Illuminating Blogger Award

I’ve won the Illuminating Blogger Award!


How deliciously appropriate to be nominated by C.J. at Food Stories for this wonderful food-for-thought award.

Thank you, C.J.! 🙂

If you haven’t checked out her blog, you really should. It’s a scrumdillyicious foodie ride through all things yummy!

For this award, I must share 1 random thing about myself.

Okay, um…

Well, I wish I lived in a jungle.


And I do mean’ jungle‘ in every sense of the word.

A deep, dense, green rainforest bursting at the seams with wildlife. No walls, no floors, no roof. Just a banana leaf lean-to with a mound of soft moss to sleep on…

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Bakiri Ban

 Song: Bakiri Ban

             Artist: Jon Kano (no bio avail)

                             Country: Cuba


                                                                 Genre: Afro-Cuban

                                                                                   Mood: Let the sweat fly!

And I do mean SWEAT!

On a hot night, on Cuba’s Malecón, we danced our half-naked, dripping wet boodies off to this beat until I felt I wasn’t even human anymore. I had become a part of this beat and every bodily function pulsated to this rhythm.

But a huge Gulf wave slapped us out of our communal funktified fugue, and we jumped into the ocean to add our salty sweat to the Gulf.


Good times!



World Music Monday


Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 18)


Photo: Sylver Blaque / Habana, Cuba
Museo de la Revolucion

As he talked, Victor led us around the museo to relevant exhibits – even to a bust of Christopher Columbus.

Victor said there were a few places on the island in which Columbus was depicted, but that they had been erected by colonists.

Why hasn’t the Columbus stuff been taken down?” I asked.

Victor answered soberly, “As with Americans, some Cubans still believe the lie.”

This did not sit well with a particular member of our group, Jennifer, who folded her arms and fixed Victor with a piercing look.

You call Columbus a murderer, but everyone kills during war,” she said.

War?” Victor raised his eyebrows. “This man initiated unprovoked massacres, Madame. Indians fought back. Against a documented mass murderer, rapist, and thief. Columbus did not ‘discover.’ He invaded. He did not ‘defend.’ He attacked. He did not ‘settle.’ He conquered.”

Jennifer eyeballed Victor. “That may be your history but it’s not ours.”

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Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 15)

Cuba 2005


Photo: Sylver Blaque/Museo de la Revolucion, Habana

11:14pm Karli  & Dana out at bar with a few others from group.

All quiet here in our room.

I don’t think they get my predilection to stay in with journal when there’s Cuba night life out there to experience. But I don’t drink, haven’t slept since I got here so no energy left in my hip-swivel, and I’d rather re-live each day in all detail here with you.

So, today was a tour of the Museo de la Revolution, which was captivating. I could have spent the entire day there, hours and hours just viewing and processing everything.

I took many bad photos because the lighting was awful and this new camera’s settings are a mystery to me, so I just spent the few hours we had at the museum clicking and hoping for a few decent shots.


Photo: Sylver Blaque/Museo de la Revolucion, Havana.

The moment you walk in, you’re greeted by a Gone With the Wind / Tara plantation dramatically wide marble staircase leading up to a bust of Jose Marti.

Above his marble bust are clearly visible bullet holes in the wall.


I’ve never seen actual bullet holes in modern-day structures connected to notorious history-making events.

Armando explained to us that this museo was the presidential palace of Fulgencio Batista. During the Cuban Revolution, university students stormed Batista’s palace in an attempt to assassinate their murderous, U.S.-supported dictator president who’s army had been rampaging the country killing everyone who spoke out against him.

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Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 14)


Photo: Sylver Blaque/Cuba

At dinner tonight, guitarists and singers serenaded us with the Che song (“Hasta Siempre“).

How amazing to be in Cuba hearing the music I love so much from the throats of nationals!

Our group passed a plate to collect tips for them.

Are we going to have to give dollars to every Cuban who smiles at us?” one of the people in our group grumbled.

Armando’s jaw tightened nearly imperceptibly before he answered. “That’s up to you.

Again, I tried to read his face. If there had been any expression to accompany the tightening of his jaw, it was gone now. Like staring at a blank wall. How does he do that? And do it every day, every week, every time he leads Cuba-ignorant Americans like us thru his country?

Do our questions offend him? Anger him? Amuse him?

What does he say to other Cubans about us?

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Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 12)

cuba-maleconOur next stop was along the Malecón, an impossibly long, low cement wall separating the Gulf of Mex from a broad Havana boulevard.

The ocean was incredible! Shades of aquamarine and turquoise to rival any ocean I’ve seen.

And everywhere, people.

People walking up and down the Malecón boulevard. People walking atop the wide seawall, stepping around those sitting or laying. People in bathing suits or snorkel gear climbing over the wall, carrying fishing poles or nets. People leaning, eating, kissing, reading, napping, dancing, talking, daydreaming over the rolling azure Gulf…all atop the expansive Malecón seawall.

I wanted to jump out of the bus window, and join that wall activity!

Thankfully, the bus stopped and we were let out to experience the Malecón for ourselves.

¡Que fantastico!

Cuban music greeted us, different songs at once from an old portable radio to the left, a harmonizing group of street singers to the right. The music was infectious; I couldn’t help rolling my hips a little bit to the rhythms. ¡Adoro la música Cubana! (I adore Cuban music!)

