In the Wake of Fidel Castro

by Aysha Griffin on December 4, 2016

Fidel Castro's death

the only “homage” to the man who passed away that I’ve seen in Havana.

What is a trip to Havana without music, dancing and mojitos? My group of 11 U.S. travelers and I were about to find out. The Cuban government, which controls most aspects of everyone’s life, declared that there woulld be no music, no dancing, no alcohol and all public events would be cancelled for 9 days to honor the death of Fidel Castro.

While most Cubans must at least pretend they are sad – and all government workers were “suggested” thay attend a rally in Plaza de La Revolución and sign a recommitment to the communist party – many serepitiously admit they are greatly relieved and share with their countrymen-in-exile’s a desire to celebrate “the man who passed away.”

For many months I’d planned an extensive itinerary that would include music and dancing, drinking and partying Cuban-style. At the last minute, my coordinator on the ground, Ruby Aguilar, and I scrambled to rearrange our 8 days and offer different activities amid the somber atmosphere.

Surprisingly, there was little evidence of this mourning, besides the unusual quiet in the streets. Thinking we’d have no access to alcohol, some of bought bottles in our ship-though luggage. But tourist hotels like Ambos Mundos (of Hemingway fame), the Nacional Hotel and others were not about to miss out on additional revenue or bad vibes by denying tourists their mojitos, cerveza and wine. We’ve been drinking. Perhaps more than normal to compensate for this time of austerity and false mourning.

American cars in Cuba

some of my wonderful American ‘journeyers’ in a 1950’s classic American car, one of our taxis.

As of tomorrow, December 5th, 2016, many conjecture there will be a giant party to ‘let loose’ all this pent-up nergy. We shall see. But one thing we’ve already seen is a huge increase in the number of tourists. Airport lines for immigration and customes (Aduana) were absurd and the streets of Habana Vieja are more crowded than ever with foreign wanderers… us among them.

Stay tuned for more.

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Opportunities and Challenges of Donald Trump’s Presidency

by Aysha Griffin on November 10, 2016

The world awoke to a surprising reality on Nov. 9, 2016, that a sleazy businessman – who has said and done the most outrageous, vulgar and hateful things – was elected the 45th President of the United States.

I wandered in a daze all day, under chilly gray skies, unable to focus. Everyone I passed seemed grim, as if a veil of sadness covered the usually sunny, colorful and friendly city. I felt I had entered a book I’d just published for a Young Adult author in Cuba about a cloudy city under the curse of a council of evil witches. I didn’t want to think what this might mean, but of course I knew – just as when I watched the Twin Towers fall – that today was a day that the universe changed.

Facebook friends from the U.S., Canada, England, Netherlands, Spain, Cuba and Mexico expressed extreme sorrow, anger, frustration, bewilderment, and reported even physical reactions like crying and vomiting. And then there were the voices for calm, hope, renewed commitment to values of equality, justice and freedom; and calls to actions of kindness and reconciliation.

What are the challenges?
brother and sister photoBesides the obvious of getting over our immediate reactions of shock, projections of the worst-case scenarios and commiserations of how badly we feel, we need to look out for one another. There are a lot of crazy and angry people who may feel they’ve been given carte blanche to vent. I don’t mean looking out for just our families and small circle of friends, but anyone who might be the victim of hateful or nasty words or deeds.

This same day, a petite blond woman friend was walking down the street, in our seemingly peaceful village of San Miguel de Allende, and a young Mexican dude screamed at her, “Regresa a su país!” (“Go home!”). She is home, a Mexican born and raised in San Miguel.

Anger is powerful, releasing all sorts of chemicals to the brain and body, like adrenaline and nonepinephrine, the same that are released when we feel threatened or unsafe; i.e., in fear. “… Our brains are wired in such a way as to influence us to act before we can properly consider the consequences of our actions. This is not an excuse for behaving badly – people can and do control their aggressive impulses and you can too with some practice. Instead, it means that learning to manage anger properly is a skill that has to be learned, instead of something we are born knowing how to do instinctually.” (From the “Physiology of Anger“)

We need to overcome our fears, old friends photorewire our thoughts and feelings by imagining and actively creating best-case scenarios. This stimulates all sorts of positive neurochemicals that let our bodies know it is safe to be expansive, to be creative, to love and be loved.

