TRUTHERGIRLS ACCURATELY PREDICT THE NEWS WHILE UNPLUGGED IN CUBA (How did we know?)

FB http://facebook.com/thetruthergirls
Jana and I try our hand at guessing what is in the news back home while totally cut off from it down in Cuba. As it turns out, we are pretty accurate. How did we know? Because they always focus the same types of stories over and over again. That is a basic propaganda technique to keep people’s focus on isolated things rather than general issues that affect their daily lives and that they might actually be able to do something about if they paid attention to them. Simple!

Cuba: “No advances in human rights”  | DW News

http://www.dw.com/en/us-and-cuban-presidents-hail-new-day-in-relationship-despite-differences/a-19132536

Supporters of US President Barack Obama are hoping his visit will give new momentum to his drive to advance Cuba’s human rights. But the Cuban government continues to dismiss dissidents as mercenaries seeking to destabilize the country.

Latest Travelling To Cuba What To Know News

10 Things You Need to Know When Traveling to Cuba
I had climbed the unlit concrete stairs just off a quiet street in central Havana expecting to arrive at a smoker's boutique. Instead, I found myself standing in Alfonso's tiny apartment, where a cache of Cuba's most forbidden fruit—cigars—was …
Read more on Robb Report

You Know You Want To Go To Cuba — Here's How To Do It Right
The morning I arrived in Havana, bleary after a 4am check-in for a charter from Miami, my group decamped to the terrace of historic Hotel Nacional in need of caffeine. Strong coffees in hand, we were receptive when our trip leader, a well-traveled …
Read more on Forbes

How to Travel to Cuba — What You Need to Know About Restrictions, Visas and

How to Travel to Cuba — What You Need to Know About Restrictions, Visas and
President Barack Obama's restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba in Dec. 2014 restored the ability of U.S. citizens to legally travel to the country for the first time since the Cold War. Theoretically. In practice, the whole process is …
Read more on Mic

In Photos: Havana, Cuba with the Sisters of Dannijo
In December, sisters Jodie and Danielle Synder—the brains behind statement jewelry line Dannijo—took off on a Cuba trip to see how their new collection, Dannijo Cubano, would fit in the environment that inspired it. “Cuba has a rich heritage and …
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Latest What To Know When Travelling To Cuba News

Eight things to know when visiting Cuba
January marks exactly one year since President Barack Obama expanded the categories of authorized travel to Cuba thereby inspiring an increasing number of Americans to add the largest – yet previously forbidden – Caribbean island to their adventure …
Read more on Houston Chronicle

What pregnant women need to know about Zika virus and travel
WATCH ABOVE: Two cases of the Zika virus have been confirmed in Alberta: one in 2013 and one earlier this month. The biggest risk is to pregnant women travelling to affected areas. Su-Ling Goh reports.
Read more on Globalnews.ca

Cuban baseball stars the Gurriel brothers defect during Caribbean tournament
There were a record 150 baseball defections in Cuba in 2015, according to Cuban journalist Francys Romero, but the Gurriel brothers would be an exceptional loss because of their fame and because Yulieski had always been seen as a loyal player who had …
Read more on The Guardian

Travelling To Cuba What To Know photos

Check out these Travelling To Cuba what to know images:

More Cuba, Dec 2011 – 032
Travelling To Cuba what to know
Image by Ed Yourdon
This is a second set of a couple hundred photos taken in Havana, Cuba in December 2011. The first set, which included what I felt were the best 100 photos of the 3500+ images, was uploaded earlier. You can find it here on Flickr

Another of the amazing old cars, which we saw down by the Malecon while walking to lunch on our first day. The two women on the left, in the rear, were fellow photographers in the Santa Fe Photographic Institute workshop. The woman in the front left is Jennifer Spelman, one of our workshop instructors.

The yellow license plate indicates that the car is being operated as a taxi… Well, technically, as Flickr-subscriber "Schwar" points out in his note, the yellow license plates indicate that it’s a "citizen-owned" car. But many such cars that I saw in Havana were clearly being operated as taxis. Maybe unofficial taxis, maybe private taxis, who knows … but definitely taxis.

Note: this photo was published in a Jul 11, 2012 blog titled "Cool First Credit Card Images."

***********************

As I suggested in my first set of Cuba photos on Flickr, the notion of traveling to Cuba is — at least for many Americans today — probably like that of traveling to North Korea. It’s off-limits, forbidden by the government — and frankly, why would anyone bother? But for someone like me, who spent his childhood in the Cold War era of the 1950s, and who went off to college just after Castro took power, and just before the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban missile crisis, the notion of traveling to Cuba has entirely different overtones.

And yet Cuba is only 90 miles away from Key West (as we were reminded so often in the 1960s), and its climate is presumably no different than a dozen of Caribbean islands I’ve visited over the years. Numerous friends have made quasi-legal trips to Cuba over the years, flying in from Canada or Mexico, and they’ve all returned with fabulous pictures and great stories of a vibrant, colorful country. So, when the folks at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops sent out a notice in November 2011, announcing a series of photo workshops in Havana, we couldn’t resist the temptation to sign up.

Getting into Cuba turned out to be trivial: an overnight stay in Miami, a 45-minute chartered flight operated by American Airlines, and customs/immigration formalities that turned out to be cursory or non-existent. By mid-afternoon, our group was checked into the Parque Central Hotel in downtown Havana — where the rooms were spacious, the service was friendly, the food was reasonably tasty, the rum was delicious, and the Internet was … well, slow and expensive.

We had been warned that that some of our American conveniences — like credit cards — would not be available, and we were prepared for a fairly spartan week. But no matter how prepared we might have been intellectually, it takes a while to adjust to a land with no Skype, no Blackberry service, no iPhone service, no phone-based Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. I was perfectly happy that there were no Burger Kings, no Pizza Huts, no Wendys, no Starbuck’s, and MacDonalds. There was Coke (classic), but no Diet Coke (or Coke Light). There were also no police sirens, no ambulance sirens, and no church bells. There were no iPods, and consequently no evidence of people plugged into their music via the thin white earplugs that Apple supplies with their devices. No iPads, no Kindles, no Nooks, no … well, you get the picture. (It’s also worth noting that, with U.S. tourists now beginning to enter the country in larger numbers, Cuba seems to be on the cusp of a "modern" invasion; if I come back here in a couple years, I fully expect to see Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets on every corner.)

But there were lots of friendly people in Havana, crowding the streets, peering out of windows and doorways, laughing and shouting and waving at friends and strangers alike. Everyone was well-dressed in clean clothes (the evidence of which could be seen in the endless lines of clothing hanging from laundry lines strung from wall to wall, everywhere); but there were no designer jeans, no fancy shoes, no heavy jewelry, and no sign of ostentatious clothing of any kind. Like some other developing countries, the people were sometimes a little too friendly — constantly offering a taxi ride, a pedicab ride, a small exchange of the "official" currency (convertible pesos, or "cuqs") for the "local" currency (pesos), a great meal or a great drink at a nearby restaurant or bar, a haircut, a manicure, or just a little … umm, well, friendship (offers for which ran the gamut of "señor" to "amigo" to "my friend"). On the street, you often felt you were in the land of the hustle; but if you smiled, shook your head, and politely said, "no," people generally smiled and back off.

As for the photography: well, I was in one of three different workshop groups, each of which had roughly a dozen participants. The three dozen individual photographers were well equipped with all of the latest Nikon and Canon gear, and they generally focused on a handful of subjects: buildings and architecture, ballet practice sessions, cockfights, boxing matches, rodeos, fishing villages, old cars, interiors of people’s homes, street scenes, and people. Lots of people. As in every other part of the world I’ve visited, the people were the most interesting. We saw young and old, men and women, boisterous children, grizzled elders, police officers, bus drivers, and people of almost every conceivable race.

