It is not unusual that you have to wait for hours in the bank, last time I entered there were over 100 customers before me and in reality it ends up a way more because the numbers don’t work out in chronological order so don’t be surprised if you see #265 right after #149.. So my wait ended up being almost 2.5 hrs.

People have been asking how my days are like, basically lots of walking in sunshine, greeting people and waiting in line sums it all up!


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