A Tale of Two Sisters: Worlds Apart in Upbringing, Three Hours Between Us in Distance

I hadn’t seen my sister in over three years. The pandemic made it difficult. I recently decided to change that and travel to our motherland: Cuba, to see her.

Old Havana, November 2022

I grew up without my sister. Politics and second marriages changed our childhood upbringing forever. I left for the United States when I was four, her 13 when she adjusted to her new life without our father. I learned on this trip that he didn’t tell her he was leaving with his new wife and four-year-old daughter to the States. A fact she shared with me on this trip. “Cowardice,” she said. “That’s the only way I can describe our father’s actions.” I couldn’t challenge her. I had to agree. I thought, what if I were in her shoes? I would feel the same.

It was unfair to her. To only have a father until the age of 13, whereas I had him until I was 30. And although I had him longer than my sister, that didn’t mean we lived happily ever after. He was conflicted. Leaving a child behind couldn’t have been easy. He never expressed this loss to my mother or me, but I always felt something was missing, a longing he could never fulfill.

When I arrived in Cuba, it was unbearably hot. We are well into fall in the U.S., and my body temperature has adapted accordingly. “Oh, it’s breezy now,” my sister said before I arrived. After eight days there, I was still waiting for this breeze. Thirty-one degrees Celsius/88 Fahrenheit doesn’t exactly call for a momentary gust of wind. But that was the least of my discomfort. There was a toilet paper shortage, a lack of bottled water in stores, limited napkins, and four currencies to keep track of. Before I arrived in Cuba, I knew things were in short supply, like the U.S. or the rest of the world, but not to this extent. I was outraged. Where was all the money going into Cuba (over 65% by foreign countries) going towards? “It’s the embargo,” my sister would say. “Do you really think Cuba will thrive if the embargo is lifted? I asked. What about all the government corruption on the island?” My sister stood behind her statement. She also discussed why Putin wasn’t the enemy; Ukraine was. I was speechless. Who is this person? I knew she didn’t share all my Western views, and we both disdained Trump. But saying Ukraine is the villain didn’t sit well with me.

View From El Malecon, Vedado, Cuba November 2022

We stopped talking about politics. It was a mutual decision. We both wanted to enjoy each other’s company, free of tension and disagreements. After all, I had to travel to a communist country to see a sibling I missed and loved. Before he passed, our father made it a point for us to communicate by letters in the 90s to get to know one another, once he couldn’t write her because his diabetes had taken sight from his right eye. We’ve been close ever since. To feel her warmth in person is worth forgoing essentials I sometimes take for granted in the U.S. Until next time, Cuba! May things get better for you.

Essential Travel Accessories That Will Simplify Your Life – A Proven Testimonial

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Today’s the first day of fall, although the 90-degree weather permeating the East Coast would have you believe otherwise. We’ve made it to the autumnal equinox. And, with summer soon becoming a distant memory and the inevitable autumn leaves already making their presence known on New York City streets. It’s time to think about practical fall gear. Here are some useful products to ease your commute to: school, work or a weekend getaway and keep those summer travel memories fresh and plans for your next vacation tangible and seamless.

Before I embark on any trip, I’m always in a perpetual search for the perfect travel tote. Even though I’ve acquired handbags, backpacks and luggage (hard and soft-shelled) in a variety of colors, belonging to a host of brands, I can’t seem to rely on any one to fulfill all my travel needs. What are these needs? 1) They can’t have too much hardware and add too much weight to the bag 2) The bag must endure all travel conditions and should not absorb water 3) It must be stylish enough to camouflage with any outfit I own.


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Photo: Courtesy of ECHOS Communication

Inspired by the fashion capital of the world, the Parker Tote offers stylish New York women on-the-go a versatile hybrid backpack for their laptop, keys, light change of clothes, and makeup fundamentals. There are enough compartments to carry your most coveted small accessories. The smart bag transforms into a 15.6 laptop compartment tote with a fun striped padded interior that will hug your device and keep it safe. It’s ideal to travel with in the rain and has conveniently placed backpack straps and overhead luggage handles with light gold hardware. It was a lifesaver as I traveled through meetings between New York and New Jersey with an overnight stay. The Parker Tote is available in black and retails for $69.99. Find it on: Solo New York’s website.