The streets were clean, though not spotless; and the streets were jammed, with bicycles and motorbikes and pedi-cabs, taxis, buses, horse-and-carriages, pedestrians, dogs (lots of dogs, many sleeping peacefully in the middle of a sidewalk), and even a few people on roller skates. And, as anyone who has seen photos of Havana knows, there were lots and lots and LOTS of old cars. Plymouths, Pontiacs, Dodges, Buicks, and Chevys, along with the occasional Cadillac. A few were old and rusted, but most had been renovated, repaired, and repainted — often in garishly bright colors from every spectrum of the rainbow. Cherry pink, fire-engine red, Sunkist orange, lime green, turquoise and every shade of blue, orange, brown, and a lot more that I’ve probably forgotten. All of us in the photo workshop succumbed to the temptation to photograph the cars when we first arrived … but they were everywhere, every day, wherever we went, and eventually we all suffered from sensory overload. (For what it’s worth, one of our workshop colleagues had visited Cuba eight years ago, and told us that at the time, there were only old cars in sight; now roughly half of the cars are more-or-less modern Kia’s, Audis, Russian Ladas, and other "generic" compact cars.)

The one thing I wasn’t prepared for in Havana was the sense of decay: almost no modern buildings, no skyscrapers, and very little evidence of renovation. There were several monstrous, ugly, vintage-1950s buildings that oozed "Russia" from every pore. But the rest of the buildings date back to the 40s, the 30s, the 20s, or even the turn of the last century. Some were crumbling, some were just facades; some showed evidence of the kind of salt-water erosion that one sees near the ocean. But many simply looked old and decrepit, with peeling paint and broken stones, like the run-down buildings in whatever slum you’re familiar with in North America. One has a very strong sense of a city that was vibrant and beautiful all during the last half of the 19th century, and the first half of the 20th century — and then time stopped dead in its tracks.

Why that happened, and what’s being done about it, is something I didn’t have a chance to explore; there was a general reluctance to discuss politics in great detail. Some of Havana looks like the less-prosperous regions of other Caribbean towns; and some of it is presumably the direct and/or indirect result of a half-century of U.S. embargo. But some of it seems to be the result of the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, and the subsequent collapse of foreign aid that Cuba depended upon.

As for my own photos: I did not attend the ballet practice sessions, nor did I see the rodeo. I did see some interesting graffiti on a few walls, which I photographed; but for some reason, I missed almost all of the numerous political billboards and stylized paintings of Che Guevera on buildings and walls. What I focused on instead was the "street scenes" of people and buildings and cars, which will hopefully give you a sense of what the place is like.

Enjoy!

More Cuba, Dec 2011 – 111
Travelling To Cuba what to know
Image by Ed Yourdon
A man with a pushcart, loaded with stuff…

This is a second set of a couple hundred photos taken in Havana, Cuba in December 2011. The first set, which included what I felt were the best 100 photos of the 3500+ images, was uploaded earlier. You can find it here on Flickr.

***********************

As I suggested in my first set of Cuba photos on Flickr, the notion of traveling to Cuba is — at least for many Americans today — probably like that of traveling to North Korea. It’s off-limits, forbidden by the government — and frankly, why would anyone bother? But for someone like me, who spent his childhood in the Cold War era of the 1950s, and who went off to college just after Castro took power, and just before the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban missile crisis, the notion of traveling to Cuba has entirely different overtones.

And yet Cuba is only 90 miles away from Key West (as we were reminded so often in the 1960s), and its climate is presumably no different than a dozen of Caribbean islands I’ve visited over the years. Numerous friends have made quasi-legal trips to Cuba over the years, flying in from Canada or Mexico, and they’ve all returned with fabulous pictures and great stories of a vibrant, colorful country. So, when the folks at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops sent out a notice in November 2011, announcing a series of photo workshops in Havana, we couldn’t resist the temptation to sign up.

Getting into Cuba turned out to be trivial: an overnight stay in Miami, a 45-minute chartered flight operated by American Airlines, and customs/immigration formalities that turned out to be cursory or non-existent. By mid-afternoon, our group was checked into the Parque Central Hotel in downtown Havana — where the rooms were spacious, the service was friendly, the food was reasonably tasty, the rum was delicious, and the Internet was … well, slow and expensive.

We had been warned that that some of our American conveniences — like credit cards — would not be available, and we were prepared for a fairly spartan week. But no matter how prepared we might have been intellectually, it takes a while to adjust to a land with no Skype, no Blackberry service, no iPhone service, no phone-based Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. I was perfectly happy that there were no Burger Kings, no Pizza Huts, no Wendys, no Starbuck’s, and MacDonalds. There was Coke (classic), but no Diet Coke (or Coke Light). There were also no police sirens, no ambulance sirens, and no church bells. There were no iPods, and consequently no evidence of people plugged into their music via the thin white earplugs that Apple supplies with their devices. No iPads, no Kindles, no Nooks, no … well, you get the picture. (It’s also worth noting that, with U.S. tourists now beginning to enter the country in larger numbers, Cuba seems to be on the cusp of a "modern" invasion; if I come back here in a couple years, I fully expect to see Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets on every corner.)

But there were lots of friendly people in Havana, crowding the streets, peering out of windows and doorways, laughing and shouting and waving at friends and strangers alike. Everyone was well-dressed in clean clothes (the evidence of which could be seen in the endless lines of clothing hanging from laundry lines strung from wall to wall, everywhere); but there were no designer jeans, no fancy shoes, no heavy jewelry, and no sign of ostentatious clothing of any kind. Like some other developing countries, the people were sometimes a little too friendly — constantly offering a taxi ride, a pedicab ride, a small exchange of the "official" currency (convertible pesos, or "cuqs") for the "local" currency (pesos), a great meal or a great drink at a nearby restaurant or bar, a haircut, a manicure, or just a little … umm, well, friendship (offers for which ran the gamut of "señor" to "amigo" to "my friend"). On the street, you often felt you were in the land of the hustle; but if you smiled, shook your head, and politely said, "no," people generally smiled and back off.

As for the photography: well, I was in one of three different workshop groups, each of which had roughly a dozen participants. The three dozen individual photographers were well equipped with all of the latest Nikon and Canon gear, and they generally focused on a handful of subjects: buildings and architecture, ballet practice sessions, cockfights, boxing matches, rodeos, fishing villages, old cars, interiors of people’s homes, street scenes, and people. Lots of people. As in every other part of the world I’ve visited, the people were the most interesting. We saw young and old, men and women, boisterous children, grizzled elders, police officers, bus drivers, and people of almost every conceivable race.

The streets were clean, though not spotless; and the streets were jammed, with bicycles and motorbikes and pedi-cabs, taxis, buses, horse-and-carriages, pedestrians, dogs (lots of dogs, many sleeping peacefully in the middle of a sidewalk), and even a few people on roller skates. And, as anyone who has seen photos of Havana knows, there were lots and lots and LOTS of old cars. Plymouths, Pontiacs, Dodges, Buicks, and Chevys, along with the occasional Cadillac. A few were old and rusted, but most had been renovated, repaired, and repainted — often in garishly bright colors from every spectrum of the rainbow. Cherry pink, fire-engine red, Sunkist orange, lime green, turquoise and every shade of blue, orange, brown, and a lot more that I’ve probably forgotten. All of us in the photo workshop succumbed to the temptation to photograph the cars when we first arrived … but they were everywhere, every day, wherever we went, and eventually we all suffered from sensory overload. (For what it’s worth, one of our workshop colleagues had visited Cuba eight years ago, and told us that at the time, there were only old cars in sight; now roughly half of the cars are more-or-less modern Kia’s, Audis, Russian Ladas, and other "generic" compact cars.)

The one thing I wasn’t prepared for in Havana was the sense of decay: almost no modern buildings, no skyscrapers, and very little evidence of renovation. There were several monstrous, ugly, vintage-1950s buildings that oozed "Russia" from every pore. But the rest of the buildings date back to the 40s, the 30s, the 20s, or even the turn of the last century. Some were crumbling, some were just facades; some showed evidence of the kind of salt-water erosion that one sees near the ocean. But many simply looked old and decrepit, with peeling paint and broken stones, like the run-down buildings in whatever slum you’re familiar with in North America. One has a very strong sense of a city that was vibrant and beautiful all during the last half of the 19th century, and the first half of the 20th century — and then time stopped dead in its tracks.

