By Ismael Francisco, CubaDebate
Arriving today at Playa Giron is a privilege, because this place is marked for Cuban history through the struggle and pain of hundreds of peasants, women, children and men of our country, who defeated mercenaries financed by the U.S. to invade these shores in April 1961.
Taking that road leading to the south coast, one even feels pain, for the many tombs and monuments to those fallen in battle.
But as it is spring, one discovers that life is more fertile where the blood of our comrades fell for the country, because nature and the revolution are daily burgeoning in one direction: life, the struggle to save the human species, protect the environment, make our lives healthier, away from shrapnel and murderous fire.
Flight delays piled up all across America on Monday as thousands of air traffic controllers were forced to take an unpaid day off because of federal budget cuts, providing the most visible impact yet of Congress and the White House’s failure to agree on a long-term deficit-reduction plan.
The Federal Aviation Administration kept planes on the ground because there weren’t enough controllers to monitor busy air corridors. Cascading delays at some of the busiest US airports held up many flights into New York, Baltimore and Washington by more than two hours.
In the morning, the delays were so bad that passengers on several Washington-New York shuttle flights could have reached their destination faster by taking the train.
Nearly a third of flights at New York’s LaGuardia airport scheduled to take off before 3pm were delayed 15 minutes or more, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. Last Monday, just 6% of LaGuardia’s flights were delayed.
The situation was similar at Washington’s Reagan National airport, in Newark, New Jersey, and in Philadelphia with roughly 20% of flights delayed.
Monday is typically one of the busiest days at airports with many high-paying business travelers departing for a week on the road. The FAA’s controller cuts a 10% reduction of its staff went into effect Sunday. The full force was not felt until Monday morning.
The shortage of controllers could persist for months, raising the risk of a turbulent summer travel season. And it could exacerbate weather problems, especially spring and summer thunderstorms.
There’s no way for passengers to tell in advance which airport or flights will experience delays.
Many flights heading to Florida were seeing delays of up to an hour. By late Monday, delays into Los Angeles were expected to average three hours.
FAA officials have said they have no choice but to furlough all 47,000 agency employees including nearly 15,000 controllers because the agency’s budget is dominated by salaries. Each employee will lose one day of work every other week. The FAA has said that planes will have to take off and land less frequently, so as not to overload the remaining controllers on duty.
Critics have said the FAA could reduce its budget in other spots that wouldn’t delay travelers.
“There’s a lot finger-pointing going on, but the simple truth is that it is Congress’s job to fix this,” said Rep. Rick Larsen, a Washington Democrat and member of the House aviation panel. “Flight delays are just the latest example of how the sequester is damaging the economy and hurting families across the country.”
Some travel groups have warned that the disruptions could hurt the economy.
“If these disruptions unfold as predicted, business travelers will stay home, severely impacting not only the travel industry but the economy overall,” the Global Business Travel Association warned the head of the FAA, Michael P Huerta, in a letter Friday.
Normally, there are 10 air traffic controllers at a regional facility handling arrivals for Los Angeles International Airport. On Sunday night, there were just seven, according to Mike Foote, a local union president with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
The country’s airlines and some lawmakers have suggested the White House is causing misery for fliers to put pressure on Republicans in Congress to rescind the cuts.
In a letter to the FAA Friday, Delta general counsel Ben Hirst asked the agency to reconsider the furloughs, saying it could make the cuts elsewhere and transfer funds from “non-safety activities” to support the FAA’s “core mission of efficiently managing the nation’s airspace”."
- 1523: The forces of the indigenous chief Diriangén confront the men of Spanish conquistador Gil González Dávila in what is now Nicaragua.
- 1695: Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz dies in Mexico City at age 43.
- 1797: Lieutenant General Ralph Abercromby leads a British invasion of the…
A Cuban inmate decorates his jail with patriotic symbols in ‘Combinado del Este’ prison, on April 9, 2013 in Havana.
[Credit : Adalberto Roque/AFP/Getty Images]
I don’t know how I feel about this. I’m not willing to call Jay-Z/Beyoncé’s move an act of courage. But it’s pretty awesome that their travel to the island might… just might… raise the absurdity of the embargo to the attention of some new people.
