¡Llegué en La Habana!

One crazy day in August/September 2019, I got home and searched Google for flights to Cuba. I had heard many a peer talk about a past trip to Cuba and how it was a unique experience. I decided to book a trip…, say 1 month away. If I ‘came to my senses’ and thought differently, I could very well forgo the cost (initially about $250) and stay in the safety of my routine; maybe just go to a salsa-dancing in my choice of local venue with a Spanish name.

… fast track and I was at the balcony of La casa blanca in a conversation using my then only 30 words of Spanish!

Le Malecón de la Habana – from the balcony

Delta has got it right!

Talk to someone who is old enough to have lived with a pulse-dial phone, and he will tell you of when air-travel was an experience. People dressed-up and learned the right etiquette before they could fly. That has been changing for the worse in the last 2 decades. I recently got an email from Delta Airlines, and took a handful of their flights in the last three weeks.

I am impressed and happy to see that at least one company has realized that the rush to the bottom and nickel and diming is not sustainable. People with dignity prefer to pay once for something and not have to be charged for what has been basic. After-all, these people that are stuck in your aircraft for 5-10-15 hours are your guests! Personally, I prefer to pay a little more and get the entire experience.

Ce Paris qui vous fait si peur!

Eh bien, ce n’est pas vraiment une chose à dire, sauf pour ceux qui parlent bien français.
L’autre jour (en janvier), j’ai fait une petite visite à Paris. Cela n’a que duré une journée. J’avais promis à ma gosse que je l’emmènerais à Paris un jour – car je luis en ai tant parlé, et qu’elle apprend le français. On m’avait demandé (au boulot) d’enseigner deux classes en Espagne pendant la troisième semaine du mois. Etant de plus en plus partant pour tout sorte d’aventure, j’ai réservé le vol pour Barcelone avec une escale assez longue à Paris.

C’était fatigant de traverser l’Atlantique pour une deuxième fois (j’avais fait une première visite à Prague, et je vais vous parler de la troisième ailleurs) et ça l’était. Nous avons visité plusieurs endroits célèbres de Paris (ca se voit sur les photos ci-jointes).

You are what you eat…

For a good while, I considered synthetic chemicals to be the only thing to worry about in my food sources. So, I considered organic food to be better than all others. That is a fact, but there is something else that is sometimes forgotten, and it is as old as time.

Along with the ‘Organic’ rating (green or black USDA logo is the U.S – there is a distinction), you sometimes see claims and true statements that the animals that you will be eating (that are now dead) were treated well, they played with their friends, and reached self-actualization (I am trying to be funny). This could be dismissed as leftist over sensitivity, and in some situations it is. But even those who do not worry about hurting the animal or plant’s feelings (it is dead anyway, so why do the minor infractions matter anyway)?

Much as an animal that lives near a toxic waster dump will produce meat that is strong in that toxin, so does the natural chemicals produced repeatedly produced by that animal remain in its flesh and subsequently; the meat that we may eat when we slaughter that animal for food. So, a cow that does what God made it to do and enjoy (graze natural grass, run around the hills especially as an energetic calf, respond and satisfy the drives of its natural hormones, etc) will produce meat that is close to the general specification of what beef, mutton, chicken, or goat-meat should be.
On the other hand, an animal that lives in a stressful environment and is deprived of what it is genetically driven to do will generate an excess of reactionary chemicals and antibodies (flight, stress, etc). How different is this from the meat sourced from a farm near a chemical waste dump?

So next time you have to choose your food, read between the lines. Along with the hawk-eyed inspection in search of ingredients you cannot pronounce, also ask yourself if the mean may also have an overdose of naturally occurring compounds. The constraint bad mood, stress, and overall unpleasant life of your livestock will be passed on to you.

Religious and cultural practices often feature rules about food: What you should eat, and in what way animals should be handled and killed for food. Religious and cultural mores may be considered old relics by the ‘liberated’ crowd that only believes in what is scientifically proven (another religion). After all is said and done, the adrenaline and stress-hormones secreted into the bloodstream of a cow when slaughtered inhumanely will certainly be an unwanted ingredient in your expensive steak regardless of your dispensation.

Excuses and reasons are easy to come by

I cannot do X because of Y…
X could be the smallest task or goal, and Y could be any unrelated factor that is happening somewhere else in the milky way. In cases much closer to me, I have have seen people and also been part of the group of humans that find a reason or excuse for not doing things; even in situations where the reason is not a viable blocker.

I am focusing on this today because I just completed something that I previously imagined, planned, and choreographed on paper and in my mind without thinking that it would be practical: I had designed a situation where I could spend an open 5-day period (Friday 9am – Wednesday 6pm) to do something grand. In the past, and even when I had more support systems, like many others, I said that I could not expand my area of operation to cross borders and distance… here it goes:

  • I cannot take that job because I have children
  • I am too old and have real obligations; have a young employee without attachments do that task
  • I need to be home every weekend (even when those weekends are spent watching TV and cleaning yards)
  • [I will write more of these as they come to mind]

So, late last year, I decided that I do not want to be the guy who regrets for being ineffective. So I scheduled to conduct training sessions in Prague on the second week of January, and another set in Barcelona two weeks thereafter.

