Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Talking to strangers on the train

Boarded my evening commuter train a bit early. There was a couple sitting where I usually sit. I could tell they weren’t commuters. We spoke and I asked them where they came from. They said they were from Honduras but their accent said told me they originated elsewhere. We chatted for a few minutes and I asked them if they were originally from Minnesota. They looked at each other and then at me. They were and they wanted to know how I knew. I told them I'm married to one and they sound like Minnesotans. They laughed and we talked a little about it since I’ve been there a few times myself.

Turns out they are visiting NY, staying with a friend in Westchester. They were coming back from a private group tour at the MMA which they booked a few weeks earlier. They odd thing to them was that their tour guide, a Russian born docent, was married to a childhood friend of the woman. When he saw their names on the tour list he bought some gifts to give them: Georgian wine and chocolate from Azerbaijan. 
In the first picture the woman has a Minnesota expression on her face that says, with that accent, "Oh no, you want to take my pictureOh Goodness, I guess it's okay."

 The train was crowded and a couple took to the last two seats in our section. To make the connection complete, the woman, though raised in Brooklyn, was born in Azerbaijan, too. Her husband, as it turns out, is from Norway. 

If this was fiction, you’d think it was too amazing to be true.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Havana Without Makup book release and discussion

Herman Portocarero
From the announcement for the event (indeed not one word in the following paragraph was written by me)

"As Havana prepares for inevitable transformations, Herman Portocarero offers an essential exploration of “the complex soul of a unique city.” Join us as we discuss his just-published book, Havana without Makeup, an homage to a city of contradictions, marked by rich architecture and culture on the one hand and dilapidation and isolation on the other.
Portocarero has been at the forefront of the island’s recent history for over two decades; he served first as the Belgian ambassador and later as the European Union ambassador to Cuba. With his unparalleled understanding of Cuban history, politics, and society, the insights Ambassador Portocarero has gleaned are indispensable for understanding Havana at this significant moment." 

The book is published by Turtle Point Press.

The event was at the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. The panel consisted of:
  • Herman Portocarero, former EU Ambassador to Cuba
  • Alana Tummino, Senior Director of Policy and Head of Cuba Working Group, Americas Society/Council of the Americas; Senior Editor, Americas Quarterly (moderator)
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