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Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

20180210_092535Anyone who has ever experienced the family vacation knows the family vacation experience starts weeks before and ends weeks after the actual vacation.

 

This is about a family vacation experience, and about different perceptions.  Writing a story is all about the use of perception.  Twisting and focusing the reader’s perceptions, utilizing opposing perceptions, and even tricking the reader into thinking you are following a certain line of perception before revealing your true intentions.  What you do with this depends on your story and its goal.

 

Real life is drama.  Don’t shortchange your readers by forgetting that in your stories.

 

Feel free to skip to the parts that actually interest you.  I am also sick again as I write this, so please bear with me.

 

BEFORE THE VACATION

 

Of course, there are the “pre weeks” aka “the months you can’t get back”; the weeks where one of you spends a painful amount of time researching vacation possibilities (because travel agents are for wusses, people less cheap than you, and people with a different type of common sense).  They endlessly read opposing reviews, getting excited and then woefully disappointed by the same resorts, before finally taking a great intake of air, holding it indefinitely, scrunching their eyes tightly closed, and hitting send.  The vacation is booked.

 

And then once the vacation is booked it is the stressful “vacation time coordination”. Anyone with differing vacation in-house work rules will find this more difficult.  We are lucky in this.  Unlike some, we don’t have to definitively and un-irrevocably book vacation time all at once for the year and not be able to change plans.  Still, you have at least two people with different work vacation booking rules, plus kids/others, to try to book everyone off for the same week and it can be a juggling act.

 

Then it’s the preparation time.  You have to make sure you pack all of your stuff, that everyone else has theirs, and plan for every possible contingency and buy a pharmacy.

 

How you think it will go aka “the boring story” or “what your character wants” – You make your list, pack and purchase, and everything is packed nicely and easily.  Stress free.  And you happily and contentedly go to sleep looking forward to your vacation.  Your vacation is flawless. You do stuff, relax, enjoy, and come home refreshed.

 

How it really goes aka “insert drama here” – Ugh.  Let us not forget how real life can get.  You have a job, kids, dogs, and a house.  So, in between looking after all of that, you have to find the time for packing, lists, shopping, re-packing, and cleaning.  And, if your dogs are lucky enough that you have someone willing to house sit/dog sit so they don’t have to spend the week stressed and panicked in a boarding kennel, you also want the house clean when you leave.

 

Starting with the dogs, the husky, Roxy aka The Big Dumb Bunny, decides to pick that time right before your vacation to start blowing out her coat.  In the middle of winter and -30 to -45 wind chills.  How a dog can shed more than her weight in hair every hour is beyond me. Cue the endless vacuuming.  We call the other dog, Meeka, the “good dog”.  She does not blow out her coat, steal all your socks, or make you put her out every five minutes.

 

20180210_173118.jpgThe kids.  Anyone with kids can tell you that you really need to plan a week off kid free to clean the house for anything upcoming of importance.  This still applies when they are teens.  As fast as you try to clean, the place is unraveled around you into a bedlam of chaos and mess.  And, the virtual extra large dogs aka the Big Dumb Hair Bunnies you need to vacuum up endlessly.  You are also trying to get all the laundry done, and make futile attempts to pack your own stuff.

 

Just a quick interject – naturally, pre-vacation week you get sick (cough cough). You feel like Bill the cat from Bloom County looks. If you don’t know, look it up.  But you still must be up before six every morning, go to work, and deal with the kids, dogs, family, house, etc. every evening, plus vacation preparation.

 

Three days prior to vacation you announce to the entire household (repeatedly), “Tomorrow night I have to pack my stuff for the trip.  All my stuff.  I have nothing packed.  So let me do that or I won’t have any clothes to wear.  After I pack all my stuff, I can help you with yours.”

 

Two days prior to vacation, the “I MUST PACK ALL MY STUFF” evening, …guess what. Yes, you guessed it. Kids.  One, who is old enough to handle it in my opinion, absolutely needs your help to figure out and fill out the grade 10 course registration for next year that ABSOLUTELY MUST BE DONE THAT NIGHT OR THE WORLD WILL END.  Because it has to be handed in tomorrow, since it is due when you are gone on vacation.

 

The other kid has a mountain of homework that she absolutely cannot figure out on her own, even though she is the one going to school to learn it and knows it better than you do.  Seriously, some of these math word problems I am sure are written in some archaic ancient dead language from a planet in a far away galaxy.  Mostly I repeated the questions on the page until she started actually thinking about them and solved them herself.

 

Now, it is past bedtime for everyone, you still have laundry and cleaning to do, and have not packed a single sock.  Or maybe you did pack a sock, but the Big Dumb Bunny stole it.  At this point you are too tired and sick to know or care.

 

The Nightmare before Christmas, I mean (um), the night before vacation.  Okay, now you really need to pack.  You start your morning with slopping an entire cup of coffee on yourself minutes before you have to leave for work.  Nice.  Now you have to do laundry again because you had to pull clothes out of the stuff you washed to pack, because you don’t have enough clothes that fit.  You bust your butt at work all day making sure everything is done. You half expect at this point that your car will break down on the way home.  Somehow the stars and planets align and it does not.