Last Friday, I caught a flight for Prague (I still cannot speak the language) and scheduled a very nice AirBnB so that I can live like a local. I arrived there on Saturday afternoon, did some food shopping at Tesco and stocked my kitchen. I related and got ready for the week (forcing jetlag). On Monday and Tuesday, I conducted training to a pleased audience that was asking to schedule future sessions for the future. Today (Wednesday) at 4am (GMT+1), Martin (yes, the same guy with a black Passat) came to my apartment and drove me to the airport. Between then and 12.35pm (GMT-5), I was in aircraft and at airports. I was able to keep track of my work as well as my upcoming home obligations.

I made it home having spent the 5 days far away and accomplished way more than I would previously have accomplished in 5 weeks. This made it clear to me that I can do even more than this, I just have to keep improving – that is why I love Kaizen

Našel jsem něco na vzdálených místech

Walking along this bridge and to a place that everyone had told me to visit (Charles Bridge), I drew some conclusions about why I thrive when I travel and why it feels so different.

Initially, I thought that I was justifying a hobby or a feel-good and expensive hobby or childhood wish to be in moving things (I do enjoy the landing of aircraft every time). But I think that I found out why; and you do not have to spend lots of money to find this thing, I get the same effect by taking cold showers.

Traveling outside my area of comfort and auto-pilot existence creates a healthy rush that requires all the capacities of the brain to be awakened as everything in a new place is new and useful. When I landed in Prague, I did not know (and still don’t) how to even say Hello. I was not staying at a Hotel or some template experience that is predictable. I was being picked from the airport by “Martin” in a black VW Passat; who would show up 3 minutes after I texted him. It now feels more adventurous than it did at the time. I got to my AirBnB, later left to find a supermarket to do food shopping, and then returned home to prepare and go dance some salsa for the evening. I did not even have any local currency (I thought they used Euros until 2 days prior to my arrival).

So being in such situations, the body must take-in, understand, and integrate everything it sees. Nothing is assured around the corner and you do not even know how to smile. This is like when the freezing 0-degree water hits your head and shoulders in the morning, you want to run but you master the reaction and focus on the mission. Once you are beyond the sensory shock, your body’s systems are open and ready for business. At such times, any thoughts you have are privileged to be using a clear and ready brain. For those who work with computers, it is just like shocking a server by asking for information that it does not have in the edge-cache, not in memory, and does not even have a database view or query-plan for. It has to fire-up all the systems to build and serve the information. Now, once that system is warmed-up end-to-end, anything you tasked it with in the immediate is sure to get processed with the best possible resources.

So, when I travel to new places, my heuristics are not applicable anywhere, and so I must have an open mind even just for my won survival. This is what Flo used to call ‘an exposed person’. Someone who has seen his/her paradigms challenged, or who has seen contradictory facts apply. Someone operating at a higher level of thinking and ability.

¡La isla del encanto me encantó!

From the very americanized part of San Juan, the tourist traps, the various clubs and random cars carrying speakers playing music ‘just like that…’, to the Caribbean roots and the attachment to Spain, there is a little of everyone in this place and so much for everyone.

It could be that I have become so good at assimilating, or I am taking the whole idea of minimalism and going with the flow a little too seriously, but I was able to easily get myself from the airport to my the AirBnB. Being that this is essentially part of the U.S made it a little comfortable, and a little uneventful. My phone did not even give me the customary welcome and alert about local telephone tariffs! I felt cheated to have flown this far only to be in the U.S. The fact that I had some left-over work and a call from a colleague on Saturday mid-afternoon made me wonder if I was squandering my time.

Leave that aside, I was able to get myself back on track. I walked around the corner to the supermarket and felt a little like a local, and a little disappointed that no one wanted to speak to me in Spanish. What? I paid for this trip to come practice the language and culture only to repeatedly run into english-speaking people? I did some groceries, made myself a meal, got ready, and walked around the block to discover the ocean.

In the days that followed, I went Salsa-dancing and discovered the night-life, I walked several miles to viejo San Juan and reflected on many things on my way there and back (I might one day start adding audios to these posts), mingled with tourists and locals, joined Edwin on a bike-ride around the island, and even drove all the way to Ponce and back to the airport. In short, I made my way around this island and it charmed me.
…staying true to its slogan!

La ciudad que más me gustó a mí…

This has to be the first step ahead of many to come. I have been talking about this for more than 10 years and so I am breaking the longest trail of excuses and procrastination.

I took time to ride a bike with Danys who was just launching his bike-tour business in Cienfuegos, Cuba. I was his very first customer and his new bike (intended for me) had a slow puncture. He inventively found a solution (Cuba creates necessity at every stage and fosters ingenuity). This experience added to the feeling of camaraderie that I generally got from the cubans that I interacted with over the 4-5 days. I rode around the many neighborhoods of Cienfuegos and feel like I was going back to a place that I already knew, but for the first time.

De verdad, “Cienfuegos es la ciudad que más me gusta a mí”