It’s Monday and I am thinking hard about where Pandora will be this winter.
Now that we won’t be in the BVI, (that still bugs the heck out of me), the question for frustrated BVI wannabees, is what now?
Here’s an idea. How about going to Cuba? I had kicked this idea around months ago but the process seemed overwhelming with formal State Department approval required and all. I had heard that I might be able to plan a visit without direct approval and while the same 12 reasons that are acceptable for visiting Cuba still apply, there might be a way to visit without going through a formal written approval process.
As a point of reference, a detailed document describing the rules for visiting Cuba are described in this document from the State Department. However, if you don’t want to wade through the whole thing, the 12 reasons are…
- Family visits
- Official Government Business
- Journalistic Activities
- Professional Research and Professional Meetings
- Educational Activities, including People-to-People Contact.
- Religious Activities
- Public Performances, Clinics, Workshops, Athletic and Other Competitions and Exhibitions.
- Support of the Cuban People
- Humanitarian Projects
- Activities of Public Foundations or Research or Educational Institutions.
- Exportation, Importation, or Transmission of Information or Informational Materials.
- Export Transactions
I have highlighted in red, the section that I believe applies to me, #3 Journalistic Activities under the section of the code, #515-563 Journalistic activities in Cuba. (a) General license. The travel-related transactions set forth in §515.560(c) and such additional transactions as are directly incident to journalistic activities in Cuba by persons regularly employed as journalists by a news reporting organization or by persons regularly employed as supporting broadcast or technical personnel are authorized.
Confusing? Yes indeed. So, what’s a blogger to do, especially one who doesn’t get paid for his/her efforts? Am I employed? I think so and to paraphrase the VISA commercial, “for me, writing for www.sailpandora.com is well, PRICELESS”. So, I called the State Department of course and talked to Rubin in the Compliance Division of the Office of Foreign Asset Control.
My question to my new buddy Rubin was to find out if I needed to make a formal application to go or if I could operate under what he described as a “general license”. That class of travel assumes that you are going for an approved reason and that you will keep records of what you did while you were visiting in case the State Department ever wants to check up on me. He was careful to point out that general tourism isn’t approved which I guess means that I can’t “have fun” while doing it.
Not to tell a lie, I did mention to Rubin that writing and researching while we were in Cuba was likely to be fun although perhaps a bit less so as neither of us speak Spanish. “OK, as long as you aren’t having fun…”, said Rubin. That’s going to be a tall order as I am not sure that I am capable of keeping a dour look on my face the WHOLE time I am visiting.
Going around Cuba with a permanent scowl on my face just to prove that I am not having fun will be tough given my nearly perpetual cheery nature. This aspect of my personality is particularly annoying to Brenda, especially before she has had a cup of coffee in the morning. Speaking of coffee, I wonder if you can get decaf coffee in Havana… I’d guess I’d say…“Puedo tomar una taza de café descafeinado por favor?” They’d reply… “De ninguna manera. ¿Que eres? Un yankee weasily ?” Brenda, what did he say? Beats me. I don’t speak spanish.
However, I’d say it with a smile. I submit this shot of me looking my usual self. Sunny? Annoying? You be the judge…Never mind about that. So, here’s where we are now. It seems that Brenda and I CAN go to Cuba and we plan to write about our visit. However, and this is VERY IMPORTANT, we promise NOT TO HAVE FUN while we are there. Ok, ok, got it.
So, there you have it. Pandora’s definitely, or very likely… I think, visiting CUBA this winter.
Now I have to find out how much it’s going to cost for insurance to do this trip. I’ll bet my broker is going nuts with my change in plans, yet again.
Yes Rubin, trust me, I am pretty sure we won’t have even a little fun while we are there and I am sticking to that. However, as miserable as we will be, we will just have to tough it out. Besides, we do like old cars.Who knows, this might be me after our visit. Besides, I am in touch with my feminine side after all. Perhaps a visit to my dermatologist will be in order.
One way or the other, no rest for the “retired” weary. Cuba here we come, I think.