Notes from the Field offers space for reflections on the activities of RiverTides’ colleagues. It is also dedicated to enhancing connections among the many organizations and individuals with whom RiverTides shares a common sense of vision and mission.
Reflections: RiverTides Board Members Travel to Cuba
When an invitation to NGO delegates to join a People-to-People exchange to Cuba arrived in my email box, my husband and I signed up quickly. I love to travel, especially to places where one encounters new ideas, assumptions, and social arrangements. But Cuba was appealing for other reasons as well. I wanted to see how this country, so closely tied to the U.S., geographically and politically, was faring. The family ties were evident even in the Tampa airport where many passengers checked shrink-wrapped air conditioners, walkers, and flat-screen TVs for the 80-minute flight to Havana!
The eight-day experience was deeply moving. We heard many frustrations – e.g., with state wages that do not begin to feed a family, with an irrational monetary system rooted in two currencies (the peso and the CUC), and with an acute housing shortage. We also experienced humbling good will and what I will call ideological generosity. Our group was warmly welcomed everywhere, even as we observed the harsh economic toll of the U.S. embargoes.
One, among many, highlights of the trip for me was a visit to the Bay of Pigs Museum – an important complement to standard descriptions of the invasion in U.S. textbooks. Afterwards, we swam in the bay – an experience both delightful and unnerving. If you knew nothing of the history, you could lose yourself in beauty of the emerald blue waters. Indeed, I could picture tourists basking in the warm sun as well as hotel and restaurant chains vying for a piece of this probably-soon-quite-valuable real estate. As a friend remarked, “Those mojitos that we paid two CUCs for soon will cost 25!”
Indeed, this hope seems pervasive: that, as the U.S. lifts embargoes and opens diplomatic relations, more tourism will create more jobs, which will enable more people to earn a living wage – a better future for some undoubtedly, but hardly the foundation of a sustainable economy. Consequently, I left Havana with very mixed feelings: gratitude for the opportunity to learn a little about the lives of the Cuban people and some concerns about what’s ahead for these neighbors with whom we share such a weighty history. Sue Books
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People-to- People Exchange offered by the NGO/DPI Executive Committee of the UN.: Cuba 2015. Thanks to RiverTides’ affiliation with the United Nations, co-board member Sue Books and I were afforded the opportunity to spend a most engaging experience on a trip to Cuba. Our group of twenty-four Americans were provided with eight active days and evenings experiencing several areas of Cuba, visiting important institutions and engaging in very interesting conversation with many citizens representing many different aspects of life in this most interesting country! Rik Flynn
There are increasing numbers of nongovernmental organizations dedicated to creating new, sustainable patterns for living and working all over the world. These are just a few from our own region.
The Marion Institute (www.marioninstitutye.org) is a unique community educational organization that studies enduring global values in a profoundly changing world. Their areas of interest include: frontiers of science, business in transition, health and healing, death and dying, ecology, environment and sustainable living, indigenous traditions, philanthropy, and tools for personal growth.
Mohonk Consultations (www.mohonk-consultations.org) is dedicated to fostering a clearer awareness and appreciation of all relationships of life. Through public awards, forums, conferences and other public meetings, dialogue from many points of view is encouraged. While the focus is primarily on the Hudson Valley, global and national perspectives are incorporated.
UlsterCorps (www.ulstercorps.org) is dedicated to fostering a culture of volunteerism, collaboration and service. Its mission is to increase the use of volunteers, facilitate successful and effective volunteer placements, and build collaborations among nonprofit organizations and with businesses interested in community involvement throughout Ulster County, NY.
YES (www.yesmagazine.org) is designed to be a showcase of the innovations and people addressing our critical challenges. It presents the livelihoods, responses to oppression, ways to live, and sources of meaning that could add up to a more just, sustainable, and compassionate world.
Kosmos: An Integral Approach to Global Awakening . The mission of Kosmos is to inform, inspire and engage individual and collective participation in shaping our global future. This they endeavor to do through new ways of thinking about our commonality and diversity, and through transforming and connecting the objective world of global realities and the inner world of spiritual values. (www.kosmosjournal.org)