La Candelaria!!

August 18, 2021

Got situated, popped a squat…excited…time to roll…..Soooo… I am definitely not an expert on Latino or Hispanic culture! However, I am no rookie either!! I regularly take Spanish language lessons…listen to the music a lot…read books on it as such…but, just as much I travel regularly to those countries…and I mean I’ve been to more than a couple, obviously…some more than several times…

One thing I absolutely love…is how you see so many age ranges of the families in all types of places…instantly!! To me, from my experiences…tends to be not so common!! Young people practicing their art, skateboarders, mingling in the streets between cars, the asado shop (barbequing it up)! Gotta get me some them overalls when I get back 🙂

Always, such a mix a people, ages, functions, uses…kinda matches how ecletic these environments tend to be…as I said…bring your own fantasies with you…the environment will bring them out into your reality…and who doesn’t love a ‘cafe’ that doesn’t feel alive…

But, mis amigos, this one thing that also lets you know how chilled the environment actually can be….a chilled, relaxed, dog day afternoon…

Chuckle!!! I love it!! Everywhere…and the dogs look cared for….not just stray or feral…I mean…siesta time for every one 🙂 Even the one hanging at the restaurant door…okay…so the one walking with the officer looks a little uptight!! But, hey…there is always one 🙂 But, as I mentioned, regardless to what the social write-ups said about safety. This place had serious security around it. It is in proximity to the Capital Square which I’ll show later. So you have the Capital police, military police, regular police (and undercover), and tourist police. They make sure things are locked down around the area as they are also attempting to build up an alternative economy based on tourism…and, it is working!! Looks Great!!

Sometimes you just don’t need a lot of words, the corridors, buildings, simple and complex designs….just a lovely place to come chill…

If you notice, there is some serious elevation going! If you have heart issues or have a problem slowing down, then be mindful…it will make you stop and pop a squat. The weather is amazing as the elevation is amazing!! And, it is nice just to chill and stroll…

Always a place close by for a cafe, or a nibble (delicious food), and if you pay attention…like in the first picture with the green highlights – there is always someone watching 🙂

One lovely dynamic though that really set the day off…is La Candelaria at night!! As I mentioned before, the entertainment is family oriented…all ages…and such a good onda (vibe)…it pulls you in…

Story telling, acrobatics, and the crowd…the full crowd is completely engaged!! I am not talking about tourists from the United States! Frankly, I didn’t see many there!! Locals…it was amazing and so captivating just to watch…full family fun in the middle of the night! Of course there were a few that the undercovers had to help find their way…always one we say!! But, overall…just good stuff…

And, if you really knew what was going on…you looked for this…

As my friend says, “MAMMA MIA”!!!!! NOW this WOMAN could THROW DOWN!! Do you see that grill…now that meat was good…but, the corn was MOTHER OF GOD RIGHTEOUS!!! Anthony Bourdain, would of took up a spot in the line!! I mean by the time we got done…my teeth couldn’t get anymore corn in between them!! What a cool chilled evening…and this was just the beginning…

Remember what I said about ‘magical realism’…get off the kool-aid…you bring it with you…as it says right here in the middle of La Candelaria!!

It says on the wall, “AQUI LA MAGIA…COMIENZA CONTIGO” – Here the magic begins with you!!

Lo Amo!! It, I love….

Peace!!

A family friend of mine, a Harvard trained Ph.d. in Anthropology always teases me about how in my travels I am a budding anthropologist because of my curiosity about so many cultures. Always love him!! If I were to focus on that view, I might start this off with a discussion on magical realism. Not because of the stereotypes spread by shows like ‘Narcos’ – which I did enjoy 🙂 But, more along the lines of the artistic expressions. Although the magical realism, was initially ascribed to a painting style, and then to latin writers, and then back again to maestras such as Frida Kahlo. My ventures are less about that structure, and more about I’m just a regular person who is exploring, feeling, experience, asking questions!!

