Cuba is…(cont’d)

Cienfuegos is…

Magda, Nestor, Nestor Jr., Anna, Asniel (taxi driver), Alexis (horse & carriage driver) along with the waiter (at Te Quedaras) who gave me the blue linen napkins because I said I liked them.

View of Cienfuegos from the Pallacio de Azul

Travel opens you up to new places/perspectives, but it can close you off from friendly people (the cynic in me sees a scam). It is hard to be aloof to Cubans, their good nature is infectious – they even have patience for my struggling Spanish.

Pallacio de Valle

The place…

elaborate French-influenced architecture and music of a rich past.

Benny More – Band Leader and Songwriter

The music of Benny Moré hovers in the air. Who, you may ask? A musician – a big band leader of the 1940’s and ’50s – setting the beat of samba music. A time when elegantly dressed couples went to nightclubs to hear live music and dance till dawn.

Trinidad is…

a cozy colonial town, cobblestoned streets, colourful buildings – luring tourists with a refurbished past

Cafe Conspiradores

I come upon a strange scene – on the steps beside a cafe, at least 40 tourists stare at phones – a wifi hub – no one notices the scenery around them.

I walk past and see the yellow cafe with the pink bougainvillea and wander in looking for coffee. Instead I find life-size coffeemakers.

Cafetera (a metal espresso maker)

How to convey the art of Yomi Martinez? An artist who uses the sculpted image of the coffeemaker as a metaphor for the status of women. The hourglass figure of the cafetera mimics the clichèd shape of a woman.

Her work translated…

Bending at the waist, forward – a subservient woman who caters to her husband and children, but neglects herself

Bending at the waist, backward – an independent and strong woman who wants to change the world

No bend, upright – a normal woman who is balanced fends for herself – caring but strong

The thought-provoking images help me understand the issues Cubans are grappling with.

Cuba reveals what it is, was and might be in the future – an interesting time to visit.

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Cuba is…

south of the Tropic of Cancer, hugging the Straits of Florida, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea… an island pulsing with potential. An era of entrepreneurism is in the air – like Airbnb, which connected us with accommodations throughout the trip. Is there a possibility for a ‘new revolution’ (communism 2.0?) allowing more economic freedom?

In Veradero, Matanzas and Boca de Camarioca …

pink_car

1955 Chevy in Veradero

Sun shines, palms sway, roosters call, dogs wheeze, horses clop – dominoes clatter…

Beer pours, flan soaks, fish grills, lobster bursts from its tail.

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Beach in Boca de Camarioca

Eat, drink, snorkel – taste the pace of life – bongos beat, guitar strums – men sing Chan Chan– give a tip, buy a CD.

A country full of contrasts.

 

 

 

 

In Havana…

Cars honk, people chatter down clogged stinky streets – whistles pierce, music wafts… trucks deliver, pedal taxis swerve…

the ghosts of Fidel Castro and Che Guevera who stare out from t-shirts and billboards convey toughness and integrity. Now, I learn about José Marti who reigns as the most beloved philosopher of revolution for Cubans. A poet, intellectual and activist – who sowed the seeds of freedom – self-determination – who guided Castro and Guevera towards independence.

castro_painting

Gallery Lolo in Matanzas

The daily hassle of buying bread, eggs or fresh vegetable would frustrate most people, but older Cubans take it in stride, while millennials expect more from ‘the new revolution.’

 

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The Iris Odyssey Book Series

Budding Iris – the 2nd book of the Iris Odyssey series

It was only supposed to be just one book! Now it is two. Budding Iris, the second book in the Iris Odyssey series, is published. Iris continues her quest for fulfillment, achievement – notoriety – fame!

Why write a book?

Because I need to craft stories… to figure out what I believe in, to show how smart I am or just to entertain the readers. Ultimately, I need to prove that I can develop an imaginative idea.

Writers are asked for their opinions, and I want my opinion to be heard. OK, so I want to be respected like Margaret Atwood.

