What I Learnt Volunteering on a Remote Island in Cuba.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SHIVYA NATH AT THE SHOOTING STAR.COM)

 

What I Learnt Volunteering on a Remote Island in Cuba.

Cuban reggae music played on repeat as I rode on a bright yellow truck from the 1940s, along a bumpy, heavily forested road. While the driver – an engineer by education – and I chatted in Spanish, he casually pointed out iguana lizards chilling by the road, vultures flying low in search of food, deer at the edge of the forest, huge crabs running helter-skelter and an enormous snake that brought us to a screeching halt.

A world away from the photogenic streets and tourist traps of Havana, we were heading to Cocodrilo, a remote, forgotten fishing village on Isla de la Juventud (Isle of the Youth), a remote, forgotten island in Cuba. My plan was to volunteer at a coral reef restoration project set up by IOI Adventures in collaboration with the island community.

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My yellow vintage ride to Cocodrilo!

I had no idea then, that living in a time warp on Cocodrilo, home to only 320 inhabitants, cut off from the outside world by a dense forest and the Caribbean Sea, was going to change everything. Everything I thought I knew about travelling, our consumption patterns, our dietary choices and how climate change is impacting the world.

Here’s what I learnt along the way:

Now is the best and worst time to travel

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Sunset, serenity and solitude in Cocodrilo.

During my recent travel meetup in Hyderabad, I met someone who had explored Ladakh and Kashmir in the late 80s – and said he would never go back because he treasured his vivid memories of their unspoilt beauty. Looking back on my own travels, I often feel the same way about places like Spiti, Georgia, Kumaon and Guatemala.

Unfortunately we can’t turn back time, but we can travel meaningfully and choose to explore places that aren’t yet plagued by mass tourism. Places that are yet to become Instagram hotspots.

Cocodrilo was one of those places in Cuba. Every evening at sunset, as the sky turned many shades of orange, locals poured out on the only street, drinking rum and playing music, heartily sharing both. Mama Yeni, the island’s second oldest resident, reminisced how she had journeyed across the Atlantic on a fishing boat, from Cayman Islands to Cocodrilo in search of a better life – and hers became one of the earliest families to settle here. She remembered the days when there were no roads, no cars, no doctor, no pharmacy, not even a grocery shop on the island. Her family would make a long list of things they needed, and do their grocery run to the nearest big town by boat, leaving early morning to reach the grocery store by evening!

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Mama Yeni, the second oldest resident of Cocodrilo.

Getting into island mode on Cocodrilo assured me that these might not be the best years to travel, but they aren’t the worst either.

Also read: How Croatia Compelled Me to Rethink Travel Blogging

No matter how far we live from the ocean, the plastic we consume ultimately lands up there

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Collecting cans from the sea bed off Cocodrilo. Photo: Anna Berestova

If you can close your eyes and picture yourself on a tiny idyllic island village, with nothing but dense forest, deep blue sea and clear blue skies stretching out around you, perhaps you can picture yourself on Cocodrilo. At a small sparse island shop, the only things one can buy are local rum in a glass bottle, shampoo sachets, basic groceries and the Cuban version of coca cola.

Yet when I snorkelled – with my host on the island and a long-term volunteer – into the deep blue sea that surrounds the island, I discovered a different story. The seabed was littered with plastic bags, beer cans of international brands, shampoo bottles, cigarette buts, plastic straws and menstrual pads. Diving freestyle, we retrieved this plastic trash – only to see more of it appear a couple of days later. You probably know that our planet is 70% water, and most of what we consume these days comes in plastic. Turns out, only 9% of all plastic is recycled. Where does the rest go? Unfortunately, into our oceans.

Aesthetics aside, the plastic trash often gets lodged in corals, spreading harmful bacteria and damaging coral tissue. Worse still, swallowing this plastic has caused the death of many dolphins, whales and other marine creatures; a sea turtle even choked to death when a plastic straw got stuck in its nostril.

Swimming in the deep blue sea off Cocodrilo was evidence that no matter where in the world we live, no matter how from the sea, the plastic we choose to consume in our everyday lives is directly responsible for destroying our oceans.

