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Living Among The Dead

- jim Young 20190516

“Nothing on this earth is standing still. It's either growing or it's dying. No matter if it's a tree or a human being.” - Lou Holtz

Mary-Anne Bloomfield was a classmate of mine through most of my high school years. My best friend dated her a couple of times. On their first date, Mary-Anne’s cousin was visiting from out of town so they set me up with the cousin to make it a double-date.

It was just a very innocent high school kind of date and no long term relationships developed from it.

In fact, the highlight of the evening was probably the flat tire we had to change on our way to the park where the high school event was being held.

What was a little unusual about it was that when we went to pick up our dates, we had to drive into the center of the Barrie Union Cemetery.

That’s where Mary-Anne lived. It wasn’t quite as freakish as an Addams Family or Munsters episode, but it was out of the ordinary.

Coincidentally, several years later when Mary-Anne’s …

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

- jim Young 20190513

“The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.” – Andy Rooney

Many of the resorts we have visited in Cuba have a population of cats or dogs roaming free on the grounds.

For My Shirley, an avid animal lover, this is just an added bonus. My Shirley delights in bringing food and treats for the cats or dogs to feast upon in return for their devoted affection.

It’s a perfect illustration of Quid Pro Quo at its finest.

I get that some people are not as enthusiastic about the resident dogs at Marea Del Portillo in Manzanillo de Cuba but I don’t think the dogs could be described as a nuisance in any stretch of the imagination.

I don’t know if they “did their business” elsewhere or if the grounds crew were diligent in cleaning up after them but I never saw any evidence that the dogs were a part of the resort population other than their actual presence. So their hygiene certainly can’t be an issue.

During our last visit to Marea Del Portillo I witnessed one of t…

Cuba 14.2 Marea del Portillo - Part 8 / Going Home Is Such A Ride

The going away party on our last night was rained out but as we had an early flight the next morning we would likely have passed on it anyway.

When we had booked our trip we had mostly considered our arrival time back in Toronto which was 4:35 pm. It seemed like a better time than arriving home at 2:00 am as we had last time.

But we forgot to do the math to determine what time we would be leaving. Once we realized there would be a stopover in Varadero we checked to note that our departure time leaving Manzanillo airport was scheduled for 11:15 am.

That still didn’t seem too bad until we realized we had to be at the airport 3 hours ahead (8:15 am) and the bus ride is 2 hours (6:15 am). As we were required to have our bags in the lobby to load onto the bus by 6:00 am, this meant, if we were mostly packed the night before, we would still have to get up at 5:30 am.

On the way back to our room on our last night a young couple from Toronto noticed we were struggling to walk along the poorly…

Cuba 14.2 Marea del Portillo - Part 7 / Off The Resort

Following dinner on our first night, we ventured out the front door of the resort to see if we might find a horse and buggy to take us for a quick ride around the area.

We were pleased to see Juan, our horse and buggy driver from last year who remembered us right away.

For just 4 pesos each (~ $5.35 Cdn), Juan took as on a little tour around the town of Marea down to the seashore where the fishermen had docked their boats for the evening.

It was just getting dark as we arrived back at the resort.

We arranged for several more horse and buggy rides with Juan during our stay, including a trip to the waterfalls and a visit to an agricultural “cactus” farm.

We were greeted at the gate of the cactus farm by a Cuban farmer brandishing a large machete. It was not an intimidating sight as machetes are a tool of the trade that are carried by most farmers.

Juan and the farmer quickly became involved in what appeared to be a serious, although not heated conversation. Shirley and I decided to pass…

Cuba 14.2 Marea del Portillo - Part 6 / The Entertainment

The house band, which varies in personnel every night remembered us from last year. One of them calls me his “papa”. They are very good when serenading in the buffet, prompting Shirley and I to get up and dance to the amusement of some of the other guests.

Each day that we were not off the resort in the afternoon, we played BINGO. Shirley managed to win 3 bottles of Rum during the 2 weeks we were there.

While checking the numbers of her 3rd win, Maya, the day’s Bingo caller, tried to trick Shirley into believing that she had made a mistake and did not have all the required numbers. The penalty for which was your choice of dancing on stage, shooting tequila or jumping in the pool. But Maya awarded Shirley her rightful prize before making her choose one of those options.

We didn’t make it to a lot of the nightly shows which alternated between our pool bar area at Marea and the Farallon on the hill. But we did manage to see most of the Water Ballet with the swimmers from Santiago de Cuba…

Cuba 14.2 Marea del Portillo - Part 5 / The Food

The food seemed much better overall this year. There is a new 24 hour snack bar where french fries, hot dogs, hamburgers and coffee along with a limited assortment of liquor to make drinks such as Spanish Coffee are always available.

But there were no buns for the wieners or hamburgers as there is a flour shortage due in part to Trump’s embargo. The hamburger patties however, were the best I have had anywhere in Cuba.

Enough flour was available for their delicious homemade bread in the buffet and about 50% of the time we could even get a bun for our hamburgers at lunch in the buffet.

I was amused by the “Kids Station” that was set up in the buffet for the children as it often consisted of food left over from the previous meal of adult food but cut into smaller portions. But there were few children here right now and of course they were also welcome to enjoy food from the adult sections anyway.

There was very little food wasted except what was created by the tourists who overindulged a…

Cuba 14.2 Marea del Portillo - Part 4 / The Other Guests

It was the first morning of our vacation when we ran into Bob. We became friends with Bob and Joanne last year. Bob is a gentleman in the purest sense of the word and Joanne is elegant and classy. (I don’t know why they hang around me.) Bob had already met the other Santa and then, mistaking him for me, engaged in a conversation with him. Coincidentally, the other Santa also mistook Bob for someone else he knew and it took them awhile to realize their mistake.

Unfortunately we didn’t get to go out for our planned dinner with Bob and Joanne as Joanne became ill the last couple of days of their vacation which ended a week before ours did.

Later in the day we met Glenn - the other Santa - at the beach bar and we instantly became good friends, often hanging out together, sharing stories and of course posing with the guests who wanted their pictures taken with both Santas.

Glenn and I look enough alike that we were often mistakenly identified as the other by some of the guests.

We don’t re…