Why that happened, and what’s being done about it, is something I didn’t have a chance to explore; there was a general reluctance to discuss politics in great detail. Some of Havana looks like the less-prosperous regions of other Caribbean towns; and some of it is presumably the direct and/or indirect result of a half-century of U.S. embargo. But some of it seems to be the result of the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, and the subsequent collapse of foreign aid that Cuba depended upon.

As for my own photos: I did not attend the ballet practice sessions, nor did I see the rodeo. I did see some interesting graffiti on a few walls, which I photographed; but for some reason, I missed almost all of the numerous political billboards and stylized paintings of Che Guevera on buildings and walls. What I focused on instead was the "street scenes" of people and buildings and cars, which will hopefully give you a sense of what the place is like.

Enjoy!

More Cuba, Dec 2011 – 143
Travelling To Cuba what to know
Image by Ed Yourdon
These was one of the kids in the bleachers, watching the boxing match…

This is a second set of a couple hundred photos taken in Havana, Cuba in December 2011. The first set, which included what I felt were the best 100 photos of the 3500+ images, was uploaded earlier. You can find it here on Flickr.

Note: this photo was published in a Feb 23, 2013 Buzzine blog, with the same caption and detailed notes that I had written here on this Flickr page.

***********************

As I suggested in my first set of Cuba photos on Flickr, the notion of traveling to Cuba is — at least for many Americans today — probably like that of traveling to North Korea. It’s off-limits, forbidden by the government — and frankly, why would anyone bother? But for someone like me, who spent his childhood in the Cold War era of the 1950s, and who went off to college just after Castro took power, and just before the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban missile crisis, the notion of traveling to Cuba has entirely different overtones.

And yet Cuba is only 90 miles away from Key West (as we were reminded so often in the 1960s), and its climate is presumably no different than a dozen of Caribbean islands I’ve visited over the years. Numerous friends have made quasi-legal trips to Cuba over the years, flying in from Canada or Mexico, and they’ve all returned with fabulous pictures and great stories of a vibrant, colorful country. So, when the folks at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops sent out a notice in November 2011, announcing a series of photo workshops in Havana, we couldn’t resist the temptation to sign up.

Getting into Cuba turned out to be trivial: an overnight stay in Miami, a 45-minute chartered flight operated by American Airlines, and customs/immigration formalities that turned out to be cursory or non-existent. By mid-afternoon, our group was checked into the Parque Central Hotel in downtown Havana — where the rooms were spacious, the service was friendly, the food was reasonably tasty, the rum was delicious, and the Internet was … well, slow and expensive.

We had been warned that that some of our American conveniences — like credit cards — would not be available, and we were prepared for a fairly spartan week. But no matter how prepared we might have been intellectually, it takes a while to adjust to a land with no Skype, no Blackberry service, no iPhone service, no phone-based Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. I was perfectly happy that there were no Burger Kings, no Pizza Huts, no Wendys, no Starbuck’s, and MacDonalds. There was Coke (classic), but no Diet Coke (or Coke Light). There were also no police sirens, no ambulance sirens, and no church bells. There were no iPods, and consequently no evidence of people plugged into their music via the thin white earplugs that Apple supplies with their devices. No iPads, no Kindles, no Nooks, no … well, you get the picture. (It’s also worth noting that, with U.S. tourists now beginning to enter the country in larger numbers, Cuba seems to be on the cusp of a "modern" invasion; if I come back here in a couple years, I fully expect to see Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets on every corner.)

But there were lots of friendly people in Havana, crowding the streets, peering out of windows and doorways, laughing and shouting and waving at friends and strangers alike. Everyone was well-dressed in clean clothes (the evidence of which could be seen in the endless lines of clothing hanging from laundry lines strung from wall to wall, everywhere); but there were no designer jeans, no fancy shoes, no heavy jewelry, and no sign of ostentatious clothing of any kind. Like some other developing countries, the people were sometimes a little too friendly — constantly offering a taxi ride, a pedicab ride, a small exchange of the "official" currency (convertible pesos, or "cuqs") for the "local" currency (pesos), a great meal or a great drink at a nearby restaurant or bar, a haircut, a manicure, or just a little … umm, well, friendship (offers for which ran the gamut of "señor" to "amigo" to "my friend"). On the street, you often felt you were in the land of the hustle; but if you smiled, shook your head, and politely said, "no," people generally smiled and back off.

As for the photography: well, I was in one of three different workshop groups, each of which had roughly a dozen participants. The three dozen individual photographers were well equipped with all of the latest Nikon and Canon gear, and they generally focused on a handful of subjects: buildings and architecture, ballet practice sessions, cockfights, boxing matches, rodeos, fishing villages, old cars, interiors of people’s homes, street scenes, and people. Lots of people. As in every other part of the world I’ve visited, the people were the most interesting. We saw young and old, men and women, boisterous children, grizzled elders, police officers, bus drivers, and people of almost every conceivable race.

The streets were clean, though not spotless; and the streets were jammed, with bicycles and motorbikes and pedi-cabs, taxis, buses, horse-and-carriages, pedestrians, dogs (lots of dogs, many sleeping peacefully in the middle of a sidewalk), and even a few people on roller skates. And, as anyone who has seen photos of Havana knows, there were lots and lots and LOTS of old cars. Plymouths, Pontiacs, Dodges, Buicks, and Chevys, along with the occasional Cadillac. A few were old and rusted, but most had been renovated, repaired, and repainted — often in garishly bright colors from every spectrum of the rainbow. Cherry pink, fire-engine red, Sunkist orange, lime green, turquoise and every shade of blue, orange, brown, and a lot more that I’ve probably forgotten. All of us in the photo workshop succumbed to the temptation to photograph the cars when we first arrived … but they were everywhere, every day, wherever we went, and eventually we all suffered from sensory overload. (For what it’s worth, one of our workshop colleagues had visited Cuba eight years ago, and told us that at the time, there were only old cars in sight; now roughly half of the cars are more-or-less modern Kia’s, Audis, Russian Ladas, and other "generic" compact cars.)

The one thing I wasn’t prepared for in Havana was the sense of decay: almost no modern buildings, no skyscrapers, and very little evidence of renovation. There were several monstrous, ugly, vintage-1950s buildings that oozed "Russia" from every pore. But the rest of the buildings date back to the 40s, the 30s, the 20s, or even the turn of the last century. Some were crumbling, some were just facades; some showed evidence of the kind of salt-water erosion that one sees near the ocean. But many simply looked old and decrepit, with peeling paint and broken stones, like the run-down buildings in whatever slum you’re familiar with in North America. One has a very strong sense of a city that was vibrant and beautiful all during the last half of the 19th century, and the first half of the 20th century — and then time stopped dead in its tracks.

Why that happened, and what’s being done about it, is something I didn’t have a chance to explore; there was a general reluctance to discuss politics in great detail. Some of Havana looks like the less-prosperous regions of other Caribbean towns; and some of it is presumably the direct and/or indirect result of a half-century of U.S. embargo. But some of it seems to be the result of the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, and the subsequent collapse of foreign aid that Cuba depended upon.

As for my own photos: I did not attend the ballet practice sessions, nor did I see the rodeo. I did see some interesting graffiti on a few walls, which I photographed; but for some reason, I missed almost all of the numerous political billboards and stylized paintings of Che Guevera on buildings and walls. What I focused on instead was the "street scenes" of people and buildings and cars, which will hopefully give you a sense of what the place is like.

Enjoy!

Travel Tip: What to Know about Departure Taxes in Cuba

Every passenger departing Cuba via airplane must pay a departure tax of 25 Cuban Pesos. The airport will not accept any other currency to pay this tax, so make sure you put this aside at the beginning of your trip! If you don’t have it, the airport has multiple currency exchange desks for you get some Pesos.
Video Rating: / 5

Travelling To Cuba What To Know photos

Check out these Travelling To Cuba what to know images:

More Cuba, Dec 2011 – 129
Travelling To Cuba what to know
Image by Ed Yourdon
Another example of people out on their balcony, watching the action down below…

This is a second set of a couple hundred photos taken in Havana, Cuba in December 2011. The first set, which included what I felt were the best 100 photos of the 3500+ images, was uploaded earlier. You can find it here on Flickr.

