Pandora’s visiting Cuba! But it won’t be fun.

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…

  1. Family visits
  2. Official Government Business
  3. Journalistic Activities
  4. Professional Research and Professional Meetings
  5. Educational Activities, including People-to-People Contact.
  6. Religious Activities
  7. Public Performances, Clinics, Workshops, Athletic and Other Competitions and Exhibitions.
  8. Support of the Cuban People
  9. Humanitarian Projects
  10. Activities of Public Foundations or Research or Educational Institutions.
  11. Exportation, Importation, or Transmission of Information or Informational Materials.
  12. 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 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.


3 responses to “Pandora’s visiting Cuba! But it won’t be fun.

  1. I recall a Cuba video I saw years ago… yep, here it is.

    Look on Youtube and search for “cuba sailboat cruising”… looking for the story of a poor fellow run aground on the “South Coast”…

    I don’t relish hearing stories like this from Pandora ! But, I’m intensely curious to hear about Cuba.

    My daughter is running her first trip to the BVI this coming April – she asked me along for backup, tough job, i guess i’ll ask leading questions from time to time.

    cheers, Frank from Cincy.

    • Frank: Yes, being aground would be a cruise stopper, that’s for sure. I am told that the Navionics Charts are quite good for the south coast. We have a friend that ran aground on the north coast two years ago. They did manage to get off and continued on their way, with a lot of help from from Cuban’s. However, upon returning to the US, directly from Cuba, they caught all sorts of Hell from US Customs. And that was in spite of being Canadian.

  2. Hi Bob & Brenda
    5. Educational Activities, including People-to-People Contact.
    I believe number # 5 would apply to Brenda. There is an opportunity to source out new plant materials for her fiber arts. Also an opportunity to learn new fiber art techniques practiced in Cuba. As well Brenda may like to share her many talents. I once worked with a lady from Cuba, from time to time she wore beautiful handmade lace shirts. With Brenda along, no doubt there will be much people-to-people contact in reference to her talents and winning smile. There is an opportunity to support for the hand craft traditions of Cuba as well. You’ll be fortunate to visit Cuba before the throngs of Americans are allowed into the country. This detour will be a blessing in disguise. Wish I could join you! On a more mundane note, you may want to look into the use of credit cards. I don’t believe the U.S. allows our credit cards to run there. May
    I suggest you email me and I’ll refer you to someone who has worked out these glitches. Wishing you all a health and happy holiday season.

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