There comes a time when it is appropriate to ask questions like “what got me here.” Not here in life. I’m 24. I am decidedly not having a midlife crisis. But here, physicially, where I am.
It would seem that my current existance in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, hanging out before catching a prop plane to Somalia is absolutely the perfect time to ask that question. Why do I travel the way that I do? How do I, or, if I want to project myself on an entire community (always appropriate) we as travellers, relate to the places I/we drift through. What do we hope to gain? What purpose do these places serve in our own narratives?
An amazing travel companion of mine, Pablo, once asked such a question. We were passing through Popayan, Colombia, and discussing other parts of the country that we had been to separately. Which places were “worth going to,” and which were simply… “not.”
“Isn’t it weird how we just fucking… consume places?” Pablo asked.
“Huh?!” was my response as I alternated between a beer and some sort of delicious pastry I had recently come across. Consuming places wasn’t really what was on my mind at the time. Consuming alcohol and food took priority.
“I don’t know. We just… fly or bus or hitch-hike or whatever to these countries or cities and smile at how different things are like we’re in… fucking Epcot Center or something?”
I half shrugged off the question at the time. It was interfering with my consumption of Popayan. This conversation came at the tail end of 11 months of travel, my longest stretch of unadulterated backpacking to date. I had spent a few months in Scandinavia and on the Iberian Peninsula, worked my way through the Mediterranean Middle East from Istanbul to Siwa, in Egypt’s West, and was somewhere in the middle of my five months travelling the vast majority of Spanish speaking South America. It was one of the best years of my life, and I certainly didn’t feel a strong inclination to unpack my situation. My identity at that time was as a traveller (it still might be, I’m not sure), and, like most people when they feel any sort of threat to their identities, I shut down and defended it.
And, here I am, years later. Spending my 11 day Spring Break from my teaching job in the Bronx laying around in Ethiopia. It’s my first time back to Sub-Saharan Africa since I spent 4 months between the DRC, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania in the summer of 2009. I’ve travelled a lot in between then and now, but, more-so than I have felt this way in the last year or so, I really feel like I’ve stepped back into my old life, minus a few critical bits, my skin is no longer conditioned to the desert sun, despite my attempts to compensate with sunscreen.
I’ve spent my days talking to exceptionally friendly locals, negotiating Somaliland visas at the only existing Somaliland Consul (hence my presence in Addis) vacillating between expat hangouts (the German Beer Garden has been a favorite) and bumming around with the locals in share taxis. Tomorrow I have another day of the same. I’m not sightseeing at high speed. I’m not visiting friends. I don’t know a single fucking person. I cannot believe I have only been here for two days. Time, at least the way we measure it with our 11 day vacations or 5 day work weeks, becomes less and less relivant.
Why do we do it?
I remember an article in Lonely Planet Magazine about the benefits of travel. It mentions travel making you younger, because it makes time slow down, like when you were a kid and a week seems like an eternity. I think I buy that. But let’s be honest. We don’t travel to make time slow down.
I personally don’t buy into travelling as an escape, either. A lot of the non-travellers in my life are only able to understand my love for the… hobby? Lifestyle? What the fuck is it? By asking me what I am running from. What I’m afraid of. And while, like just about everyone, there’s a lot in the world and in my future that makes me a bit nervous, I’ve never felt like I was running away from myself. I have felt like I was trying to escape the constraints of my situation. That I’ve done.
Some old candy bar advert was centered around guys getting asked tough questions by their girlfriends, and buying a moment to think their response over by shoving a… twix? Snickers?… Into their mouths. Real, long haul travel is kind of the twix moment for our life decisions. It is literally time off of a pre-determined path to re-invent ourselves, not really in the present but in the future. It’s a chance for us to meet people who are of radicially different backgrounds than ourselves, whether we mean the people we are travelling with or the people we encounter while we pass through their communities.
But that isn’t all of it.
For many travellers, myself included, travel transitions from a string of international experiences to an international lifestyle. There are elements of this in almost every backpacker I know. I cannot count how many times I have had the following conversation:
XXX: “What’s you’re favorite country?”
