Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Brown University Semester Program

The Office of International Programs at Brown University is pleased to 
announce that it still has a few limited spaces available for its spring 2014 
study abroad program in Havana, Cuba.

Since 2008, Brown has been offering this engaging academic program in 
affiliation with Casa de Las Américas, Cuba's premier research institution on 
Caribbean and Latin American studies, Cuban culture and the arts.   Casa de 
las Américas and Brown have worked closely together to develop a truly unique 
program of study that challenges students to achieve a critical understanding 
of the key issues facing Cuba today, and enables them to interact with some of 
the country’s leading academic experts in the social sciences, arts and the
humanities.  For further information please see:


Students will have opportunities to immerse themselves in the host country, 
taking in lectures from recognized experts on key issues facing the country, 
and interacting with peers who share their intellectual curiosity about Cuba’s 
past, present and future.  All classes are taught in Spanish.

For more information, please contact Mike Rini, Study Abroad
Coordinator at: michael_rini@brown.edu, or (401) 863-3873.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Angling for a better relationship with Cuba


Marty Arostegui of Coral Gables, who fled his native Cuba when he was 14, is promoting recreational fishing in his former homeland.


Retired Coral Gables physician Marty Arostegui fled his native Cuba in 1960 when he was 14. Busy with career, family and fishing — setting 420 International Game Fish Association world records on various types of tackle) — he never returned to the Communist-ruled island until 2010. Of course, it was his passion for fishing that drew him back.
Now the 66-year-old IGFA trustee is working to promote recreational angling in Cuba, and maybe along the way encourage a less-hostile relationship between his former home and his adopted land.
“Time has passed and we’re getting older,” Arostegui said. “Maybe there are other ways to bring about change that don’t involve a constant state of antagonism.”
Arostegui said he has no wish to debate the politics of U.S.-Cuba relations. Instead, he focuses on person-to-person interactions with regular citizens, visiting international anglers and fisheries officials in Cuba.
During a couple of recent trips to the island, Arostegui and IGFA president Rob Kramer and conservation director Jason Schratweiser have managed to interest anglers who compete in the annual Hemingway Marlin Tournament in using circle hooks to catch and release the spindle-beaked giants. The IGFA delegation showed tournament competitors from Cuba and around the world how to rig baits using circle hooks and how to drop back and hook fish. Circle hooks have been mandatory for years in U.S. billfish tournaments when using live or natural baits, but the Cubans and others weren’t familiar.
This year, the Americans got the tournament to set aside a special prize category for using circle hooks and presented the winning crew with a David Wirth sculpture. Next year, Arostegui said, tournament officials have pledged to make circle hooks mandatory, and to implant satellite tags in some fish to help advance scientific studies on their growth and movements.
But, he said, “remember that everything over there is subject to change without notice.”
Offshore fishing is not the only pastime Arostegui is helping to nurture.
A keen interest in exotic fish lured him to the Hatiguanico River about 1 1/2 hours south of Havana, where African sharp-toothed catfish, known locally as claria, abound. The toothy non-natives were brought there years ago to launch an aquaculture program, but they spread out of control after a hurricane blew out dikes that enclosed them.
Last spring, Arostegui and local fisherman Jose Ramon Cuza, president of the Cuban Federation of Sportfishing, decided to try for a world-record claria on fly rod using an ultra-fine two-pound tippet and a fly made out of marabou feathers.
It would be quite an angling coup if they succeeded. At the time, only four IGFA world records had come out of Cuba — and none were caught by Cubans.
Arostegui caught a fish that weighed a little more than a pound. A few minutes later, Cuza topped it with a three-pounder. The two were jubilant.
“That day, two Cubans from both sides of the Gulf Stream caught two world records on the same day in Cuba,” Arostegui said, smiling.
Cuza has since been named an IGFA representative.
Arostegui said he also is interested in helping promote the island’s bountiful Cayo Largo flats fishery for bonefish, tarpon and permit, and a fledgling school that trains Cubans to become flats guides.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/09/07/3611664/angling-for-a-better-relationship.html#storylink=cpy
 Cuba FAM for travel professionals to meet local counterparts

US travel agents and related professionals are invited to join an unprecedented people to people familiarization program in Cuba. Participants will leave from Miami on American Airlines charters flights directly after the ASTA Global Convention or the NACTA conference.

The trip is being organized in cooperation with Havanatur and Sol Melia hotels by an OFAC licensed non-governmental organization long active with the travel industry and Cuba, the Fund for Reconciliation and Development. 
September 20-29 
(for NACTA attendees September 22-30)

$ 2084*

including charter flights on American Airlines,
five star accommodations and services by Sol Melia

Some 100,000 Americans not of Cuban origin visited our neighbor last year.  Join us in a unique opportunity to experience and evaluate the current state of licensed travel and client referrals. Gain insight into the contribution international tourism is making to Cuba's sustainable development and socio-economic evolution.  Discuss and affect planning for the post-embargo era.

