Monday, May 26, 2008

Centro Historico de Guadalajara

You would never guess it was a Sunday night if you were in Guadalajara's Historical downtown. I took these pictures while I was walking around at about 10 at night. The main plaza was packed with people, as you can see in the photos. The colonial architecture looks especially beautiful at night, with the lights illuminating the intricate artwork of some of the cities oldest buildings. There is plenty of entertainment too! Plenty of entertainment too, as you can see in the videos of the capoeira show I took.

Teatro Degollado

Catedral de Guadalajara

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Tango in Guadalajara

Last night I arrived to Guadalajara, one of my new favorite places in Mexico. Two of my friends, Gaby and Bere, picked me up from the airport and we got the night started! They both have become very good dancers of Tango, the provocative dance from Buenos Aires. Our first stop was a place called Café el Carmen. On Friday nights they have a traditional Milonga, or place where people dance Tango, out on the square. Located in Guadalajara’s historic district, this is the typical Spanish plaza that is located in just about any city in a Spanish country. This is a beautiful little place with tall, looming trees surrounded by colonial architecture and of course, a church!

One of my favorite things to do is go to a Milonga with some friends, have a glass of wine, and dance a little Tango. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of places to do this in Boulder, so I normally have to wait until I am in Guadalajara or Argentina to do so! Gaby did pull me up for a dance, and I was very happy to still remember the 8 basic steps. Tango is a very romantic dance, and you really have to be able to feel the passion behind the music in order to dance. Reminds me of the glory days when I lived in Argentina!

For anybody looking for a good time in Guadalajara, check out the Café el Carmen on a Friday night, located at:

Jardín del Carmen
(frente al Ex-Convento del Carmen )
Andador Jacobo Gálvez 45-B,
Col. Centro
Guadajara, Jal.
Tel: 3658-2266

Check out this blog about tengo in Guadalajara.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Columbia, Venezuela, and Haita are the three most violent countries in Latin America

According to a recent study, Colombia, Venezuela, and Haiti are the three most violent countries in the Americas, and three of the most violent countries in the entire world. Colombia was the 11th most violent in the world, with Iraq coming in at #1.

Read more here.

Several other Latin American countries also score high up on the list. While these countries can be very dangerous, that does not mean that you should not travel there....just be careful.

I have traveled to many places in Latin America and have had relatively no problems. In Argentina the worst I got was a few counterfeit bills and I was actually robbed in La Paz, Bolivia, by the old mustard scam. After exiting a bus, a little old lady squirted mustard on my back-pack without me noticing. Afterwards, she pointed it out to me and offered me some paper napkins to help clean myself off. After a few seconds, I realized my back-pack was gone and so was she.

Despite this, Latin America remains very high on my list of places to go. If you are like me, a few set-backs like this will not deter you from going. So, here are a few words of advice:

1.) Know the language. This will help you interact with the locals and help you make friends. With so many tourists and so few that actually speak the local language, you will definitely be treated better and have people that will look out for you.

2.) Know the place. If you know a place like Colombia is dangerous, you will know to be extra careful. Ironically, if I had done my research before going to La Paz, I would have been wise to the mustard scam. Right after that happened, I consulted the Lonely Planet guide book to find the U.S. Embassy. I read about the mustard trick and really felt silly!

3.) Stay in a group whenever possible, and especially at night. When I was in Quito, Ecuador, I took a 5 block walk after dark to use the internet at an internet cafe. I was mobbed by a group of little kids that tried to pick-pocket me. I was followed by others after walking by them. That was the last time I went out by myself at night. Always take cabs that you call and if walking, make sure you are with at least one other person.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

On the road to Doi Inthanon, Thailand

One day while we were in Thailand , we rented a motorcycle
and rode from Ching Mae to Doi Inthanon, the country's
tallest mountain. This is what we saw on the way there.

Jeremy Klepper and David Stevens with a Thai woman. She works
at this roadside stand cooking food and serving drinks.

Some random stuff at a market.