Also read: Cuba Tourist Visa for Indians: Requirements and Tips

Conversation-focused deep sea diving can help save corals

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The underwater world. Photo: NOAA’s National Ocean Service (CC)

Here’s a confession: The first time I went scuba diving was in the Philippines – and the experience left me disappointed. Sure, the underwater life was incredibly beautiful, but to carry an oxygen cylinder and deep dive while my ears protested, felt like the most unnatural way to experience the ocean. It made me think of humans as an invasive species, who for their own entertainment, will go to depths (literally) that we obviously aren’t meant to.

But speaking to a long-term volunteer in Cocodrilo, who was doing a field report on the correlation between deep sea diving and island communities, changed some of my perspective. I learnt from her that there are two ways of diving. The first, regular scuba diving, is what I experienced in the Philippines; this is diving purely for entertainment, and depending on who you do it with, could end up spoiling the corals and threatening fish (remember: touching the corals or feeding any marine creatures is a BIG no-no). The second, conservation-focused scuba diving, is where you dive for a purpose.

Outfits that offer this responsible form of deep sea diving don’t just teach you how to dive, but also talk about coral cleaning, fish count, invasive species, coral restoration and other conservation activities. You then scuba dive, not just to admire the underwater world, but to help conserve it by participating in a cleaning or counting drive. In Cocodrilo for instance, the broken coral reef is being restored through a tedious process: broken bits of coral are picked up from the sea floor, hung on an underwater stand and cleaned of excess algae and plastic every few days. When over a year old and strong enough, they are replanted between existing corals. And diving to support efforts like that can not only help save corals but also compel us to change our everyday choices.

Also read: Offbeat, Incredible and Sustainable: These Travel Companies are Changing the Way You Experience India

We need to say no to single-use plastic on our travels and in daily life

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Saying no to single-use plastic straws.

As I took off my snorkeling mask after a hot afternoon spent collecting plastic trash from a small section of the Caribbean seabed, I pledged to do more to cut down my single-use plastic consumption. I’ve long said no to plastic bottled water – choosing to carry and refill a steel bottle or use a Lifestraw filter – and already replaced plastic bags, toothbrush and straws with eco-friendly alternatives. And yet, when I got home to take a shower, I felt immense guilt at most of my toiletries – shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, hair serum, face wash, deodorant, toothpaste, sunscreen, razor, menstrual pads – which were still plastic. It was time to make some inconvenient choices.

After I left Cuba, I switched to:

  • Soap and shampoo bars: There are plenty of choices, but I prefer LushHast KraftsVeganology and other handmade vegan bars at local markets which don’t come wrapped in plastic. The idea of using a bar to wash my hair was strange at first, but I’ve totally grown into it.
  • Hair conditioner: Lush is the only brand I’ve found yet that does an amazing conditioner bar but it’s not available in India. Body Shop in India is soon switching to using recycled plastic bottles.
  • Menstrual cup: After months of procrastination, I’ve finally mastered the art of using a menstrual cup (coupled with cloth pads) – and it’s a life changer!
  • Bamboo razor: The Eco Trunk now stocks bamboo razors.
  • Body mist in a glass bottle: I love Body Shop’s body mist – and luckily it comes in a glass bottle which I hope to be able to recycle.
  • I’m still looking for eco-friendly alternatives to my toothpaste, face wash, hair serum and sunscreen.

In all honesty, choosing some of these alternatives requires extra work. I can’t walk into any supermarket and expect to replace a shampoo / conditioner bar when I run out, for instance. But each time I feel inconvenienced, I think of the majestic corals littered with plastic, dying a slow death. I think of the fish, turtles and dolphins choking to death because of our consumption. And I know that it’s worth going that extra mile to make more sustainable choices.

Also read: How I Fit All My Life Possessions in Two Bags as I Travel the World

What we choose to eat impacts the underwater world

“Here [in the seas], life is collapsing even faster than on land. The main cause, the UN biodiversity report makes clear, is not plastic. It is not pollution, not climate breakdown, not even the acidification of the ocean. It is fishing.”
The Guardian, May 2019

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A vegan feast in Cuba.

On a warm evening, we drove in a vintage car to a deserted beach along the Caribbean Sea, to join a night ranger to monitor turtle hatchings. Much to my surprise, the pristine beach was covered in mounds of brown algae, and the ranger lamented that each year, the algae has been growing and turtles declining. Though it was the peak of the egg-laying season, we spotted no turtles as we patrolled the beach under the moonlit sky.

