Wednesday, August 15, 2018
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The Chaika, Riding Like A Politburo Big Chief

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The car and driver waiting outside my apartment in Vedado.

The GAZ Chaika (Russian: Ча́йка), which means gull, is a luxury automobile from the Soviet Union made by GAZ (Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod, translated as Gorky Automobile Plant ). The vehicle is one step down from the ZIL-111 limousine.

Chaika production consisted of two generations, the M13 of 1959 to 1981 and the M14 of 1977 to 1988.

On my trip to Havana in June 2016, I had the opportunity to ride in one of the tem M14s om Cuba, for an entire week.

I met Walfrido Cabezas – who preffered to be called “Cabezitas”, since his father is the Cabezas in the family –  by accident stopping at the Capri to connect to the Wi-Fi hotspot. There it was, staring at me, this black beauty. Although the typical ride my client was used to was a modern MB, it was a tall order in Cuba. Since the trip was last minute, all the car rental agencies had at least a two-month waiting list for a Mercedes. The couple of other ‘private’ vehicles were already hired by the other delegations for the same function.

My concern was the age. The air conditioning, a combination of Cuban ingenuity and parts from other vehicles, worked. There didn’t come with air from the factory, there was no need for it from where the car came from. Mechanically it was well kept, though the body had some blemishes that Cabezitas did not have the materials to remove them.

A couple of photos and a couple of Whatsapp conservations later with my client, who was arriving in Cuba the next day, a diplomat coming for his credentials from the Cuban government, I got the green light to hire the car. It was a great week, and a great car.

Brief History of the Chaika

The Chaika M14 remained in production from 14 October 1977 to 1988, when the Chaika limousine brand was ended.

A total of 1,114 M14s were built (including those out of spares in 1989). On orders from Mikhail Gorbachev, the blueprints and tooling were destroyed as part of his “fighting privileges” campaign under perestroika.

Esquipula, Matagalpa, Nicaragua

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In a brief hiatus from covering the news, a mini vacation, I visited our neighbour to the north, Nicaragua.

Passing through Masaya and capital city of Managua, my final destination for a couple of days was the small community of Esquipulas, 105 kms (a 75 minute drive) from the capital city, in the department of Matagalpa.

This is mountainous territory in which the mountains and heights stand out: Cumaica, El Gorrión, El Castillo, Cerro el Padre, Peña de la Luna and Santa María. It also has two small lagoons: Las Piedras and Sebadilla. As minor flows are the gullies: La Grande, La Pita and Miragua.

Esquipulas has a tropical savannah climate, modified with warm and humid characteristics. The temperature oscillates between 25 and 27 Celsius, but it felt much hotter during my visit.

My visit not for sightseeing, rather for the celebration of the 90th birthday of wife’s my father-in-law, a man that other than a few aches and pains, lives a healthy life. He takes no pills, hasn’t seen a doctor since he can’t remember, plays the guitar and wonders off into town on his daily walk without a cane.

The main economic activity in Esquipulas is agriculture, based on the cultivation of corn and coffee in lands that are very fertile. Also important is cattle ranching, both to obtain meat and milk. A liter of fresh cow’s goes for 2 Cordobas and delivered to fresh to your door every morning.

The current government structure was founded in 1944, the region of Esquipulas is among the mountains wehre the Matagalpa indians inhabited before the Spanish Conquest. These had their own language, pottery, cocoa, orange and customs. The native name of the town was Kaulapa, name of Matagalpa indigenous origin. According to a legend, during the Spanish Conquest the inhabitants arranged to build a church on the site of a mountain that was bare, properly in the place where an image of a Black Christ (Cristo Negro in Spanish) was found. The first priest who visited the community called him Señor de Esquipulas (The Lord of Esquipulas.

Every year, town commemorates the appearance of the Señor de Esquipulas and the respective construction of the church where it was found. Their festivities are celebrated the days January 14 and 15.

On January 14, the pilgrimage to the diocesan sanctuary of Señor de Esquipulas takes place, the people stay up all night until the 15th for the mass that is celebrated at about 9 o’clock in the morning and presided over by the Bishop and all the clergy diocesan.

The town’s population is about 5,500 and during the January celebrations more than three times that take part in the annual event, when the entire municipality is filled with color and art in its streets with floral arrangements, festoons, musical bands and merchants who take advantage of this activity to obtain a little income.

 

http://diocesisdematagalpa.org

US Commercial Flights Take Off For Cuba

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Santa Clara, Cuba (CNN) When JetBlue Flight 387 touched down Wednesday in Cuba, it was the first direct commercial flight between the US and the island in over a half-century.

The Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Santa Clara, Cuba, flight is the latest symbol of the thawing of relations between the former Cold War adversaries, who restored diplomatic ties in 2015.

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Until now, Santa Clara was most famous for being the site of the tomb of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the Argentine revolutionary who fought alongside Fidel Castro and was later killed with the help of the CIA while leading an insurrection in Bolivia.

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Soon, up to a maximum of 110 daily flights operated by US carriers are due to begin flying to the communist-run island, according to the US Department of Transportation.

The department later Wednesday that eight carriers will begin scheduled flights to Cuba’s capital city Havana as early as the fall. Those carriers are: Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and United Airlines.

The flights will provide service to Havana from Atlanta; Charlotte, North Carolina; Fort Lauderdale; Houston; Los Angeles; Miami; Newark, New Jersey; New York City; Orlando, Florida; and Tampa, Florida, the department said.

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“Today’s actions are the result of months of work by airlines, cities, the US government, and many others toward delivering on President Obama’s promise to reengage with Cuba,” said US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

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“Transportation has a unique role in this historic initiative and we look forward to the benefits these new services will provide to those eligible for Cuba travel.”

