Part I: A Day with a Cuban Family in the Barrio


“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.”
― Plutarch

When Sandy took us to meet her large extended family in Marianao, Cuba, I had no idea what to expect. We had only been in Cuba for one day and I had no understanding of life in a communist country. My understanding of communism was that everyone in the Cuban society received equal benefits derived from their labor. I thought that it was a classless society where the government controlled everything and where wealth was redistributed so that all are of the same social and financial status.

NOT. SO. 

We arrived in Marianao surprising Sandy’s family because she had told them that she would visit the following Monday. The matriarch of the family, wrapped in her worn cotton dress, limped to the door and showered hugs and kisses on Sandy. Then, she showered us with hugs and kisses, too!

She is 97 years young and still going strong thanks to socialized medicine in Cuba. She lost a leg many years ago, but she received a plastic leg that enables her to walk. All medical care is free in Cuba…or so we thought. The matriarch’s daughter showed us a plastic bag filled with medicines for her and her mother. She said that she has to pay for them, and that medicine is dispensed on a sliding scale depending on the finances of the family. Since she is a teacher, she has to pay for the medicines.

Continue reading

Margarita’s Ashes: A Cuban Burial Story


“Death makes angels of us all and gives us wings where we had shoulders smooth as ravens’ claws.” ~ Jim Morrison

Havana’s Colón Cemetery is the second-largest in the world taking up 56 hectares, as well as the final resting place of over two million souls. One of these souls is Margarita, Sandy’s Cuban mother-in-law.

Most tourists visit the cemetery for the historical significance and the funerary monuments, ornate sculptures, and mausoleums. We were privileged to visit the cemetery in search of Margarita’s ashes. Yet, the search led us to an unexpected discovery of how the poor are buried in Cuba.

The varied architectural styles of the graves are a fascinating reflection of the golden age of Cuba. Now, many of the graves are in a state of disrepair because the families fled before the revolution and abandoned the graves of their loved ones.

Those who can afford to decorate the graves of their loved ones embellish the crypts with fresh flowers and small tokens of remembrances. For those who can’t afford the upkeep of the graves, the story is quite different.

Continue reading

Cuba’s Four-Wheeled Zombies


Driving the dead! Cuba’s car culture fascinated me. They have the most resourceful drivers and mechanics who defy the odds and break all the rules to make sure that the American 50s classics…really never die. The four-wheeled zombies are alive and well in Cuba!

Before visiting Cuba, I thought that only Havana’s streets would be like a 1950s Hollywood movie. However, the old classic cars are everywhere, used for everything from taxis to tourism novelties, and incorporated into daily life in every aspect of Cuba’s culture.

The four-wheeled zombies rose from the dead on February 8, 1962. With a stroke of President John F. Kennedy’s pen, the noose was dramatically tightened on an existing trade embargo that prohibited most Cubans from buying brand new cars after Castro took the reigns in 1959.

Continue reading

Happy Trails!


“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett

 

We are off island for a grand journey to Cuba, Mexico, and then the United States. It has been a busy week. I won’t be posting from Cuba, but when we get settled in Mexico, prepare for a hundred shots of the old cars of Cuba. On my first date with my husband, he picked me up in a 1950 Chevy! And it got better…on our second date, he picked me up in a 1956 limo. We are old car lovers.

Here is a review of our past week.

Robinson opened his Island Cafe restaurant. It used to be the American Cafe and Hotel. We wanted Robinson to name it Robinson’s Crusoe, but he felt more comfortable calling it the Island Cafe and Hotel.

What a change paint makes! The restaurant used to be off white with red plastic chairs and blue plastic tables. Now, it is so chic!  Continue reading

Kava Culture


“Kava is like chamomile on steroids.”~ unknown.  

I always stress out before we leave on a trip. This month we are leaving for two and one half months. First stop Cuba, then Mexico for a month, then to the states to visit family and check on our house.

Planning for an extended trip is exhausting. It takes months of planning to book Airbnbs, transportation, and flights. Then, there is the planning for our housesitters, bills to pay ahead, etc.

Kava to the rescue! When we were in Fiji last November, I wanted to go to a Kava ceremony. Instead, our Airbnb hosts brought the Kava ceremony to us. The Fijian house keeper took us to the market to pick out the best Kava roots and coconut husk cups.

img_2460

Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Road Taken


The weekly photo challenge is The Road Taken

“Roads are long; make them short with a good company!” ― Mehmet Murat ildan

When we have visitors, we always take them to Charco Verde on Ometepe Island. I’ve written about this beautiful place many times, Place Where the Gods Pee.  Yet, we always discover new things along the path taken through the Charco Verde Nature Reserve. 
The path starts in a field of flowering vines and plantains.
img_0768It leads to a boardwalk and a dirt trail that circles the Charco Verde Nature Reserve.
Four Places on Ometepe Island to Study, Love, and Stay Close to Nature
img_0780 Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Ometepe Island is a Good Match for Us


The Weekly Photo Challenge is: A Good Match

Ometepe Island has been a good match for us to retire abroad because…

Our island and volcanoes go hand in hand

img_1365Charco Verde lagoon is in harmony with nature.
img_0787 Continue reading

Responsibilities of U.S. Embassy Wardens


“Lets have faith that right makes might; and in that faith let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.” ― Abraham Lincoln

Five years ago, the U.S. Embassy warden for Ometepe Island moved back to the states. She asked me if I would be willing to take on the duties of the warden for the island and of course, I said I would.

My primary responsibility as a warden for the U.S. Embassy is to aid in communicating with my fellow U.S. citizens living and visiting Ometepe Island in the event of an emergency. So, I’d like to describe my volunteer position to you.

  1. My main responsibility as a volunteer is to assist consular sections in disaster preparedness, welfare & whereabouts, and alerting fellow Americans to emergency situations. Mainly, I am a messenger. We have a Google group and a Facebook page where I can send messages I receive to the community of expats on Ometepe Island.
  2.  I facilitate distribution of routine administrative information (changes in section work  hours, procedures, embassy closures, voting information) of interest to the U.S. private community. I also provide important, timely safety and security information, which might include the times and locations of upcoming local demonstrations, areas of potential unrest due to local celebrations or elections, or information about a specific medical issue.
  3. The U.S. Embassy sends me email messages and provides me with a contact list of all the U.S. Embassy wardens in Nicaragua. I am invited to July 4th celebrations at the Embassy. Although, I have yet to attend because it is a long trip to Managua, and I have to spend the night because I can’t get a ferry back to Ometepe Island after 5:30 pm.

Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Ambience with Prisma


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Ambience.

“For, through the twilight sounds of crickets and sighing trees, a faint, surprising wisp of music came floating to them and all three turned toward it, toward the wood.” ― Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

I am fascinated with the app Prisma. I can create different moods and ambience with my photos.

I found this old man in a park in Taupo, New Zealand. He gives me the suggestion that he is all dressed up with no place to go! Either that, or he just returned from a fiesta with lots of confetti.
ambience Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Earthquake Resilience


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Resilient

“Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good.”
― Elizabeth Edwards

On February 11, 2011 the people in Christchurch, New Zealand were eating lunch when their world started to shake. A 6.3 magnitude earthquake destroyed their beautiful city.
img_3919

Continue reading