Snapshots of Cuba

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Some random snapshots of images that grabbed me along our way around the city of Havana, where the people are gracious and eager to be of help, the colors intensely beautiful (whether shiny and bright or well-worn by Father Time), the food is always interesting and often gourmet, the energy is high and the hustlers are hilarious. I found fascinating views in every direction, often unable to capture the action fast enough on my camera. Later on this day we took a bus to Trinidad, Cuba, a village along the southern coast, where all the colors, patterns and textures of Havana morphed into a more casual, beachy vibe that we found delightful. Let me say this again – the best thing we did for this trip, as we researched and planned it on the computer back in Colorado, was the decision we made to stay at Casa Particulars (Air B&B) rather than in hotels – the knowledge we gained from long conversations with the residents, living under the same roof with authentic Cuban families in their charming, tiny but tidy, immaculate homes – watching breakfast being prepared in the kitchen, seeing what the kids do for fun and what they are learning, being offered a tour of every room – were and will always be invaluable to us. There is nothing like the special experience of that, and the people of Cuba could not have been more hospitable and open with us. They love Americans. It is a sobering experience, at times, hearing about life under the dictatorship of R. Castro. The ways in which families cope, how they improvise, how they make the monthly food rations stretch, what their lives are lacking in, all reveal how hard it is to maintain faith and hope that things will ever change for the better. They would like a better life for their children, but they do not want to lose the soul of Cuba in the process.

More on Trinidad, Cuba in my next blog!

 

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Daily Prompt -Original

 

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Original Mixed Media painting by Jo Ann Brown-Scott, 18×24, titled FLAG

Here is a painting that encourages you to fly your own flag and be your very best version of the original you were meant to be. As they say, “Be Yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

 

 

This post is in response to the Daily Post Challenge – Original

The Buddha Tooth Relic Museum and Temple in Singapore’s Chinatown

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http://www.btrts.org.sg/english-home

photos taken in May, 2015 on my second trip to Singapore, copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott

It matters to me not what your personal religious beliefs and proclivities might me – there are places on earth made for the enjoyment of all people anywhere and any time. If you are unable to gain even some small satisfaction or comfort and appreciation from them, then read no further. But if you keep and open mind and heart, then read about this place that warms my soul.

The Buddha Tooth Relic Museum and Temple holds a special place in my heart, for reasons I may never fully understand. My second visit there happened this month and was more moving than the first.  Part of the reason is that I am a person who values deep connections with people, places and things. Familiarity is of great value to me; I build upon my visual memories, smells and tactile experiences by getting to know things better and better.

When a great Buddha dies he is cremated, leaving bone and teeth remnants (and perhaps other remains) that are considered sacred and holy. But even during his lifetime, fragments of hair, for instance, are bestowed upon people who deserve to have that remembrance of a great Buddha with the possibility that it could make a difference when needed the most. Thus there are various temples around the world which house Buddha fragments of some type or another. This relatively humble 4 story temple in Singapore’s Chinatown houses a tooth fragment, displayed in a two meter tall, solid gold stupa which is a draw for many people. The temple is always crowded with visitors and there always seems to be some fascinating ceremony or mass reading going on which adds to its energy and colorful nature. Monks in saffron robes chant, incense burns and offerings of only the most fresh and perfectly beautiful fruit line the alter.

The roof garden pagoda on the top level affords a near silent respite from the action below – and you enter its enclosed peacefulness through a door that shelters a giant red prayer wheel, one of the most beautiful I have seen, and immediately you are invited to spin it as you walk around it murmuring your most fervent hopes, thanks and wishes to the universe. A red columned hallway surrounds the inside garden where gurgling water is the only sound, flowing amid lush, multi-colored foliage and flowers. This is a place of privacy and hope. A place to bring friends who you care the most about.

Buddhism, as you probably know, is not a true religion but a way of life that, among other things, places value on every living thing no matter how humble or even how grand. No matter what you believe personally, if you can embrace just that one thought, you must be on the right path. Wars could be a thing of the past….if only….we all believed that one thing.