At the wall, I hopped up and sat facing the ocean. The salty, wet spray felt heavenly and coated me with cool defense against the heat of the day.  Overhead, the whitest, fluffiest clouds I’ve ever seen hung motionless in an ultramarine sky. Below, rollicking whitecaps crashed against moss-covered boulders below my dangling legs. Continue reading

Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 11)

Cuba 2005

cuban-soldiersOct. 9 (cont.)

There were 4 or 5 small guard houses at different points around the cement lot, each with 1 or 2 olive-uniformed, gun-toting guards standing before them.

This was the Cuba I had learned about in the States.

Olive-clad soldiers with guns…intense, intimidating, threatening expressions portending torture to come.

Feeling brave (and safe, because I was in a group with a Cuban at the helm), I decided to approach one of the scary guards for a photo. As I got closer, the soulless expression on his face made me hesitate. He looked deadly. The gun on his hip looked more deadly.

Especially when he put his hand on it.

And eyed me like a target.

evil-eyesThose eyes transmitted an unmistakable warning. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an aggressively threatening expression outside of actors in movies. And in movies, of course, those expressions are always directed at someone else.

Not me.

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Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 10)

Cuba 2005


Photo: Sylver Blaque / Habana, Cuba

 Oct. 9 (cont.)

From our bus, the group leaders & Armando pointed out sites, and narrated interesting tidbits of info.

But really, I saw most of Havana blur by peeking thru the open top window of a bumping yellow school bus – sans shock absorbers, which accounts for most of the blurred, misaligned photos I took today.


But still exciting!

When we were finally belched out of the big yellow belly, it was in the center of an enormous parking lot with nothing much to see. We were at the Plaza de la Revolución, and the only noteworthy things in sight were two large buildings on each side of an endless expanse of cement baking under the tropical sun.


Photo: Sylver Blaque / Habana, Cuba

One of the buildings had a 6+ story, black wire image of Che Guevara on it with a quote scripted across the bottom in his handwriting: “Hasta Victoria. Siempre,” (“Until victory. Always, Che.” This was his closing signature on letters he wrote during and after the Revolution. It’s also the name of a song about him.)

Armando informed us that this building, the Ministry of the Interior, was where Che ruled as Interior Minister after the 1959 Revolution victory. Across from the Ministry building was an enormous white statue of Jose Martí sitting before the most sky-reaching structure I’ve ever seen (other than the Twin Towers before they fell).

Armando explained that this huge, empty cement lot was Revolution Plaza – the very place where thousands of civilian Cubans celebrated with Fidelistas (Fidel Castro’s revolution army guys) on that long ago day in 1959 when the Cuban Revolution toppled Batista.


fidel-victory-speech-plaza-de-la-revolutionI looked around with new eyes.

I could almost hear the cheering, see the throngs of Cubans past… hugging each other, pumping fists into the air, waving arms, not bothering to wipe away tears of joy, intense relief, gratitude, hope for the future.

Victory for the oppressed. This is where it happened.

It felt good standing there, soaking that in. Continue reading

Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 4)

U.S. 2005

airport-securityOct. 8

Sitting here at gate, waiting to board the first leg of my first trip to Cuba.

Survived airport security shakedown. Had to practically disrobe. Was surprised they didn’t turn me upside down and shake me. One lady wore flip flops and they still made her remove them.

Flip flops.

What micro-bomb could she possibly have been stashing between her toes? I am in complete agreement with my government that we need airport security, but this is ridiculous.

When the poor woman refused to stand on the dirty airport floor in her bare feet, she and her things were pulled out of line and taken away to who-knows-where. She looked frightened beneath her indignation as they led her away…

The rest of us on line just stood there with our mouths open, stunned. One brave soul tried to speak up for her, but was ordered by one of the security guards to remain quiet or leave the airport.

And so, like good sheep,  we all glanced furtively at one another, acted as if nothing had happened, and proceeded forward to suffer our own over-the-top invasions of person.

I reminded myself that I wasn’t in Cuba yet.

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Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 3)

U.S. 2005


Cuban President Fulgencio Batista with American President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

August 31

Going over some history about Fulgencio Batista, Castro’s U.S. puppet predecessor.

I keep catching myself trying to justify our government’s endorsement, nee full support, of Batista – whose vicious human rights abuses far surpassed Castro’s.


I mean, we’re demonizing Castro for jailing political dissidents, but fully backed Batista for jailing, torturing and executing political dissidents – and their family members.

Somebody please explain this to me.

Cuz I don’t understand.

Our anti-Communist cry against Cuba doesn’t hold enough water to smother the leaping flames of our own embargo hypocrisy. I mean really, it’s only too obvious that there must be so much more behind the dogged vehemence with which we lash out specifically at Cuba’s Communism.


U.S. President George W. Bush with China President Hu Jintao.

China is the largest Communist nation in the world with horrifying and current torture practices on citizens who defy government rules.

But there is no U.S. Constitution-defying travel ban to China, nor demonizing campaign against Hu Jintao. In fact, we’re conducting hearty trade with Communist China.

No embargo there.


North Korea President Kim Jong Il with U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright.

Neither do we embargo against Communist North Korea’s underground death chambers in which Kim Jong II inflicts documented torture and all manner of human rights abuses, daily, on citizens.

Nope, no embargo there either.

Strangely, our media seems to notice only Cubans in the Gulf rafting desperately toward democracy. And our government, as if to justify its own incongruous words and actions, goes to great lengths to make sure that any Gulf-dripping Cubans jailed or harmed by Castro are brought to our immediate, nation-wide attention.

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