Note: this photo was published in a Feb 23, 2013 Buzzine blog, with the same caption and detailed notes that I had written here on this Flickr page.

***********************

As I suggested in my first set of Cuba photos on Flickr, the notion of traveling to Cuba is — at least for many Americans today — probably like that of traveling to North Korea. It’s off-limits, forbidden by the government — and frankly, why would anyone bother? But for someone like me, who spent his childhood in the Cold War era of the 1950s, and who went off to college just after Castro took power, and just before the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban missile crisis, the notion of traveling to Cuba has entirely different overtones.

And yet Cuba is only 90 miles away from Key West (as we were reminded so often in the 1960s), and its climate is presumably no different than a dozen of Caribbean islands I’ve visited over the years. Numerous friends have made quasi-legal trips to Cuba over the years, flying in from Canada or Mexico, and they’ve all returned with fabulous pictures and great stories of a vibrant, colorful country. So, when the folks at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops sent out a notice in November 2011, announcing a series of photo workshops in Havana, we couldn’t resist the temptation to sign up.

Getting into Cuba turned out to be trivial: an overnight stay in Miami, a 45-minute chartered flight operated by American Airlines, and customs/immigration formalities that turned out to be cursory or non-existent. By mid-afternoon, our group was checked into the Parque Central Hotel in downtown Havana — where the rooms were spacious, the service was friendly, the food was reasonably tasty, the rum was delicious, and the Internet was … well, slow and expensive.

We had been warned that that some of our American conveniences — like credit cards — would not be available, and we were prepared for a fairly spartan week. But no matter how prepared we might have been intellectually, it takes a while to adjust to a land with no Skype, no Blackberry service, no iPhone service, no phone-based Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. I was perfectly happy that there were no Burger Kings, no Pizza Huts, no Wendys, no Starbuck’s, and MacDonalds. There was Coke (classic), but no Diet Coke (or Coke Light). There were also no police sirens, no ambulance sirens, and no church bells. There were no iPods, and consequently no evidence of people plugged into their music via the thin white earplugs that Apple supplies with their devices. No iPads, no Kindles, no Nooks, no … well, you get the picture. (It’s also worth noting that, with U.S. tourists now beginning to enter the country in larger numbers, Cuba seems to be on the cusp of a "modern" invasion; if I come back here in a couple years, I fully expect to see Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets on every corner.)

But there were lots of friendly people in Havana, crowding the streets, peering out of windows and doorways, laughing and shouting and waving at friends and strangers alike. Everyone was well-dressed in clean clothes (the evidence of which could be seen in the endless lines of clothing hanging from laundry lines strung from wall to wall, everywhere); but there were no designer jeans, no fancy shoes, no heavy jewelry, and no sign of ostentatious clothing of any kind. Like some other developing countries, the people were sometimes a little too friendly — constantly offering a taxi ride, a pedicab ride, a small exchange of the "official" currency (convertible pesos, or "cuqs") for the "local" currency (pesos), a great meal or a great drink at a nearby restaurant or bar, a haircut, a manicure, or just a little … umm, well, friendship (offers for which ran the gamut of "señor" to "amigo" to "my friend"). On the street, you often felt you were in the land of the hustle; but if you smiled, shook your head, and politely said, "no," people generally smiled and back off.

As for the photography: well, I was in one of three different workshop groups, each of which had roughly a dozen participants. The three dozen individual photographers were well equipped with all of the latest Nikon and Canon gear, and they generally focused on a handful of subjects: buildings and architecture, ballet practice sessions, cockfights, boxing matches, rodeos, fishing villages, old cars, interiors of people’s homes, street scenes, and people. Lots of people. As in every other part of the world I’ve visited, the people were the most interesting. We saw young and old, men and women, boisterous children, grizzled elders, police officers, bus drivers, and people of almost every conceivable race.

The streets were clean, though not spotless; and the streets were jammed, with bicycles and motorbikes and pedi-cabs, taxis, buses, horse-and-carriages, pedestrians, dogs (lots of dogs, many sleeping peacefully in the middle of a sidewalk), and even a few people on roller skates. And, as anyone who has seen photos of Havana knows, there were lots and lots and LOTS of old cars. Plymouths, Pontiacs, Dodges, Buicks, and Chevys, along with the occasional Cadillac. A few were old and rusted, but most had been renovated, repaired, and repainted — often in garishly bright colors from every spectrum of the rainbow. Cherry pink, fire-engine red, Sunkist orange, lime green, turquoise and every shade of blue, orange, brown, and a lot more that I’ve probably forgotten. All of us in the photo workshop succumbed to the temptation to photograph the cars when we first arrived … but they were everywhere, every day, wherever we went, and eventually we all suffered from sensory overload. (For what it’s worth, one of our workshop colleagues had visited Cuba eight years ago, and told us that at the time, there were only old cars in sight; now roughly half of the cars are more-or-less modern Kia’s, Audis, Russian Ladas, and other "generic" compact cars.)

The one thing I wasn’t prepared for in Havana was the sense of decay: almost no modern buildings, no skyscrapers, and very little evidence of renovation. There were several monstrous, ugly, vintage-1950s buildings that oozed "Russia" from every pore. But the rest of the buildings date back to the 40s, the 30s, the 20s, or even the turn of the last century. Some were crumbling, some were just facades; some showed evidence of the kind of salt-water erosion that one sees near the ocean. But many simply looked old and decrepit, with peeling paint and broken stones, like the run-down buildings in whatever slum you’re familiar with in North America. One has a very strong sense of a city that was vibrant and beautiful all during the last half of the 19th century, and the first half of the 20th century — and then time stopped dead in its tracks.

Why that happened, and what’s being done about it, is something I didn’t have a chance to explore; there was a general reluctance to discuss politics in great detail. Some of Havana looks like the less-prosperous regions of other Caribbean towns; and some of it is presumably the direct and/or indirect result of a half-century of U.S. embargo. But some of it seems to be the result of the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, and the subsequent collapse of foreign aid that Cuba depended upon.

As for my own photos: I did not attend the ballet practice sessions, nor did I see the rodeo. I did see some interesting graffiti on a few walls, which I photographed; but for some reason, I missed almost all of the numerous political billboards and stylized paintings of Che Guevera on buildings and walls. What I focused on instead was the "street scenes" of people and buildings and cars, which will hopefully give you a sense of what the place is like.

Enjoy!

More Cuba, Dec 2011 – 121
Travelling To Cuba what to know
Image by Ed Yourdon
You sure don’t see colors like this in New York City! How could anyone not take a picture of this array of buildings?

This is a second set of a couple hundred photos taken in Havana, Cuba in December 2011. The first set, which included what I felt were the best 100 photos of the 3500+ images, was uploaded earlier. You can find it here on Flickr.

Note: this photo was published in a Jan 26, 2012 Kate B. Harding blog titled "Rainbow."

Moving into 2015, the photo was published in a Feb 26, 2015 blog titled "Russian Cars Around the World: Style and History." And it was published in an Apr 25, 2015 blog titled "6 DISCOVERIES FROM NEAR AND FAR: VOLUME XLII."

***********************

As I suggested in my first set of Cuba photos on Flickr, the notion of traveling to Cuba is — at least for many Americans today — probably like that of traveling to North Korea. It’s off-limits, forbidden by the government — and frankly, why would anyone bother? But for someone like me, who spent his childhood in the Cold War era of the 1950s, and who went off to college just after Castro took power, and just before the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban missile crisis, the notion of traveling to Cuba has entirely different overtones.

And yet Cuba is only 90 miles away from Key West (as we were reminded so often in the 1960s), and its climate is presumably no different than a dozen of Caribbean islands I’ve visited over the years. Numerous friends have made quasi-legal trips to Cuba over the years, flying in from Canada or Mexico, and they’ve all returned with fabulous pictures and great stories of a vibrant, colorful country. So, when the folks at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops sent out a notice in November 2011, announcing a series of photo workshops in Havana, we couldn’t resist the temptation to sign up.

