Friday, February 24, 2006

American and Canadian Baseball Fans to Attend Cuban Playoffs
by: Marcel Hatch

Eighteen intrepid baseball fans are about to score a home run by flying to Havana for the last three games of the Cuban National Series.

The trip is being organized by Vancouver-based CubaBall Tours with an Air Canada departure from Toronto scheduled for March 24, 2005. The group will be escorted by Canadian baseball historian Ernest "Kit" Krieger, who has booked front row seats for the final matches of the series in Havana and Pinar del Rio.

Between games tour members will meet with Cuba's Baseball Commissioner, other officials, and players in the Cuban League. Krieger hopes this trip will build ties of understanding between North American fans and players and their Cuban counterparts. "We want to revive the tradition of openness between game lovers the Cubans established from the earliest days of baseball."

"Our annual trip will explore past and living baseball history. We'll meet and exchange stories with contemporary players and the legendary Conrado Marrero, the last surviving major leaguer in Cuba." Krieger highlights other activities: "We'll join in the lively baseball Pena in Parque Central, visit baseball monuments in several provinces, tour stadiums, and see and enjoy all western Cuba has to offer -- which is a lot!"

The registration deadline for this unique one-week trip is March 3, 2005, and some seats are still available. Hotel accommodations with breakfast, group transfers, tours and activities listed on the itinerary, guides, and the best seats at all scheduled games are included in the US$1,449 per person ground price (plus US$169 single supplement, if required). Airfare and the US$25 Cuban departure tax are extra.

CubaBall assists participants arriving from the United States with Cuba flight arrangements and details U.S. government restrictions on travel to the island.

Culinary Traditions Of Cuba
by: Kirsten Hawkins

The East Caribbean island of Cuba has a rich cultural heritage from which has arisen culinary traditions that are as vibrant and varied as the variety of cultures that have contributed to the development of this distinct and delicious cuisine. In addition to the ancient influence of the native peoples of Cuba, the Spaniards brought their own culinary styles, tinged by those of the Moors who held huge parts of Spain for centuries. The slaves that were brought from Africa made significant culinary and cultural contributions, with other culinary traditions being brought to the island with the French colonists fleeing uprisings in Haiti.

As these various influences came together, a distinctly Cuban flavor and style evolved, which is reminiscent of country peasant styles of cooking by oral tradition and eye, rather than relying on specific measurements and the creation of dishes that tend towards the simple and hearty, and that can be left on their own to simmer. Fussy, heavy sauces are unusual and deep-frying is simply not a favored cooking method. The island nation, naturally, uses a great deal of seafood in its cuisine, which encourages the use of simple cooking techniques and spicing that is meant to enhance, not smother, natural flavors.

The most common spices used in Cuban cuisine are garlic, cumin, oregano and bay or laurel leaves. Sofrito is also popular, and used in a wide range of dishes, from those of beans to those of meats to those that are made from a base of tomato sauce. A typical sofrito is made of green pepper, onion, garlic, oregano and black pepper fried in olive oil until the pepper, onion and garlic are soft and translucent and the flavors blend to perfection.

The dense, nutritious, energy producing vegetables commonly used belie the African and native peoples’ influence on the cuisine of Cuba. Yuca, malanga, boniato, and plantano are among these, and are often simmered together with complementary vegetables and served simply, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with chopped fresh onion – a satisfying, strengthening and simple dish for a hard working people.

Meats are often prepared using island flavored marinades of that use lime juice or the juice of a sour variety of the orange as a base. Then, the meats are roasted or simmered very slowly with spices, often for hours. Beans and rice are an essential part of most meals, with black beans being well known as a Cuban specialty.

Cuban cuisine is also notable for its baked goods, which include a variety of turnovers. Some are filled with spiced meats and other types feature a particularly Cuban blend of cream cheese and guava paste. Flan is among Cuba’s most beloved dessert items.

In Cuban cuisine, the subtle flavors of healthy foods are enhanced by cooking and spicing methods designed to bring out the best in each component of a dish. The culinary traditions of Cuba are a delight to the tongue, naturally, but they also offer a fascinating glimpse into a culture that has brought together many varied elements to create a cohesive whole.

Post-Cuba Reflections: Appreciation and Balance
by: Susanne Pacher

As I sit here in the morning, listening to the rhythmic salsa of Manolito Simonet y Su Trabuco, I am reflecting back on my 16 days in Cuba and all that I have experienced and learned.

My time in Cuba has been the single most interesting and amazing travel experience in my life so far - bar none. I have never jumped head first into a vastly different culture like this before, and it has, without exaggeration, been a head-twisting experience.

No doubt I fell in love with the city of Havana, I find it an amazing, beautiful and multi-faceted place. No doubt I had a really special experience with the people, and I made new friendships, with local Cubans as well as with a small crowd of international people who shared this language-learning experience with me at the University of Havana.

