Wednesday, January 24, 2007


"el móvil que usted llama está apagado o fuera del área de cobertura"

I'm bored and frustrated, listening to this message on a daily basis when trying to reach Yuliet. The phone networks have been unreliable recently, and Yuliet's old Siemens S65 is finally kicking the bucket. Of course, if you know anything about mobile and landline phone penetration statistics, you know that in Cuba, communication is "restricted," to put it lightly. I think the stats read something like 51 landlines per 1,000 people and 1 mobile phone per 1,000. To quote

"Despite strong economic growth in 2006, Cuba still occupies last place in Latin America for both mobile phone and Internet penetration, and is fifth from the last in fixed-line teledensity. The government has blamed the embargo for the country’s poor telecom development, which has prevented the implementation of submarine fibre-optic cables; thus, Cuba has had to rely almost exclusively on satellites for international connectivity. However Etecsa, controlled 73% by the government and 27% by Telecom Italia, holds a monopoly in both fixed and mobile services. It offers GSM, TDMA, and AMPS services through its subsidiary Cubacel, though mobile rates are prohibitive for the vast majority of Cubans. In addition, Cubans cannot legally buy a computer or subscribe to an ISP without having a government permit."

So, for all those who've inquired, the Yuliet update in a nutshell is that the Cuban government continues to resist granting her the medical release that is a standard requirement for all applicants for US visas anywhere in the world. While in almost any country other than Cuba a person could quickly and inexpensively complete this process and obtain the necessary tests and exams to confirm that they were not the next "Typhoid Mary," in Cuba it's not so straight forward. Furthermore, the process is ridiculously expensive and the Cuban government charges upwards of $1,000 (US) to deliver the paperwork. Such a high fee serves two purposes - it's a means test for applicants trying to leave the country, and it is a massive source of foreign currency for the regime.

I believe that this could be a revenge tactic or punishment by the Cuban government for Yuliet's desire to emigrate. Should it really take 1-2 months more for her to get the exam results and certificate, as she was told on Monday? After all, we've already been waiting for this since late-October, and I can assure you that my wife is most decidedly not carrying some horrible communicable disease that would wipe-out half of Pennsylvania's population and most of the citrus crop in California.

There are other concerns now, too, which I unfortunately can't yet publicize. The salient fact, however, is that a legally married husband and wife are still being intentionally prevented from reuniting by the machinations of a communist totalitarian state. For what it is worth, the US government remains supportive of our plight and I am in direct contact with USINT in Havana.

My buddies at Napoleon Hill sent me this aphorism today:

Though it may not seem so when you first encounter a serious blow, you can never lose two of the most important assets you have. These are the power of your mind and your freedom to use it. Once you have turned them to understanding what laid you low, you can begin forming new plans. You may not have the money you once had; you may lack the allies you had cultivated. But you still have the benefit of a universe that eventually rewards honest effort, as well as gaining the experience of mistakes you will never make again. Remember, no matter where you are now, whatever you can conceive and believe, you can achieve."

The question is what to do now? Obviously I'm a tenacious guy and I'll keep fighting, as will Yuliet, because I'm not about to divorce my wife from afar and quite the struggle because I tire of sleeping alone in a big bed. This is like being in a meat grinder, or perhaps better said, it is like trench warfare that gradually wears you down. I'm not losing hope, for la esperanza es lo último que se pierde. But I am tired of being in this endless holding pattern, wondering when my wife and I will finally be able to really begin our life together.

Do I lament stopping my cycling career after a great season in Italy under the mistaken impression that Yuliet and I would have been be sipping champagne at Kennedy Airport in August 2006? Not really, as all good things must come to the end, and I leave bike racing with my health, despite having taken some serious crashes and consistently risked my life on tricky mountain descents. I do, however, realize the need to have something into which I can channel the energy and excitement that I consistently brought to my training and racing.

I feel almost like I'm being disloyal by "getting on with my life" in the traditional sense of pursuing other career opportunities, travel, etc., while my wife waits endlessly in Cuba for release that may or may not come. It's not a problem, but I'm just too loyal...she's my wife after all, and I wouldn't have married her if I didn't want to be with her. We made a commitment and I intend to see it through to a Golden Anniversary and beyond.

Everyone, thanks for your continued support and inspiration.

1 comment:

  1. 'Getting on with your life' is certianly far from disloyal, Joe. Once Yuliet gets here, she will need a means of support, both emotional and financial. You having a steady job can provide both of that. You'll be able to carry a great deal more of her emotional load if you know where your next dollar is coming from. Of course, you're a smart guy, and you probably already realized this, I just wanted to point it out.
    Prayers all around...

    P.S. Ian and I bought each other the same Christmas gift this year. The Red Zinger/Coors Classic 3-DVD set. I'm watching it on my mini-DVD player while at work tonite. Pretty cool watching Mount, Cook, LeMond, Anderson, Carpenter, Reoch, Phinney, Hampsten, etc.


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