When the eighth leak appeared in the dining room ceiling, you accepted the mission to go to Venezuela as a doctor. You knew that with each month’s salary you’d never have been able to tear out the paneling and replace the worn out columns. Also, the resale of some appliances you bought there would help pay for the cost of cement and rebar. In Havana, your bank account would grow with the fifty convertible pesos you’d receive each month for your stay in Caracas. Your wife ordered a laptop and your youngest son asked for Play Station.
The first months you slept badly with the sounds of gunfire coming into the small room shared with five other colleagues. To chase away the nostalgia, you thought about your relatives’ faces when they’d learn about all the nice clothes you had gotten at a discount. Meanwhile, the small bank account grew in Cuba, under the condition that you could enjoy it only at the end of your mission.
Someone in the group confessed one night that he was going to cross the border and take off for Miami. You listened to him with the trembling of one who can forget about the leak, the new roof, and the requested laptop, and use your savings to start a new life. Suddenly you remembered the nurse who escaped and has never been able to get her family off the Island. Deserters are punished with separation, marked by the impossibility of being reunited with their families.
So you spent your two years curing people and saving lives, suffering the separation, the fear and the shared housing. With relief, you got news that your wife had started to buy the bags of cement to repair the roof. When it was almost time for you to return, someone announced that an agreement to stay another six months could be made by signing a paper. “No problem,” you thought, “with the extra money I’ll earn in that time, maybe I’ll have enough to repair the walls of the house.”