There is also no doubt that going to a totalitarian Communist country shifts your mindset just a little. Starting with the shortages (of food, of writing paper, toilet paper and toilet seats, gasoline, public transportation, consumer goods etc. etc.), to the constant presence of the police, to the palpable sense of guardedness, in some cases even paranoia, among the population. The watchful eyes of the authorities are everywhere and you have to be very careful about how you act and what you say.

You start to realize you have entered a totally different world. I was really careful not to try to reveal the sources of my information because I honestly did not want to jeopardize my friends and acquaintances in Cuba who were willing to share their candid opinions.

You have also entered a country where private property and private business are all but forbidden, but strangely enough, everybody has turned into an entrepreneur. Cuba is truly a country with a myriad of ironies and contradictions.

On the other hand, you see a people who are hospitable and very friendly once they know you (and once you get beyond the constant hustling directed at the tourists). Although you constantly hear about the daily struggle ("Hay que luchar"), you see a people that know how to celebrate and enjoy life in all forms. Cuba's sensual music is just one way of expressing that joy of life.

But beyond my Cuban impressions I have learned a few more personal things. First and foremost, I have learned to enjoy what I have at home, right here in Toronto. (Believe me, I have never enjoyed the luxury of a toilet seat so much.....)

No doubt in my mind, through a fluke of immigrant fate , I have chosen one of the best countries in the world to live in: a safe country, a prosperous country, a free country with a good balance between individual freedoms and collective well-being, a pluralistic and tolerant country, free from repression, surveillance and dogma.

Last but not least, I have also learned to appreciate my own life situation more: my comfortable life in Toronto, my freedom to be an entrepreneur, my freedoms as a woman. And most significantly, I have come to appreciate my personal relationships, my friendships and my marriage and even my physical health, which, in my anxious quest to build two businesses at the same time and to get this website up and running as quickly as possible, had been suffering for a while.

As a result of all these experiences, I have decided to slow things down a bit and to achieve more balance by dedicating more time to my husband and our home life, our friends, our sports activities and, in line with Cuban philosophy, to just enjoy and appreciate life a little more.

After all, as I saw in Cuba, life is not all about business, work and making money...

Fidel Castro's Mansion

Living in the lap of luxury, here is a satellite photo of Fidel Castro's one of many mansions in La Habana, Cuba.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Cuba Announces Roster for World Baseball Classic

After almost not playing in the classic, and finally being invited, Cuba announced its 60-man provisional roster for the World Baseball Classic (WBC) to be held from March 3-20 at stadiums in the United States and Puerto Rico.

The Olympic and World Cup Champion Cubans are scheduled to play their first round games in Group C against Panama, The Netherlands and Puerto Rico on March 8, 9 and 10 in Puerto Rico.

According to the WBC website, the teams must announce their final 30-player roster at least 24 hours before commencement of the tournament. The squads are required to have a minimum of 13 pitchers and three catchers.

The 16-team tournament, which includes both amateur and professional players, is divided into four groups and has US Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association as its main organizers.

The second round will be played from March 12-16 between the top two teams from each group in the opening round of play. Cuba would play its second round games in Puerto Rico. Both the semi finals and finals will be played in San Diego, California on March 18 and 20.

Cuba's provisional roster includes the following players:

Catchers: Ariel Pestano, Eriel Sanchez, Yulexis La Rosa, Vladimir Garcia and Roger Machado.

Infielders: Joan Carlos Pedroso, Danny Miranda, Loidel Chapelli, Ariel Borrero, Leslie Anderson, Yorelvis Charles, Rudy Reyes, Hector Olivera, Michel Enriquez, Yulieski Gourriel, Amaury Suarez, Vismay Santos, Eduardo Paret, Yorbis Borroto, Juan Carlos Moreno, Luis Miguel Navas.

Outfielders: Carlos Tabares, Osmani Urrutia, Frederich Cepeda, Juan Carlos Linares, Yoandry Urgelles, Alexei Ramirez, Yoennis Cespedes, Yoandy Garlobo, Andy Zamora, Alfredo Despaigne, Dayan Viciedo, Reutilio Hurtado, Serguei Perez

Pitchers: Danny Betancourt, Alberto Bisset, Pedro Luis Lazo, Yuneski Maya, Dennis Suarez, Yadel Marti, Yosvany Fonseca, Jonder Martinez, Yulieski Gonzalez, Jose Angel Garcia, Vicyohandry Odelin, Yadier Pedroso, Luis Borroto, Norberto Gonzalez, Adiel Palma, Robelio Carrillo, Valeri Garcia, Alien Mora, Ormari Romero, Luis Miguel Rodriguez, Ubisney Bermudez, Alberto Soto, Israel Soto, Maikel Folch, Vladimir Baños, Yosvany Perez.

The provisional roster is made up of athletes from all Cuban provinces and will be coached by Benito Camacho and Higinio Velez with the assistance of outstanding Cuban baseball figures such as Javier Mendez, Juan Castro, Alexander Ramos, Rey Vicente Anglada and Victor Mesa.

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