It took me a long time to understand how this algae maybe the direct consequence of our choice to eat seafood. Turns out, the world’s oceans are plagued by overfishing. For every 1 pound of fish caught for food, nearly 5 pounds of marine life is killed accidentally. This imbalance in the marine food chain causes unchecked growth of algae, which tend to crowd out corals and spread disease-causing bacteria.

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Algae mounds on a deserted beach near Cocodrilo.

Although I turned vegan because I couldn’t bear to support animal abuse, I learnt early on that the incredibly high carbon footprint of meat and dairy is raising water temperatures and increasing CO2 in the air, which in turn causes the bleaching of corals. But patrolling the beach that night, surrounded by mounds of algae, made the link between our dietary choices and life in the ocean much stronger.

Also read: How to Travel as a Vegan and Find Delicious Food Anywhere in the World

Individual actions matter

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Nene, the islander heading the coral restoration project with IOI Adventures.

I’ve met plenty of naysayers who think that one person’s choices don’t matter. They’ll tell you that we need government action, policy change, media attention, dedicated organisations or something bigger. And while we do need each of those, we’ll never demand or create them until we start caring on a deep personal level. We’ll never make environmental degradation an election issue and we’ll never raise our voice (or pen) against our consumption or food choices – until we take individual action.

In Cocodrilo for instance, the coral reef restoration and sea clean-up project came about because Nene, a Cuban islander, wanted to conserve the seas in his backyard. He’s been mesmerized by the underwater world since his first dive in 1988 (which he did with a friend but without any training), and many years later, started this one-of-a-kind project in Cuba with IOI Adventures.

Closer home in India, lawyer Afroz Shah’s disciplined efforts to work with the local community and clean up Versova beach in Mumbai every Sunday, brought back Olive Ridley turtles to the beach after just two years! I’ve met and heard of people who now live in climate resilient homes that don’t need air conditioning even in the hot Indian summer, who’ve embraced zero-waste living, and who choose to be vegan – not just for the animals and their own health but for the environment.

Ultimately, the choice is ours. We can wait around for the government or media to do something to save our oceans. Or we can take responsibility for the choices we make everyday.

volunteering in cuba, cocodrilo cuba, responsible travel cuba, cuba travel blog

Living in a time warp on Cocodrilo changed everything.

Have you learnt any interesting lessons on your travels lately? Have you chosen to make any inconvenient choices?

*Note: I’m really grateful to IOI Adventures for hosting me in Cocodrilo. Opinions on this blog, as you know, are always mine.

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BOLSONARO WINS US PRAISE AFTER LEAVING POOR WITHOUT DOCTORS

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BRAZIL 247)

(TO THE PEOPLE OF BRAZIL AND TO THE REST OF THE CIVILIZED WORLD, MOST OF THE PEOPLE HERE IN THE U.S. REALIZE THAT DONALD TRUMP IS TOTALLY MORALLY BANKRUPT)(OLDPOET56)

Politically Correct: The Acidic Evil That Is American Politics

Politically Correct: The Acidic Evil That Is American Politics

Good evening folks, tonight I wish to speak with you about a subject matter that is not near or dear to my heart, it is called political correctness. This subject matter touches each and every one of us on a regular basis in our daily lives. In its simplest form political correctness is the attempt to avoid offending anyone at anytime regardless of the subject matter. I believe that when most of us hear the term political correctness it is not a smile that crosses our face, it is more likely to be a disgusted frown. Today if a person says anything about a subject matter when it may in any way shed a light of truth on the events of today, if that truth in the slightest degree has any measure of negatives then you will be labeled as a hater. There was a time in this country when people were allowed to be honest in their speech but unfortunately that is not the case these days. Now if you say anything about anyone person or persons even if you are speaking the total truth to the best of your knowledge, you have become a hater or some kind of a bigot whom is very likely to be sued in court because you dared to be honest. In the past we could describe a dirty old man in simple terms/truths, these days political correctness (stupidity) airbrushed the truth stains away so that you don’t offend that dirty old man. These days that person is a sexually focused chronologically gifted individual. Laziness is now referred to as motivationally deficient. I am now no longer short being only five feet eleven and three-quarters inches tall, I am vertically challenged because I didn’t make it to at least six feet. It is comforting to know that I didn’t really have trouble with algebraic equations in college, I simply had a memory deficiency.