This is a map we saw on the way. Good thing a lot
of people speak English in Thailand!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Cuba news from The Cuba Central Team 5/9/2008

Dear Friend:

This week, when President Bush addressed the 38th Annual Washington Conference on the Americas, he came to praise the wonders of video conferencing while disparaging the reform process in Cuba. He said in his speech:

"Yesterday I had a fascinating opportunity to speak with a leading Cuban dissident, a former political prisoner, and a wife of a man who is held in a Cuban prison simply because he expressed his belief that all people should live in a free society. Video-conferencing is one of the great wonders of the 21st century, and to be able to sit in the White House and talk to these three brave souls in Havana was a(n) inspiring moment for me."

He went on to say "there's no change at all," and said the regime had engaged in "empty gestures at reform."

Apparently, the president was so inspired by his video conference experience that he forgot to mention what he actually heard on the call from one prominent dissident, Marta Beatrice Roque. As covered by the AP, The Cuban Triangle, NPR, and others, Roque asked the President "to make it easier for Cuban Americans in the United States to visit family members on the island and send money to their relatives" there.

In other words, the President was asked by one of Cuba's leading dissidents to reverse the policies that he put into place four years ago now that Cuba's government is introducing the changes which the president and his administration dismiss as cosmetic. Apparently, videoconferencing has its limits. Having heard this appeal, the President announced, as ever, that U.S. policy would not change.

Meanwhile, in Cuba, the list of reforms adopted by the government continues to grow longer.

In the three months since Raul Castro took office, Cuba's government has removed wage limits for workers, ended restrictions on cell phones, ended limits on the use of tourist facilities by Cubans, ended restrictions on where Cubans fill their prescriptions, ended limits on the sale of consumer items such as DVD players and computers, reorganized the family doctor program, provided raises for retirees and court employees, provided titles to Cuban families for government owned housing, commuted death sentences, introduced decentralizing reforms for agriculture, and encouraged a broadening public debate about these changes.

While it is impossible to know where this process will ultimately lead, foreign governments have to decide whether applauding these changes or denigrating them will more likely lead to a better outcome for the Cuban people. The President appears to count himself as one of a dwindling number of critics for whom progress on Cuba will never be enough to provide even a measure of encouragement. It's hard to know whether it's worse to be wrong or simply irrelevant in the eyes of history. For now, our policy is both.

This week in Cuba news...

State enterprises allowed to spend more hard currency without specific approval

The Central Bank of Cuba doubled the amount of money state enterprises are allowed to spend without approval from a special committee from the bank, the Reuters news agency reported. Previously, checks of more than $5,000 CUC needed to be approved by the committee for approval of hard currency with the Central Bank. That amount has now been increased to $10,000 CUC ($10,800 USD) slightly increasing companies' financial autonomy. The resolution was passed on April 14th.

According to Phil Peters (, "it's a small step that would take on greater importance if it means that more steps to decentralize decision-making are on the way."

Government announces actions on Party, National Assembly

Cuba's new government is taking steps to shore up institutions ranging from the National Assembly to the Communist Party, the Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. Raul Castro announced last week that the Communist Party would hold its first congress in a dozen years in late 2009. Cuba will also look at strengthening the National Assembly, which announced the creation of 12 commissions on Monday to study everything from food production to national defense.

"The creation of the working commissions of the National Assembly comes at a time in which our country engages in an effort to deepen socialism, to make modifications and changes that will allow us to have a better and more efficient society without changing our independence or our system," National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon said.

You can read the Granma article here.

Yoani Sanchez receives Spanish award, not given permission to attend

Yoani Sanchez, who has gained worldwide acclaim for her Generation Y blog which criticizes the Cuban government, was honored Wednesday with a Spanish journalism award in absentia -the Associated Press reported. Sanchez was given the Ortega y Gasset Prize in digital journalism for creating her blog, which gets more than 1 million hits a month, mostly from abroad.