 

However, and, I should have put that in all caps.  Let’s try that again.

 

HOWEVER, you get home and while you were at work the good dog puked, the toilet upstairs plugged and overflowed, and the house is a complete disaster.  The panicked teen tries to resolve the overflowing toilet by staring moodily at the toilet bowl, water flowing over its sides to flood the bathroom floor, glares at it, and starts throwing all the towels on the floor in an effort to make it all stop without asking for help, and the water continues to flood over the toilet bowl.

 

Meanwhile, on the downside, aka the kitchen, water has begun to flow from the ceiling light fixture located directly below the offending toilet.  Cue the sudden discovery by your spouse that something is wrong upstairs.  This, by the way, is next to the brown spot in the kitchen ceiling from the other kid previously trying to fill water balloons by placing them over the entire tap end, forcing the water to wash back up the space between the water pipe and the tap covering until it wets and stains the ceiling below.

 

20180210_075200.jpgIt is your last evening to pack, and you are overtired, still sick, and trying to clean, do laundry (again), deal with dramas, back up all your life’s work so you don’t risk losing it if anything happens to your laptop (because you stupidly think will all that spare time while you are up hours before everyone else every morning on vacation you will have time for writing), and attempt to pack your stuff, finally.  Only, the evening is gone before you know it, you have accomplished little if anything, the house is still a mess, you are still doing laundry, and EVERYONE HAS GONE TO BED WITHOUT YOU.

 

Oh yeah, and you still have to pack all your stuff for the week, but you can’t because everyone went to bed.

 

Vacation day!  You are not sure what time you went to bed.  Eleven?  Eleven-thirty?  You are up at two am because you are supposed to be ready to leave the house by 4 am.  Showered, dressed, and dolled up.  Your brain is mush.  You know you are forgetting a thousand things.  You have half an hour to pack.  You are constantly being interrupted despite your pleas of, “Let me pack!”  Your spouse is trying their best to help.  You gather stuff, set it down, turn, and it is gone. Your spouse packed it in their bag.  At this point you are now packing without knowing what you actually packed.  You can’t find anything because your brain is mush.  You will take stock of everything you are missing when you get there.

 

20180208_194931You will get there to find that you are missing basic essentials like deodorant, hair brush, and a toothbrush.  You will spend an exorbitant amount of money buying two of the three at the little resort store, only to find halfway through the vacation it was packed in your spouse’s suitcase.

 

After arrival and after going through the customs security screening and passing through the door of “Thou Shall Not Go Back”, the thirteen-year-old discovers she left her phone in the bathroom on the other side.  Being stupid Canadian tourists they let us through and watch in confusion as I scurry with her to retrieve the lost phone.  Later we learned how terrified our handler was that we committed such serious a faux pas, and we speculated was possibly shocked we were not arrested for it.

 

20180210_112138.jpgThe vacation.  Day one, everyone wakes up cranky.  Everyone is moody, miserable, and fighting.  The beds and pillows actually inflict pain; they are so bad.  But, once settled in, each person has the time to start living the moment instead of only reacting to a fast paced series of reactionary moments.

 

While on the drive from the airport to the resort the previous evening, you are taking in the world the local people live in through the bus window, your kids, who are sitting much closer to the front of the bus, are noticing how rude, insensitive, and disrespectful they feel some of our fellow vacationers are being towards the travel guide whose job it is to get everyone to their hotels.

 

20180209_153704.jpgWe are in a place where the local population is predominantly dark skinned.  You notice how kind and friendly all of the people working there are, how some struggle with the language barriers between them and their guests, but they still do their best to help.  Your kids, however, whose sole experience with different people in your other raced neighborhood is what they learned in school about the history of black slavery, are feeling weird and at odds over watching all these dark-skinned staff serving the predominantly white guests.  They question the appropriateness of it, not understanding it is so only because of the nature of the local population’s demographics.

 

20180210_103428(0).jpgDuring one dinner, while you are observing the strange behavior at the next table, your spouse is observing a very different scene behind you.  The table next to you, a larger group, are taking turns politely clapping each person as if each is taking a turn quietly sharing some life affirming moment.  The moment feels almost cultish to you, and you wonder if this is some sort of retreat for some group.  Your spouse reaches across the table, touches your hand to get your attention, and looks you in the eyes.

“Get ready to move fast, there is going to be a fight behind you and I think it will be ugly.”

You glance quickly at your teen sitting next to you and then at the couple quietly arguing being hind you, just at the moment the whispered argument gets louder.  The wife was very inebriated, and the husband not.

We each had a very different memory of that dinner.

