Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Young Jazz Ensemble in Cuba

The Korimacao Project in Playa Larga, Cuba is hardly your run-of-the-mill art school. There's no tuition. The students don't need to have any prior art background. The only requirements:  they need only be young and have talent. Oh, and lest I forget: each student that lives at the school 11 months of the year is paid a wage while they are in attendance. (Many students stay on for years and year.)

Founded in 1992, the school takes its name from the indigenous word meaning "to carry something on your back." How appropriate given that every week the students take their art, whether painting, drawing, dance, music or theater, into the surrounding communities where the people  would never have any other opportunities to have art experiences. Every week, the students go into any of 10 different communities in the rural Zapata Swamp area, staying three to four days, putting on plays, recitals, and concerts, and producing art.

The school itself is pretty much a self-contained creative entity, with its own design, makeup, costume construction, and audio-visual departments, as well as a video editor and cameraman, and students studying ballet, acting, fine art, music and much more. With plenty of intimate collaborative efforts, Korimacao, which has an orchestra and choir, can produce movies and plays. Sure, so much of Cuba seems stuck in the 1950s, with the citizenry continuing to suffer from the continued food rationing as well as the difficulty acquiring any sort of new equipment. And yet, the youth in Cuba brim with creativity that refuses to be impeded by these and other barriers. My four-minute video here reveals the stellar talents of a group of jazz musicians studying at Korimacao.

continue reading "A Young Jazz Ensemble in Cuba"

Friday, February 22, 2013

Gardens in Oahu

Oahu always makes the headlines when President Obama and his family arrive for a holiday. Sure, we hear about him golfing at the Olomana Golf Links, enjoying shave ice with his daughters at Island Snow, and lounging in the beachside community of Kailua. But what about Oahu's myriad gardens? Those who vacation in Oahu often flock to the tried-and-true tourist meccas, missing the myriad green spaces where the fragrance of tropical flowers is what's overpowering. 

I recently guest blogged about my favorite gardens on Hawaii's third largest island, Oahu. Some are petite. Others are expansive. One is popular for outdoor weddings. Another is surprisingly part of an arid landscape. But all provide a venue for a meditative experience far from Oahu's madding crowds.

continue reading "Gardens in Oahu"

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Winter Travel Safety

For me, winter means downhill and Nordic skiing. But a ski vacation, like with all travels, doesn't mean throwing caution to the wind. For example, when I flew to A-Basin in Colorado from New York City, I suffered altitude sickness. On another journey to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, my ski buddy tore the ligaments in his thumb after a serious stumble on the slopes. When I spent a week skiing in the Lake Tahoe area,  one of my friends suffered an ACL injury after a fall on a mogul field. Yes, skiing is not without its risks.

That's why I wrote a guest post on winter safety tips for MedjetAssist that offers a reliable air-medical transport membership program. After all, whether you're suffering from head trauma from colliding with a tree on a downhill run or life-threatening altitude sickness and you're far from home and appropriate medical services, you need to be evacuated quickly and efficiently to the hospital of your choice.

continue reading "Winter Travel Safety"

Women's Travel Safety Tips

After a  New York City woman, Sarai Sierra, who traveled to Istanbul alone, was found slain recently, some in the media and others are suggesting that perhaps she shouldn't have been traveling alone. Or maybe the problem was that she possibly made some nefarious connections on Instagram. So is the conclusion that women shouldn't use social media when they travel? Or does it really boil down to the recommendation that women shouldn't travel alone?

I frequently travel alone. I spent a month in Iceland where I hiked across desolate lava-scapes where fumaroles spouted sulfurous gases beside my boots , trekked along cliff tops where the only things I encountered were puffins, and spent an evening at a codfish festival where I was the only non-Icelandic person in the village.

During the month I spent alone bus hopping across Turkey, I traveled to an island where the only way to get around is a bicycle or horse-drawn carriage, wandered the warren of streets in Istanbul hunting for out-of-the-way coffee shops, and settled into the languid rhythm of another, larger isle where each day meant choosing between yet another white crescent of sand or another winery.

I often travel alone by bicycle, as I did in the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway where I pedaled from one wee fishing village to the next, and by cross-country skis, as I recently did in Washington's Methow Valley where I carried a backpack with all my gear and cruised 15-20 km a day from one lodge to the next, all the while marveling at the snow-draped conifer forests, frozen streams, and occasional timber shelters I passed along the way.

Suggesting that women not travel alone is not the answer to violence against women. But, clearly, there are some tips to assure that your travels are as safe as they can be. Recently Billie Frank at Santa Fe Travelers asked 10 women travel bloggers (including me) to provide their top women's travel safety tips. Aside from the many tips I've provided, you'll find additional health and safety travel tips in my e-book: The Travel Authority: Essential Tips for Hassle-Free Travel.

continue reading "Women's Travel Safety Tips"