Inside Cuba: A GeoEx Journey -- Organoponico

Organoponico Urban Organic Farm in Cuba by GeoEx

Urban organic farms, or organoponicos, are a classic example of Cuban ingenuity and resourcefulness. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Cuba saw an end to a preferential trade relationship that had propped up the nation’s economy for decades. Overnight the country lost 80 percent of its imports and 80 percent of its exports, and its GDP dropped by over 34 percent. Thus began an economic crisis that Fidel Castro dubbed the “periodo especial,” and the organoponico movement was born. No longer able to rely on their government to provide for their everyday needs, Cubans turned to their rooftops and nearby empty lots and began growing the food they were no longer able to import. In 1995 the organoponico at Alamar (pictured), 15 miles east of Havana, started as a tiny garden tended by six novice farmers. Seventeen...

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Inside Cuba: A GeoEx Journey -- Market

GeoEx has been organizing and operating educational exchange programs to Cuba since November 2012. These programs have proven inspiring and illuminating for all participants, both visitors and hosts. This week we’re spotlighting Cuba with five photos -- and their background tales -- from a recent program led by GeoEx’s Cuba expert Adam Vaught. From the buying and selling of homes and cars to the stalls on the farmers’ markets, private enterprise is slowly taking root in formally socialist Cuba. Author Rafael Hernandez claims that in Cuba you have six different kinds of food markets, with the state-run subsidized market on one end of the spectrum and the black market on the other. “Capitalism has been here for years,” Hernandez says, “but it is only recently that the government has taken steps to institutionalize and encourage it. They know...

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Inside Cuba: A GeoEx Journey -- Art

The small town of Jaimanitas lies about twenty minutes west of Central Havana on a stretch of rugged coast. This fishing community would feel just like many others across the island if it weren’t also home to one of Cuba’s most famous contemporary artists. Renowned painter and ceramicist Jose Fuster is part of a small group of Cubans who, during the last 50 years, were given permission by the government to leave the country. Fuster spent years traveling across Europe and South America promoting his work and in doing so gained international acclaim. For our GeoEx groups, he has been gracious enough to open up his home and private gallery for a delicious lunch as well as a private tour. The visit is as much about admiring Fuster’s work as it is about understanding what community has meant to Cubans who are still...

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Exploring Tribal Crossroads of India and Myanmar

Tribal Crossroads Trip with GeoEx

Wordsmith Tom Cole, a member of the expedition where the idea emerged to create the company that would become Geographic Expeditions (originally InnerAsia), once wrote: “We travel to wake up. Life is swift and hazy. We are habitual creatures, following mildly comfortable ruts. As Miguel de Unamuno said, ‘To fall into a habit is to cease to be.’ The great religions (not by mere word-flinging is Buddha called The Awakened One), the poets, the philosophers, the guy at the corner store (if he stops to think of about it), tell us that we live most of our lives in a mist. Travel, like the best friend you'll ever have, gives you a little slap, Wake up! Wake up! Be!” Here at GeoEx, we are still as passionate about travel as we ever were, from our veterans to the newest, bright-eyed staffers. We’re still convinced the world is brimming with new gems, still in love with travel and...

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Embracing India

GeoEx Asia expert Sara Barbieri recently returned to India on a scouting trip, but this time she was joined by her 23-year-old niece. Together they traversed the length of the country, from Kerala in the far south to the Kashmir Valley in the far north. Sara shares impressions and photos, and reflects on seeing India through her niece's fresh eyes. It turned out that my niece, Samantha, had been dying to go to India. “It’s not a typical place like Europe,” she effused. “The culture is a world apart from ours.” Sam had never been to Asia, let alone on such a crazy, jam-packed itinerary. So off we went, my 23-year-old niece and I. Door to door, it was a 26-day journey/adventure/preposterous undertaking that I would do again in a heartbeat. We experienced such joy traveling in India. Sam embraced every experience, allowing herself to be enchanted and sharing her infectious smile—thereby enchanting those in her path. Her...

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Don George, Editor

Don George is Editor in Chief of Wanderlust: Literary Journeys for the Discerning Traveler. He has been Travel Editor for Salon.com and the San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle, as well as Global Travel Editor for Lonely Planet Publications. Don is the author of "The Way of Wanderlust: The Best Travel Writing of Don George" and of "Lonely Planet's Guide to Travel Writing." He has also edited eleven anthologies, including A Moveable Feast, The Kindness of Strangers, and An Innocent Abroad. E-mail him at [email protected].

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