 

Naturally, being a vacation of the sort we have not been on in years and may not again for years to come, everyone has to take a turn being sick.  Another wrench thrown into that perfect vacation.  Another drama, another obstacle to overcome.  I have to say, I don’t know when I felt a sickness like that.  After the vomiting the large ball of discomfort settles in to take up permanent residence in your stomach.  You are cold and hot.  Every inch of your muscles and skin hurts.  The weight of your body against the mattress is agony.  Even the feather weight of the light sheets is pain.  Luckily we packed a pharmacy.

At one point, as I lay there, my spouse thought he saw bruising.  It was only shadow.  I said I had the lividity.  That now I know what dying feels like and it hurts like hell. That I am now The Walking Dead and if I didn’t feel like such crap I would probably be eating everyone.  My spouse called me a dork.

 

20180210_075334.jpgOf course, the vacation was not all bad.  Kids and teens, being who they are, were in a constant flux between getting along and annoying each other.  Anyone with teens knows how little you see them when they start hiding in their rooms.  And, with work and kids, how little time a couple actually has together.  We had eight full days, including travel both ways, of all four of us being together 24/7, getting reacquainted with each other.  That was through good and bad, sickness (literally, with us taking turns being up all night vomiting), and health.  We still like each other.

 

20180211_144645.jpgThe trip home.  The plan was to have everything packed and cleaned up the night before and ready to go.  Everyone is up, showered, dressed, and last bit packed with lots of time to haul our stuff to the front lobby, get lunch, and hop on the bus to the airport.  Easy.  No fuss, no muss.

The reality; okay that actually did sort of work out for us.  Not so much for the other family with two small boys who were on the wrong time zone.  They missed the mandatory check out time, thus incurring the wrath of the forewarned late checkout surcharges.  The bus did wait for them while they hurriedly put their two small boys on the bus and scurried off to hastily pack all their belongings and race back to the bus.

It also presumably did not work out so well for the others who our vacation company on-site liaison, bus driver, and hotel staff were unable to locate.  They missed the bus.  All but one eventually made it to the airport, where we all looked at each other wondering what fate befell the mysterious man they kept paging over the intercom to make his way immediately to our boarding gate.

 

20180211_105331.jpgGoing through customs is its own experience.  Leaving Canada, the fourteen-year-old was randomly selected for the “sniff test”.  Yes, apparently they had to make sure a fourteen-year-old girl was not carrying or recently in contact with cocaine.  I, being the concerned parent, laughed at her plight.  The Canadian customs staff were typically Canadian, indulgent and kind about it.

And then there was the phone in the bathroom incident on arrival, which we teased the thirteen-year-old about and told her that her father would have had to contact the Canadian embassy or consular service or whatever they have there to have our government try to negotiate our release from a foreign country prison.

Coming home, we learned while in line to check our luggage that the rules for carrying going the opposite way are different.  We hastily shifted items from our carry on to our checked luggage.  On the way to security I ended up having to throw out my chapped lip stick because that apparently is illegal.  Every man woman and child went through a cursory pat down.  The Dominican customs people were all very understanding and kind while processing all of us.

On arrival in Canada, and after a slightly bumpy landing, it is time to breathe a sigh of relief.  It is over.  You are home.  Cue laughter.

We are in the back quarter of the plane.  Naturally, disembarking is done from the front to the back.  Everyone is collecting their stuff from the overhead compartments and beneath the seat in front of them, committing incredible acts of acrobatics trying to squeeze through the ten-inch aisle with their stuff to the front of the plane, and stumbling numbly down the tunnel ramp on legs and buttocks that are no longer functional after a more than six-hour flight trapped in tiny uncomfortable seats with their legs pressed to their chins.

20180211_144010.jpgLiterally, with the last of the rest of the plane passengers passing through the door at the end before us into the great terminal beyond, an airport worker hurriedly rushes to the door and closes it in our faces.  We, and our fellow back of the plane passengers, are left staring dumbly at him as he motions us to stay and runs off through the secondary set of doors.  We look at each other.  There are a few nervous chuckles.  We are literally in a dry aquarium.  A glass-walled prison with no way out except to race back to the plane, whose door is presumably closed by now, and no place to shelter.  Is there some sort of airport security event?  Should we be afraid?  But, this is Canada, so the worst it might be is that someone forgot to say please and thank you.

After some moments of the same man who locked us in and another worker looking around in confusion, the other trying his swipe card on some random card swiper at a desk through doors the rest of the plane did not disembark through, a third airport worker came along and let us through.

20180211_143714.jpgAt last, we are home.  Or at least on the last leg of home, driving home with a slight detour that involved going in completely the opposite direction of home for some distance before realizing we are going the wrong way, and made it home.

The vacation, naturally, does not end there.  Because now you have to catch up at work and do all the other post-vacation stuff.  But the real story has already ended and that stuff happens after you cut to end story.

 

And that, my friends, is how an unexciting vacation story becomes filled with obstacles and drama.  Real life throws a wrench in things and so must you when you write your story.

 

While we were all in this together through various stages, every person would have had their own unique perspective and experience.

