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A Trip To Cuba

March 14th, 2017

Don and I just had a delightful jaunt to Cienfuegos, Cuba and it appears many of you are interested in the details of our journey. Let me start by saying it was easy and a wonderful experience!

 

IMG_4640If you have never been, or it was been more then 3 years since you have been to Cuba get ready to step into a place where time melds, and you see both past and future in any one moment. Someone’s Desoto from the 1950s, refinished beautifully, refitted to use diesel, and Apple computer logos on the window.   A horse drawn cart, used for commuting in and out of the city, full of people dressed in outfits of today with someone talking on a cell phone. Buildings, some renovated to their former beauty from the 1800s with flat screen TVs in the living room or music blasting from big sound speakers, while others are crumbling down just next door.

 

Cuba is such a feminine island to me. She is magical, mysterious, enticing, and calls to your heart to feel her energy and see her beauty. She is full of contrast, and highly spiritual. As Americans we have all been taught to fear her politically and been restricted in being able to visit her for over 50 years. But she now awaits your visit with an open heart and welcomes you with a warm embrace.IMG_4548

 

The Cuban people have great pride in their country, and well they should as they have survived years of conflict, isolation, hardship, and restrictions, and yet they survive. Although the former travel ban for US citizens has restricted many Americans from visiting Cuba, remember tourists from all over the world have been going for years. They take great pride in being a safe country as there is zero tolerance of possession of guns and drugs, which seems to keep the crime rate low.

 

Restrictions in their way of living have been lifted since I was there in 2009. They can own their homes and businesses. We stayed in a home, we booked through AIRBNB using our credit card online, and our hosts explained they own 2 homes one in each of their names (they are restricted to owning only 1 house per person.) They own the business as well. That is new since my last visit. There were more storefronts in the buildings I passed by during this visit from children’s toys to everyday clothing or sundries, and of course art, music and souvenirs. Capitialism is expanding in Cuba, and of course with that comes the good and the bad, as I saw more prosperity and more waste. It was interesting to see that perspective.

 

One of the things that Don and I both enjoyed seeing alive and well in Cuba was equality that was across so many of the divisions we still experience in the US. The people were so very integrated in their relationships; race and gender seemed a non-issue. They have a great spirit of comradery and collaboration. Time and time again we saw people helping one another, and with great warmth.
Now of course you want to know the details of how we booked the trip on our own. I had been to Ci
enfuegos on my last trip and really loved it. It is smaller then Havana and easy to explore which fit the bill for going it alone for Don and me. I then discovered that American Airlines has a direct flight from Miami once a day to Cienfuegos. I then got online and found a plethora of options for “casa particulares” on Airbnb.

 

Our hosts Mabe and Jose

Our hosts Mabe and Jose

They can only rent you a room in their homes, unlike other countries where you can rent a whole house, but that turned into one of our greatest blessings as we loved living with Mabel and Jose (as well as the other guests from Corsica and Italy.) Our choice was Mabe’s Hostal, which was only a 6 blocks from the Plaza Marti, 3 blocks from Prado Blvd (the main street) and close to restaurants. Jose speaks English very well, and Mabel speaks it a little bit. They were warm and helpful in giving suggestions of places to go to eat or for excursions, and answered many of our questions about their country. The cost of 4 nights stay for both of us – $135.00.

 

Guava, Papaya, Pineapple!

Guava, Papaya, Pineapple!

Breakfast each morning was on the rooftop terrace, where we would sit and converse with the other guests while eating fresh fruit, toast, tea, eggs (meat was an option) juice and some days a little pastry. Please note that there is plenty of fresh food, but the choices may seem limited from our perspective, as they are mostly a self-sustaining country. The cost of breakfast is not included but is only 5 cucs per person (1 cuc = about $1).

 

Next we went online to book our tickets through American Airlines. The ticket includes both your exit fee and medical insurance that covers you while in Cuba. It does not include the cost of your visa. Once we booked the ticket we received a call from Cuba Travel Services that explained everything we needed to know about getting the visa (they sent an email with the link) and checking in at the Cuba Ready desk at the airport (more on that in a minute.)

 

Once I received the link I went online to get our visas as we had enough time to do it by mail. You fill out all of the information and check a box that covers your reason for traveling to Cuba. The current list of reasons that you can get a visa for includes one that seemed to fit our reason perfectly –“support for the Cuban people.” Yes, in and among reasons like Education, Cultural Exchange or Religious activity there is this one that seemed to include our reasons to go. At no time were we questioned about this. The fee was $80.00 and they mailed our visas to us within 5 days. Note: they arrive blank, so take your time in filling them out as there is an added fee if you make mistakes.

