Thoughts of Spring and Transformation

by Aysha Griffin on April 5, 2014

Jacaranda perennially marks spring in San Miguel de Allende

Purple jacaranda perennially marks the advent of spring in San Miguel de Allende

I have wondered how to start up again to craft blog posts when my days are full of work commitments and my own projects and preparing for travels and traveling and engaging with the people and tasks before me and trying to stay in direct touch with the many incredible friends who grace my life.

And then here, a new friend, Sue Aran – whom I’ve met only via email, via an introduction from a mutual friend and hope to encounter this summer in the life she is constructing in France – writes this stunningly beautiful post, and I get to “reblog” it to you. I hope you will visit her site and subscribe, as I aspire to the depth of insight and beauty she shares so graciously.

May you appreciate and enjoy the growth, transformation and waking up to this Time of Your Life!

More soon, with love,
Aysha

Knocking on Heaven’s Door

April 4, 2014 by sue

Read the original at: http://lestroisamies.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/knocking-on-heavens-door/#comment-441

“You can cut all of the flowers, but you cannot stop spring from coming.” ~ Pablo Neruda

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Last week the Vent d’Autun winds swept through southern Gascony stirring up portentous changes.  Like the infamous Mistral winds in Provence, they can make you crazy.  I found myself poised on a roller coaster dreading the inevitable drop, an existential free fall though doors of chaos, at once on top of the world and overwhelmed by the moment.  For days I felt like I was hovering in the eye of a storm…until I let go.  While looking for the meaning of life, I rediscovered the joy of being alive.  Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Letting go gives us freedom and freedom is the only condition for happiness.”

Knocker

The beginning of spring has unleashed a whirlwind of transformation, a turning point in the complex landscape of life.  Even the heavens are conspiring against us this month with a rare combination of 2 eclipses – a lunar eclipse on April 15th (which will only be seen in North America) and a solar eclipse on April 29th (which will only be seen in Australia) – and, a powerful alignment of stars celled a Cardinal Grand Cross.  We will be given many choices – to stay stuck or grow, resist or surrender, stay asleep or wake up.

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The Buddha says that everything dear to us causes pain.  Everything dear to us changes.  Every experience is a door that can open your heart, as every door is an entry to somewhere else.  The older I get the more I’m getting used to losses, the more I’m reminded that our lives are precious.  It’s not that there’s so little time, it’s that we waste so much of it.

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We all have the ability to transform the trials of our lives into revelations, our pain into growth.  In doing so, our lives become our practice.  In the Iliad, Homer said that the gods envy us because we’re human, because any moment may be our last, because we will never be here again.

After knocking on heaven’s door

the sea of life set me adrift

and I turned like a boat on a river

without oars.

The winds of change

blew me off course

until I surrendered

brimming with wonder

on to the other shore.

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Visit Cuba Resources

by Aysha Griffin on August 15, 2013

muralNearly 3 million visitors went to Cuba in 2012 – from Canada, U.S., South America, Europe, Asia, Australia… well, just about everywhere. It’s a beautiful, diverse, dynamic and complex country that welcomes tourists with increasing services and amenities. And beyond tourism, Cuba is a fascinating society in transition. Citizens around the world know they can visit Cuba without any restrictions other than the normal visa process, but most U.S. citizens do not believe they can. This is a myth.

U.S. citizens can legally go to Cuba under several programs:
• Academic/Cultural/Volunteer Tours (search: travel to Cuba, trips to Cuba). I recommend educational/cultural/agricultural trips organized out of Mexico by www.globaljusticecenter.org
• Under the “General Licenses” law of the U.S. Treasury. You do not need to apply; you just need to qualify. If you qualify as a “professional” or other category, you can fly to Cuba from Canada, Mexico, Europe or elsewhere. Read the U.S Treasury rules here.
• Via charter flights, if you have family in Cuba.

First, I want to answer some of the most frequently asked questions, and then provide links to explore. To view my YouTube photo slideshow of Cuba, with music, click here.

Will they stamp my passport?: Cuban immigration will not stamp your U.S. passport. Instead, they issue a paper visa which you return upon departure. There is an exit tax ($25 cash), so make sure you hold back some Cuban currency to pay this at the airport.

Health insurance: You are required to buy health insurance. Your U.S. health insurance or credit card travel insurance will not apply.
You can and must purchase Cuban health insurance. It is available for purchase at airport arrival before getting in line for Immigration. For $3/day, it’s a bargain should you need it.