 

There is more to the story, of course.  The monkey on the beach, the walk off-resort through a possibly sketchy area, and the salami taxi.  But that is the fine details you flesh out later in your story.

 

Now, if I were to re-write this from each person’s perspective, each would tell a very different story.

 

Follow me on my blog.

You are here:  The Intangible World of the Literary Mind

This blog is about writing, being an author, and life.

 

LV Gaudet, author

This blog is for the fans of dark fiction, those stories that slither softly into your dreams in the night to turn them dark and foul.

 

 

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re-gifter

 

‘Tis the season of re-gifting.

 

Or, in some cases, re-re-gifting, or maybe just giving the appearance of doing so.

 

Playing “Guess the Gift” is something of a tradition in our family.  When your shopping is being done on budget, and one that is never enough to begin with, most of your shopping is done in search of “The Great Bargain”.

bargain shopping

Bargain shopping typically does not come with the fancy shmancy boxes to wrap the gifts in so the receiver of the gifts can’t guess what it is just from the feel and shape of the wrapped gift.

 

biting the giftThe gift-wrapping challenge begins.  The gift recipients study their gifts carefully, resorting to thoughtfully weighing, sizing up, feeling up, shaking, and even biting, their gifts trying to figure out what they are before unwrapping them.  While you seek out boxes whose dimensions and shape will hide the true nature of the gift inside, stuffing the boxes so items can’t rattle, or even adding a strategically placed fake rattler.

 

re-giftedAnd then the gift opening fun begins.  The wrapping paper is unceremoniously ripped off, or perhaps that is the ceremony, revealing the box within.  And then the joke emerges.  What did you get this year?  I got the Sony radio/cd player I bought myself this past summer, re-gifted something I already owned.   My twelve year old got a Dremel saw, used only once, re-gifted.  My partner got a tissue box, the ultimate in re-gift, since the tissue papers it once held have all been used.  Of course, the boxes are only camouflage for the real present inside.

happy holidays

merry christmashappy hanukkahhappy kwanzaa.jpg

 

 

 

 

… or whatever else you celebrate at this festive time of year.

 

And now my gift to you …

Garden Grove Cover-FinalGarden Grove can be downloaded in multiple ebook formats FREE on Smashwords using coupon code YV67F until Dec 31/15.

 Can you handle a little darkness in your life?

 https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/587705

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christmas stress.jpg

 

With the day of merriment and cheer bearing down on us, ‘tis the season of the greatest of frustrations.  A year of living frugally is gleefully thrown out the window and you spend like someone just gave you a million dollars to spend in only ten days or you die…

 

Okay, about as gleeful as one can be pushing their way through a mindless throng of shoppers in a daze at a mall that is more of a standing room only carnival of stress with the ambiance of an over-filled cattle chute.  Add to that the calendar days zooming by, and the urgent need to buy a bunch of stuff for people whom you have absolutely no idea what to buy for.  Christmas cards sit by the wayside, un-carded.  Baking needs to be baked.  Cleaning, decorating, and planning.  A glut of festivities swirl around you, planned and announced, with the ever-present “secret Santa” gift and donations.  And all of this is done around your already busy normal daily life of working full time, groceries, meals, cleaning and laundry, and time for family.

 

christmas shoppingOne trip to the mall at Christmas leaves you feeling like one of the characters in the current season of Walking Dead.  christmas zomie.jpg

jack baurAnd dodging your way through the gamut of festivities and get-togethers is reminiscent of Jack Bauer endlessly racing through a season of 24, minus the bombs, torturing for information, and the impending end of the world is only the feeling caused by the rush of the season racing by.

 

 

 

christmas leave it to beaver supper.jpgAnd then there are the good, the bad, and the ugly of family dynamics at this festive season.  Family that maybe do not see each other for months or even years are pushed together, willingly or not.  Not everyone is lucky enough to have a functional family.  Families run the gamut from loving, caring, and respectful to the savagely emotionally vicious.christmas family fight.jpg

 

Among the joy and happiness Christmas is supposed to bring, are the boatloads of stress and frustrations.  Whether your family and life are functional or dysfunctional, it is an inevitable part of the season, and one that can start months ahead.

 

Mix into that, the need to continue with your writing, editing, blogging, promoting, and general writer stuff.  You hope to cash in on the Christmas shopping flood and sell some copies of your books.

 

Of course, a good portion of the frustration and adversity of Christmas is mostly self-induced, worrying over the right decorations, the right gifts, the meal and gatherings turning out just right.

 

But writers are no shrinking violets when it comes to seeking out and embracing adversity.  By necessity, it’s the way writers need to be.

 

stormIf there is one thing writers might be said to thrive on, it is adversity.  Why?  Because adversity is what writing a compelling story is about.  You throw adversity at your most beloved characters, your most reviled, your protagonists and antagonists both.  Adversity drives the story.  Adversity gives your characters reason to go above and beyond the normal, to change to become something they were not before.