Me: “That’s a really hard question to answer, I like different places for different reasons.”
XXX: “OK. Where could you see yourself living?”
And there it is. The liberation that goes beyond the temporary. I guess it makes sense. As travel becomes more and more of a lifestyle, and the countries that issue our passports become less and less relevant to our day to day lives, with international bank accounts set up to get paid from jobs overseas and without an apartment at home full of furniture, we start to think about where we could see ourselves settling down.
I have this list, a lot of us do. For me, though, I think it is far less about escapism than it is about control.
Come on. The Westerners of our generation have grown up to national economies imploding, unemployment looming at the end of university, international warfare we didn’t necessarily sign onto, and a digital revolution that makes it more and more possible to keep in touch and handle our affairs from anywhere in the world. There is less that makes life at “home” desireable, and far more equipment available to make our transitions to expat life as smooth and flawless as possible.
Even this short trip would be impossible without these technologies. I have graded student work on the stopovers. There’s wifi on my intercontinental flights so that when I get back to Manhattan I can rush straight to a dentists appointment, my work already uploaded and available to my team. My sister gets married in California three days after I get back. The shirt I need for my suit will be waiting for me in an Amazon locker a five minute walk from my apartment when I get back into the country. How’s that for portability. How’s that for control? I can be on a beach in Somalia, choreographing a bunch of tasks to make my personal and professional life run efficiently.
Beyond our collective experience, my childhood was a combination of interstate moves every few years, a rotating door of people living in our home, with the odd terminal illness or abuse case rocking the house from time to time. I never really thought of it before, but more than anything, I think this is what’s shaped me. It’s why I’ve always made sure to have access to enough cash to get away and at least make the first moves in the direction of starting over. It’s why I have backup plans around the world… places I’d go if my job fell through or became unacceptably unworkable. I’ve seen way too many people fall into the seemingly inevitable trajectories of their lives, and that isn’t what I want for myself. So I’ve made sure there was always an escape option.
There’s different degrees of this, of course. Somalia, it may surprise you to know, is not a place that I’d rush to move to. It’s a break from life. From the hustle and bustle. A twix moment. But it’s more than that. A reaffermation of freedom. Of the fact that there are doors open. A chance to challenge myself. And yeah. To lay on a beach, 8,000 miles from home, and read a book.
It’s 10 o’Clock on a Saturday night, and for the last 24 hours, I’ve been emailing a 15 year old girl pretty much non-stop. About Bab al Shams and the occupation of Palestine. I guess this is kind of the life of a teacher, right?
Uh. No. I don’t actually know many people who do this, even though most of my friends are educators. People tell me that I would be an “intolerably idealistic activist type” if I wasn’t such a cynical asshole pretty routinely.
I guess I feel like being something of a revolutionary is a popular image these days. Part of this might be something of a function of life in New York, but it really seems like the fashion has changed. Kuffiyahs and fitted dark Tshirts have replaced Lacoste polo shirts with ironed up collars. Mens Warehouse (which I recently had to make an expedition to in order to buy a suit for my sister’s wedding) has a sign in the Midtown Window saying “You don’t have to BE a suit to WEAR a suit.” But for those of us who fancy ourselves to actually serve as revolutionaries, instead of fashion ourselves after them, I have to wonder what it really is that motivates us, and then, naturally, what it is that motivates others. After all, how much different/better/more progressive would the world be if everyone committed themselves to truly revolutionary pedagogy and action?
The obvious answer is that we are driven by the injustice we see in the world around us, but for virtually everyone I know our understanding of this injustice started with some personal feeling of injustice, or that experienced by someone we loved.
It’s funny, really. It sometimes seems as though we are dealing with what is wrong with our own lives by engaging in some sort of never ending problem… we can’t control what is going on in our lives, and so we engage in something larger than ourselves.
I know what it is like to fight seemingly unwinnable battles. Whether it’s fighting to do right by students in the US’s education system, arguing for the rights of Palestinians in a climate where the unsubstantiated accusation of anti-semitism can silence an entire academic discipline, or doing attempting to expose Human Rights violations in central Africa and hoping for some kind of change, I’ve been involved in some way. By and large, these are battles I continue to fight, namely because they are far too important to give up on when things start to seem complicated.