Getting into Cuba turned out to be trivial: an overnight stay in Miami, a 45-minute chartered flight operated by American Airlines, and customs/immigration formalities that turned out to be cursory or non-existent. By mid-afternoon, our group was checked into the Parque Central Hotel in downtown Havana — where the rooms were spacious, the service was friendly, the food was reasonably tasty, the rum was delicious, and the Internet was … well, slow and expensive.

We had been warned that that some of our American conveniences — like credit cards — would not be available, and we were prepared for a fairly spartan week. But no matter how prepared we might have been intellectually, it takes a while to adjust to a land with no Skype, no Blackberry service, no iPhone service, no phone-based Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. I was perfectly happy that there were no Burger Kings, no Pizza Huts, no Wendys, no Starbuck’s, and MacDonalds. There was Coke (classic), but no Diet Coke (or Coke Light). There were also no police sirens, no ambulance sirens, and no church bells. There were no iPods, and consequently no evidence of people plugged into their music via the thin white earplugs that Apple supplies with their devices. No iPads, no Kindles, no Nooks, no … well, you get the picture. (It’s also worth noting that, with U.S. tourists now beginning to enter the country in larger numbers, Cuba seems to be on the cusp of a "modern" invasion; if I come back here in a couple years, I fully expect to see Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets on every corner.)

But there were lots of friendly people in Havana, crowding the streets, peering out of windows and doorways, laughing and shouting and waving at friends and strangers alike. Everyone was well-dressed in clean clothes (the evidence of which could be seen in the endless lines of clothing hanging from laundry lines strung from wall to wall, everywhere); but there were no designer jeans, no fancy shoes, no heavy jewelry, and no sign of ostentatious clothing of any kind. Like some other developing countries, the people were sometimes a little too friendly — constantly offering a taxi ride, a pedicab ride, a small exchange of the "official" currency (convertible pesos, or "cuqs") for the "local" currency (pesos), a great meal or a great drink at a nearby restaurant or bar, a haircut, a manicure, or just a little … umm, well, friendship (offers for which ran the gamut of "señor" to "amigo" to "my friend"). On the street, you often felt you were in the land of the hustle; but if you smiled, shook your head, and politely said, "no," people generally smiled and back off.

As for the photography: well, I was in one of three different workshop groups, each of which had roughly a dozen participants. The three dozen individual photographers were well equipped with all of the latest Nikon and Canon gear, and they generally focused on a handful of subjects: buildings and architecture, ballet practice sessions, cockfights, boxing matches, rodeos, fishing villages, old cars, interiors of people’s homes, street scenes, and people. Lots of people. As in every other part of the world I’ve visited, the people were the most interesting. We saw young and old, men and women, boisterous children, grizzled elders, police officers, bus drivers, and people of almost every conceivable race.

The streets were clean, though not spotless; and the streets were jammed, with bicycles and motorbikes and pedi-cabs, taxis, buses, horse-and-carriages, pedestrians, dogs (lots of dogs, many sleeping peacefully in the middle of a sidewalk), and even a few people on roller skates. And, as anyone who has seen photos of Havana knows, there were lots and lots and LOTS of old cars. Plymouths, Pontiacs, Dodges, Buicks, and Chevys, along with the occasional Cadillac. A few were old and rusted, but most had been renovated, repaired, and repainted — often in garishly bright colors from every spectrum of the rainbow. Cherry pink, fire-engine red, Sunkist orange, lime green, turquoise and every shade of blue, orange, brown, and a lot more that I’ve probably forgotten. All of us in the photo workshop succumbed to the temptation to photograph the cars when we first arrived … but they were everywhere, every day, wherever we went, and eventually we all suffered from sensory overload. (For what it’s worth, one of our workshop colleagues had visited Cuba eight years ago, and told us that at the time, there were only old cars in sight; now roughly half of the cars are more-or-less modern Kia’s, Audis, Russian Ladas, and other "generic" compact cars.)

The one thing I wasn’t prepared for in Havana was the sense of decay: almost no modern buildings, no skyscrapers, and very little evidence of renovation. There were several monstrous, ugly, vintage-1950s buildings that oozed "Russia" from every pore. But the rest of the buildings date back to the 40s, the 30s, the 20s, or even the turn of the last century. Some were crumbling, some were just facades; some showed evidence of the kind of salt-water erosion that one sees near the ocean. But many simply looked old and decrepit, with peeling paint and broken stones, like the run-down buildings in whatever slum you’re familiar with in North America. One has a very strong sense of a city that was vibrant and beautiful all during the last half of the 19th century, and the first half of the 20th century — and then time stopped dead in its tracks.

Why that happened, and what’s being done about it, is something I didn’t have a chance to explore; there was a general reluctance to discuss politics in great detail. Some of Havana looks like the less-prosperous regions of other Caribbean towns; and some of it is presumably the direct and/or indirect result of a half-century of U.S. embargo. But some of it seems to be the result of the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, and the subsequent collapse of foreign aid that Cuba depended upon.

As for my own photos: I did not attend the ballet practice sessions, nor did I see the rodeo. I did see some interesting graffiti on a few walls, which I photographed; but for some reason, I missed almost all of the numerous political billboards and stylized paintings of Che Guevera on buildings and walls. What I focused on instead was the "street scenes" of people and buildings and cars, which will hopefully give you a sense of what the place is like.

Enjoy!

Jade Helm 15 – What EVERY American & Non-American Should Know

One of the best places to hide a threat – PLAIN SIGHT

The reason I specify “Every American and Non-American” (which would mean EVERYONE on the planet), is because, while Jade Helm 15 is slated as an Operation on American soil, the implications, I believe, reach far beyond U.S. Borders.

Read Smedley Butler’s booklet “War is a Racket” for free: http://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/warisaracket.html

Here’s the detailed video on Operation Northwoods: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsYnadGDAEY

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Recorded history has shown that many Government leaders tend to sell the masses an official story that begins with and centers around the narrative of ensuring their safety and security by fighting the enemy. But what actually transpires is often the opposite. Rather than keeping the people safe, personal liberties are eroded, the common man is entangled in, maimed or destroyed by the horrors of war, Economies are destroyed and an unspeakable accumulation of casualties and the deaths of the individuals, who were used as pawns, expand the cash-filled coffers and power of the elite.
The political leaders, some of whom serve as lap-dogs for corporate interests, who swore to protect the people, wittingly or unwittingly, break their oath and lead the people on a path of war – War that becomes perpetual because the conflict is continually sold as the rationale for peace. So the irony is that, in their pursuit of peace the people clamor for war. Meanwhile, the masses are convinced, through media manipulation and propaganda that they themselves need to support these rich men’s wars in order to secure their own safety.
And as long as there are profits in war, there will be little incentive for peace; because the masters who hatch the plans for war have seen to it that those profits flow away from the common people and into the pockets of the elite. No one in their right mind wants to go to war. People don’t desire to send their sons and daughters off to the horrors of the battle field to be slaughtered so that those who already live large can even more extravagant lifestyles. So, the masses have to be mentally manipulated into buying, whole-heartedly, into the war concept.
Herman Goering opined at the Nuremburg trials on April 18, 1946,
“Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor, for that matter, in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship…
Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

Military operations use as a smoke screen, the deceptive blanket of operating for the purpose of national security and fighting the enemy. That’s the formula that has worked throughout the ages. So don’t expect the mode of operations to change any time soon. As long as the mass manipulation tactic works, why search for a new formula?
History’s examples of the U.S. Government’s betrayal if its own citizens, included the clandestine 1962 military proposal called Operation Northwoods. Under Kennedy’s Joint Chiefs of staff and led by General Lemnitzer, the now declassified Northwoods operation, was a Top Secret confidential document with the subject line: “Justification for US Military intervention in Cuba,” and who’s “ultimate objective is overt military intervention.” This document outlines the Joint Chiefs intention to create “the pretext for military intervention in Cuba” that would “lead to a political decision that would, in turn, lead to military action.” Military action equals leading the people into war.

http://democracynow.org – We look at the details of the new normalized relations between the United States and Cuba, which include an easing of restrictions on banking, investment and travel, and discuss whether President Obama can lift the embargo on Cuba without congressional approval. We speak with Robert Muse, an expert on U.S. laws relating to Cuba and attorney based in Washington, D.C. His recent article published in Americas Quarterly is “U.S. Presidential Action on Cuba: The New Normalization?” We also speak with Michael Ratner about what will happen to the U.S. military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Joining the discussion live from Havana is Peter Kornbluh, director of the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive at George Washington University.