What are the opportunities?
For the “Tribe of the Kind and Conscious” – which you are by virtue of reading this – I think it means that we’re going to have to step up to the plate. It’s our turn at bat. How conscious are we really? How aware of the matrix? How willing to put aside our egos, our differences and our comfort zones?

All the years of practicing meditating, yoga, opening our minds and hearts, becoming vulnerable to feelings and aware of the difficulties of being human… now we get to put it to use in the world. Many of us are the elders, the ones who’ve lived through many battles – starting with our own demons. We’ve developed good communication skills, awareness and deep concern for the planet’s health and our own. We know a lot. And, most importantly, we know how to be kind, the meaning of compassion and the power of gratitude and love.

Everything is in crisis! So, how do you and I respond in a crisis? First-responders – those amazing EMTs, firemen, ER docs and nurses – are trained to know what to do, but their work usually involves a singular event, while the complexity of issues and real problems facing all life on earth is extraordinary. Never has the human race been at this point, and you and I are here. What will we make of this? What will we do now?

We could follow Garrison Keilor’s wry advice in today’s Washington Post OpEd piece: ” … let the Republicans build the wall and carry on the trade war with China and deport the undocumented and deal with opioids, and we Democrats can go for a long, brisk walk and smell the roses.” Or, we can exercise our passions, our wisdom and our hearts to collaborate, cooperate, believe in the power of kindness, compassion and love, and support one another in creating, as author Charles Eisenstein calls it, “The more beautiful world our hearts can imagine.” Why not? What better do we have to do?

If you saw yourself as a most-powerful being, what beautiful world would your heart imagine? Please leave a comment below.

beach at sunset, beautiful world

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Cuban profiles

August 20, 2016

It’s the people, the encounters, the relationships, that make any travels special… or, for that matter, our lives, wherever we find ourselves. And this is especially true in Cuba. Here are a few special souls I’ve encountered.  






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Scenes from Old Havana

August 15, 2016

         






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Paladares in La Habana

August 13, 2016

Since Cuban President Raul Castro permitted a number of categories for self-employment (Cuesta propistas) in 2011, some 500,000 people are estimated to now run their own businesses in Cuba. Most popular are taxis, paladares (restaurants) and casas particulates (like B&Bs), although bakeries, digital print shops, beauty salons and spas, etc. are sprouting in neighborhoods around […]






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Visiting Havana August 2016

August 11, 2016

Perhaps because it is August and the long days of oppressive tropical sun simulate a photographic effect of a landscape overexposed. In Havana where, on my past six visits in 3-1/2 years, stark contrasts have been obvious, now few contrasts seem evident. All is worse than before. Even the glorious colonial restorations of portions of […]






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Cuba Stole My Heart

May 13, 2016

This post is from the introduction to my book in progress, “Cuba Stole My Heart.” Please consider joining me and a group of friends for the next “Journey for the Creative Spirit!” to Havana Nov. 30-Dec. 8, 2016. Cuba embraced me and I returned with a kiss. It was spontaneous, unimagined, unbidden… at least on […]






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Writer’s Marketing Workshop in San Miguel de Allende

December 21, 2015

Marketing Your Book With Love – Sell Your Book And Nurture Your Soul Tuesday January 12, 2016 • 10am-2:45pm San Miguel de Allende Biblioteca Sala Quetzel Click here to Register! Learn about the Workshop Read past participants’ comments Overwhelmed by “the business” of marketing your books? I’ll show you how to replace the fear and drudgery […]






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A Writers’ Journey To Cuba

July 13, 2015

October 7-14, 2015 Those who know me know that I fell into an unlikely and unexpected relationship with the island nation 90 miles south of Miami, which is a mystery to most U.S. citizens. Due to my experience with digital publishing, I was invited by the Cuban Book Institute in late 2013 to share with […]






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How to Stay in Europe

June 8, 2015

The Saga of Acquiring a French long-stay Visa “There must be a way to stay in Europe!” I thought after arriving in Madrid in May 2014, determined to pursue a long-time dream of living somewhere in southern Europe. After countless hours of online research and talking with immigration attorneys, bankers and small business consultants, I […]






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