 

Adversity comes in many forms.  Physical or emotional obstacles, self-created and unduly imposed by outside forces.  The intentional, unavoidable, and recklessly accidental.  Human, animal, plant, mineral, weather, it’s all fair game.

 

As a writer, you study and observe adversity; in the news, in the lives around you, and in movies and books.  What causes it, how it affects victims, witnesses, and those who cause it.  How it changes them.  How can you use this to manipulate your characters, to manipulate your readers to love or hate the characters as you want them to?

 

And now, as we enter into the last week of the Christmas season, feeling the stress and frustration of the last minute mall trips, building all the adversity of the season into our stories for the love of our readers, wishing we were not so busy and that we have more time instead of tossing together a quick and mediocre blog post in tiny bursts between all the other stuff, and, wow, this sentence is run on…

 

… I give to you the gift of a little more adversity.

 

Garden Grove can be downloaded in multiple ebook formats FREE on Smashwords using coupon code YV67F until Dec 31/15.

 

Can you handle a little darkness in your life?

 

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/587705

Garden Grove Cover-Final

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It’s that time of year again when we take a day out of our lives to stop and remember the men and women who made huge sacrifices fighting for others.

Ideally we wouldn’t need a special day to remember.

Ideally there would be no wars to be fought, no blood spilled, and no atrocities inflicted.

Since that isn’t the case, ideally we wouldn’t need a special day to remember because we would remember every day.

But sometimes we need special reminders.  One day a year obviously isn’t enough or we wouldn’t still have men, women, and children suffering at the hands of that terrible monster we call War.

It seems that Remembrance Day has less meaning to each generation.

The legions were started to help war veterans having difficulties fitting back into society after returning home from the First World War.

As more wars followed, the number of veterans grew and so did the need to remember the sacrifices they made as they fought, suffered injuries to both mind and body, and were killed.

But these days it seems the faces of the veterans propagated by the media around Veterans Day are growing older and fewer.

Some might even think the veterans’ organizations and legions will become a thing of the past as the old veterans from WWI and WWII vanish into the distant memories of the history books.

Perhaps that makes it even more important now than ever to remember the men and women who fought for others, for their cause, for their freedom.  It’s more important because the veterans are not a vanishing breed.  On the contrary, wars continue to be fought every day right now and more veterans are returned home injured in mind and body, or for burial, somewhere in the world each and every day.

The veterans of war are not vanishing or dying off; their faces are just becoming unrecognizable to us as new generations of them are created.  They are not just the old grandfathers and grandmothers and great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers.  They are the sisters and brothers, the fathers and mothers, and the sons and daughters.  Their faces are decades younger than the veterans whose faces are splashed across the Veterans Day advertisements and newspaper stories.

And, to the newest generation, as with the newest generation for generations past, Remembrance Day is about having a vacation.  A day off from school with their parents home from work.  A day for learning new songs and poems about stuff they don’t really know with meanings they don’t really understand.

Knowing the importance of it much more than the newest generation does, and seeing how the real meaning is vanishing over generations, I want to make sure my own kids know the significance and the importance.  I try to explain it to them, and I know school does the same, and somewhere along the way they will eventually learn the deeper meaning of it all.  The sooner the better, and maybe one day they can help the world evolve into a new world where war is a thing of the past.

It is not just about remembering that people died for us long ago, it is about remembering everything that war is.  The cruelties and atrocities committed against the innocent.  The loss of life, property, and the indignities forced on others.  How war makes good people do terrible things and bad people do even worst things.  It’s about remembering the victims and the warriors fighting on their behalf.

This year, as my daughters eagerly planned for their day off holiday, I decided it would be a good idea to have them do something to earn that day off, the extra play time, and the extra movie night they wanted.  To earn it by showing me what Remembrance Day is to them.

So, I asked them to write me a story or poem about what they think Remembrance Day is about.

This is what they wrote (for the sake of legibility I typed up what they wrote) …

 

As I’m sure you noticed, the six year old wrote “Happy Remembrance Day” and “Have a Happy Remembrance Day” on her poem.

Now what could possibly be happy about a day dedicated to remembering death and war?

Well, I asked her that.  I asked her what makes a Remembrance Day a day to be happy.

Her answer – “A happy Remembrance Day is when you remember that the soldiers died for you.”

Maybe she has a deeper understanding than I thought possible for a six year old.

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There are two things we noticed immediately about the Cuban people that we came into contact with.

First was their unfailing friendliness.  It seemed that nearly everyone we dealt with was friendly, courteous, and helpful.

Perhaps that is in part because they were the lucky ones.  No matter how bad we thought their job was, at least they had jobs.  And maybe it was in part because of their culture, a culture dependent on us vacationers and our tips.  Despite having to take the often unreasonable and undeserved abuse of a bunch of overtired and cranky vacationers, they still managed to turn around with a polite smile to help the next cranky vacationer.