Watch all Democracy Now! coverage of Cuba over the years in our archive:
http://www.democracynow.org/topics/cuba

Democracy Now!, is an independent global news hour that airs weekdays on 1,300+ TV and radio stations Monday through Friday. Watch our livestream 8-9am ET at http://democracynow.org.

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Travelling To Cuba What To Know photos

Check out these Travelling To Cuba what to know images:

More Cuba, Dec 2011 – 116
Travelling To Cuba what to know
Image by Ed Yourdon
Who wouldn’t want to go for a ride in a mini-cab like this one?

This is a second set of a couple hundred photos taken in Havana, Cuba in December 2011. The first set, which included what I felt were the best 100 photos of the 3500+ images, was uploaded earlier. You can find it here on Flickr.

Note: I chose this photo, among the 10 that I uploaded to Flickr on the morning of Jan 13,2012, as my "photo of the day." No particular reason, I just thought it was a very cute little contraption. However, I’m glad I was able to include the walking-man in the background, to keep it from being just a simple, boring photo of a car. Or is it a car?

Note: this photo was published in a Sep 26, 2013 blog titled "Pets, Kitties, Bikes, Kids: Some Free Advice from Me to You."

Moving into 2014, the photo was published in a Feb 24, 2014 blog titled "Jet Airlines – A Preferred Airline."

***********************

As I suggested in my first set of Cuba photos on Flickr, the notion of traveling to Cuba is — at least for many Americans today — probably like that of traveling to North Korea. It’s off-limits, forbidden by the government — and frankly, why would anyone bother? But for someone like me, who spent his childhood in the Cold War era of the 1950s, and who went off to college just after Castro took power, and just before the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban missile crisis, the notion of traveling to Cuba has entirely different overtones.

And yet Cuba is only 90 miles away from Key West (as we were reminded so often in the 1960s), and its climate is presumably no different than a dozen of Caribbean islands I’ve visited over the years. Numerous friends have made quasi-legal trips to Cuba over the years, flying in from Canada or Mexico, and they’ve all returned with fabulous pictures and great stories of a vibrant, colorful country. So, when the folks at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops sent out a notice in November 2011, announcing a series of photo workshops in Havana, we couldn’t resist the temptation to sign up.

Getting into Cuba turned out to be trivial: an overnight stay in Miami, a 45-minute chartered flight operated by American Airlines, and customs/immigration formalities that turned out to be cursory or non-existent. By mid-afternoon, our group was checked into the Parque Central Hotel in downtown Havana — where the rooms were spacious, the service was friendly, the food was reasonably tasty, the rum was delicious, and the Internet was … well, slow and expensive.

We had been warned that that some of our American conveniences — like credit cards — would not be available, and we were prepared for a fairly spartan week. But no matter how prepared we might have been intellectually, it takes a while to adjust to a land with no Skype, no Blackberry service, no iPhone service, no phone-based Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. I was perfectly happy that there were no Burger Kings, no Pizza Huts, no Wendys, no Starbuck’s, and MacDonalds. There was Coke (classic), but no Diet Coke (or Coke Light). There were also no police sirens, no ambulance sirens, and no church bells. There were no iPods, and consequently no evidence of people plugged into their music via the thin white earplugs that Apple supplies with their devices. No iPads, no Kindles, no Nooks, no … well, you get the picture. (It’s also worth noting that, with U.S. tourists now beginning to enter the country in larger numbers, Cuba seems to be on the cusp of a "modern" invasion; if I come back here in a couple years, I fully expect to see Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets on every corner.)

But there were lots of friendly people in Havana, crowding the streets, peering out of windows and doorways, laughing and shouting and waving at friends and strangers alike. Everyone was well-dressed in clean clothes (the evidence of which could be seen in the endless lines of clothing hanging from laundry lines strung from wall to wall, everywhere); but there were no designer jeans, no fancy shoes, no heavy jewelry, and no sign of ostentatious clothing of any kind. Like some other developing countries, the people were sometimes a little too friendly — constantly offering a taxi ride, a pedicab ride, a small exchange of the "official" currency (convertible pesos, or "cuqs") for the "local" currency (pesos), a great meal or a great drink at a nearby restaurant or bar, a haircut, a manicure, or just a little … umm, well, friendship (offers for which ran the gamut of "señor" to "amigo" to "my friend"). On the street, you often felt you were in the land of the hustle; but if you smiled, shook your head, and politely said, "no," people generally smiled and back off.

As for the photography: well, I was in one of three different workshop groups, each of which had roughly a dozen participants. The three dozen individual photographers were well equipped with all of the latest Nikon and Canon gear, and they generally focused on a handful of subjects: buildings and architecture, ballet practice sessions, cockfights, boxing matches, rodeos, fishing villages, old cars, interiors of people’s homes, street scenes, and people. Lots of people. As in every other part of the world I’ve visited, the people were the most interesting. We saw young and old, men and women, boisterous children, grizzled elders, police officers, bus drivers, and people of almost every conceivable race.

The streets were clean, though not spotless; and the streets were jammed, with bicycles and motorbikes and pedi-cabs, taxis, buses, horse-and-carriages, pedestrians, dogs (lots of dogs, many sleeping peacefully in the middle of a sidewalk), and even a few people on roller skates. And, as anyone who has seen photos of Havana knows, there were lots and lots and LOTS of old cars. Plymouths, Pontiacs, Dodges, Buicks, and Chevys, along with the occasional Cadillac. A few were old and rusted, but most had been renovated, repaired, and repainted — often in garishly bright colors from every spectrum of the rainbow. Cherry pink, fire-engine red, Sunkist orange, lime green, turquoise and every shade of blue, orange, brown, and a lot more that I’ve probably forgotten. All of us in the photo workshop succumbed to the temptation to photograph the cars when we first arrived … but they were everywhere, every day, wherever we went, and eventually we all suffered from sensory overload. (For what it’s worth, one of our workshop colleagues had visited Cuba eight years ago, and told us that at the time, there were only old cars in sight; now roughly half of the cars are more-or-less modern Kia’s, Audis, Russian Ladas, and other "generic" compact cars.)

The one thing I wasn’t prepared for in Havana was the sense of decay: almost no modern buildings, no skyscrapers, and very little evidence of renovation. There were several monstrous, ugly, vintage-1950s buildings that oozed "Russia" from every pore. But the rest of the buildings date back to the 40s, the 30s, the 20s, or even the turn of the last century. Some were crumbling, some were just facades; some showed evidence of the kind of salt-water erosion that one sees near the ocean. But many simply looked old and decrepit, with peeling paint and broken stones, like the run-down buildings in whatever slum you’re familiar with in North America. One has a very strong sense of a city that was vibrant and beautiful all during the last half of the 19th century, and the first half of the 20th century — and then time stopped dead in its tracks.

Why that happened, and what’s being done about it, is something I didn’t have a chance to explore; there was a general reluctance to discuss politics in great detail. Some of Havana looks like the less-prosperous regions of other Caribbean towns; and some of it is presumably the direct and/or indirect result of a half-century of U.S. embargo. But some of it seems to be the result of the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, and the subsequent collapse of foreign aid that Cuba depended upon.

As for my own photos: I did not attend the ballet practice sessions, nor did I see the rodeo. I did see some interesting graffiti on a few walls, which I photographed; but for some reason, I missed almost all of the numerous political billboards and stylized paintings of Che Guevera on buildings and walls. What I focused on instead was the "street scenes" of people and buildings and cars, which will hopefully give you a sense of what the place is like.

Enjoy!

