Category Archives: Cuba

Restless Roots – Where to Next?

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The problem with traveling, and enjoying it, is that once you start, it’s hard to give it up.  I fantasize about putting roots down and settling in one place…except, the reality of doing that some how scares me.  I think of the routines and habits that come along with being “settled”, the consistent parade of familiar faces, sites and scents, and I run for the nearest airport and farthest/quick destination point.  Why that is? I do not know…perhaps I do not want my roots to show. Roots being a metaphor for permanent settlement and not my socio-cultural /ethnic background.

So the constant question these days is, “Where are you going?”  My standard response has become, “The Caribbean for two months and then we will see from there.”  This is the plan that is not.   Going to Cuba has slightly side tracked my Ecuador plans because while it’s markets are spartan, compared to Cuenca (Ecuador), Cuban people are really hard to beat.  And in the end, isn’t the experience of being in a new place more about the people than the marketplace? Of course I can’t work in Cuba,  so unless I create a project for myself, the Cuban adventure will last until boredom sets in and we move off to the next country.

So, this summer’s adventure is all about discovering Cuba, its culture, history, people and food.  We will see where the adventure leads us from there.  I am committed to spending at least the next 12 months abroad, so we will see.  And if I happen to meet my prince and fall in love  in [enter the country name], I may consider planting my roots in the ground  and not simply in a portable/roll-away flowerpot.

Onward ho!

 

 

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Final Stages for New Beginnings

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I just realized that it has been 3 weeks since my last post and time has just flown by.  So that said, I wanted to give you an update regarding our pending move to “way down yonder”.

  1. Our flights have been purchases and accommodation taken care of, for our two month stay in Cuba.  For those of you just joining in on the conversation, the original plan was to go to Cuenca, Ecuador this summer and build our lives from the ground up again…which, by the way, is still very appealing.  But of course, we went to Cuba last month, I was seduced by the warm climate, gregarious personalities, and living history…not to mention the eye candy!   In all seriousness, as an entrepreneur, it is very difficult for me to wrap my head around the notion that 90% of the economy is government owned and private business is so heavily taxed that it might as well be government owned.  It’s an interesting notion and one I plan to explore more fully when I’m on the ground.
  2. I have consolidated most of our life into 1 suitcase.  Granted it’s filled with mini skirts, sun dresses, tank tops, shorts and other summertime paraphernalia (no sweaters here).  The packing effort which began several weeks ago, has resulted in serious soul searching regarding the value I place on cloths and things versus memories.  No point in traveling with Indian saris, abayas from Abu Dhabi, and Africana from Senegal, so those will sit in storage at my sister’s.  The Brooks Brother suit is just too beautiful to let go of, but all of my “business” blouses and Ann Taylor odds and ends were donated to and are now hanging on racks at my local Goodwill…really, I saw them on the racks!
  3. Craigslist is my best friend when it comes to moving and relocation because now my apartment is mostly empty.  IKEA dressers, file cabinets, kitchen carts, carpets, desks, etc., have an incredible way of sprouting feet and leaving quickly when they are posted in craigslist ads.  It’s a wonderful thing and now I am just left with the basics to give my youngest sister to furnish her first apartment or donate to the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
  4. I have purchased gifts for all our friends and new family in Cuba, which is exactly what I would do if I was going back to Sierra Leone to visit.  As a guest, you must come bearing gifts…it’s just the polite and considerate thing to do.  The great thing about Cuba is that because things are limited and relatively expensive, relatively small gifts are really appreciated and valued.  Between gifts, shoes, bed sheets (I’m very particular and never leave home without them), towels, and bags, we filled up a second suitcase.  The third suitcase will be all the things I just couldn’t leave behind and our school curriculum materials for the next year.  No matter where we are in the world, we will still homeschool this coming year.
  5. My company officially closes down this Friday and we are leaving our town in under 3 weeks to head out for the summer…this means the beginning of graduation season, hanging with family and getting on planes, trains and in automobiles.

There you have it, the last three weeks consolidated into 5 bullet points.

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.