For me magical realism, this mix of fantasy and reality, is what each of us bring with us! We have our perceptions of reality tinged and sometimes overwhelmed with fantasy! So it is less about discovering it in Columbia, and more about what magical realism I am bringing with me 🙂

Beyond the stereotypes of the cocaine trade, implications are real but unfair for many people…there are many people with a beautiful cultural lineage that has developed through the filters and vicissitudes of time. Interestingly, when I began to research the trip so many places listed most of the neighborhoods as dangerous. So I called a friend of mine who provided the insight; thus, land in La Candelaria!!

At this point, I usually ask… “Can you feel it? Can you?” Forget about the theoretical concepts of magical realism…can you feel your own move inside of you? chuckling…the mountains, the clouds and fog, the trees and elevation…the richness of the colors…. OKAY, OKAY!! I’m going to leave it at that…But, this place…Hell with the stereotypes, has magic as you shall see!! But, first stop…

The abode! As you know, I’m all about the experience…in the culture. Now admittedly, La Candelaria has a lot of tourist components….probably something that can’t be avoided this time. However, there is a very strong local mix…dynamic that allows for a bit of both if you are interested in digging. So, a small quaint, affordable, safe, clean…Airbnb:

Beautiful and quaint courtyard full of life! Kitchenette and front room up to the task! For me, close and comfortable…didn’t come all this way for a hotel/motel room…just need a nice place that allows for some rest and replenishment…so much to see…and,

And, what about these views…most of the day…every day…downtown, mountains, the sky, the breeze, life in the form of a bird of prey….1st day and I’m in love with this place…my magical realism is blossoming…and taking over…

As you may be able to tell, I am catching up with my posts…but, revisiting this trip is very exciting…La Candelaria, Bogota, and More….Here We Come!!

Arribamos!! 🙂

I have to admit! Saarbrucken was not on my intended map of places to visit. This place is an inspired visit from two wonderful people that I met. Now, it is, for me, considered a regular place for me to come! If you have read my blog, you realize I am a simple traveler (travel, accommodations, etc)…I’m looking for opulence of cultural experience not the other…

It is lovely to awake in the morning, have a cup of coffee and a light breakfast, put on the good walking shoes…and, set out!! Open mind, no clear intention, no expectation, just the question…simple curiosity…

A little wet here and there, but such a fresh clean day!! A wondering body with a meandering mind…with time to stop and observe and pay attention to what it feels like. What does it mean to me? The quaint areas, the open spaces, the bicycle lanes, the inter-mixing of uses….

To just stop for a bit and become aware of the feeling, in architecture/city planning there is a notable dynamic of how the built environment influences what takes places….also, in essence the overall feeling. There is something to note besides being in a new place, but also how the structures and their placement fit in with the culture I am absorbing. Not attempting to show everything or discuss all, just a few points. Each person has their own interpretation or non! 🙂

But, of course….there is lunch…and all the way in Saarbrucken, who am I eating with…no-one but the fabulous LL Cool J (black american cultural influence all the way over here – we really need to redefine what is happening)…I’ll stop short here…this is not just your regular fast food gyro – a little salty…but…pfew…yes…I think Anthony Bourdain would love it…I look for this place every time 🙂

Moving along through this part of the day, crossing over the river…we get to what they call the oldtown….these are mostly historical sites. I am not posting the names, per se, however a simple search will provide them for you. During this section, I actually saw a good friend who is quite familiar with the area and explained a lot of the history and significance of it….and of course…these images if you take a moment…all speak volumes for themselves…especially with their context…

Now of a particular point!! As I was roaming around…I heard some drums, radio’s, and some chanting taking place. Out of curiosity, I stopped to observe what was going on. And, found myself smack dab in the middle of geo-political dynamics. If you recall during this time, the conflict in Syria was spreading which involved the Kurds, Syrians, and Turks. This little small area in Germany has a pretty diverse population in that regard and little known to me the tensions involving these groups in their homeland, of course were reflected here…hence the protest…!! Good idea to be aware of the geo-politics when on the abroad 🙂 ….