 

We could all just sit back in our Lazy Boy recliners with a glass of Jose Cuervo in one hand and a big blunt in the other and just sit back and laugh at American politicians and media talking heads as they spout this stupidity. The scary part of this is that what we the people call stupidity/political correctness, some of the fore mentioned people cultivate this ignorance as their personal gospel. This ignorance is a gospel of re-education and it does show via the ignorance and apathy we see and hear when today’s streamlined, bought and paid for politicians open their mouths. Today at almost all of our college campuses as well as the secondary and primary schools this re-education propaganda is widely referred to as diversity education. This ignorance that our politicians and the media push down our throats tries to please everyone all of the time and to never offend anyone any of the time. This is a nice story line if it were in a small child’s fantasy or Fantasy Island handbook but in the real world it is simply poison. Most all of us adults know that political correctness if allowed to play out and to become the laws of the land, we are all doomed to be the laughing-stock of the whole world. Today if people dare attempt to speak the truth about real world issues they are branded as haters or we are people with stone-age ideologies. Truth is that when people do dare to speak the truth on real issues what you say will most likely offend some people whom do not happen to agree with you. When we are cultivated away from the truth and told we can’t say such things isn’t this the same thing as saying to advance in our society today that you must either be and idiot, or an habitual liar?

 

For those who might think that this mental disease is a spin-off of the 1960’s and 70’s hippy drug culture then you need to crack open some college level history books and increase your knowledge on this subject matter. My friends, political correctness has been around and practiced through other cultures around the world far longer than any of us have been alive. Political correctness is really nothing more than cultural Marxism in some professors views and I can’t say that I disagree with them. If we compare the basic tenets of political correctness with classical Marxism the parallels of the two are very obvious. When Marxist Communists take over a country such as Russia, China, North Korea or Cuba the personal freedom of speech ceases to exist.

 

I leave you tonight with just one last observation, isn’t it amazing how much Russia and her politics have turned to look more like our politicians rhetorical babbling? Or, is it more correct to say that our government is starting to look more like the Russia of President Putin or even that of Germany of the mid 1930’s in that free honest intelligent conversation can be construed as a hate crime? Is political correctness in places like D.C., Hollywood and New York City going to be a nail in America’s coffin? Time will tell us all what the truth is but I totally have my doubts that anyone alive today will live long enough to see that day. Friends, good night, stay well, God Bless.

OAS: A HISTORY OF CRIMES AGAINST LATIN AMERICA

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BRAZIL NEWS AGENCY 247)

 

Politically Correct: The Acidic Evil That Is American Politics

Politically Correct: The Acidic Evil That Is American Politics

Good evening folks, tonight I wish to speak with you about a subject matter that is not near or dear to my heart, it is called political correctness. This subject matter touches each and every one of us on a regular basis in our daily lives. In its simplest form political correctness is the attempt to avoid offending anyone at anytime regardless of the subject matter. I believe that when most of us hear the term political correctness it is not a smile that crosses our face, it is more likely to be a disgusted frown. Today if a person says anything about a subject matter when it may in any way shed a light of truth on the events of today, if that truth in the slightest degree has any measure of negatives then you will be labeled as a hater. There was a time in this country when people were allowed to be honest in their speech but unfortunately that is not the case these days. Now if you say anything about anyone person or persons even if you are speaking the total truth to the best of your knowledge, you have become a hater or some kind of a bigot whom is very likely to be sued in court because you dared to be honest. In the past we could describe a dirty old man in simple terms/truths, these days political correctness (stupidity) airbrushed the truth stains away so that you don’t offend that dirty old man. These days that person is a sexually focused chronologically gifted individual. Laziness is now referred to as motivationally deficient. I am now no longer short being only five feet eleven and three-quarters inches tall, I am vertically challenged because I didn’t make it to at least six feet. It is comforting to know that I didn’t really have trouble with algebraic equations in college, I simply had a memory deficiency.