The second thing we noticed goes hand in hand with the first.  Everybody wants a tip.  While we’re used to certain service positions coming with the assumption that tipping is their due (like waitresses, waiters, and hairdressers to name a few); that tip culture in Cuba seemed to involve everyone.

Imagine going on a local sight-seeing trip with multiple stops, a bus ride, boat ride, a meal, and a show – all inclusive – where every stage of the trip involves the people passing around the tip hat and cheerfully letting you know what is considered a proper tip.  And then as you get back on the bus to go home, your tour guide reminds you to tip the driver too.  By the time it’s all done, you’ve likely doubled the cost of that already pricey sight-seeing trip.

The big difference was that, unlike our local waitresses, these people were still friendly on the occasions when you didn’t tip.  And let’s face it, when you spend a week at an all inclusive resort where everyone from the cleaning lady who makes your beds to the lifeguard at the beach are looking for tips every time they rush to do something for you – it’s not easy to always be tip-ready on your first inclusive vacation.

Almost there, just a few more buildings to go.

We struck it pretty lucky with our room by all accounts.  Our room was huge for a single room, with not two but three double beds.  It was nice and clean and in decent shape.

We had a bit of a trek to get to the main hotel and the beach, but it was a nice walk and we had only ourselves and a bag of sunscreen to carry.  So, instead of a two minute walk, it may take us anywhere between ten and twenty minutes, all depending on how much the kids dawdle to look for the little lizards that come out in the afternoon.

Pool with "Snack Bar" in the background

The extra walk also meant we were in the nice quiet area where the kids were asleep within moments of going to bed, while their movie prattled on quietly to deaf ears.  All the loud partiers were in the main hotel building close to the beach.  But we still had a pool close by and a 24 hour “snack bar”, which turned out to be loosely translated from a bar that serves bar food like hamburgers, pizza, and hot dogs.

Some of the people from our plane that we talked to weren’t so lucky.  One guy on his own was put in a small basement room of the main building.  Some begging, pleading, and a tip got him moved to better accommodations.

A woman and her husband were put in a room she was completely unhappy about.  But then this woman seemed to be completely unhappy about a lot of things every time we saw her.  She said their room was full of mold that was painted over, peeling paint, and that she couldn’t breathe.  All valid complaints, but despite her angry words, demands, and complaints, the hotel staff couldn’t find them another room.  Oddly enough, it was about that same time that her husband got drunk and went AWOL.  My guess is that he’d had enough of her complaining.  This same woman had also been loud, obnoxious, and rude to the hotel staff on our first day, making sure everyone in the area knew she was tough enough to kick in the locked door keeping everyone’s baggage safe while we were all waiting for rooms to be ready.

On our way to the "family" buildings

Another family that was in the cluster of family buildings where we were had a room like ours, but poolside.  We were envious until we found out they had no hot water (and that lasted for days).  Being on the ground floor, they also found they were sharing their room halfway through the week with the large cockroaches common to tropical areas.

We did get our turn to rough it without hot water, but luckily it was repaired that same afternoon.

Of course, you also get what you paid for and we were in one of the cheapest low end resorts.

Most of the vacation was spent at the beach and visiting the two swimming pools. 

Ah, there's the beach ...

Unfortunately, Sidney didn’t have a whole lot of fun, but all that lounge-time gave her lots of time to just sleep and get lots of fresh air.  What better place to be sick than in a relaxing tropical paradise?  The poor girl started running a high fever the night we arrived and was sick the whole vacation.  Luckily we were prepared for it with all the medicines a sick kid might need.

I spent most of the week by Sidney’s side, sitting pool or beachside watching the other two have fun.

Let's go Dad!

 

Steve and Robyn, of course, were having a blast.  Robyn discovered the coconut slushy (Pina Colada mix without the alcohol), and they both spent a lot of time playing in the water together.

Going in to ride the waves

 

Robyn couldn’t get enough of riding the large rolling waves of sea water, and thus our Robynism for today:

 With the large rolling waves of the beach in Cuba, you wait and watch for the wave and turn away just as it hits, jumping so you ride the wave.  Otherwise you’ll just end up with a face (and mouth) full of salty sea water and knocked off your feet.

Being all of about 3 ½ feet tall, Robyn couldn’t reach the bottom and happily rode the waves up and down in her life jacket.  One day the waves were higher and even more fun for her.

With great delight she squealed, “This is AWSOME!!!  It’s like riding a roller coaster from Evil Heaven!”

Of course, it’s not hard to figure out that at six years old she’s just coming up with the best way she can to describe that other place (Hell) – she just couldn’t remember the name of it.

That SPF 60 lotion sure did its job.  With all those hours spent on the beach, we surprisingly weren’t all that more tanned by the end of the week.

 

 

 

Sleeping the bug away

It wasn’t all boredom sitting beachside with a sick kid, though.

  It was somewhat entertaining watching the people who were so determined to get deep enough to ride the waves, but just didn’t have the timing right.  They would get just so far only to be tossed over on their heads (or arses) and out of the water by the waves.