Animation: Courtesy of ECHOS Communication

Let’s face it. Camouflage print is back in a big way – not just in Women’s and Men’s Ready-To-Wear fashion; we’re talking water bottles, sunglasses, linoleum tiles and wallpaper. Yes, camo has become as permanent as home fixtures. The fun and super vibrant brand, Solo New York, founded in 2008, has introduced the subtlety cool Packable Backpack. But, aren’t all backpacks packable? Yes, what makes this backpack exciting and different is its sleek black camo design, ultra-light weight of .38 lbs., and its ability to be folded into a pouch that fits into the palm of your hand. The Packable Backpack functions as a duffle and takes up virtually no space and has the capacity to fit 13 lbs. (24 liters); can’t deny its multi-functionality. Whether you’re on your way to the grocery store to pick up a few things or at the latest hottest festival and need to safeguard your food and beverages – search no more. You’ve found your travel bag. The Solo New York Packable Backpack retails for $19.99. Get yours today at Solo New York’s website.



Photo: Courtesy of ECHOS Communication

Alas, the age-old question: what should I wear during that oddly familiar time between the end of summer and beginning of fall? You’re chilly in the morning and perspiring heavily mid-to-late afternoon as your fall sweater or jacket has let you down. Luckily, the Kora brand – a company specializing in high performance technical clothing has a transitional piece that will accommodate your sweater or light jacket needs. What’s really nice about the Kora Xenolith sweater is that it has insulation, but not so much so that you become overwhelming hot –indoors or outdoors – during these perplexing Indian summer temperatures. The Hima-Layer Yardang 240 fabric – a Merino-Yak wool blend, designed to help you maintain a comfortable body temperature and odor free. It has practical features, such as: thumb loops, and extra zipper for ventilation, and an inside pocket for keys, sunscreen or cell phone. I’ve worn the Kora sweater during 60-75 degree weather morning walks and as a workout cover-up, before and after my workouts, without becoming overheated. It’s an invaluable piece of clothing that will meet your late summer and fall needs; I suspect it will be a great layering piece for the brutal winter months to come! The Kora Xenolith Sweater is available in Epidote Green or Steatite Gray and retails for: $250. To learn more about the Kora company (founded in 2013) and to get your hands on the Xenolith Sweater, visit Kora’s website.

The Perils of International Travel

FeetphotoFinally traveling to my dream destination has been one of the highlights of my life these past few years. Behold Thailand; 20 hours of travel time; one boyfriend with a fear of flying, and few time zones later, I made it there. Precisely, during Southeast Asia’s rainy season, we arrived to our hotel in Bangkok, our first stop in our tour of the country. Thailand is like Miami in that there will be short bouts of massive downpours throughout the day and then a blazing sun infiltrates the sky like clockwork shortly after.

This had been my longest trip yet – in my wanderlusting adventures. We connected from JFK to Dubai, and the 12 hours spent on the plane were not as painful as I had imagined. Emirates fed us every two hours as if we were toddlers ready for our next meal. I awoke from a semi-conscious slumber to eat Emirates’ version of D’Giorno pizza. Not that I’m a fan of D’Giorno pizza or ever buy it at home, but there was something so comforting about being given a hot pizza, in complete darkness, in a cute little pizza box for one. The free wine and beer didn’t hurt either; it aided in the passage of time.
Jet-lagOn the return trip home – everything changed. With the 4 security checkpoints in Dubai’s airport, I took off my shoes twice, they scanned me for weapons and metals at least three different instances and they checked the photos on my Cannon camera. Odd! All this securing made the plan late by 3 hours. Where was my pleasant flight experience? What happened to me feeling like a coddled toddler? Sitting on the aisle, I was constantly woken up by the abrupt stewardesses bumping my arms or legs as they hastily tended to passengers. Instead of 12 hours to JFK the flight was close to 15 – big difference! Although my boyfriend and I kept getting up every few hours to stretch and stimulate circulation in our limbs, when we got home, we both noticed are ankles were so swollen they had become cankles. Mine were bruised. I was shocked. Where did these old lady legs come from? I had to take a sleeping pill to forget about the situation and woke up the next day at 4:15pm. One week later and I’m still feeling the effects of the trip. I sleep two to three hours max a night and feel drowsy around 3pm daily. What fresh Hell is this? I was only gone for 10 days. How long will it take to adjust to New York time? This is some severe jet lag, man!