 

We could all just sit back in our Lazy Boy recliners with a glass of Jose Cuervo in one hand and a big blunt in the other and just sit back and laugh at American politicians and media talking heads as they spout this stupidity. The scary part of this is that what we the people call stupidity/political correctness, some of the fore mentioned people cultivate this ignorance as their personal gospel. This ignorance is a gospel of re-education and it does show via the ignorance and apathy we see and hear when today’s streamlined, bought and paid for politicians open their mouths. Today at almost all of our college campuses as well as the secondary and primary schools this re-education propaganda is widely referred to as diversity education. This ignorance that our politicians and the media push down our throats tries to please everyone all of the time and to never offend anyone any of the time. This is a nice story line if it were in a small child’s fantasy or Fantasy Island handbook but in the real world it is simply poison. Most all of us adults know that political correctness if allowed to play out and to become the laws of the land, we are all doomed to be the laughing-stock of the whole world. Today if people dare attempt to speak the truth about real world issues they are branded as haters or we are people with stone-age ideologies. Truth is that when people do dare to speak the truth on real issues what you say will most likely offend some people whom do not happen to agree with you. When we are cultivated away from the truth and told we can’t say such things isn’t this the same thing as saying to advance in our society today that you must either be and idiot, or an habitual liar?

 

For those who might think that this mental disease is a spin-off of the 1960’s and 70’s hippy drug culture then you need to crack open some college level history books and increase your knowledge on this subject matter. My friends, political correctness has been around and practiced through other cultures around the world far longer than any of us have been alive. Political correctness is really nothing more than cultural Marxism in some professors views and I can’t say that I disagree with them. If we compare the basic tenets of political correctness with classical Marxism the parallels of the two are very obvious. When Marxist Communists take over a country such as Russia, China, North Korea or Cuba the personal freedom of speech ceases to exist.

 

I leave you tonight with just one last observation, isn’t it amazing how much Russia and her politics have turned to look more like our politicians rhetorical babbling? Or, is it more correct to say that our government is starting to look more like the Russia of President Putin or even that of Germany of the mid 1930’s in that free honest intelligent conversation can be construed as a hate crime? Is political correctness in places like D.C., Hollywood and New York City going to be a nail in America’s coffin? Time will tell us all what the truth is but I totally have my doubts that anyone alive today will live long enough to see that day. Friends, good night, stay well, God Bless.

Politically Correct

Politically Correct

Good morning my friends. Today I wish to speak with you about political correctness. This subject matter touches each and every one of our lives. In its simplest form political correctness is the attempt to avoid offending anyone about any subject. I believe that when most of us hear the words politically correct a smile crosses our face if nothing else than because we know we are about to experience something that is just plain stupid, usually introduced by PhD’s. What new phrases have replaced some of our old standards, the geek ignorance is quite amusing at times. There was a time when the use of common descriptions didn’t bring out a law suit, C-4, or an M-60. In the past we could describe a dirty old man in simple terms, but, not anymore. The age of political correctness has changed the description of him into a sexually focused, chronologically gifted individual. Laziness is now referred to as motivational deficient. Friends, we are no longer short, those two inches I have shrunk since high school didn’t really happen, I can’t have that, it might hurt my feelings. It is comforting now to know that when I was in school that I wasn’t having trouble with Algebra after all, I was achieving a deficiency in equations.

 

We could just sit back in our recliners take another toke and grin at all the stupidity. But, do you know something a little scary? There is an entire subculture that takes this humor as their gospel. Trouble is these kooks get on school boards and try to get their gospel of re-education into our nations schools. At almost all of our college campuses some form of “re-education”, like Ebonics for example, are now part of the Freshman orientation but they are usually called by some generic name like “diversity education”. It is an attempt to please everyone all of the time and to not offend anyone any of the time. All sane people know that this is a total impossibility, even most of us folks who have lost our rockers knows that much about reality. In our country these days we dare not speak the truth about anything for most certainly it will offend someone or hurt someones feelings, or get us arrested or sued. Friends isn’t this just another way of saying we must constantly and habitually lie?