Growing Iris – the 1st book of the Iris Odyssey series

I love to get lost in a book, and if my writing is flowing, I get transported to another world.

Why read a book?

Who really cares about one young woman in a city of natural beauty and riches? Can a reader relate to the premise, be inspired by the hero’s courage or empathetic to her failures? Hopefully, all three reasons with Iris.

Persuading readers to connect with a character is the true test of a readable book. If you like Iris Peacock, then you will want to know what happens in her life.

Did I mention it’s humourous?

I wrote this series as a way of dealing with my own past – accomplishments and failures.

As Samuel Beckett said: Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

I agree (as does Iris).

The Iris Odyssey series is available on amazon.ca, amazon.com.

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Early Morning Hike on the Skookumchuck Trail

skookum = water             chuck= flows

‘where the rapid water flows’

Moss-covered branches

A 3-hour round-trip hike through the sword fern-black slug laden path – an early morning hike takes us past Brown Lake. All is quiet. We are alone.

I look up at a fallen log overhead – one tree leaning on another – forming a suspended bridge.

Backtrack to the beginning…

Studying a Slug

A slug sits in the middle of the path. My daughter picks it up to save it from crushing feet. We walk casually along noticing the mossy branches, when a tiny, skittering creature catches my eye. A vole. My partner tries to pick it up. It dashes off into the undergrowth.

We meet a man carrying a large camera and tripod.

“Hello.”

We nod and are ready to pass when he continues:

“I talked to a guy along the trail who saw a cougar.” He said it as if it was a normal occurrence.

The four of us are quiet.

“Really, a cougar? What do you do – yell or…”

“Don’t run, but make noise – you should be ok. But it’s your decision.”

We look at each other – to continue or not?

The girls (both 9) are leery, but we, the adults, say: ‘It’s an adventure. Let’s go!’

What were the odds of seeing it again?

Just in case we picked up rocks and started singing: ‘the ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah…’

Back at the fallen log overhead:

Would a cougar like to cross over or even lounge on it?

Nothing.

But about a hundred metres later, I see something at the next bend – there she/he is!

A cougar!!

Not ferocious looking, but rather cute – gangly legs, thick tail, rounded ears…

It stops on the trail. I stop. Our eyes meet. Before I can react– she/he jumps back into the ferned forest – my heat beats faster – my partner sees the back of it, the girls see the tail – it’s not a mirage.

Without discussion, we turn back and start singing – even more loudly.

“my mother was a baker, a baker…”

No pictures to prove the encounter, but it will always be imprinted in my memory. We never made it to Roland Point to see the ‘strong flowing water’ of Skookumchuck Narrows or the natural wonder of a standing wave.

Maybe another time.

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Writing is Thinking

Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.   Henry Ford

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Draft Cover

Finishing my second book, Budding Iris, I realize that writing has taught me to think. The act of writing for me is not about placing words on a page, but the process of bringing ‘thoughts to life.’

I’m trying to say: if you don’t know how to think, you can’t write.

What is thinking? Using the mind to come up with new ideas by accessing memory knowledge stored in its neurons … information flows along synapsis (small gaps between neurons) shaping a thought, a word, a sentence.

Forcing new thoughts is the challenge. The pressure to finish overrides all and stifles brain function – producing headaches. If only I could reach into my head and press on a part of my brain to squeeze out thought at will, like juice from a lime.

At my panic point I feel unable to end my book, so I dip into my writing library and rediscover two books: The Courage to Create by Rollo May and The Creative Process edited by Brewster Ghiselin. Encouraging words excite me and I continue writing for another day.

I can no longer focus on my protagonist Iris Peacock. It has been two years since I began the process, but it seems as if centuries have passed.

June 29, 2017 – perseverance – I feel nauseas uploading my word file and pdf cover to CreateSpace. My energy is depleted and I cry. Relief and sadness – I woke up every morning with Iris Peacock for the last two years and now she is sitting in cyberspace about to be handled by strangers!