Meet with counterparts in HavanaMatanzas, Varadero, Santa Clara, Cayo Santa Maria, Trinidad and Cienfuegos.

Hold in depth discussions with departments of tourism at the Universities of Havana, MatanzasSanta Clara, and Cienfuegos, as well as with community historians and development specialists.

Limited to US travel agents, tour operators, travel planners, travel writers, conference organizers, plus teachers of tourism and hospitality, who are members of ASTA, NTA, USTOA, TPOC, PTANA, CLIA, ARTA, OSSN, IATA, CHRIE, Trinet, ETC, NAFSA, IIE and other professional associations and consortiums.

  -- $200 on line registration donation  (refundable if cost increases)
  -- $549  air, insurance, visa, express mail
  -- $1335 ground 

Full itinerary below

For further information and a registration form, contact John McAuliff, Cuba/US People to People Partnership, jmcauliff@ffrd.org; 917-859-9025. 

*  costs will be higher if fewer than 25 PAX; program has common core for all participants with introductory days repeated at end if sufficient interest from NACTA conference attendees.

  photo by David Garten

itinerary subject to change

Group 1
(including ASTA global convention registrants who will not attend NACTA) 

Friday Sept 20
Check-in Miami 10 am, arrive in Havana at 1:50 pm
Dinner at Arte Chef with mojito demonstration, welcome by Havanatur 
Welcome by Sol Melia
Optional:  Habana Cafe cabaret
Hotel Melia Cohiba 

Saturday, Sept 21 
Breakfast at hotel
Visit to Regla church and municipal Museum, talk on Afro Cuban religions and Nsila      
   cheche dance performance, return by ferry
Lunch at El Patio restaurant with representative of the Historian's Office
City tour Old Havana – Miguel Coyula presentation at model of Habana Vieja
Optional: presentation about a tour program on the Irish Heritage of Cuba
Dinner on own in Habana Vieja or elsewhere
Optional: Tropicana, jazz cafe, other cultural attractions 
Hotel Melia Cohiba 

Sunday, Sept 22 
Breakfast at hotel
Discussion at hotel of social and economic changes
Visit selected Havana hotels 
Lunch at La Barraca Restaurant (Hotel Nacional) 
Travel from Havana to Matanzas
Visit slavery museum and fortress
Travel to Varadero
Dinner at Kike Kcho restaurant
Hotel Melia Marina 
Group 2 , transfer to Varadero to merge with group 1
(primarily for NACTA registrants: check-in Miami at noon, arrive Havana 4:00 pm)

Monday, Sept 23
Breakfast at hotel
Visit Marina condominium project
Lunch at Al Resturant
Visit selected Varadero hotels, Xanadu
Dinner at hotel
Hotel Melia Marina 

Tuesday, Sept 24
Breakfast at hotel.
Travel from Varadero to Santa Clara
Lunch at Hotel America restaurant
Exchange with students and professors from UCLV (Santa Clara University)
Visit Che Memorial 
Travel to Cayo Santa Maria
Dinner at hotel
Hotel Melia Buenavista

Wednesday, Sept 25
Breakfast at hotel
Visit selected CSM hotels
Travel from CSM to Trinidad
Lunch at restaurant Plaza Mayor with historian
Visit to pottery workshop Casa del Alfarero Santander 
Dinner at restaurant El Colonial 
Hotel Iberostar Trinidad or La Ronda 

Thursday, Sept 26
Breakfast at hotel
Travel from Trinidad to Cienfuegos
Walking tour of city center, Terry Theater 
Lunch at Club CFG with historian
Exchange with students and professors from Cienfuegos University
Choral performance
Dinner on own (optional, seaside Finca de los Colorados)
Hotel Union or Jagua 

Friday, Sept 27
Breakfast at hotel
Travel from Cienfuegos to Havana
Buffet lunch in Vedado
Exchange with professors and students from Faculty of Tourism, University of Havana
Check in Melia Cohiba or Melia Habana Hotel
Dinner at restaurant La Divina Pastora, cannon firing ceremony
Optional: Tropicana, jazz cafe, other cultural attractions 

Saturday, Sept 28
Breakfast at hotel
Discussion at hotel with representatives of P2P receiving agencies
Lunch at El Aljibe
Visit Finca Vigia  (Hemingway home)
Discussion at hotel of bilateral relations with Cuban expert and official of US Interests Section
Dinner on own
Opera de la Calle
Optional: Tropicana, jazz cafe, other cultural attractions 