Money: You should bring sufficient cash for your stay. All major world currencies can be exchanged for Cuban CUCs (roughly equivalent to $1 US). You will be charged a 10% premium for converting U.S. dollars, so you may want to consider having a different currency to exchange. Currency exchange should be done at the airport. There are banks and exchange houses in the major cities. Your U.S. credit cards cannot be processed in Cuba. For more on Cuban currency, read my last blogHotel_National

Accommodation: You should arrange beforehand where you will stay and have a print out of your reservations to show if asked by immigration or customs. Hotels like The National (where the ghosts of Batista-era mobsters and celebrities are capitalized upon) or the Seville (a Mercure-Accor hotel in old town Havana where Graham Green is reputed to have written “Our Man in Havana” – Room 501) may be worth the tariff, but for a “real Cuban experience,” I recommend the privately-owned “casa particulares“. Google that term for plenty of listings and reviews. Figure $25-$40 per night for a double room with its own bathroom.

Food: “I’ve heard the food isn’t good…” say most Americans, who ironically hail from a country that invented and exported high-carb, high-sugar, high-processed, diabetes-inducing fast “food.” The typical Cuban diet is basic but real – rice, potatoes, a little green, a little meat or fish; the pervasive ham sandwich on white bread; pizza. But there are fine restaurants with world-class chefs, excellent seafood, fruit drinks, fabulous desserts and some of the best coffee in the world.

Searching For Resources:
Before I went to Cuba in April 2013, I searched “Google” to find as much contemporary information as I could. I didn’t find much and erroneously concluded there wasn’t a lot about Cuba online. But there is! Like any online search, it’s a matter of what keywords or phrases you enter, and each one will give you a different set of results (websites) corresponding to that word or phrase. Be creative in your search terms, and remember that the embargo and blockade are unique to the U.S. government. Here are some places to begin:

Cigar_GirlGeneral information sites:
Cuban Tourist Board in Canada
Tripadvisor.com - recommendations and ratings from fellow travelers; browse site
Lonely Planet  – fabulous forums – Buy their latest guide!
www.cuba-junky.com – resources and self-guided walking tours
Cuba Travel Agency & Tour Operator

Articles:
Many academic articles on the various complex aspects of Cuban society: http://www.globaljusticecenter.org
Search major newspapers in the UK (Guardian), Canada (Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal), Australia.
Exploring Havana is easy – Monteal Gazette
Travel Cuba – The Montreal Gazette
Tripadvisor.com: Activities in Havana
11th Havana Biennial Attracts Americans – NY Times.com
20 great things to do in Havana – Time Out Travel
Where Is Cuba Going? – NY Times.com  – Excellent, lengthy article by a U.S. journalist married to Cuban living in the U.S.
Beginner’s Guide To Cuban Travel (from Australian news)
The Truth About Socio-Economics in Cuba – great article by Chris Turner in The Walrus.

Best Blog about Life in Cuba, by U.S. travelwriter Conner Gorry, who has lived there since 2004. She just started Cuba Libro, Cuba’s first English language bookstore-cafe. Read about it in the Washington Post.

Read about the Havana Book Fair, attended last February by about 5 million people!

And, just so you know – and because I’m so excited I must share it! – I will be returning to Cuba this fall to teach workshops on digital publishing and marketing, More on this soon! (May we all live so long!)

Obviously, I am by no means an expert on Cuban travel, so if you have comments, questions, recommendations or personal experiences to share, please add to comments. I appreciate you sharing my blog and I love hearing from you! Muchas gracias!

 

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Visiting Havana

May 20, 2013

Cuba had been calling to me for a long time. Perhaps it was my memory of being a six-year-old in Miami and going to the beach with my dad to watch giant navy warships glide southward to engage in what became known as the Bay of Pigs, a disatrous attempt to overthrow Castro and his [...]

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In Loving Memory of Simone Griffling

February 24, 2013

Simone Griffling (December 21, 2003 – February 23, 2013) On New Year’s eve, 2003, I asked a group gathered at our Santa Fe, NM home, “What would you like in the new year?” David answered, “A dog.” Little did he know he was soon to have not just “a dog,” but the most extradordinary Standard [...]

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San Miguel Writers’ Conference 2012

March 31, 2012

Last year, I fell into it at the last minute. This year I came prepared to deliver, at San Miguel Writers’ Conference, a 90-minute workshop on “Self-Publishing Success.” My overview of  the rapidly-changing world of print on demand (POD), eBooks and online marketing was well-received by 40 gracious and eager learners. I shared what I [...]

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