I even managed to ride the waves myself once for a short time.  I held on to Steve for dear life, of course.  I’m not exactly a good swimmer.  It was the day of bigger waves, but no yellow warning flag and we’d made it out past the knock-you-on-your-butt zone with no problem.  We were a little further than most of the people in the water when three big waves came in, rolling in one right behind the other.  When we looked after the third wave, we were suddenly two of the very few people left in the water.  Anyone closer to shore had been dumped unceremoniously out of the water by the waves.

This was also when we had our third casualty of the week – my new bathing suit top and the first bikini I’ve bought since I was twenty (and I’m not even going to say how many years that’s been!).  Apparently George bathing suits with plastic fasteners just aren’t meant to actually be worn swimming.  Luckily for all the other beach goers, nobody saw a thing.  The saggy boobs of a middle-aged housewife with two kids and a few pounds to lose is not something anyone is going to want to see.

And who doesn’t go on vacation without making at least one friend?  Not my kid!

It didn’t take long before our usually outgoing six year old had bartenders giving her high-fives on sight, waitresses stopping her to give her a hug and a kiss on the head, and was amusing French foreigners sharing our lunch table in the packed cafeteria with her complaints the food wasn’t spicy enough.

Robyn and Steve even managed to make themselves a couple of friends very quickly in a single mom there with her daughters, one of them just the right age for our girls to play with.  They played in the water at the beach and the pools, and even had lunch together when Sidney was feeling too sick to go for lunch and spent the afternoon sleeping in bed.  The girls played in the sand at the beach and sat together on the bus for the catamaran and dolphins tour.

Hanging out on the catamaran

We managed our one and only outing at almost the end of the week – a full day excursion on the catamaran.  This was a boat ride with a stop for snorkelling, lunch on the beach of a small island, and swimming with the dolphins.  With a sick kid all week and tips eating up most of our spending money, we were lucky to manage that trip.  Unfortunately for Robyn, their friends ended up on another catamaran boat and, except for waving at them in the water during the snorkelling stop, we didn’t see them again until the bus trip back to the resort.  Sidney and Robyn were too nervous to try swimming with the fishes.

catamaran

 

Snorkelling

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swimming with the dolphins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And some other stuff too – While most of the food was just different enough to make it not always very palatable, we always managed to find something to eat.

Well, all of us except for Sidney who was by far the fussiest person on the entire Island of Cuba.  The rest of us ate well enough, especially when we ate at the “snack bar” and for our turn in the Italian restaurant.  Sidney pretty much lived the week on not much more than bananas and water.  We got her to eat pizza one day, one of her usual staples of life, and tried every meal to get her to eat something more than bananas.  Apparently even the bread was inedible – she didn’t like the butter.  The coffee was very different than we have here.  And the pork chops they had at lunch one day were possibly the best pork chops I’ve ever had.  Or maybe it was because we’d grown accustomed to the food there.  Despite the lack of seasonings, we only broke out the salt, pepper, and garlic salt for our last two days of our vacation.

Another thing to get used to is the lack of toilet seats in Cuba.  Finding a toilet the kids would use that had both a toilet seat and toilet paper available was a challenge.  If you were lucky there was even soap too.  But don’t count on anything but your pants to dry your hands on.

We must not forget what was probably the best part of the vacation for the kids – the day the clowns came!

 

 

 

 

 

 

And when at last our vacation was over, it was time for one more lesson in vacationing overseas.

 

Our flight home wasn’t as crazy early as the flight to Cuba.  We were up early, rushed to pack every last thing and give the room a once over, and rushed off to put some breakfast in everyone’s tummy and double-check the time for the bus one last time.

We waited around a little, trying to find the bellhop to help with the luggage and, watching the clock closely, gave up and headed back to our room to haul it all for the long trek to the main building.

Now here’s where the lesson comes in.  We got there, thinking we would still have time to wait for the bus, only to learn they’ve been waiting (and desperately looking) for us!  We were half an hour late for the bus!  I’m not sure if we would have been able to scrounge enough for the tax fare with tip to get us to the airport.  Yep, we could have missed the plane, the only plane, and would have had to catch the next one – in a week.

The time on my watch had been changed!

I’m pretty sure I know exactly what happened.

Paranoid about not hearing the little watch beep alarm, worried about not waking up on time, stressing over what if we don’t make the bus – I couldn’t sleep.  Most of the night was a groggy blur of fitful dozing and waking, checking to make sure it’s not daylight (remember, it was full light out well before six a.m.), and fumbling around in the dark for the watch on the night stand and trying (usually more than once unsuccessfully) to find the right button for the light to check the time before dozing off for a few more minutes.

Next time I’m bringing a backup clock!

But we made it, and after a very long wait and many lines followed by a much longer wait at the airport – we were on our way home to icy post-blizzard roads.