Sunday, Sept 29 
Breakfast at hotel
Group 1 
Artisans market
visit museum of revolution or museum of art
depart hotel at 2:30 pm, arrives Miami 6:10 pm 
Group 2 
Artisans market
visit museum of revolution or museum of art
City tour Old Havana
Optional:  Industriales 50th anniversary baseball game
Optional:  Habana Cafe cabaret show, Tropicana, jazz cafe, other cultural attractions 

Monday, Sept 30
Group 2 departs hotel at 11:00 am, arrives Miami 2:40 pm

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Canadian Cycling in Cuba offers rich experience


Helpful residents make getting lost fun

Cycling in Cuba offers rich experience

Cycling along a quiet road in the hilly part of Pinar del Rio, 160 kilometres west of Havana. The province is known for its production of high-quality tobacco for cigars.

HAVANA — The day started off well, as I was able to reassemble my bicycle — taken apart and put in a flat box for the flight — in under an hour in front of the Hotel Barcelo on the western side of the city.
But I had little idea of the anxious moments that awaited me as I and 24 other cyclists mounted up on the way to conquering the streets of Havana with a ride of just under two hours to Cacahual, a big hill on the southern edge of the city about 30 kilometres away. The hill is best known for its memorial to several Cuban patriots of the 19th century.
It was a chance to see the dusty streets of Havana, and its iconic old cars belching clouds of exhaust, on the first day of a seven-day vacation organized by Velo-Quebec Voyages, the travel wing of the big cycling organization that offers trips in many parts of the world.
The plan was to head off by bus the next day to Pinar del Rio, the western province where the best cigar tobacco is grown, for several days of cycling on quiet country roads. We would also have a day off relaxing at Cayo Levisa, which has one of the island’s many fabulous beaches.
But the beginning of our first day was not a glorious one for me. A figurative stick in the spokes forced me to stop a few blocks from the hotel. My handlebars were turned too low and they needed a fix. Daniel Desroches, also riding at the back of the pack, noticed me stopping and he doubled back to help. I readjusted the handlebars easily, but when we looked up, our fellow cyclists had vanished. We rode a few more blocks looking for our group, but there was no sign of anybody.
For some people — including myself — there is nothing quite so unsettling as being lost in a foreign city with no map and only a smattering of the language. But the highly experienced Desroches — who has been on many cycling and camping trips in Europe with his wife, Diane — showed no sign of panic. “Let’s have an ice cream cone,” he said as we spotted a street vendor. And he calmly reached into his saddlebag for a map of the city.
A few minutes later, we pulled into a gas station, where Desroches scored a big success. Not only did he get directions to Cacahual, a driver suggested we follow him for 15 kilometres to a point near the José Marti Airport, where we would make a right turn and follow signs to the hill.
Havana seems to be full of residents ready to make a kind gesture to visitors, and there was no shortage of people in our group with tons of cycling experience and resourcefulness. Put them together and problems vanish quickly.
On the streets of Havana on that Sunday, residents were out in droves enjoying their day off. They walked casually on the sidewalks and gravitated to the parks for picnics and baseball. Desroches and I pedalled furiously to keep up with our guide in the car. Fortunately, he had to stop at intersections and we were able to catch up. He waved goodbye near the airport and we headed up to Cacahual.
When we arrived, there was no sign of our group. Despite getting lost, we had managed to hit our destination before the other cyclists.
After ham and cheese sandwiches, a lunchtime staple in Cuba, we climbed back on our bikes and headed for the hotel. After getting lost again, I finally found my way there.
The next day, we piled into a tour bus where half the seats had been removed to accommodate our bikes, which ranged from clunkers to custom-made Gurus and Marinonis costing several thousand dollars each. At our first stop in Candelaria, we toured a cigar factory where we were offered freshly made stogies while outside touts tried to tempt us with the black market variety at a much lower price. And then we were back on our bikes for the ride to the Hotel Los Jazmines at the top of a big hill just outside Vinales.
We made 67 kilometres in the Caribbean heat before the bus caught up to us and we climbed aboard for the rest of the trip to Vinales.
Installed at the Hotel Los Jazmines overlooking a lush valley, we spent the next three days touring the countryside, cycling past small farms and tobacco plantations. Every morning we were awakened by the crowing of roosters, denizens of the farms below us.
During our stay, we did a ride of 60 kilometres to the beach at Cayo Jutias, a trip by bus to Cayo Levisa for a day of sun and beach volleyball and pedalled to the fishing village of Puerto Esperanza and back, a round-trip of 60 kilometres.
Cycling in this rural area is almost a dream. The roads are well paved, traffic moves at a very moderate pace and the few drivers give riders plenty of room when passing.
The rides took us through sleepy villages and past farms untouched by modern machinery. We saw farmers tilling their land by plow pulled by oxen.
On one occasion, we stopped to walk through a small barn perfumed by sheaves of tobacco leaves hanging from the rafters.
We hit rain on the way to Cayo Jutias and sheltered under the eaves of some houses in a village.
On the way back from Cayo Levisa, we stopped at a small shack for a glass of freshly pressed sugar cane juice.
We stood in line behind kids on the way home from school.
While many tourists like to spend much of their time baking on the beaches of Cuba, cycling gets travellers beyond the wall of waiters and hotel staff for a rich experience.
On the last night at the Los Jazmines, we dismantled our bikes and packed them in cardboard boxes for the trip back to Havana the next day.
We hopped on the bus and drove to the autopista, the divided highway that leads to the capital. The trip was uneventful except for one thing: we saw sulkies, yes, horse racing, on the autopista under the watchful surveillance of a police car.
Back in Havana, we did some sightseeing in the old city with several people popping into the Floridita for a lobster lunch.
That’s the restaurant where Ernest Hemingway quaffed daiquiris. And then it was farewell to Cuba and many new friends the following morning.