Review completed. I make a few formatting changes.

Send again for review.

Second review completed.

July 7, 17 – I’ve ordered a printed copy of my proof for Budding Iris.

I talk to myself when I’m stuck. But the added pressure of finishing makes me anxious. My conversations with myself become mean. When I allow my breathing to slow, and my shoulders to relax – then the thoughts come. Thinking is when mind and body work together.

Yes, thinking is hard.

 

 

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A Horse That Taught Me a Riding Lesson

It had been a few years since I sat on a horse, but I did recall that a trusting relationship between animal and rider made for a pleasurable ride. Fly had decided that today he didn’t feel like having someone on his back. When I pulled on the reins and called: ‘whoa,’ Fly walked backwards instead of stopping – my trust factor fell to zero.

Fly waiting for a ride (me!)

My motto for riding: go with my intuition. I didn’t, and had a frustrating experience.

A horse stable, located on Camp River Road in Chilliwack, BC, where Lizzie, Fly and Blue waited for us. The rain had finally stopped, but the ground was too soggy to attempt a trail ride, so we stuck to the barn. Our spontaneous March getaway needed better weather.

Taking in the smell of hay and horse poop, I felt like a cowgirl. The specialty of the stable was ‘reining’ (Western dressage) – where Arabian horses move in prescribed ways similar to a choreographed dance. The stable crew, led by Jim, intended to take ten horses to Las Vegas for a ‘reining competition.’ (hope they do well!)

My daughter (in red) handles her horse with ease

After composing myself, I kicked harder. We moved forward a few steps, then Fly stopped. Slightly more perturbed, I gave him another chance.

Being a well-fed horse, we lumbered around the barn. I kicked him with as much power as I could muster, but his bulky body strained my leg muscles.

I pulled the rein in my right hand and pushed with my left leg to turn right. He made a reluctant turn and paused. I kicked. The instructor, Jim could be heard saying: “keep pedaling” (like riding a bike) – meaning, keep kicking.

I felt I was exerting way more effort than Fly.

Finally feeling more relaxed, I unintentionally made a ‘kissing’ sound, which I found out meant: ‘go fast.’ Fortunately, Fly wasn’t listening to me or else I would have ended up on the dirt floor of the barn!

Blue being more cooperative

I ended up switching horses to Blue. She was much easier to handle. We made a few rounds of the barn, but at that point my concentration had waned: I had exerted too much energy trying to get Fly to like me.

Lesson learned: if the first command doesn’t work, get another horse!

 

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No Pink Pussy Hats for Me!

It’s been a week since publishing my Women’s March in Vancouver blog, and I’ve realized that I didn’t elaborate on the concept of the ‘pink pussy hats.’

Why pink?

The ‘pink’ of the hats bothered me, but I didn’t know how to express my disdain for them without putting down the many enthusiastic women.

I felt embarrassed by the pink pussy hats, OK? There, I said it!

Are they an ironic statement? I don’t get it.

They should have been black pussy hats, just as Madonna wore, projecting a state of mourning for our collective dignity. I know all the pink-pussy-hat-wearing women were proud of themselves, but the statement didn’t hold enough gravitas, toughness – pink as the colour of resistance was disappointing!

Black Pussy Hat – could link to the significance of a black cat (yes, I know pussy does not refer to a cat, but…):

  • Cat goddess, Bast from Ancient Egypt known as a protector;
  • Bad luck if its path is crossed. Women need to say: “cross my path and you may regret it;” and
  • A witch’s clever companion who has special powers, instilling fear at Halloween.
black_hats

Black hats make the message bolder!

Let’s promote women as holders of power, not mild-mannered-smile-through-the-shame women. Again, it is impressive that many came together to create a movement, but as the situation worsens, the hat colour must change in order to get rid of the vermin!

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