Cuban authorities did not approve Yoani Sanchez's request to travel to Madrid for the award ceremony. But the 32-year-old woman was still able to make some points. "Nothing of what I have written in these 13 months speaks as loudly as my absence from this ceremony," Sanchez said in a tape recording.

You can check out her blog here: Generacion Y


500 person fundraiser in Miami for terrorist Luis Posada Carriles

Marking his one year release from prison in Texas, Luis Posada Carriles was honored at a fundraiser in Miami aimed at raising money to pay for his legal expenses, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Posada, 80, up until now has kept a low profile since his release from a Texas prison a year ago and a federal judge's dismissal of the only U.S. charges against him -- making false statements to immigration officials. He is wanted in Venezuela on terrorism charges and under a deportation order for illegally entering the United States three years ago. Venezuela has demanded Posada's extradition over his involvement in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban passenger jet -- an attack that killed 73 people.

Venezuela's ambassador in Washington, Bernardo Alvarez Herrera, condemned the celebration of Posada as a mockery of justice and evidence of a Bush administration double standard in fighting terrorism. The U.S. government has never given Venezuela a formal answer to its 3-year-old request for extradition of Posada, despite a treaty providing for such cooperation that has been in effect since 1922, the ambassador said.

Analysts speculate that the U.S. government has dodged calls for prosecution of Posada for fear he would disclose details of CIA involvement in coups, assassination plots and scandals, including the Iran-Contra Affair. The Miami Herald reported that Posada made violent remarks at the recent event. "We must not wait for Fidel Castro to die...for Raul to make mistakes... liberty is not something we must beg for. It is conquered with the sharp edge of the machete. We ask God to sharpen our machetes because difficult times are arriving,'' he said.

A federal grand jury in New Jersey continues to weigh an indictment against Posada in connection with the bombing of Cuba tourist sites in Cuba in 1997. Posada initially acknowledged to The New York Times that he was involved in the Cuba attacks. But during his deportation proceedings, he recanted that statement, saying his English was poor and he was misunderstood.

The Cuban Government issued a statement on the case which you can read here.

The Center for International Policy will host a panel discussion on the case of Posada on May 22nd. You can find out more information here.

South Florida Congressional Races Update

Democratic candidates Raul Martinez, Joe Garcia and Annette Tadeo are shaking things up in traditionally Republican South Florida, the St. Petersburg Times reported. Raul Martinez, former mayor of Hialeah, enjoys support throughout the community, including many registered Republican voters. According to his campaign, over half of the money he has raised has come from Republicans.

The candidates draw much of their support on issues such as the Iraq war and the economy. However, according to a poll taken in 2007, 64 percent of Cuban-Americans want the 2004 restrictions on family travel l lifted. Both Martinez and Garcia pledge to do this. "Family is more important than ideology," says Garcia.

Victories in any of the three districts could lead to significant changes in U.S.-Cuba policy, especially relaxing hard-line restrictions on travel and financial support, policies that have grown increasingly unpopular among Cuban-Americans in Miami.

Cuban Judo team in Miami, protests and reconciliation

Members of the Cuban national Judo team are in Miami to compete in the 2008 Pan American Championships, the Miami Herald reported. This is the first Cuban national team of any sport to set foot in Miami for more than four decades.

Other Cuban national teams had been steered away from competing in South Florida over the years for fear of demonstrations, terrorism and possible defections. About a dozen members of the hard-line Vigilia Mambisa group -- showed up to protest the Cuban team's visit outside their hotel [See video here]. They waved Cuban flags and castigated local politicians for allowing ''representatives of Fidel Castro'' to compete on Miami soil.

However, many Cuban athletes that now live in Miami showed up to support the Cuban national team and Jose Rodriguez, executive director of USA Judo and a native of Cuba defended their participation.

A Cuban national coach reached out to a former Cuban judoka who had defected, presenting her with a surprise gift. Ronaldo Veitia brought to Miami three medals that belonged to Danieska Carrion, a former Cuban champion judoka who defected in Mexico City four years ago and now works as a coach with the U.S. national team. Two Cuban boxers -- Yan Barthelemy and Yuriorkis Gamboa - who live in Miami now were seen at the judo competition Thursday, greeting and supporting the Cuban judokas.