Read more:http://www.canada.com/Cycling+Cuba+offers+rich+experience/8854593/story.html#ixzz2dgcuNkTK


IC professors brave bureauracy in Cuba for research opportunity

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Posted: Sunday, September 1, 2013 6:00 am
In his career as a biology professor and orchid enthusiast, Lawrence Zettler has shared space with alligators and poisonous snakes to get glimpses, and whiffs, of his beloved specimens.
But in early August, Zettler and fellow Illinois College professor Steven Gardner faced dangers of a different kind — paperwork and bureaucrats. They traveled to Cuba to research orchid preservation on the island.
After numerous delays, plus a persistent trio of Cuban government workers at the airport who questioned the professors three different times for a half-hour at a time — “You’re here to look at orchids?” one imagines them saying — they were able to continue their visit.
“My first impression as we stepped into the hot, night air and I saw two old 1950s cars was, ‘This is real. We are here.’” Zettler said.
Travel to Cuba is severely restricted for Americans, although research projects can usually find a way. Zettler and Gardner, a professor of Spanish, were there to study the Ghost Orchid, which grows in south Florida and Cuba.
There were no alligators or water moccasins on the trip, one difference between Cuba and Florida. However, there were razor sharp rocks and a frightening looking shower to contend with. Zettler refused to shower in one guest house after spotting a wire coming out of the shower head. The wire connected to an electric water heater.
Zettler and Gardner are, they hope, the first of many in the IC community who get to go to Cuba. They hope to lead a group of students there in January 2015. Another group of students, including junior Ellen Radcliffe, are planning to work in an orchid lab in Ecuador later this year and she hopes to be on the Cuba trip as well.
“She is the perfect person to go,” Gardner said.
It will likely be easier to take a group of students than to take two professors, Gardner said. The National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian and a San Francisco-based group called Global Exchange all work to facilitate trips. That looks like a field trip.
Two professors going looks, well, not like a field trip. And that raised the suspicions. Add to that just the hassles of going to a nation closed off to most Americans. Credit cards issued in U.S. banks do not work in Cuba. So, one must take cash, a lot of it.
They flew from Chicago to Cancun to Havana. They were questioned before immigration, after immigration and before getting their luggage. “You could see them huddling,” Gardner said. “We didn’t fit the typical mold.”
On the way back to the United States, there were no problems. They had plenty of proof they’d done research, but it really wasn’t examined. They were asked about rum and cigars and that was it.
“Cuba is not part of the drug trade like other places in Latin America,” Gardner said.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, which cut off most of Cuba’s foreign aid, the nation has had to fend for itself. It did that in part by laying off government employees, setting them up with small business licenses, and telling them to go forth and multiply. Zettler and Gardner stayed at guest houses and at small cafes started through that policy.
Western influence permeates the culture. Teenagers have iPhones and, in style and dress, are little different from the students the professors see daily. Younger people dissent more and are less afraid of the government. Many want to get out, but can’t. Not until the country opens up.
Zettler saw a country where people are taken care of, but it does come at a price.
“I saw no sign of people without food and they had clean water,” he said. “They had good health care. It’s the safest Latin American country I’ve ever been in. The government is doing this. But they say, ‘Don’t go out of that box. We’ll take care of you. Just don’t come out of the box.’”