 

IMG_4501That was it for our setup. The day of travel flowed very easy. Once we arrived at the airport in Key West we hit a bit of a slow down, as it appeared we were one of the first that the staff at AA was checking in to go to Cuba. After a few minutes 3 of them had figured out the correct codes, etc. and we were checked in. We flew to Miami where we then were instructed to look for a Cuba Ready desk. It turned out to be a small kiosk right at our gate. We walked up with no wait, he checked our passports, paper boarding passes and visas, stamped them and we were ready to go. VERY SIMPLE! Only 20 of us boarded our Airbus 319 and in about one hour from takeoff to landing we were in Cienfuegos! (Please note AA may downsize the planes as they are getting less bookings then anticipated.)IMG_4502

 

Cienfuegos is a very small airport (only 2 flights a day go in and out of it commercially – AA and Jetblue) and the crew for debarkation was greater than the number of passengers. 3 steps and forms were used for clearing immigration and customs. 1. Passports and visas checked 2. Man with white coat (maybe a Dr) takes your medical form saying you are healthy and not exposed to recent illness 3. Bags go through a metal detector like we do checking in for a flight. They are serious about no guns/weapons! Once cleared, we exchanged our Euros for CUCs (the exchange for Euros is much better then US dollars) and we were picked up by a taxi driver sent by Mabel to pick us up. 15 CUCs.

 

IMG_4588We found walking around easy, there are also plenty of car taxis, horse drawn taxis and bicycle taxis if you get tired and all are very reasonable. Meals cost between 10 -20 CUCs, but keep in mind we only drank water (bottled of course with no ice). We found we could easily get by with about 100 CUCs for the 2 of us per day. That included some of our travel, ferry ride to the Jagua castle (2 cucs round trip) and a 53 Chevy that took us to the beach and back for only 25 CUCs and of course I got to sail a Hobie cat (20 cucs).

 

I hope this encourages you to go and answers some of your questions. Travel consciously, bring with you kindness and respect, and leave with new friendships!IMG_4582

 

 

 

 

 

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Tis the Season for CLC

December 4th, 2016

woman-self-loveThe holidays are upon us, a time to turn our attention to Care, Love, Compassion and a gentleness that can have a great effect on many.

With all of the hub bub, events, family gatherings, shopping, and often drama from old and new emotional scars this is a perfect time to take a moment to remember to be gentle with ourselves. Take time to nurture the CLCs – Care, Love and Compassion. Set some time aside to renew yourself in Care, Love and Compassion so that you can navigate each day rooted in these 3 very powerful ways of BEING.

 

Here is a simple guideline or prayer you can hold in your heart:

 

Where there is frantic, may I hold the light of peace

Where there is drama, may I hold compassion in your heart

Where there is joy, may I share it gently

Where there is love, may I be loving

Where there is overwhelm, may I be caring

May my eyes be open, my ears listen, and my heart expand unconditionally

 

You may never know what another is feeling or experiencing. Go gently through this holiday season. Remember the CLCs.

Be Caring.

Be Loving.

Be Compassionate.

Let it begin with you!

 

Take time each day to take Care of yourself, be Loving in thoughts and actions toward yourself, and hold Compassion for yourself. Then as you move through your day you can share it gently with others.

 

Peaceful Holidays begin within!

woman-self-love

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HOLISM -living life whole!

November 1st, 2016

7f2effead1362c6cad13871b4f2c9b91One of the powerful lessons I learned from both Yoga and HeartMath is how to live my life from a whole being perspective, holistic. Prior to embarking on my yoga and HeartMath practice I lived (like many) in my head, thinking of how life “should” be or what others would think of me as I did things. I often neglected my physical sense of comfort, denied my feelings and intuitive sense of things, while not seeing the biggest picture of how this affected everything else around me.

 

Everyday in many ways I get the opportunity to not only think about things, or believe in things (mental) but also remember to note how I feel (emotional) or sense my relationship with other (spiritual) all the while being in my body (physical) in the experience of it. We all have the potential to live our lives whole by balancing the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual elements of being.

 

HeartMath shares it this way. We have four domains of resilience that help bring us into coherence.

  • Physical includes: physical strength, endurance and strength
  • Mental includes: mental flexibility, attention span, ability to focus, incorporate multiple points of view
  • Emotional includes: emotional flexibility, positive outlook, self-regulation
  • Spiritual includes: spiritual flexibility, commitment to values, tolerance of others’ values and beliefs

 

When we are cognitive or mindful each day of our four areas of being we are observing our capacity to be flexible in all four; ie to be focused (mental), while physically durable (physical), regulating our emotional responses (emotional), and tolerant of others’ values (spiritual.) The practice for both yoga and HeartMath is centered in our breath as a guide or timeout mechanism to observe all of it and make adjustments when needed!

 

Asking yourself “how does this food/thought/belief/feeling/value benefit me?”, is a great way to move through your day. If you know it will weaken you physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually you just may want to make another choice. Knowing what uplifts you spiritually, nurtures you physically, enlightens you mentally, or renews you emotionally is the self-empowering practice of holism. It is truly amazing how good we CAN feel, if we only allow ourselves the gifts of being present in these way.

 

It is a practice.

It does take time to build.

You will resort to old ways.

Yet when you get back to it, you just may find progress has been made.

It is important to take the time to celebrate the progess! BE YOUR OWN MENTOR!