 

For those who might think (that alone is becoming a novel thought as we are now always being told what we are to think) that the stupidity that is political correctness is a by-product of the 60’s and 70’s drug culture, I do have to disagree with you. Yet my beliefs are ancient, they go back to when people actually got an education when they went to school. These days kids graduate high school and can’t even read or make change for a dollar and then some school districts want to add this stupidity into the mix of the non education of the public school systems. Political correctness has been around and practiced within other cultures since at least WWI. In my opinion, political correctness is a lot like classical Marxism. If we compare the basic tenets of political correctness with classical Marxism the parallels of the two are very obvious. When Marxist Communists take over a country such as Russia, China, North Korea, Cuba or the U.S., ( oops, did I say that), personal freedoms simply go away, they cease to exist. Look what being politically correct did for Germany back in the 1930’s and 40’s. It is more than a little bit scary for those of us who are of gray hair who see so plainly how political stupidity takes away our freedom, and all forms of basic common sense.

Strong earthquake prompts tsunami threat message in Caribbean, Mexico

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Strong earthquake prompts tsunami threat message in Caribbean, Mexico

(CNN)The US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said tsunami waves were possible for several countries in the Caribbean and Central America, as well as Mexico, after a magnitude-7.6 earthquake struck 27 miles off the coast of Honduras.

“Tsunami waves reaching 0.3 to 1 meters above the tide level are possible for some coasts of Belize, Cuba, Honduras, Mexico, the Cayman Islands and Jamaica,” the agency said.
The earthquake was 44 kilometers east of Great Swan Island, Honduras, the US Geological Survey said.

Hurricane Irma Now A Category 5: Looks To Hit Puerto Rico Tomorrow

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

(CNN)Hurricane Irma has strengthened into an “extremely dangerous” Category 5 storm, the National Hurricane Center said, threatening to slam into northeastern Caribbean islands and Puerto Rico by Wednesday before possibly taking aim at the US mainland.

Irma was churning Tuesday morning in the Atlantic about 270 miles east of Antigua and Barbuda, heading west with maximum sustained winds of 175 mph — well above the 157 mph threshold for a Category 5 — the hurricane center said.
The storm’s forecast track currently has it near or over Antigua and Barbuda by late Tuesday or early Wednesday, and the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Wednesday afternoon.

“Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two, but Irma is forecast to remain a powerful Category 4 or 5 hurricane during the next couple of days,” the center said.
It is still too early to tell the exact impact Irma will have on the United States.
Computer models show the system eventually heading toward Cuba and possibly turning north toward Florida by the weekend.
While Irma’s exact path is uncertain, several islands in the Caribbean as well as Florida are bracing for the storm.
After declaring a state of emergency all across Florida, Gov. Rick Scott said President Donald Trump had “offered the full resources of the federal government as Floridians prepare for Hurricane Irma.”

Hurricane Irma is shown in the Atlantic at 7:12 a.m. ET Tuesday.

“In Florida, we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and while the exact path of Irma is not absolutely known at this time, we cannot afford to not be prepared,” Scott said in a statement.

Puerto Rico

Hundreds of people rushed to the stores, emptying shelves of food and drinking water just as Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard on Monday.
For hours, people also lined up outside hardware stores hoping to get plywood, batteries and power generators. If Irma knocks out power, Puerto Ricans said they are worried it would take weeks or months before the power is restored.

Crowds wait outside a store in Puerto Rico as Hurricane Irma nears.

“It (power) is something absolutely necessary, especially due to Puerto Rico’s weather. We need to have the A/C or a fan on all night,” a woman told CNN affiliate WAPA.
Last month, the director of Puerto Rico’s power utility, Ricardo Ramos Rodríguez, said several factors have made the island’s electric system “vulnerable and fragile,” WAPA reported.
One of those factors is the shortage of employees. Many workers recently retired or left their jobs for better prospects in the US mainland, Ramos Rodríguez said.
Public schools and officials at the University of Puerto Rico campuses have canceled classes, and many businesses remain closed.

Lines stretch through a Puerto Rico store as people try to buy generators.

Puerto Rico and a string of Caribbean islands are under hurricane warnings, including Antigua and Barbuda; the British and US Virgin Islands; Anguilla; Montserrat; St. Kitts; Nevis; Saba; St. Eustatius; St. Martin/Sint Maarten; and St. Barts, the hurricane center said.
The warnings are usually issued to areas that are expected to eventually experience hurricane-force winds (at least 74 mph), with the expectation that they would get tropical-storm-force winds of at least 39 mph about 36 hours after the alert goes into effect.
“Make a U-turn and die in the ocean, Irma. The Caribbean islands don’t need more problems!” Twitter user mujertropical wrote about the storm.