More Cuba, Dec 2011 – 004
Travelling To Cuba what to know
Image by Ed Yourdon
This is a second set of a couple hundred photos taken in Havana, Cuba in December 2011. The first set, which included what I felt were the best 100 photos of the 3500+ images, was uploaded earlier. You can find it here on Flickr

This was one of the side streets visible along the Prado, as we walked from our hotel to and from the Malecon (sea wall) on our first afternoon in Havana. You get a small sense of the decay and crumbling buildings here, but the main reason I took the photo was the unusual shade of green … which I eventually realized was quite common all over Havana. I suppose you could see it in Miami, an in various Caribbean towns and villages, too … But if nothing else, it said to a visiting American, "You ain’t in Kansas any more, Toto…"

***********************

As I suggested in my first set of Cuba photos on Flickr, the notion of traveling to Cuba is — at least for many Americans today — probably like that of traveling to North Korea. It’s off-limits, forbidden by the government — and frankly, why would anyone bother? But for someone like me, who spent his childhood in the Cold War era of the 1950s, and who went off to college just after Castro took power, and just before the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban missile crisis, the notion of traveling to Cuba has entirely different overtones.

And yet Cuba is only 90 miles away from Key West (as we were reminded so often in the 1960s), and its climate is presumably no different than a dozen of Caribbean islands I’ve visited over the years. Numerous friends have made quasi-legal trips to Cuba over the years, flying in from Canada or Mexico, and they’ve all returned with fabulous pictures and great stories of a vibrant, colorful country. So, when the folks at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops sent out a notice in November 2011, announcing a series of photo workshops in Havana, we couldn’t resist the temptation to sign up.

Getting into Cuba turned out to be trivial: an overnight stay in Miami, a 45-minute chartered flight operated by American Airlines, and customs/immigration formalities that turned out to be cursory or non-existent. By mid-afternoon, our group was checked into the Parque Central Hotel in downtown Havana — where the rooms were spacious, the service was friendly, the food was reasonably tasty, the rum was delicious, and the Internet was … well, slow and expensive.

We had been warned that that some of our American conveniences — like credit cards — would not be available, and we were prepared for a fairly spartan week. But no matter how prepared we might have been intellectually, it takes a while to adjust to a land with no Skype, no Blackberry service, no iPhone service, no phone-based Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. I was perfectly happy that there were no Burger Kings, no Pizza Huts, no Wendys, no Starbuck’s, and MacDonalds. There was Coke (classic), but no Diet Coke (or Coke Light). There were also no police sirens, no ambulance sirens, and no church bells. There were no iPods, and consequently no evidence of people plugged into their music via the thin white earplugs that Apple supplies with their devices. No iPads, no Kindles, no Nooks, no … well, you get the picture. (It’s also worth noting that, with U.S. tourists now beginning to enter the country in larger numbers, Cuba seems to be on the cusp of a "modern" invasion; if I come back here in a couple years, I fully expect to see Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets on every corner.)

But there were lots of friendly people in Havana, crowding the streets, peering out of windows and doorways, laughing and shouting and waving at friends and strangers alike. Everyone was well-dressed in clean clothes (the evidence of which could be seen in the endless lines of clothing hanging from laundry lines strung from wall to wall, everywhere); but there were no designer jeans, no fancy shoes, no heavy jewelry, and no sign of ostentatious clothing of any kind. Like some other developing countries, the people were sometimes a little too friendly — constantly offering a taxi ride, a pedicab ride, a small exchange of the "official" currency (convertible pesos, or "cuqs") for the "local" currency (pesos), a great meal or a great drink at a nearby restaurant or bar, a haircut, a manicure, or just a little … umm, well, friendship (offers for which ran the gamut of "señor" to "amigo" to "my friend"). On the street, you often felt you were in the land of the hustle; but if you smiled, shook your head, and politely said, "no," people generally smiled and back off.

As for the photography: well, I was in one of three different workshop groups, each of which had roughly a dozen participants. The three dozen individual photographers were well equipped with all of the latest Nikon and Canon gear, and they generally focused on a handful of subjects: buildings and architecture, ballet practice sessions, cockfights, boxing matches, rodeos, fishing villages, old cars, interiors of people’s homes, street scenes, and people. Lots of people. As in every other part of the world I’ve visited, the people were the most interesting. We saw young and old, men and women, boisterous children, grizzled elders, police officers, bus drivers, and people of almost every conceivable race.

The streets were clean, though not spotless; and the streets were jammed, with bicycles and motorbikes and pedi-cabs, taxis, buses, horse-and-carriages, pedestrians, dogs (lots of dogs, many sleeping peacefully in the middle of a sidewalk), and even a few people on roller skates. And, as anyone who has seen photos of Havana knows, there were lots and lots and LOTS of old cars. Plymouths, Pontiacs, Dodges, Buicks, and Chevys, along with the occasional Cadillac. A few were old and rusted, but most had been renovated, repaired, and repainted — often in garishly bright colors from every spectrum of the rainbow. Cherry pink, fire-engine red, Sunkist orange, lime green, turquoise and every shade of blue, orange, brown, and a lot more that I’ve probably forgotten. All of us in the photo workshop succumbed to the temptation to photograph the cars when we first arrived … but they were everywhere, every day, wherever we went, and eventually we all suffered from sensory overload. (For what it’s worth, one of our workshop colleagues had visited Cuba eight years ago, and told us that at the time, there were only old cars in sight; now roughly half of the cars are more-or-less modern Kia’s, Audis, Russian Ladas, and other "generic" compact cars.)

The one thing I wasn’t prepared for in Havana was the sense of decay: almost no modern buildings, no skyscrapers, and very little evidence of renovation. There were several monstrous, ugly, vintage-1950s buildings that oozed "Russia" from every pore. But the rest of the buildings date back to the 40s, the 30s, the 20s, or even the turn of the last century. Some were crumbling, some were just facades; some showed evidence of the kind of salt-water erosion that one sees near the ocean. But many simply looked old and decrepit, with peeling paint and broken stones, like the run-down buildings in whatever slum you’re familiar with in North America. One has a very strong sense of a city that was vibrant and beautiful all during the last half of the 19th century, and the first half of the 20th century — and then time stopped dead in its tracks.

Why that happened, and what’s being done about it, is something I didn’t have a chance to explore; there was a general reluctance to discuss politics in great detail. Some of Havana looks like the less-prosperous regions of other Caribbean towns; and some of it is presumably the direct and/or indirect result of a half-century of U.S. embargo. But some of it seems to be the result of the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, and the subsequent collapse of foreign aid that Cuba depended upon.

As for my own photos: I did not attend the ballet practice sessions, nor did I see the rodeo. I did see some interesting graffiti on a few walls, which I photographed; but for some reason, I missed almost all of the numerous political billboards and stylized paintings of Che Guevera on buildings and walls. What I focused on instead was the "street scenes" of people and buildings and cars, which will hopefully give you a sense of what the place is like.

Enjoy!

More Cuba, Dec 2011 – 195
Travelling To Cuba what to know
Image by Ed Yourdon
Yet another of the old cars …

This is a second set of a couple hundred photos taken in Havana, Cuba in December 2011. The first set, which included what I felt were the best 100 photos of the 3500+ images, was uploaded earlier. You can find it here on Flickr.

Note: this photo was published in a Mar 17, 2012 Exchange blog, with the same caption and detailed notes that I had written here on this Flickr page.

Moving into 2013, the photo was published in a Jan 5, 2013 buzzine blog, with the same caption and detailed notes that I had written on this Flickr page.

***********************

As I suggested in my first set of Cuba photos on Flickr, the notion of traveling to Cuba is — at least for many Americans today — probably like that of traveling to North Korea. It’s off-limits, forbidden by the government — and frankly, why would anyone bother? But for someone like me, who spent his childhood in the Cold War era of the 1950s, and who went off to college just after Castro took power, and just before the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban missile crisis, the notion of traveling to Cuba has entirely different overtones.

