Every year as the final days of June are coming into view, we always say the same thing: “If it’s like this now, imagine what it will be like in August.” When what we call winter in Cuba has finally disappeared and the fresh showers of April and May are a distant memory, that burning body heat takes over. No hand fans, electric fans or air-conditioning systems, lemonades or cold beers can fight it off.
After the first summer season blast, we begin to dream about water, whether in pools, rivers or ponds. But as a rule, what comes to mind is the beach. Then we have to make the decision about whether we are going to rent a cabin, a house or an air-conditioned room in a hotel. It depends on the budget which in almost all cases is meager. Most of us opt for daily treks to the beach, complete with huge parasols or tiny camping tents.
And so the preparations begin. First, what food to take? Let’s hope nobody suggests rice and vegetables with fish or even buying a plate of imitation fried rice. The number one preference is a tie between congri and tamales, two foods which I think really don’t go together. Everything else can vary but there should always be something fried, croquettes made of some unidentified ingredients and maybe something for dessert.
All these food elements are in the realm of the females in the family; the men are in charge of refreshment: bottles and coolers with ice water, lots of ice cubes and soft drinks—only a few lean towards the natural fruit juices, perhaps scared away by the odious task of peeling, chopping, blending and straining. If the budget allows, a stash of beers or Havana Club rum (or both) and something to snack on. And among these masculine preparations, the set of dominos will always be there.
The ladies add their bulky bags of large and small towels, hats and kerchiefs, pareos, sandals for the sand and others for the pavement, a big bottle of drinking water to rinse your feet before putting on the second sandals, sunglasses, soap, shampoo, hair conditioner, eau de toilette, several kinds of lotions (sunblock and moisturizer for after the swim), two kinds of brushes, a large comb and a small comb, cosmetics, a book or a magazine and a bunch of those enigmatic objects that reside in the depths of a woman’s purse.
And if there are kids, they need their life-savers, flotation devices and rafts, shovels, rakes and pails, plastic beach toys, clothes, shoes and just about everything else. Our women-folk tend to have the gift of being the memory of the family. Just when we are there with water up to our armpits, feeling cool, free and without a care in the world, suddenly somebody (usually a man!) can be heard to complain: “Jeez, woman! You forgot the can opener!”