‘Better safe than sorry’

By the weekend, it’s possible that Irma could start heading to eastern Florida and also farther up the East Coast, CNN meteorologist and weather anchor Pedram Javaheri said.

See Hurricane Irma from inside an airplane

See Hurricane Irma from inside an airplane 00:34
“Everyone wants to see this at least meander away from the United States. The strength, the positioning, the timing of that troughs coming in to the eastern coastline will dictate exactly where Irma ends up,” Javaheri said.
In Miami, supermarkets are already selling out on water and nonperishable food. People are trying to beat the rush in case Irma makes landfall.
“I’ve been through hurricanes and they’re like ‘Oh it’s going to hit right here’ and then it hits 30, 40 miles up the coast and it kind of changes the way everything goes so better safe than sorry,” Greg Andrews told CNN affiliate WPLG.

Why Irma could be especially intense

Irma is a classic “Cape Verde hurricane,” meaning it formed in the far eastern Atlantic, near the Cape Verde Islands (now known as the Cabo Verde Islands), before tracking all the way across the Atlantic, CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said.
And Cape Verde storms frequently become some of the largest and most intense hurricanes. Examples include Hurricane Hugo, Hurricane Floyd and Hurricane Ivan.

Shanghai And China Bid Farewell To Their Old Friend Fidel Castro

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Shanghai bids farewell to old friend Castro

DOZENS of somber local residents visited the Consulate General of Cuba in Shanghai yesterday to pay their respects to late Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, who passed away on November 25.

According to consulate officials, approximately 180 mourners have flocked to the consulate in remembrance of Castro, who is affectionately nicknamed “lao ka,” or “Old Castro.”

The consulate has converted a room into a tribute site, where members of the public paid homage to the deceased Cuban leader by either signing the condolence book or pledging loyalty to his socialist cause. The public mourning period runs through noon tomorrow.

One of the many visitors was Xu Ming, a professor teaching at Shanghai-based Donghua University. During an emotionally charged visit to the consulate yesterday, Xu, 63, waxed nostalgic as he crooned a popular old song about the camaraderie between China and Cuba in the 1960s.

Like many of his generation, Xu grew up listening to those songs and reading about the exploits of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in textbooks and newspapers.

“With utmost sadness I learned of Mr Castro’s death in the newspapers,” Xu said as he signed the condolence book.

While the funeral cortege is carrying Castro’s remains on a four-day journey to their final resting place in Santiago de Cuba, where it all began for the 1959 revolution that catapulted him to power, Castro and his legacies are also being remembered in Shanghai, which he visited in 1995 and 2003.

“His death is not just a loss to the Cuban people, but to Chinese people and the whole world as well,” said Xu.

Castro is widely revered among Chinese as an icon who inspired generation after generation of youths with his romantic revolutionary ideals and struggles against imperialism.

“He is uniquely responsible for leading Cuba away from the US sphere of influence,” he said.

This isn’t easy considering the decades of economic hardship caused by the US blockade, which eased a little but hasn’t been entirely lifted, he told Shanghai Daily.

Standing in a room full of wreathes and elegiac couplets sent by local officials, citizens and Cuban expats in Shanghai and adjoining provinces, Xu said Cuba has demonstrated that a sovereign country can adhere to its own political system in spite of all the hostility from a formidable adversary.

“Although Fidel is physically gone, his ideas will be with us forever, and he will stay in our hearts forever because of what he did for the people and for the motherland,” said Lisbet Quesada Luna, Consul General of Cuba in Shanghai. “He devoted his deepest love to the motherland.”

Cuba’s Fidel Castro, former president, dies aged 90

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC NEWS AGENCY)

Cuba’s Fidel Castro, former president, dies aged 90

Fidel Castro. Photo: September 2010Image copyright AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Fidel Castro, Cuba’s former president and leader of the Communist revolution, has died aged 90, state TV has announced.

It provided no further details.

Fidel Castro ruled Cuba as a one-party state for almost half a century before handing over the powers to his brother Raul in 2008.

His supporters praised him as a man who had given Cuba back to the people. But his opponents accused him of brutally suppressing opposition.

In April, Fidel Castro gave a rare speech on the final day of the country’s Communist Party congress.

He acknowledged his advanced age but said Cuban communist concepts were still valid and the Cuban people “will be victorious”.