As you can see, the civility of the moment descended quickly. Some of the men in the protest saw women dressed in their traditional garments and recognized what group they were from. They instantly began to attack them. That is when the police stepped in. Of course I’m standing right there!! The police officer YELLS at me in German…i’m fairly worldly but I don’t speak German. But, I do speak…’Uh Oh, this doesn’t sound good’…as they approached me….another officer stepped in and asked what I was doing…in english…I held up my dance shoes…since I was walking to the dance venue for the day…and became part of the escort….up and out of there…’ that was a hairy situation…But, I will say…the German Police were very professional!! Some might say, an interesting contrast to what is going on in certain parts of the United States today. Not condemning all officers, but there is a notable difference in policing in most places overseas!!!!! Just sayin..anyway…that was malik watkins live from the protest front…. 🙂

But, of course for me, I have to give a shout out to my peeps!! Who provided me the inspiration to come explore, learn, and study along this area of the French/German border corridor…

TANGOKOMBINAT – Melina Sedo – Detlef Engel & Company

And as the day goes on, I must say SAARBRUCKEN at Night….I absolutely love…!!!! My own personal dynamic maybe, but there is a certain ambiance…aura…onda…that just makes the night walk….feel so right…maybe you can feel it too…this part of the world…I would of never known….it’s good for me….do you see Jimi Hendrix?….and don’t forget the snack 🙂

Saarbrucken, we are going to get to know each other very well…. ❤

Admittedly, before my introduction to dancing….Alemania and Saarbrucken were no where even conceivably on my map of places to visit. Such is the beauty of life!! Let it flow…and it will allow you to flow… Saarbrucken is just a few miles from the border with France; thus, even just by location…it is an interesting mix of various European cultures. Without digging too deep into all the history, much of it derives from the river…and all that is associated with rivers – Saar!!

With a tidbit of breakfast, usually something I only do in this style when I am adventuring…I am heading out into my day, along the river…I still feel the good fortune…new places, experiences, and adventure. If you read my blog, then you know I have very little concern about the residences where I stay. I travel for the experience and less about the resort. Not diminishing the resort life, I just have my own preferences…and as much as I love to travel…simple and inexpensive…goes a long way….especially when combined with the value of a mighty fine grocery store 🙂

Lately, I’ve been introduced to the writings of Alain de Botton. In the description of his book, ‘The Art of Travel’, he talks about how,

“few things are as exciting as the idea of traveling…But the reality of travel seldom matches our daydreams. The tragi-comic disappointments are well-known: the disorientation, the mid-afternoon despair, the lethargy before ancient ruins. And yet, the reasons behind such disappointments are rarely explored.”

While I respect that this dynamic exists for many, it is not my reality. As I recall sitting by this river…and, I am a water person…

In all my travels, I’ve never had the experience of my travels not matching my day-dreams. Even as I sit here…it is easy to contemplate the historical concept of cities built by rivers. It is easy to wonder about the lives that have traversed…where are they now, their descendants, what will the flow of the river bring. But, it also makes me think of the many lives I’ve come across. The young man making faces at me laughing in the market in Surabaya, those standing outside the slave castles in Ghana, the rubber tree cultivators in the plantations in Liberia, the cooks at the residences in Haiti, my friends in Buenos Aires…ahhh…so many…and even more…these rivers…So, for me, it is not a matter of the experience matching the day dreams…I imagine it goes back to my own personal goals regarding traveling…whenever I travel….I always find them 🙂

Walking along the river ‘Saar’ and behind the ‘Congress’ center….is the ‘Buergerpark’ and ‘Saarterrassn’ business park basically located on the sit of the former ‘Burbacher Hutte’ iron and steel works industrial site…

One of my personal favorites is the mix of the old with the new – the ability to allow the story to remain and how the evolution of space tells the stories. Posted by the river, it is a great place to roam towards and to just sit…

However, wherever I go…I am most infatuated with culture and the human story. Here, so far from my own physical abode, what are the stories of these – those who contemplate, who reflect, who find peace by the pools, those who live on the water….and how these lives cross each other and demonstrate their affections for on another….

Recently, a friend asked me…’what is my favorite place?’…in truth, I don’t really have a favorite. In fact, when you dig down into it and find what I am looking for…are these places all that different. On the surface, there are the expressions that makes it to appear that variability rules the day. However, looking at these last pictures…brings to mind those common elements of the symphonies of our lives…and how are we doing with our part…

Back to around the town….

