The big news is - Peter and I have made a snap decision and in May we are off to Cuba. I am absolutely thrilled at the prospect and we are now in the wonderful pre-trip research phase.
It's a long way from Melbourne to Cuba and not possible, because of the embargo, to go via the United States, so we have opted to spend a few days en route in Santiago Chile, about which I know nothing. Or perhaps that should be 'knew nothing', because as I said, the research has begun.
One thing I have already learned is that the renowned socialist poet, Pablo Neruda, lived in Santiago. It is possible to visit his home, La Chascona, which was designed as a love nest for Neruda and his third wife Matilde Urrutia. La Chascona is in fact a Quechua word meaning dishevelled and was an affectionate reference to Matilde's curly unkempt hair. Apparently to protect themselves from prying eyes, Neruda had the house specially designed with no external windows. I am longing to see the pictures painted for him by his friend Diego Rivera, who was himself in a volatile marriage with Frida Kahlo at the time.
Neruda, who was a great supporter and advisor to Salvadore Allende, died just days after Allende was ousted in 1973 by the notorious military dictator Augusto Pinochet. One of Pinochet's first acts as leader was to ban public ceremonies marking Neruda's death. Ignoring this dictate, the people of Santiago lined the streets to honour the poet's hearse as it passed - such is the power of the written word.
Discovering inspiring stories like this is what makes the pre-trip research phase such a delight to me. And I haven't even got on to Cuba yet.
But I have been writing quite a few, what I hope will be, inspiring stories myself over the last month of so.
Earth Garden publications are on a mission to demonstrate how you don't have to live on a bush block to practise permaculture or live sustainably. Their new series 'City Permaculture' is the flagship for this mission and I am likely to have 4 stories in the second issue, due out in June. One article is about a couple (Melbourne City Rooftop Honey) who are establishing bee hives atop restaurants in the CBD. Another is about Alby Clark, who is turning a housing estate into an edible oasis (check out the post below 'Multi-tasking: bring it on!'). Ignoring the generation gap to team up for local change is the focus of 'The Dynamic Duo', while 'The 'Hood' is a tribute to a large group of young people in one of Melbourne's depressed inner suburbs, who are converting their adjoining houses into inter-linked farmlets, complete with bees, chickens, ducks and even goats, much to the consternation and admiration of their neighbours.
An entirely different group of people whom I find immensely inspiring are the video journalists of Burma, many of whom were recently unexpectedly released from prison by the new Burmese government. My update on the situation in Burma will be appearing in the upcoming Melbourne Pen Quarterly.
But in the meantime we will researching the delights of Havana, working hard on Spanish conversation and practising our salsa - Cuban style of course.