Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Winter greens

The collards, kale and spinach have been fantastic in this mild winter.  The collards, touched by frost, are sweet and tender; the spinach just keeps growing.  And I haven't even yet harvested much chard or beet greens, as of yet.  I hopefully put some broccoli transplants in -- it'll probably be too warm this spring for them.  But I'll also put some sugar snap peas in -- after the rain in the next couple of days.  Peas are always a crop that "hope" is a factor.
harvested collard plant
The collards and kale are starting to bolt, so I'm harvesting them, we're cooking and eating them, and some of the harvest is going to the freezer.  They're delicious.

spinach and chard

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Reflecting on traveling

Returning from Cuba (where I only managed to post a few FB snippets, because of the limited internet access and small bandwidth feed), I've been spending a lot of time thinking about our trip.

I have LOTS of photos to sort through, so more to come.

I'm finding myself answering questions about traveling in Cuba, saying things like "it's interesting"  "there are lot of wonderful historic buildings" "it's still a developing country" "there's not food availability in any normal sense" " there weren't the vegetable gardens that I expected" "the people are great" "the music is wonderful" etc.

Lots of hedging, on my part, I'm thinking, as I digest a very interesting and diverse trip.

The portrait of Cuba in American travel articles, especially as travel for Americans has opened up, has focused on culture, historic cities, and natural beauty (not to mention the romance of a country closed to Americans for over 50 years... in addition to being governed by a socialist government for that same time frame.)

We're not supposed to visit beaches as Americans (as we're not supposed to be tourists), but the bit of snorkeling (hey, we're biologists) that we did was quite nice, in the vicinity of Playa Larga (aka the Bay of Pigs). We did visit some wonderful national parks and biosphere reserves, but the ones we visited were still heavily impacted by invasive plants and human disturbance.

The reality of traveling in Cuba was a bit different than I expected, and I'm still putting together the various pieces of my experience there. Frankly, it felt more like our trip to Guatemala last year or to Southern India some years ago in terms of what I'm thinking about.  But, there's also the wonderful vibrance of the historic cities (with restoration well along) of Havana, Trinidad, and Vinales, not to mention Santa Clara and Remedios.

And I had the best tuna I've ever eaten at a meal at a lovely and well-known paladare in Havana on Valentine's Day.  We also had lovely breakfasts at our casas, as well as other great meals, too.

But I guess what's poking me is the disparity between the folks who are benefiting from the tourism boom in Cuba (the reality across the Caribbean, so it's good for Cuba) and the folks who are still dependent on the socialist state that Cuba has been (the ration stores are very modest). And the control that the state still has (and profits from) internet access, cell phone access, hotels, casa and paladare taxes, regulated "taxis", which include the car/driver combos that we took from city to city, etc.

Cuba has a great future, if they can continue to expand their entrepreneurial economic opportunities for their citizens.  It's a wonderful place to visit, with remarkably restored city areas, thanks to both foreign help and Cuban government investment. With increased attention to improved air and water quality, as well as environmental protection, it can become a "I want to return" Caribbean island, not just one that's attractive because of a locked-away allure.

I truly hope that Cuba will continue to open up in the future -- we found the people we spoke with vibrant, positive, and hopeful.  And the mood in the cities and towns -- vibrant and hopeful, too.

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