Finding Saarbrucken, Germany

February 10, 2021

One of the many blessings I have in my life is exposure to some wonderful teachers…of many things!! A blessing within such is that along with the knowledge they imparted was not an ego of arrogance. If anything, each lesson included a lesson in humility…of which I believe I did provide fertile ground. Why am I saying this? Well!! It would be easy to expound on my skill and excellence in travel…however, part of the beauty, although it doesn’t feel like it at the time, of travel..is to get lost!! And, my citizens of the world…this is one of those trips where I got LOST- For TRUE!!!! 🙂

Wrong turn, twist, missed the stop…whatever…LOST is LOST….The middle of the night…in Alemania, NO, I don’t ‘Deutsch Sprechen’!!!!! But, what I do have is curiosity and humility…so I ask…and wonder…and behold…guidance came forth! 🙂 Was there some fear…eh, not that something would happen to me…more along the lines of frustration that I did not plan more effectively…and that my trip was delayed…all the same…todavia, plenty of beauty…and plenty to learn!!!

And all of that…the flight, the time, the small seat on the plane, hanging in Paris, the train, getting lost…y finalmente, I arrive… in Saarbrucken, Germany…to see and meet new friends at the Festivalito Con Amigos (Melina Sedo & Detlef Engel)…

As I mentioned earlier, there was a Tanda awaiting me…and I awaiting it…specific laws on sharing photo’s in Germany. Since I plan on passing through there regularly…I’ll need to be mindful of them. Shout out to a wonderful spirit ‘Thorsten Janes’ (photo credit of me)…Lost or not, it was more than worth the trip…yes, all those hours for a few days of an experience that – for those of you that know…you know…something worth finding out about 🙂

Ciertamente – Maravilloso!!!! 🙂

Passing through Paris!!

February 7, 2021

Growing up in the United States, it is practically impossible not to get some kind of learning about Europe.  Depending on the context, this could create a nominal feeling, disdain, or a deep curiosity.  For me, I have at least a slight degree of curiosity about most things….as I’ve gotten older…some of those curiosities have obviously intensified. 

When I was working in Africa, a friend of mine once asked me “who was the president of Africa”….well, yes…I got a good chuckle out of that…but, in reality…Africa is spoken of as a whole…and mostly, the countries get ignored…as if there are no specific variations or dynamics.  Thus, in these forays through Europe.  I don’t pretend to know it all or to experience it all through a drive by.  But, it is just another venture in a life-style of continuous learning.

Getting ready to land in Paris, multiple contexts are floating in my head regarding Europe – the history, the planning of cities, architecture, museums, art, politics, among other things.  Yet, right from the start…I have to give a shout out to my fashionistas….Solaris and Dior right off the gate…

Tiffany & Co., Tod’s, Fendi, Moncler, Salvatore Ferragamo, Bottega Veneta, and…

and of course Prada (Shout out to Miranda Priestly)….

Most of these fashion symbols…well admittedly … they are lost on me, I’m still stuck on ‘the ‘Cerulean Blue’ sweater that I dug out of a box at a discount store that I’ve matched with a skirt I’m wearing to an upcoming hideous skirt convention’…. But, we all are who we are…

Once I step out into the street, most of my contexts disappear.  For me, I don’t travel to grab a picture for the foto album.  I am looking to absorb…

And, there is so much to absorb…something about the structure of the buildings and the stories that they hold…

like art in a museum when you have time to engage in intentional internal inflection…you find space for your own existence within the very thing that you are looking at…you aren’t looking at it…as you are now a part of it…

I’ve been through this area a few times…and have developed a certain familiarity.  But, the future holds a time that I will meet…and I will do a much deeper dive…But, for now…I have another destination in mind…

If you live in Europe, I imagine it is easy to take these things for granted…just as in New York, por ejemplo, when transit and the ease of it is built into the culture.

