NPR reporter Jason Beaubien didn’t plan to drive across Cuba, but it did provide an apt look at the many problems the island faces. The “Spanish phrase ‘No hay,’ meaning ‘there's no fill-in-the-blank,’ was a constant refrain on this trip,” he reports. The country’s transportation crisis means that cars are rarely available, and the only rental car he could find was a $100-a-day Samsung heap.
Beaubien picked up many desperate hitchhikers waving from the curb. One young girl was fleeing her revolutionary father; one man hoped to move to the Dominican Republic, where he’d heard he could earn 70 cents an hour. In “Cuba sometimes what you want, what you counted on, what you demand, isn't available,” Beaubien writes. The highway itself spoke to Cuba’s challenges; it’s so empty that farmers often dry rice on its vast, unfilled lanes.