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Yoga Philosophy Explored on the Beach

September 2nd, 2016

Each morning when Don and I step out onto the beach to teach we find opportunities to live our yoga. Teaching in Nature gives us no room for expectations, only opportunities to be present, flow with what is happening and walk the path of acceptance. This season Cape Cod gave us so many opportunities to do all of that! This article is our Thanksgiving to our teachers!

 

IMG_3653THE TRACTOR –

Randomly the tractor joins us out on the beach. We hear it coming off in the distance on different days, at different times during class. The driver is doing his job in cleaning the beach before it is littered with people, chairs and beach toys galore. It rumbles down the beach, chugging and spewing, as it bumps along clattering with the sound of rocks tumbling.

 

Resist it or flow with it seems to be our options, and yoga teaches us to go with moments like this and find ways to work with what IS. We make space for its path, cue only when it is has moved further down the beach, and in doing so it seems the driver has recognized that we are working with him. Recently I noticed that he has shifted his routine staying at the far end of the beach until we are done with class rather than driving past us numerous times. I find great gratitude for this teaching of collaboration.

 

THE WEATHER –

When most of us think of Yoga on the Beach, the images are of a beautiful sunny day with a gentle breeze, the sound of the ocean’s chant of waves lapping the shore and the smell of the sea enthusing our practice. Many of our days out there are just like that, and then there are the challenging days of heat, threatening rain, chilly cold morning or humidity!

 

We have learned to adjust our teaching to the ever-changing nature of weather in “our studio”! I remember once being at Omega inside one of their beautiful classrooms and walking over to the thermostat to see if I could adjust it. It was unlocked with a small piece of paper taped underneath it with one word on it – ADJUST. I stood there for a moment as I realized how powerful that one word was and that I had a choice to adjust the thermostat on the wall or within myself. I chose the inner path, walked back to my place in class and continued on.

 

Don and I hold that lesson for our classroom, giving each student space to find their way to adjusting to the day. Face the sun, or keep your back to it. Stand by the water to cool down or IN IT! Wear layers for warmth or sun protection with the option of stripping down to your bikini.

 

We never know what the weather will be as it can shift even during class, and we amp it up for those days that start out chilly, or slow it down on the 3 H days of hazy, hot and humid.

THE FLIES –

This summer brought on an unusual amount of North winds that drive black flies onto the beach during class. What a challenge these small biters can be, and an opportunity to work with “what IS”!

 

One of the mornings was during Yin Yoga, which was a cooler morning then usual thank goodness, as the group did great in covering themselves with blankets to keep the flies off. It can be tough to find stillness while being bit, but it sure gave us the opportunity to practice finding inner peace over and over and over again!

 

Another morning we learned that you can run but you can’t hide with these persistent bugs. We started out on our mats, then moved to practice by the water (they followed us), then up on the deck (they found us again but in less numbers.) So we settled in and enjoyed using the props of chairs and wall to explore our practice. Guess who moved onto the beach while we were up on the deck? YUP, the tractor and what a perfect time to show up as we were already off the beach.

 

THE LESSONS –

Be Present

Be Open to what IS

Find your way to acceptance of what is happening and then while flowing with it, continue to walk the path of ease, joy and learning.

Create space for others to find their way.

Use resistance wisely

 

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Croatia, you stole our hearts!

July 4th, 2016

IMG_2860“Why Croatia?”, was a question we were often asked as we marketed Dalliance at Sea – a yoga passage through Croatia.   To be honest I can’t remember how Croatia came to be in our sphere of choices, but once it was, there was no turning back. It seems like many Americans have no idea where it is, let alone why we wanted to go there. For us it had the appeal of a small, not over-visited country with thousands of islands, diverse landscape, activities to enjoy and history to uncover. What we found was so much more.

 

From the big cities, Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik, to the small villages, Korchula, Trisnik, Bol, we discovered the charm of its people, history and food. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming. They seemed to enjoy one another and there was an easy flow to the day to day commuting about the city or town. Every meal was delicious! The history of the city and country is so rich and complex, with all of the civilizations that contributed to its current culture.

 

IMG_2881We discovered the country side with its rolling hills, mountains, lakes, waterfalls and miles of shoreline. Flower, fauna and colors galore were the eye candy of this trip, with each area we traveled through giving us an array of nature’s magic! Plvitice National Park is a must see, and our day was made special with rain to add to the watery magic

 

IMG_3159There is something very special here that we are missing in the US. Self-responsibility is predominant and I found it so refreshing. This is one of the things I love about traveling; the discovery of new perspectives and Croatia gave me the awareness of how much living in a litigiousness society has created restrictions. We say we have freedom, but I came to discover how limited that sense of freedom is in light of the ways of Croatia. I truly enjoyed a sense of freedom in Croatia that I haven’t felt for many years.

 

Thank you to our wonderful group of adventurers who added laughter, spirit, friendship and warmth to this marvelous trip! To our new friends who we said goodbye to in Croatia, we shall be back! Stay tuned for our next adventure!13432169_10210154019397638_7541739182952320263_n

 

 

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