I won’t use this as an opportunity to rant on the ‘transportation public policy issues’ of the day, simply that part of the absorption I am seeking…even includes catching a ride down the road…and the simplicity associated with it… 🙂

Sitting back in comfort, rolling out from Paris towards Alemania…there is the continued shift from observing towards absorbing…and being aware of the feeling…

These country sides have many a story…the lives, the development, the wars, the loves, the families…yet what is life maintains its absolute and its dynamic…

So many things of which we are not aware, yet we act as we know, ignorant to what we don’t know. Allowing the smallness of our minds to dominate. It can be a new orientation to adopt, and certainly takes practice. Yet, even just the smallest glimpse of that level of humility can make us stop and marvel at the flower blooming.

I have been through Paris a few times…and have developed a certain familiarity.  But, the future holds a time, an experience in Paris, that I will soon meet…and I will do a much deeper dive. But, for now I have a Tanda in Saarbrucken that is awaiting me….and I it!!

Return to Cuba

July 1, 2020

This Cuban experience has been so rich….there are so many things I could say.  But, the main thing I will say is that at the first opportunity – I am going back 🙂  For many existential (theoretical – yes) reasons, there is something about this place that speaks to me….and continues to speak….

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Regardless to all the sources through history that have tried to restrict the development of this place; in Cuba, even the restrictiveness of development causes the depth to become more beautiful.  It seems everywhere you turn, you see this contrast between the new….and the older crumbling buildings that have this certain kind of character…

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In some ways, there are some people like this as well!! Not to be understood just from some political theory or from their appearance….there is a depth there…that makes the stillness speak….

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Being a student of history, how could we not find Cuba in our readings…in our imaginations…in our debates…and arguments….

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and remembering where some of these huge gatherings took place with those long speeches – agreement with the politics is not necessary to appreciate the grandness of the moment…

and with all that I’ve posted about, and all that I left out…what stands out the most is of course – the people…

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how every conversation lasts an extra 15 minutes because each person has to talk about their family…even in the middle of the night….you see families…together….

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I hope that you enjoy what follows. These experiences I write about are just a small few of the total.  None of which would be possible without the guidance of my friend ‘Abe’…who served as guide and teacher … and ultimately….friend!!

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Over the years, I have had some amazing trips….for multiple reasons…this one ranks right up there with the best…In fact, the first chance I get…I shall return…to ‘the malecon’….

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enjoy!!

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Cuban Cigars

June 30, 2020

Now to be forthright, I am not really a cigar person.  However, I do know many that enjoy, I guess we can call it – the art.  So, this post is for you!!  🙂  Roaming through Western Cuba…out in the country side…

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The opportunity came to visit an actual Tobacco farm.  Beyond the product, it was quite interesting as this is a multi-generational farm – ownership/management goes back multiple generations.  In fact, this is what this family does – raise tobacco…primarily for cigar production…

Considering the prominent reputation of the Cuban Cigar as being the worlds best….again, i’m not a cigar lover so all I can do is listen to others….it is quite interesting to feel the humility within this environment.  All the same, it is quite nice to be here…to learn about the production of what so many people think is a wonderful thing 🙂

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For the next few hours, they provided a tour of the farm….explained the concept of choosing seeds….illustrated the challenges of growing tobacco….and, pulled apart the leaves to show which part is shipped off for the cigarette companies, and what is utilized to make the ‘cigar’….

For you ‘Cuban Cigar’ lovers, here are a few more shots of the cultivation areas you can dream about….

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And to one of the most important part of the process, the drying house…

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And, somewhat the Tobacco Farm version of the ‘Gaucho’…

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Throughout the process, this is the gentleman that provided much of the explanation…of course it being fascinating to have the image of ‘Che’ in the background 🙂

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And, again…while I am not an aficionado, I am always fascinated watching someone who has mastered their art….as he demonstrated the ‘hand roll technique’ ….

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This, of course is the summarized version!  I figure if you want all the specifics on tobacco production…you will look it up 🙂  This is just the summary of the experience to be shared….and course since this is Cuba….and they have provided the hospitality of their farm….it is only appropriate to….

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‘the oath’…..

