Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Failed Attempt to Write About Cuba, #6

I'm trying to write about Cuba.

I arrived a month ago and stayed for nine days.
Last night I dreamed of the mangoes, a humid sweat interrupted at dawn with the rooster next door. Shifting back to sleep, I awoke a few hours later with aching bones from the lumpy mattress and the neighbor blaring Orishas from his stereo, feet away from my ear.

I'm trying to tell people about Cuba, but I get swamped by the senses, the feelings. I get overwhelmed by the details. After all, this country is in many ways radically different than the US. For starters,

A socialist country, even a nominally one, under an embargo of the world's last (and crippling) superpower, is vastly different than the world's largest economy and perpetrator/enforcer of mass, hallow, consumerism.

Talking to people about Cuba back in the states, I find that their heads are filled with misinformation, propaganda, and weird assumptions.

Don't they hate Americans there?
No, I say. In all my travels (35 and counting, not including Liechtenstein) no one's ever viewed me as the enemy or "hated" me because of where I'm from. Of course, I make pains to blend in or at least learn something of where I'm traveling –I once knocked an old farmer outside of Saigon to the ground with laughter with my fledging phrases in Vietnamese.

It also helps –no, is essential- not to travel with any sort of "American #1" patriot attitude. It works well in the movies –shown to Americans, who return to mimic what they see- but not traveling. Especially in countries we've obliterated (short list of countries I've been to that have been blatantly obliterated by the US: Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Germany, Japan; covertly obliterated: El Salvador, Guatemala; severely fucked with: Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Burma… ok, now I'm just listing places)

Damn, this is completely tangential. Maybe I should put it on my blog…

Try this, it's for my environmental research

I'm a Conservation International Eco-warrior. What are you? Measure your ecological impact at <a href='http://www.conservation.org/ecofootprint'>www.conservation.org/ecofootprint!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Yet Another Blog!

I've sorted through all my Cuba notes and Cuba entries and put them under one, separate blog:


It reads like a diary (instead of a blog) and come to think of it, I need to write a conclusion. As I left it, I'm sitting in a teeny-boppers room in Mexico City with a hundred plastic dolls staring down at me. Funny, I thought the end would be something like that...

Monday, August 06, 2007

To All Those I've Met Along This Trip...

I'm back home after nearly five weeks on the road. It feels good, I'm glad to be back -the air is fresh (if overcast and cool) and the water drinkable.

Right now, the girlfriend and puppy have fallen into a nap on the couch next to me.

The plants in the garden have grown, some are bearing fruit and most have died.

My car runs.

Mom loaned us a flat screen TV.

I'm excited to catch the Simpson's Movie tonight.

I had an excellent journey that took me to four states, three countries, and two of the largest cities in the world (three if you count my two-hour layover in LA).

I didn't do a whole lot except for write and visit old friends, which was my exact goal. So thank all of you. I apologize for the impersonal mass letter, but I know I'll write you all individually soon.

For the rest of my summer I'm going (continue) to try getting some old stories published, as well as finish some new ones spurned by this trip (oh, what I didn't blog about the 12 year old Cuban's birthday party!).

I also want to finish some articles, at least one about Cuba and another about the future of travel based on the carbon emissions of my trip. (I wanted to come home overland, as air travel is a huge contributor to global warming, but due to some familiar factors I decided to fly.) I'll let you know if I have any success at all with any of this.

I'm also going to smooth out this blog and probably post the Cuban version on a separate one, uniquely chronicling my time in Havana. I cringe at the blatant self-promotion, but hey, it's America. To compensate, I'll blatantly promote my friend Joe Szwaja who's running for Seattle City Council and was recently endorsed by the local weekly The Stranger. Check him out at joeforcouncil.org, as I'll be spending a lot of time there, too.

And Montana.

And gardening.

And promoting sustainable development.

And sometime this summer, work will start again.


It reminds me to start my new book, "Why We Work".

So much to do...

Thank you all! I swung from friend to friend like Tarzan on vines, rekindling old friendships and learning more about myself and our world. You are all great people and I thank you sincerely.

Until then...



Adriana and Natalia at the Frida Kahlo Museum

Mario and Me

Cheche Dancing with a Broom

Cheche getting her hair combed

Friday, August 03, 2007

Dear Dad

Viernes, 3 de Agosto, 2007

Chere papa,

Bienvenidos de Mexico, espero que todo esta bien contigo, "que te vayan bien" dicen los Mexicanos.

I had some free time today so I thought I'd write you a letter. I don't know if I told you about my blog, of if you read it, but I'll probably put this put there as well.


I'm sitting in an artsy-alterno cafe in the hip part of town not far from Frida Kahlo's house. I decided not to go to Tuxpan, where I have other friends, as I learned that it's a 6 hour bus ride one way, and to go there today, come back tomorrow, and head out on Sunday would just be too much. Plus, my days here in el DF have been packed, and I could really use just hanging out. The decision was a tough one -I get the sense that in general, when a Mexican invites you to their home, the mean it with the utmost sincerity- but I just couldn't. It'll just make me come back down here sooner.

Everytime I come to Mexico, I'm impressed at the country and ashamed of mine, as the general consensus among the masses is that Mexico is... sweltering mass of teeming theives, or something of the sort. The friendliness of the people -here in the largest city in the world (I looked it up, and technically it's the "largest population of people, 8 million, under one mayor")- is shocking. My friend and host Adriana has absolutely no qualms of stopping and asking for directions -even from a police cop just after running a red light (it wasn't going to change, honestly). Did I tell you about New York? A mass of assholes, they could really learn something from Mexico City. And they're better drivers, too. Actually, that's been one of the main thoughts on my mind sense being here, how Mexicans are better Americans than Americans: they're politer, friendlier, more religious, better at raising kids and being a family. (They're also better cooks and thus consequentially, fatter. I would also joke that they're not as good as soccer players as us yanks, but I fear such joking, made even on the safety of my laptop in a cafe, would arouse violent reactions from passers-by).

Just to continue the list: the transit system is better (though traffic inconceivably horrific), the cars cleaner (LP gas-burning buses, for example), and thus the air is cleaner than many cities in the US.

Of course, I'm wearing rose-colored lenses and haven't seen the sea of slums, but come to think of it, I've seen less homeless than in Seattle. And no one drinks the water.

ANYWay, the other topic that's constantly at hand is: good Lord, this place is huge! It's hard to imagine a city of 8 million (or 20 million, as says Ricardo, my other co-host, in the greater area). I think I explained it to Adriana like this: though I know New York, LA, or San Francisco very little, I feel like I have a sense of direction there -i could be plopped down in the middle of either of those cities, and within five minutes figure out north from south and which way I want to go. Here... ha! Every time we've gone out, it's taken an hour driving, although we've gone less than 10 miles. When you look at the area I've covered on a map, it's a tiny spec. Unlike US cities, there's no pattern to streets -they grow and shrink randomly, turning from a major thorough-fare to a tiny alley in a matter of blocks. There are divisions and forks (and spoons and knives) in every road. It's a confusing mess, and the mass of people never, ever ends.

ANYway, I've finally found a cafe that has wifi and I'm using the most of the moment. It's been a while, but after a little warm-up like this, I remember the other stuff that I use to justify spending lots of time online for: sending out stories and articles to get published, working on my silly blog, some political work, etc etc. I should run off for now, but I'll try writing again soon (though I may not send it until I get home).

Hope you're doing well,


Yer Sun,