In many ways the biggest void I feel between myself and so many of those around me is that I simply don’t understand why they are living their lives. Not to say that if they did they would “obviously” end up living their lives in a similar manner to the way I have chosen to lead my own, but just that they sort of “ended up” where they were and, due to a variety of circumstances, found themselves obliged to keep working in that direction, whether for kids, status, or an attempt to please biological families or partners.
I know it sounds like I ended that sentence way too early. But how should I end it? I don’t understand why they are living their lives… the way they are? for no apparent reason? That’s the other thought process that comes to mind. But it also isn’t what I want to say. I don’t understand what it is that makes them get up in the morning. What it is that makes them go to their jobs. I can’t imagine…. cannot… fucking… rationalize, that what guides people through life is fighting for more money and more money alone. While a substantial minority of us (in the United States at least) are, in some detached way, fighting to stay alive in a society where cash-flow dictates an individual’s right to survive or become a corpse, or are fighting for the future of children we may or may not have chosen to have, for most of us it is somewhat more subtle. We are trying to save up enough money to have the “adulthood,” or retirement, or whatever the hell it might be, of our dreams, often without knowning, or having had the chance to think through, exactly what those dreams might look like. And I just don’t get that.
I live in Manhattan. I have friends in a lot of different industries, spanning the entire moral spectrum. I know investment bankers at JP Morgan who are perfectly happy to work 90 hour work weeks because it makes them a decent amount of money now and holds the possibility of making them substantially more down the line. I have friends in Williamsburg who may or may not ever have a conventional job, because they are constantly hopping from one project to another, and because they are those people (we all know them) who have some sort of innate knack for making ends meet and finding just enough money to survive (having zero student loans and family to fall back on generally plays into this equation quite significantly). One thing that we all have in common (besides perhaps the latter) is that we are constantly making sacrifices in order to budget the thing that is most scarce for us: time. Whether it is time to spend with friends, to spend taking care of ourselves, or time to sleep (I know very few people who get as many four hour nights as I do), we are pretty consistently cutting back on our time and space, focussing instead on finding the time to fulfill our workplace responsibilities, our moral responsibilities, and take the necessary steps to care for ourselves. And for me, all that makes this bearable is an understanding that I am making a positive impact in the world.
And for that, I feel really different. Because I know SO. MANY. PEOPLE. Who seem to do it just for money! What is the point of going to a job you don’t believe in, just so you can have more money, to pay for you to go on existing, so you can keep going to your job, so you can continue having enough money to live, and one day, retire and pay for the medical care you will need to survive, before dying?!
Revolutionaries believe in changing the world and helping people, yes. But fundamental to this mentality is another concept of liberation. It is the concept of liberating ourselves. Of liberating ourselves (both our personal selves and our society) from the classism, the racism, the closed mindedness in which we were raised. A part of this is a reflection on life in the USA. A part of it is life as members of that phenomenally privileged class which, at least on the World Stage, refers to itself simply as “the West.”
Is it surprising that so many activists are travellers, and vice versa? Both are constantly fighting to escape our reality, to experiment with new ways of living, with new possibilities which bend or break what we are told are the barriers of “what is possible.” This can be achieved through art. Through politics. Through that absurd fusion of art, passion, and politics which composes the fabric our lives.
So I guess my long document ends with a question no less profound than the one we started with. How can we change the perspectives of as many people as possible? How can we manage to create a world in which more than a tiny minority of people are awakened to, or interested in, the struggles of the world?
Or is this more a frustration with the world as we know it? How did we get to the point where the priority was Money. It isn’t everywhere, to be sure. I’m sure Manhattan is more like this than many places, but very few places in the “Western World” could argue that the persuit of money has not, it some significant way, eroded the extent to which culture, relationships, and service functioned as seemingly important points of value for the world.
Right. I started typing this nearly two months ago. Now seems as good a time as ever to cut it short.
Anonymous asked: how does one get over an ex boyfriend? I'm literally going insane. its been more than a year since we broke up. he's with someone else now. and i cant stop thinking about him. what the fuck do i do?
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