And yet Cuba is only 90 miles away from Key West (as we were reminded so often in the 1960s), and its climate is presumably no different than a dozen of Caribbean islands I’ve visited over the years. Numerous friends have made quasi-legal trips to Cuba over the years, flying in from Canada or Mexico, and they’ve all returned with fabulous pictures and great stories of a vibrant, colorful country. So, when the folks at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops sent out a notice in November 2011, announcing a series of photo workshops in Havana, we couldn’t resist the temptation to sign up.

Getting into Cuba turned out to be trivial: an overnight stay in Miami, a 45-minute chartered flight operated by American Airlines, and customs/immigration formalities that turned out to be cursory or non-existent. By mid-afternoon, our group was checked into the Parque Central Hotel in downtown Havana — where the rooms were spacious, the service was friendly, the food was reasonably tasty, the rum was delicious, and the Internet was … well, slow and expensive.

We had been warned that that some of our American conveniences — like credit cards — would not be available, and we were prepared for a fairly spartan week. But no matter how prepared we might have been intellectually, it takes a while to adjust to a land with no Skype, no Blackberry service, no iPhone service, no phone-based Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. I was perfectly happy that there were no Burger Kings, no Pizza Huts, no Wendys, no Starbuck’s, and MacDonalds. There was Coke (classic), but no Diet Coke (or Coke Light). There were also no police sirens, no ambulance sirens, and no church bells. There were no iPods, and consequently no evidence of people plugged into their music via the thin white earplugs that Apple supplies with their devices. No iPads, no Kindles, no Nooks, no … well, you get the picture. (It’s also worth noting that, with U.S. tourists now beginning to enter the country in larger numbers, Cuba seems to be on the cusp of a "modern" invasion; if I come back here in a couple years, I fully expect to see Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets on every corner.)

But there were lots of friendly people in Havana, crowding the streets, peering out of windows and doorways, laughing and shouting and waving at friends and strangers alike. Everyone was well-dressed in clean clothes (the evidence of which could be seen in the endless lines of clothing hanging from laundry lines strung from wall to wall, everywhere); but there were no designer jeans, no fancy shoes, no heavy jewelry, and no sign of ostentatious clothing of any kind. Like some other developing countries, the people were sometimes a little too friendly — constantly offering a taxi ride, a pedicab ride, a small exchange of the "official" currency (convertible pesos, or "cuqs") for the "local" currency (pesos), a great meal or a great drink at a nearby restaurant or bar, a haircut, a manicure, or just a little … umm, well, friendship (offers for which ran the gamut of "señor" to "amigo" to "my friend"). On the street, you often felt you were in the land of the hustle; but if you smiled, shook your head, and politely said, "no," people generally smiled and back off.

As for the photography: well, I was in one of three different workshop groups, each of which had roughly a dozen participants. The three dozen individual photographers were well equipped with all of the latest Nikon and Canon gear, and they generally focused on a handful of subjects: buildings and architecture, ballet practice sessions, cockfights, boxing matches, rodeos, fishing villages, old cars, interiors of people’s homes, street scenes, and people. Lots of people. As in every other part of the world I’ve visited, the people were the most interesting. We saw young and old, men and women, boisterous children, grizzled elders, police officers, bus drivers, and people of almost every conceivable race.

The streets were clean, though not spotless; and the streets were jammed, with bicycles and motorbikes and pedi-cabs, taxis, buses, horse-and-carriages, pedestrians, dogs (lots of dogs, many sleeping peacefully in the middle of a sidewalk), and even a few people on roller skates. And, as anyone who has seen photos of Havana knows, there were lots and lots and LOTS of old cars. Plymouths, Pontiacs, Dodges, Buicks, and Chevys, along with the occasional Cadillac. A few were old and rusted, but most had been renovated, repaired, and repainted — often in garishly bright colors from every spectrum of the rainbow. Cherry pink, fire-engine red, Sunkist orange, lime green, turquoise and every shade of blue, orange, brown, and a lot more that I’ve probably forgotten. All of us in the photo workshop succumbed to the temptation to photograph the cars when we first arrived … but they were everywhere, every day, wherever we went, and eventually we all suffered from sensory overload. (For what it’s worth, one of our workshop colleagues had visited Cuba eight years ago, and told us that at the time, there were only old cars in sight; now roughly half of the cars are more-or-less modern Kia’s, Audis, Russian Ladas, and other "generic" compact cars.)

The one thing I wasn’t prepared for in Havana was the sense of decay: almost no modern buildings, no skyscrapers, and very little evidence of renovation. There were several monstrous, ugly, vintage-1950s buildings that oozed "Russia" from every pore. But the rest of the buildings date back to the 40s, the 30s, the 20s, or even the turn of the last century. Some were crumbling, some were just facades; some showed evidence of the kind of salt-water erosion that one sees near the ocean. But many simply looked old and decrepit, with peeling paint and broken stones, like the run-down buildings in whatever slum you’re familiar with in North America. One has a very strong sense of a city that was vibrant and beautiful all during the last half of the 19th century, and the first half of the 20th century — and then time stopped dead in its tracks.

Why that happened, and what’s being done about it, is something I didn’t have a chance to explore; there was a general reluctance to discuss politics in great detail. Some of Havana looks like the less-prosperous regions of other Caribbean towns; and some of it is presumably the direct and/or indirect result of a half-century of U.S. embargo. But some of it seems to be the result of the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, and the subsequent collapse of foreign aid that Cuba depended upon.

As for my own photos: I did not attend the ballet practice sessions, nor did I see the rodeo. I did see some interesting graffiti on a few walls, which I photographed; but for some reason, I missed almost all of the numerous political billboards and stylized paintings of Che Guevera on buildings and walls. What I focused on instead was the "street scenes" of people and buildings and cars, which will hopefully give you a sense of what the place is like.

Enjoy!

Reasons not to go to Cuba (Cayo Coco) | Things you should know | Iberostar Daiquiri

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Welcome back to Funston TV! Today, we are traveling to Cuba. Follow us around today as we head off the plane and travel to our resort (Iberostar Daiquiri) in Cayo Coco.

These were our first impressions on the airport, the country, the resort, the room, the food and the beach. Our stay and vacation got better, but these are our initial honest opinions. We will post another video of the remainder of the trip, so stay tuned 🙂

At first we were really disappointed in the resort, and especially the room. Our room was located right above the reception lobby, where a band plays every night. The room was old and not well insulated, and therefore was very noisy at night time. We later found out we would be able to switch rooms the following day, into the newer buildings.

We were also very disappointed that the Wi-Fi was so expensive (about 4.5 USD per hour) and only available in the lobby, where there were A LOT of mosquitoes. Also, you have to rent the safety deposit box in the room for 2 USD per day.

When we got to the beach, we were disappointed to see that it was not well maintained. There was algae everywhere and the sand bank was really short.

Lastly, the buffet was small and did not offer a lot of variety. When we arrived at about 8pm for dinner, the food seemed old, stale and not warm enough.

Things got better for us throughout the week, but we were not very impressed when we arrived.

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Coming soon to FUNSTON TV: More on our Cuba trip! Stay tuned 🙂

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Video Rating: / 5

In this short video I explain some of the unique aspects of visiting Cuba from getting around to getting a room.
The dual currency/economy makes even the simple task of changing money an interesting experience!
Due to food shortages Cuba isn’t exactly a great culinary destination. Compared to the rest of Central America it can be quite pricey for tourists. Be aware local wages can be as low as USD a month and as tourism provides such a great influx of cash, there are many tourist touts and rampant prostitution.

In the same way that tourists visit Detroit to photograph the ‘ruin porn’ Havana is quite visually stunning.
Most of the cars are big and bold American made pre-1960 models and the architecture features a stunning array of styles from colonial to neo-classic, art deco to art nouveau.
Unfortunately for the residents, many of the buildings are in dangerous states of disrepair. It is not uncommon to see people living in a house next to another house that has crumbled into rubble!

Cuba has been one of my favourite destinations, apart from being a photographers dream, I really liked the people. They were friendly and proud, honest and humorous.

I would suggest if people have been thinking of visiting Cuba, do it immediately. When American’s start visiting in huge numbers, it will change forever!

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