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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Progress in Alzheimer Awareness May 24, 2016

In New York, on the number 1 subway train there are cars with social awareness themes instead of advertising. One car reminds folks about being considerate of others, by giving seats to elderly or infirm     People, by saving litter for trash bins, by not grooming themselves on the subway, etc.
This week I rode in a subway car that had the following. "Are the bills piling up in the drawer?"
"Did you find the remote in the refrigerator?" And several more panels throughout the car.
Then the response. "It is never to early(or late) to get help for Alzheimer's disease."
Clever and available for all to see and to think about.

That's progress. It validates the experience some of us are having about ourselves or about those we love. It makes it socially acceptable to ask the questions about behaviors that seem "weird" or out of character. It reduces the stigma of this diagnosis.

My husband who died from Alzheimer's disease eleven months ago, feels so much closer to me when I am in New York, even though we spent the last years of his life in Arizona. Here he was healthy, vibrant, curious. Our home reflects the many collections he loved from the adventures we shared.

And this week I venture out alone again, this time to a destination that we had planned to travel together-Sicily. My husband will be with me in spirit. I will miss his acute sense of direction when we looked for a recommended restaurant. I will miss his knowledge of food--he could read the menu in Italian and know what to order. I guess I won't miss waiting for him to read every note on every item in every museum--except a bit nostalgically. I will be with a group; I will meet new people on yet another island with a long and difficult history. Life goes on and my life is certainly fuller and more meaningful as I remember the times we shared and the joy we each found in our marriage.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Cuba processing continued May 14,2016

Note: There are no ships in the Bay of Havana
This week I attended  a performance of the Malpaso Cuban Dance Company. I had seen them rehearse at the Sephardic Center in Havana, Cuba when we were visiting. We naively presented this group of dancers with toiletries, as requested by our tour company. Now I discover they have been on  15 city tour of the US and this is their second appearance in the states. Another friend said they were also invited to another venue here in New York earlier this year.I felt a bit as I said, naive. 
I also feel they are being exploited a bit. Not that they don,t like it They must love the attention. An American of Cuban heritage Arturo O'Farrill composed a work for them and his band was at the Joyce accompanying  them. Another American choreographer Trey McIntyre has been sent under the Joyce,s auspices to write for this group.
What could be better? They were reviewed in the NYTimes! A tepid review which compared the group to a worn loved sweater..
Cuba sells tickets this year.
Happily we went to the Sephardic Center on a Friday morning and my friend and I walked back in the evening for Shabbat services.The building has many uses including a gym, a children's educational program, social services and holiday celebrations. The congregation eats dinner together after the services. We were invited and we spoke with the young woman who sang the service so beautifully, her father explaining to us that about 200 congregants would spend the holidays together.
Later I discovered that for 40 years all religion was banned in Cuba and the Jewish people had a very difficult time. As many as could do so, left.
Cubans blame America and the embargo for their economic problems. Surely the embargo hurts.There are several lawsuits that will prevent the embargo from being lifted any time soon. The companies whose property was nationalized want financial compensation. Many are corporations like Domino Sugar and Hershey. Cuba has no money to pay them and will not allow any company to own more than 49 per cent ever again, and Cuba expects 50 per cent of the profits as well.individuals also have millions of dollar law suits against Cuba?s privatization of their homes and companies. The situation is complicated and will take a long time to get sorted, in my humble opinion.
We met several entrepreneurial people who fix their old cars, make music, dance and sing. But generally, the people of Cuba have been brought up to be receivers, not producers, compliant, not competitive. I was told the sidewalks where President Obama was to walk were repaired before his visit. We were shown the cathedral which was sandblasted clean before the Pope'svisit. The other buildings in the plaza where the cathedral its in all its splendor are not clean. The sidewalks when we walked to the synagogue were not repaired. We will take from Cuba whatever will benefit American companies. Sadly I don't think we will provide much for the Cuban people.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Cuba visit part two May 9, 2016

We were served Mojito's a the beginning of every meal and at many events. Mojitos are lime and mint drinks with a club soda base    ------and doused liberally with rum!!
Havana Club is the Cuban name for Baccardi which is in a disagreement with Cuba over the use of their name for the rum which is made in Cuba, but no longer owned by the family.
Cuba is suddenly in the news every day. A cruise ship docked in Havana last week, the first one in forty years. Coco Chanel's company paraded their expensive clothing on what used to be an upscale street  called the Prada, in the heart of Havana, but the locals were kept far away. They didn't even see the show--and no Cuban could afford anything in the show anyway. This week the Kardashians are in Cuba.
Lots of publicity! One good thing is that there is a dance festival in New York this week called The Cuban Festival and a group that we saw rehearsing in Cuba called Malpaso, will be here for three performances. I will try to get a ticket. They are sold out online! Will the dancers benefit from the proceeds? I don't know.
The Cuban people are resourceful, they fix their cars with whatever they can find. They fix their homes the same way. We went to one building project in Havana, being sponsored by a company called La Californie, that is providing the materials, paint, whitewash, plaster, etc. to fix up each person's apartment, one at a time. The family moves out and the supervisors help the residents fix the apartment. Then the family moves back in and they fix the next one. Our tour guide explained to us that the Cuban people are not good with quality control.They are so used to deprivation, they value whatever they have or can make and are not critical. They are not perfectionists. Except in their dance, their music, their playwriting and acting. I have not read anything literary produced by Cubans as I do not speak Spanish, but I'll bet the quality of all their artistic work is superb. I bought a painting from Martha Jimenez while I was in her gallery in Camaguey.
We visited what used to be a ranch owned by a Texan, the King Ranch. The property and the cattle were nationalized after the revolution, but the name stayed. It is now a tourist destination with a restaurant, horse drawn cart rides and a mini-rodeo. The cattle died, due to poor animal husbandry. There is now a small project aimed at improving the herd to withstand the Cuban climate. Meanwhile, beef is rationed. The Cuban's main source of animal meat is pork. When a cow dies, they butcher the meat and save it for kindergartens and the elderly. They even kosher slaughter a few for their Jewish citizens who don't eat pork. In a restaurant or at the hotels, the beef is imported from Australia.
I met a woman who is an engineer who speaks English. She was visiting in Havana, having moved many years ago to Canada. She is grateful her two sons grew up in Canada and now have professional careers. She comes to Cuba on visits. She felt unable to remain in Cuba to rear her children. My first son was born in 1959. Had I been in Cuba, I would have left too.