Tag Archives: United States

This Could Not Happen in Cuba


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


Postings from Cuenca – And then there were two!


Buenos tardes mis amigos, espero que todos estan biens. Good afternoon my friends, I hope all of you are well.

I begin this first post from Cuenca in Spanish because of an observation that has quickly become very clear – the Cuenca experience will be different based on one’s ability to communicate in Spanish. This is not to say that it will be worse or better, just considerable different. Therefore, for each day of our journey here, I anticipate posting two commentaries:

  1. In the land of Spanish – will reflect the people we meet and the experiences we encounter primarily because of my ability to communicate in Spanish. For full disclosure, I am not a fluent speaker or even an advanced intermediate speaker. I am more of a “street” speaker. I learned Spanish on the streets of my neighborhood, growing up in Los Angeles, so I know enough to understand and to be understood, at least most of the time.
  2. In the land of English – will reflect the same as above but with the community of English speakers in Cuenca…of which there are many. Primarily from the United States and Canada, this community includes the people resident in our hotel/apartment complex, fellow tourists (like us), and others who we communicate with primarily based on our shared language (to be explained in detail in the English post)


From reading many of the blogs and seeing videos, I was under the impression that because of the number of English speaking expats, retirees and tourists in Cuenca, there would be many in the local community that speak English.  WRONG!!!  If you visit locations that are heavily frequented by the expat/retiree population, then okay English will do.  But, reality check….this is Ecuador, where Spanish is THE language.  It is a country surrounded by other Spanish speaking countries and it is on a continent with only four non-Spanish speaking countries (all of which occur south and southeast of Venezuela).  So while not essential for having a great time and getting to know the city, I think it is unfair to assume the average person will understand you when you do not speak their language and you do not make an effort to.  I am just pointing out the obvious, so please do not shoot the messenger.


Arriving in Cuenca today made me happy to be living in the Midwest of the US and to suffer sub-zero temperature… because Cuenca is not a warm (climate) place.  If you are looking for a warm, sunny, tropical setting to relax in, Cuenca is not it.  In addition, if you reside south of the Mason-Dixon line and are used to southern Californian weather…..well on a day like today, Cuenca will be down-right cold. Just to make the point, I am currently wearing socks and sitting under a wool blanket and I came from Wisconsin.

Can You Live Solely on Social Security?


Did you know that according to AARP, 40% of African-American households depend solely on their monthly social security check for their retirement income?

If you are like me, then you may be thinking about retirement and how long you may need to continue working just to receive those benefits.  With no pension to call my own and a small IRA to fall back on, I wonder what would happen if social security was my only income in my older years.  Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I am currently 30 years out from what the Social Security Administration considers full retirement age for people born after 1960 (67), so I have significant opportunities to create perpetual income streams and build wealth.  This is a particular focus of mine, given the propensity of Washington policymakers toward reducing social security benefits and increasing the qualifying age. Also, who knows if the SSA will exist in 30 years.

However, what happens if you are near retirement age and social security will be your sole source of income.  How will you make ends meet?

According to 2011 statistics published by AARP, African-American women averaged monthly benefits of $946, while African-American averaged $1,109.  If you happen to:

  • Own your home and have paid off your mortgage;
  • Have low municipal/real estate tax rates and utility expenses;
  • Don’t eat out often and rarely take vacations; and
  • Don’t have car payments and expenses related to children or elderly parents;

then you can lead a relatively comfortable, if rather mundane retirement in the same town/city that you currently live in.  I personally find the above scenario frightening and disturbing.

Now if you fall among the 33% of Americans who are not homeowners…I have some sobering news for you.  Unless another family member is paying for your major living expenses (housing, transportation, utilities, food) life on $1,000 a month will be challenging, will not in any way be luxurious, and may even be a pathway to clinical depression.  But I have a solution!

Consider moving to a place where –

  1. Luxury apartment living can be had for $500 or less;
  2. Lunch and dinner  average $1.50 – $2.50, each;
  3. The weather ranges from very warm to relatively warm ( this means it never gets cold enough to snow);
  4. Everyone is friendly (except for the ornery ones…and they know who they are);
  5. You could have a part-time maid and still put savings in the bank on a monthly basis;
  6. Bank  savings accounts will pay you significantly more than the less than 1% you are currently earning.

Consider moving out of the country.  Of course, this solution is not suited to everyone.  If you have no interest in exposure to other cultures, hate change, and the thought of semi-tropical lifestyles  makes you break out in hives….then this entire blog is probably not for you.  But…if you have always fancied yourself to be a closeted adventure seeker…then let  yourself burst free and take advantage of the great opportunities that await you around the world.  You may be surprised that the biggest expense sometimes is just getting to your destination (your plane tickets) and even that may be cheaper than a flight to New York!