🙂

Being far out in Western Cuba…provides an excellent opportunity to engage in some personal cultural enrichment…but, first….

Restaurante La Ceiba… 🙂

One thing I love…right along with street food…are the road side restaurants out in the provinces….talk about what is authentic 🙂  And, it isn’t even just out of hunger….it is as if the cultural experience requires to absorb the food as well…it is part of it….and so….

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This following experience is particularly interesting to me.  For while we have mentioned a few tidbits about the historical components of Cuba.  We have not mentioned the initial development of its early economy – sugar.  In its early days, Cuba was one of the worlds large producers of Sugar…which means…plantations…which means of course – SLAVES!!  These slaves worked the sugar plantations, but also in the mills and on the ranches.

Leaving Vinales, there is an area called “Palenque de los Cimarrones” – “Fortress/Place of the Runaway Slaves.  As it is said, those who know … know…those who don’t …. don’t….so, I will use less words here…and provide you more of an opportunity to look, feel, and consider….

Coming into the opening….

This is an area….where those maroons/slaves who ran away…sought refuge in these caves and mountains.  Outside, there is a certain light indeed….

But, how much consideration is made for those who must live in the dark….

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Now I’ll just post a series of shots…illuminated by light…but, shows the internal areas of this Palenque….

Reflecting on my own experience of touring the slave castles off the coast of Ghana contained in one of my previous posts…the obvious difference is these are the areas where the Maroons chose to live in order to be free…the slave castles are a different story….

It could be interesting to click on a few of these photos and see if you can feel what it would be like to live in here….during this time….to seek refuge….

So much to absorb…so much to consider…one of the reasons I keep this blog is obviously to share my experiences….but, on a more personal note….

This trip was taken several months ago….writing this blog allows me to relive it …. over and over… so that when the vicissitudes of life come along…I can have a tool to fight the urge to become small….and I can remember….the vastness of these experiences…in other words….I can build my own ‘Palenque’…..

Ahhhh……what waits for me ahead….down this road of life….

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One of those mornings reflective of how you went to bed – grateful!  With full realization of the where I am, the context, the history, all with the cultural exploration….

This isn’t just breakfast…it isn’t even just a feeling…it’s that place…that existential place that is part of your purpose….and it brings peace 🙂

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Today….heading west of Havana….out to an area that is called the Province of Pinar del Rio.  It will take several hours, but it is an excellent opportunity to see the country side.  And, several places that will leave quite an impression….Today, we head to Vinales.

The time it takes to get out to Vinales provides a lot of cerebral time.  Time to reflect…time to consider…what are we really doing.  It is easy to think of Cuba in terms of dance, the castros, the conflict with the US, cigars, the old cars…the food….but, as we head down this highway…I see this man….

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I wonder…what is his life like.  With all of our easiness in the U.S….our conveniences and expectations…our cars….I see this man on his horse…traveling the same road as the cars…and it makes me wonder how much do we really consider, empathize, or take the time to feel…the life of another….

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Is it just about us…ourselves….our own pedestrian understandings….all of that immediate gratification….and  lack of patience….how much of what we comprehend about others is comprised of the projection of our own sense of self versus actually taking the time to explore the nature of what we seek to know….if all we are doing is building a shrine for ourselves and for others to admire then it doesn’t really matter.

However, if what we seek is to really know….then….we may want to learn how to listen.  I know many of us think we listen…I know….but, the condition of the world…and the condition of our relationships…provides evidence that begs to differ….

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Well, this are is called Valle de Vinales and Sierra de Vinales…basically, the valley and the mountains of Vinales.  Pulling in the area, you will see…

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This is Western Cuba….and as often with sites such as this….the question is….can you actually get outside of yourself….and feel it….or are you just seeing it….

Although it is warm, there is a nice breeze coming by….carrying with it….so much history….and so much potential for the future….

I imagine it would be quite the time to stay here for a few evenings and sit with your soul….or as Maya Angelou says about the soul…to sit with your ‘longings’….it makes me ponder to myself…with these travels…with these experiences….as I look into the distance…. of my own longings….

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Adios!! 🙂