 

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What rocks more than being in a tropical place like Cuba with five days and five nights to frolic and have fun while it’s -40 wind-chills and blizzards back home?

Riding a catamaran in rough seas.

Waiting for the bus to the catamaran

 

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 Lucky for us it wasn’t rough seas on the day we took the catamaran tour.  It also started out as a pretty good day – we didn’t have to medicate the seven year old for the fever she had from the first night of our vacation.  We made our one and only outing late in the vacation, with only one more day of fun in the sun to follow it.

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A nice peaceful day, riding the waves and heading out until the land we left behind disappeared into the waves.  Still not quite feeling herself, seven year old Sidney just kind of took it all in.  Meanwhile, Robyn took advantage of exploring a new bathroom – repeatedly.  I swear this kid has a thing for bathrooms.  It doesn’t matter where you go, or how recently she went, she always has to go.

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We watched the catamarans ahead of us disappear into the distance, and watched the catamarans behind catch up, feeling almost a camaraderie with these fellow cataramaners, all of us travelling the sea towards the same goal.

Robyn was tickled at her new “friends”, sea gulls that loyally followed the boat during our voyage.

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We had a stop at a reef for snorkeling, catamarans arriving and weighing anchor around the reef like pioneers circling the wagons for the night.

While the snorkelers geared up, our guide instructed them in the finer points of snorkeling.

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“Reef here,” the guide said, gesturing to the shallow waters of the reef in the middle of the circled catamarans.

“You swim here.  Fishies here.”  He indicated the reef.

“Sharks out there,” the guide added, his arm sweeping to include all of the waters beyond the circled boats.  “Ok.”

And off the snorkelers went to fill the little reef in the middle of what was apparently shark infested waters.

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I suspected the shark warning wasn’t all joke when I noticed one of the guides on the next boat looking a little concerned while he tried to get the attention of one swimmer who went past the edge of the reef.

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After the swimming with the fishies, we were loaded up and whisked off to a tropical island for an outdoor barbeque lunch with the biggest chicken legs I’ve ever seen.  After lunch, of course, there was time for frolicking in the water, making giant anthills in the beach sand (which was very different and much more pliable than the sand at the resort beach), and the kids collecting enough seashells to fill an ocean liner.

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Loading back into the boat, we all had a chance to ooh and aah over the shadow of a large stingray gliding around beneath the surface of the water by the dock – only feet from where some of the kids had been playing in the water.

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We were on our way to the main event of the day – the dolphins!

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Is that tourist getting mugged or hugged?

 

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And then it was long ride back …

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It’s Thursday evening, we’ve all been up since two A.M., spent an endless day of waiting, travelling, and more waiting, and amazingly not one of us has slept other than Robyn’s brief passing out on the bus going to the resort.

I popped some ibuprofen and we had our luggage locked in the baggage room while we put the kids into swimsuits because we were all overheating in our travelling clothes, grabbed their lifejackets, and took a walk to the beach while still waiting for our room. It was a pretty windy day, so the waves were too big for swimming.

 Robyn was quick to take full advantage of the powdery white sand.

Steve received a caution to watch her closely from the lifeguard when Robyn went to play at the edge of the sea where the water was washing up to cover her legs as she sat before washing out again, much to Robyn’s great delight.

Although they would bring her back, the waves were strong enough to suck her right off the beach and toss her about.  That’s when he pointed out the yellow warning flag we didn’t see at first.

We didn’t get any pictures of the waves that day.  I was too headachy to bother with the camera.

We finally got into our room, I popped some acetaminophen to go with the ibuprofen that had barely dented the migraine, and we found some food at what we later learned was the 24 hour snack bar.  We found out later that “snack bar” turned out to be their translation for a bar that serves bar food.  It was also where we found that life saving necessity – pizza.

Sidney got a lot of looks and comments that afternoon and seemed to be enjoying the attention.  After all, how many beautiful little girls walk around the sunny resorts of Cuba wearing a bathing suit and winter boots?  Next time maybe I’ll remember to make sure she brings home her runners for vacation.

Back to the room, setting up the kids with the portable mini car DVD player, and we discovered that by this time Sidney was burning up with a high fever.  Good thing I emptied the kids medicine cupboard into the suitcase.  We had everything we might need, except the thermometer to see just how high the fever was.

We all slept hard that night, waking up much too early the next morning to the bright rays of sunshine lighting up the whole room – before six A.M.

Ok, you’re cute. But I don’t think we want to eat you.

 

Showered and somewhat rested, an hour and a half trying to get ibuprofen into Sidney, and we were all feeling better and off exploring the resort and searching for food.

It’s Friday, the vacation is young, and we have five days of sitting at the beach, sitting by the pool, sitting at the beach, sitting by the pool, and enjoying the all inclusive food and drinks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now this is what vacations are all about.

Getting drinks at the poolside bar.

Teasing Daddy.

Ok, so Robyn finally got NEAR a chair. But only because the pool water is too cold for polar bears and she's trying to freeze Daddy.

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