Monthly Archives: March 2012

What College Admission Letters Mean to Me

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You may be wondering if I am off again traveling to another random and exotic destination.  Well, I’m not.  Today is D-Day for high school seniors (and their parents) waiting for college acceptance decisions.   So needless to say, I’m a pretty high-strung individual, and at the moment I am significantly more anxious than my seventeen year old, as we wait for decisions from 4 of the 9 schools she applied to.  Yes….9!!

I will say that I am the proud mommy of a child who, thus far, has to choose between Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, Tufts, George Washington and NYU.  Yeah!!!!  College admissions letters are like a vindication that most major parental decisions I have made were good ones (at least that is how I’m taking it).  This includes the decision to travel significantly during her elementary years and never spending more than 2 years at a single school until high school.

So for now I just want to share with the world that I am really proud of my eldest daughter (and my youngest…I only have two)!!

And now…back to our regular blogging.

 

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This Could Not Happen in Cuba

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I have to digress from my typical international chatter, to look in my own backyard and talk about what I see.  And what I see is the lifeless body of a  young man, face down in wet grass, with a bag of skittles and a cup of  ice tea in his hands.  What I see is his killer, free with no charges pressed against him.  What I see is a society so consumed by its own prejudices that each human life is not value weighted the same.   And what I see is a society that has become even more entrenched in its own misconceptions that we are all drowning.   This is what I see…but do they see me?

This morning Leonard Pitts, Jr. of The Baltimore Sun, wrote an exceptional piece on invisibility, that captures exactly how I feel right now (click here to read the full article).  My heart burns and breaks for this life taken, for a family’s loss, for the thousands (yes thousands) of lives that are impacted daily and negatively, by the same ignorance and sense of entitlement that led someone to so callously take what God had given… a human life.

I sit here and I cry for a boy I never knew, a family I will never meet.  My tears are for the daily injustices that so many of us live with right here in our own backyard.   This could not have happened in Cuba…yet, in the US we are “free”.

This is for Trayvon Martin and all the others like him, known and unknown, whose lives are sacrificed in large and small ways, at the altar of ignorance.

In the name of God; the Merciful; the Compassionate – بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
May the peace, mercy, and blessings of God be with you – السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

Three Things Cuba Does Really Well

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Three things that the Cuban government does very well are (1) educate its people, (2) include cultural knowledge and the arts as part of the national curriculum;  and (3) foster environments that are inclusive, from an early age.

The underpinnings of a society are best seen in the behavior of its children and Cuban children could not have been more engaging, enchanting and inclusive of a little girl who had no idea what they were saying.   So below is a clip of three scenes: (1) Reflects the value Cubans place on providing an education that promotes critical thinking, strategic analysis, and active engagement (all children learn chess); (2) Reflects the high value placed on culture and the arts in Cuban society (this young girl attends a boarding school in Cienfuegos that specializes in classically trained musicianship (Cuban education is, by definition, State-run and free); and (3) Reflects the innate inclusiveness of Cuban children and how it extends outward to everyone (there is no fear here).

This is what makes Cuba unique in the world.

Musical Moments in Cuba

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Cuba is a place where music and culture are valued beyond material wealth and acquisition, and as such, the sounds and rhythms of the country and its  people, are never far behind.   Outside of Havana, Santiago de Cuba is probably one of the best places to experience Cuba’s cultural diversity and the video below provides a snapshot.

The first scene is a group of men literally singing for their supper, to the   tourists that visit Castillo del Morro (or more formally, Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca), and choose to stay for lunch.

The second scene is a singer at Casa de las Tradiciones.  This is a very popular spot for both tourists and locals.  The first part of the evening consists of solo (and typically older) singers with traditional tunes and the second part of the evening involves hot and sweaty salsa dancing.

The third scene is part of the musical rehearsal for the national closing ceremonies of the Feria de Libros (National Book Fair).  This is my favorite piece because it reflects the strength of African cultural and linguistic roots in Cuba.  When watching the dancer, imagine her arms holding up the ends of a long flowing traditional gown.  This is the  Ballet Folklórico Cutumba and for more info on them, click here.