Friday, February 28, 2014

#185. or, Made in Canada

  It's been almost a week since the closing ceremony of the Sochi Olympics, and I still find myself looking for coverage when I'm surfing the guide, looking for something to watch on the television in the evening.

  I don't really participate in sports. Nothing organized. I played pond hockey in the glow of pick-up headlights with the neighbours. But these days, I'm more of an observer than a participator. I'd have to say that I like hockey only slightly more than CFL football, but I go to the football games because they're affordable. Other than that, I spend a good deal of my weekends, this time of year, sitting in gyms, watching Jr. high school basketball.

  As I get older during winters in Canada, I find myself wishing I was some place warmer. This winter was no different. Yet, it was, because I've been on a bit of an interesting ride over the last few weeks.

  First, I was fortunate enough to be able to take a break from the ice and snow, and travel to Cuba, which was, by the way, lovely. The bad thing about leaving Canada in the winter for Cuba, is that a week away is not quite long enough, and before you're even ready for it, you're thrust, kicking and screaming, back into winter. The difference this year, was that shortly after arriving home, the winter Olympics started, and it would seem, there's nothing better at helping me embrace the climate I choose to live in, than cheering on my winter nation in competitive sport.

  While the games were on, they were the staple of my viewing, and the more Canadian athletes performed with podium achieving ability, the more I wrapped myself in the icy blanket of the "True north, strong and free!" They weren't just athletes from Canada, but somehow, they dragged my tired, un-athletic ass behind them and every achievement they made, became our moment of victory.

  When the smiling Dafor-Lapointe sisters, shared the podium with gold and silver medals, I was there with them. I was on the side of the speed skating track in my rubber suit and uncomfortable looking junk, cheering on our skaters. I was up in the wee hours of the morning, with my face pressed against the glass, screaming at the top of my lungs as first the women's hockey team, then the men's repeated gold medal performances. I would have been squished in between Kaillie  Humphries and Heather Moyse as they came from behind to win gold in the bobsled, but frankly, that shit just scares the hell out of me.

  But it wasn't just the wins. It was the spirit of the games. Like a spot given to a team mate because they had a better chance of winning, or a ski given to an athlete from an opposing country so they could cross the finish line with dignity.

  All of those those things made me relish in my Canadian-ism and when I had to go outside to feed the cows in -30C weather, it wasn't so bad at all, because after all, as the country branded us during these games, we ARE winter!

 Of course, now that the winter Olympics are over for another 4 years, I'm ready to be done with the snow and cold, and any bravado that I may have been riding on over those days has about fizzled out and I'm checking my weather app these days with more of a sigh than a fist-pump.

  .............We may be winter, but there's something to be said for not having to dress in multiple layers.


Monday, February 03, 2014

#184. or, Cuba Dooba Doo!

   OK, I'm back.

   Alright, you're probably  thinking, "What? You were gone somewhere? I hadn't really noticed that you'd left the room."

  But I was. My beautiful wife and I, along with the boy, were living it up in Cuba over the last week. And while I was there, I spent most of my time thinking about all of you, back at your homes, living your day to day lives, wishing I was there with you all, while we try to muddle through.

  Honestly, that didn't happen. Well, Cuba did. But I didn't really think about you guys. You were probably there, somewhere in my brain stew, but in all fairness, I was too busy vacationing to take any notice.

  Sorry for that.

  This isn't the post about Cuba. It's a post about being in Cuba, and I suppose, by extension, it might even be a travel post. That's because so few exciting and noteworthy things happen to me that I fully intend to milk as many posts out of this as I possibly can. Consider this fair warning.

  So, here goes.

  Ken-inatractor's observations about vacationing in Cuba.  (or, anywhere.....or even nowhere for that matter)

  1. When you fly to a holiday destination, then back home from that destination. From the very same airports. The flight home is going to be considerably longer. I know this, because going down took 1 movie and 2 sit-com episodes, while coming home took 2 movies and 2 of the exact same sit-com episodes. It has something to do with holidays and the space-time continuum, and it's the same reason 7 days in the sun, by the pool, actually only feels like 4. It's science and shit.

  2. Just because you flew to a destination with people, stayed with some of them at the same resort, or crossed paths again while on various excursions, does not make it alright to fart on the plane while flying home.

  3. Moustaches and snorkelling, don't go together so well.

  4. Never ever take for granted, the wonder and privilege, of proper and efficiently working plumbing. This is important because a radical change in diet, is probably going to effect you in 1 of 2 negative ways.
   a. You will be awakened in the wee hours of the morning by noises from the bathroom, of sounds emanating from somebody's backside, similar to what it sounds like when your tractor drops a valve at 2500 RPM.

   b. You will be awakened in the wee hours of the morning by noises from the bathroom, with sounds made by someone trying unsuccessfully to get something to exit their backside, similar to what it sounds like when your tractor drops a valve at 2500 RPM.

  Neither outcome is going to be pleasant, and when the plumbing you are using requires multiple flushes at the best of times, it's a mess that nobody should have to deal with. Unless you intend to avoid eye contact with the housekeeping staff for the entire duration of your stay, you better be leaving her a substantial tip.

  5.  While travelling off the resort, people expect to be tipped for everything. Now, I don't mind at all, paying for a service provided, but there were far too many instances where people sat on chairs outside of the public wash-rooms and grunted toward a saucer, expecting a buck because I went in there and pee'd. I'm much happier to leave a tip, if they're at least making an effort to supply you with paper or something. But if I brought my own, and all they're doing is sitting there, I shouldn't really have to pay. That being said, the one woman who came into the bathroom and sang to me while I sat in a stall, went far above and beyond anything that should happen in the crapper. She got a dollar even if having her there created a bit of performance anxiety, and prevented me from doing what I had gone in there to do in the first place.

    a. The same thing applies to the musical groups that travel from table to table, wanting to serenade me while I'm having my meal. It was really nice to have the first 3 or 4 times and I was happy to partake of, and tip for the experience. But, by the 7th time in 4 days, and when our table is having a pleasant conversation and politely decline the service, I don't really appreciate the dirty look when I don't put anything in the basket because they turned around and played for the table adjacent to ours.

  6. A table full of French people is really really loud!

  7. While I'm on vacation, I do try to take time to relax. Yet, I still find time to walk for miles on the beach, check out every available amenity on the resort, go on tours, drink a bit, see an evening show, shop, watch people, and every thing else I can cram into the day. But when I'm at home, every job is a pain in the ass, and I just want to sit down.

  8. When you fly into Cuba, before they can open the doors of the aircraft, one of the flight crew has to walk down the isle, spraying some sort of bug killer, to prevent illegal foreign insects from entering Cuba. However, when you leave, there was no bug spray involved. I suspect this may be part of a Cuban plot to take over the world, one bug at a time.

    a. Speaking of bugs, it seems I may be immune to Cuban biting insects. My wife came home, speckled and itching with numerous bites, and I have none. But that could also mean that I'm just a sour old bugger, and like the mysterious brown lumps in the buffet at the resort, it was better just to carry on and not ask any questions.

  There is probably more I could add here, but everybody hates long posts, so for now, this is the end. Hopefully, over the next few days, we'll get some of the pictures together, and I'll do a proper post on Cuba. It was a wonderful place to visit and the the people were, for the most part, awesome. long as you weren't using the wash-room.

elleroy was here