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Yes, You Can Leave the North America Bubble

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(From Today Colombia, by David Kadavy via Medium.com) – Yes, you can leave the North America bubble. It’s not the only place that matters.

I resisted moving to South America, as much as I enjoyed my time there during my mini-lives over the past several years.

But yesterday, after selling or giving away all of my stuff, I moved to Colombia.

In some ways, life is clearly better for me in Colombia than in the U.S.. I can get all of the fresh vegetables I can carry from the farmer’s market for less than $10, I can afford an apartment in a building with a pool, and my health insurance plan — the best available — is about $100 a month. Even though I’ve learned I can be miserable or happy in just about any kind of weather, the climate is an added bonus: 75˚F and sunny all year.

I have to admit, the lack of American*-level convenience was one of the factors that held me back. Can you imagine living without Amazon Prime? Still, I can get items from Amazon within about 2 weeks (after paying 30% extra on shipping and import taxes).

But the challenging parts of living in a developing country are the parts that make it worth doing. For example, since I’m operating in Spanish day-to-day — and interacting with people from a totally different culture — I’m forced to constantly assume that I’m wrong. The foreigner is always wrong. This is a kind of “patience therapy.” At first I get frustrated easily, but the relaxed rhythm of Colombian life eventually takes over.

For reference, New York City has the opposite effect. It fools me into thinking that I’m right, and there’s somewhere I have to be.

It’s hard to quantify the value of immersing yourself in another culture. Like a cold shower, it’s all at the same time shocking, refreshing, and invigorating. Once I reached the level of Spanish where I was able to give directions on the street, I felt like I had discovered a secret level on Super Mario Bros..

Suddenly, the world felt bigger. Not only could I now travel in newfound comfort in 13 countries, I had — in the process of learning and living — developed a new understanding of humanity at large: Having a sense of the universality of emotions like happiness, fear, and love; and the myriad ways of navigating all of it, brought vibrance to every face I saw on the street.

When Tim Ferriss asked Malcolm Gladwell what advice he would have for his 30-year-old self, his response was quick, and simple: “Leave North America…. Which is — despite the fact that it pretends to be the only place that matters — is not the only place that matters.” He then recalled an opportunity he had to live in Jamaica. “I should have done it,” he said.

I wonder about the details of Mr. Gladwell’s decision-making process when he passed up that opportunity. I imagine that the conveniences and familiarity of his home country felt even more comfortable when wrapped in a blanket of fear of the unknown.

Of course, it was a different world twenty-two years ago. There was no Skype or Facebook. He couldn’t just log onto JOL (Jamaica Online) to send an email to a friend. My own geographic flexibility would be unthinkable without impromptu FaceTime chats with my parents, and scheduled Hangouts with close friends.

I also imagine someone as accomplished as Mr. Gladwell was driven by his career aspirations. When you feel like you’re in “the only place that matters,” competing with your Washington Post colleagues, running off to Jamaica looks like career suicide.

I personally had to overcome the sense that by running off to South America, I was somehow admitting defeat in “The America Game.” But, this isn’t the first time that I’ve left the well-worn path for something counterintuitive. Eight years ago, I left my life as a product designer for Silicon Valley startups — job opportunities nipping at my tail. I didn’t have a plan in mind, but I eventually transformed into a writer, teacher, and podcaster. These are all things I can do from abroad, and in fact, I do my best work when in Colombia because I’m just happier here.

Sometimes I think about what my life would be like if I had stayed on that path (as if I could have stomached it). I’d probably be using my good fortune to build products that do whatever my mom doesn’t do for me anymore, paying $3,000 a month for a studio apartment, and looking for the next molecular gastronomy restaurant to cross off my bucket list.

I know that sounds sanctimonious, as if my flexible lifestyle weren’t made possible by innovators in Silicon Valley and beyond. It’s just that sometimes I think about how each of us could be living a life different from the one we’re living — a life that would actually make us happier — yet we have no way of knowing about it. We’re like dogs that haven’t figured out that the doggy door isn’t just a solid wall.

I think about a well-intentioned product designer in his studio apartment, shoving the last bite of pad thai he ordered from Seamless into his mouth while rushing to his Uber to drink craft cocktails. While surrounded by people discussing the latest TechCrunch article, he feels a faint sense of dissatisfaction — a sense that he’s not good enough. He takes another drink and forgets about it.

I wish he would reconsider. I wish he would seek out discomfort, face his insecurities, and live a life on the great frontier that technology has expanded for so many of us.

And even when I hear a real innovator like Elon Musk fantasize about colonizing Mars — as exciting an idea as that is — I cringe a little. The same way a magician waving his hand will keep you from seeing the dove he’s pulling from his pocket, I fear it will make people forget about the Earth, and humanity, and human experience — and how much of all of it each of us has yet to explore.

* I don’t like to call U.S. Citizens “Americans” (Colombia is also in The Americas), but I’m not sure what else to call us.

Original article by David Kadavy can be found at Medium.com

TIME is our most precious asset.

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TIME is our most precious asset.

So many waste time trying to go AROUND obstacles or find alternate routes when they encounter difficulty. Bet it in business or in the personal life.

When we choose this option, we WASTE time.

The best way out is always through. ~ Robert Frost

YES, if we go through things we may break them. Highly likely.

YES, if we charge straight ahead we might make mistakes. Won’t be the first or last.

However, by doing so we recapture our most precious asset, TIME.

I’d rather find out NOW if something isn’t going to work than later. I’m even more committed now to charging THROUGH the next obstacle.

Let’s see what happens…

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