"The Cuban team has the right to come here and participate in an international sporting event. That's what the Olympic spirit is all about -- harmony, goodwill, peace. The fact that the Cubans are in Miami is one step forward to opening doors that have been shut for far too long,'' said Rodriquez.

Recommended Reading:

This week, the New York Times printed our letter to the editor in response to Marc Lacey's May 2nd article, where we point out the broader significance of the reforms in Cuba: A New Opening in Cuba.

Recommended Listening:

Here's NPR's report on the Bush-dissident conference call.

Thank you to everyone who contacted Florida Governor Crist last week to urge him to veto SB 1310, which will further complicate travel to Cuba! We have been told that the bill is still on his desk and he has not yet signed it. If you have not yet had a chance, you can contact him here.

Until Next Week,

The Cuba Central Team

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Funny Video: Cross Cultural Communications Gone Wrong

This video is hilarious! It also is exactly what we at Bolder Languages are trying to prevent. If you were to do something like this in an actual business meeting, you can forget about the deal! When conducting international business, it is very important to be respectful of other cultures. If you can speak the language and understand how to interact with a different culture, your chances of succeeding are far greater. Even little things, like a handshake vs. a kiss on the cheek can make a world of difference when traveling abroad or meeting people from other countries. Bolder Languages can design a class for you based on your country of interest that will make your travel and business experience so much more fun and fulfilling. Check out our website to learn more

Parody of American Professionals Seeking Work

My Uncle Dicki Stevens sent us this one. Thanks! If anyone else has a video like this, please send them to

Ching Mae Thailand

One of the many temples. These things are everywhere!

Hanging out on the roof-top of the hotel we stayed in. It was nice and hot!

You can go down by the main wall and buy one of these.
You put a candle in it, light it, and up it goes!

David Stevens flashing his bling! Nice Rolex that cost about $5
in the local market. Of course, it broke a week later!

Blog de mi amigo Fabio

Apparently my good friend from Cordoba, Argentina is about to embark on an adventure to Spain. Please visit his blog and look at his pics and stories. We wish you the best Sr. Boludo and I hope our paths cross again!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Bar hopping in Pai, Thailand

This is Jeremy Klepper hanging with a couple of the locals.
the guy on the right, is a great tattoo artist.

This is Jeremy with a couple of Mexicanas they met in Thailand.

This is Dustin Joseph doing what he does!


Canyon Land in Pai
Bar hopping in Pai, Thailand

Ching Mae Thailand

New group Spanish class in Boulder


In this Spanish class you will practice Basic level 1 of conversational Spanish from the very first class. You will learn how to make sentences in the present tense, you will learn regular and irregular verbs, articles, prepositions, verb to be, Spanish common expressions, saying and idioms. Along with this we will have fun games and interactive exercises that involve role playing. We will learn cross cultural issues and vocabulary in order to use them in dialogs for different situations and scenarios. No boring homework.


May 14th- June 18th. We will meet on Wednesdays from 6:00 to 7:30 pm; 6 sessions in total.

Location: Pearl St. Boulder


Only $130, materials fees included. Payment will be collected at the first day of class. Checks and cash are accepted.
If you think this class will help you to improve your Spanish communication skills please give us a call at 303.997.9207.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Language Guy

This guy is doing some pretty good stuff! Goes hand in hand with our theme of languages.

Stories from the Banana: Kinetics 2008

This weekend, the banana, the monkey, and the lawyer were back on the move, attending the Kinetics parade at the 29th St. Mall in Boulder. One of our French tutors, Michele, accompanied one the the floats, speaking French to the spectators. We just want to give a big thanks to Michele for helping out and to Paul Bailey, one of the organizers, for inviting us.

Budget Travel Blog

Cuba Central - The Blog