Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fredericton. We have friendly dumpsters.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

At the Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival

Where they know how to name their venues.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Odd Cuban moments

There are a lot of experiences we've had in Cuba that I don't blog about after I return home. This is because some involve resort staff, and you're worried that the management and tourism officials (who search for and read reviews and blogs about resorts and hotels) might be able to connect the dots and figure out which staff might be involved in these stories.

However, after ten trips to the island at nine hotels - and even more visits to other locations - it feels like it's okay to tell some stories that now cannot be tied to specific places or staff.

There have been some amusing ones.

Like the time we entered a little building to rent a vehicle and found the rental agent watching a Spanish sitcom on a portable tv with a can of Cristal beer prominently sitting on his desk. This at about 9 a.m. He looked at us, pointed to the television, and said, "Ha ha ha! This show, it always makes me laugh!" We automatically glanced at the television for a few seconds. When we looked back, the can of Cristal had... disappeared.

There have been some kinda pathetic ones.

We got on a shuttle to our resort with one or two other passengers - including someone I'll call "Don" from a town in Alberta. He had been in Cuba for quite some time working on a Cuban-Canadian economic partnership project there, he told us. He was quite young - 19-22, I'd say. He was very excited because he was back in Cuba to visit with his Cuban fiancée. And his parents were flying in tomorrow from Canada to meet his fianceé! Who would be meeting him at the resort!!! What could possibly go wrong?

So excited was he that he bought a six-pack of Cristal at the airport to drink on the shuttle bus to the resort.

Which he banged down in about 20 minutes.

When we stopped to drop off the other passenger at the first (very expensive) resort on the route, "Don" ran off the shuttle, crying loudly for directions to the nearest bathroom. The driver turned to us and said wearily, "He has drank 6 beers in 20 minutes." We sympathized.

We continued along to the resort we - and Don, and his parents, and his fiancée - would be staying at. We didn't see him again until the next day.

And the next, and the next.

His parents were clearly not at all impressed with their future daughter-in-law, who unfortunately dressed in the fashion some - some - young Cuban women favour. Which meets the Canadian eye as, um, very risqué.

Everybody at the table every time we saw them was clearly miserable, except for the fiancée, who seemed absolutely exuberant. By the third day, the parents and fiancée had all disappeared altogether, and all that was left was Don, sitting and drinking, alone.

Wonder whatever happened there.

There have been some downright weird ones.

Like the time we were kind of unofficially adopted by the matriarch of an Ontarian motorcycle gang family that was at a resort for the wedding of one of their daughters. What propelled the bulky, tattooed woman to take us into her favour was our refusal to engage with a dreadfully drunk woman who sat at our table (she was table-hopping all over the bar, having been cut off by the staff and seeking alcohol anyplace she could find it). When she sat down, we got up without a word and walked away. (Taking our drinks.) "You handled that with some f*****g class!" declared the motorcycle matriarch approvingly. The next day - by special invite - we attended the wedding of her (equally bulky, equally tattooed) daughter and the biker groom (do I have to add 'bulky, tattooed'?). The nuptials were attended by the entire motorcycle gang, who had remembered to bring dress shirts and pants but who had forgotten to put down their drinks before the ceremony. So they respectfully held their beer cups behind their backs while the lovely couple exchanged vows on the beach.

For the rest of the vacation, we were *down* with the motorcycle gang. Mama said so.

There have been some uncomfortable ones.

Remember the dreadfully drunk woman from the story above? Now, SHE was a piece of work.

40-ish, but all huge blond hair and skimpy clothing. Canadian, I'm sorry to say. And by the time we got to the bar, d r u n k as a skunk. I mean, really, really drunk. But still on her feet.

There's a lot of joking about the fact that these all-inclusive resorts include all your booze, but in reality, I have almost never seen anyone genuinely drunk at one of them. People, in general, are more responsible than that.

This person wasn't. She was so drunk that the bar staff had cut her off - never seen that before in Cuba - but she was sure she needed more alcohol. She argued with them - loudly. She begged them. And then she tried to *crawl over the bar* to access the liquor bottles stored there.

When all that failed, she started sitting at random tables, begging for a drink. By this time, there were three security staff from the resort standing inside the door, speaking quietly among themselves about how to deal with this. She was loud, and she was mobile. If they tried to physically remove her, it was going to be ugly. They spoke to her. She tossed her (voluminous) hair and went back to table-hopping. They spoke to her again. She ignored them. She finally sat at a table occupied by a single (Canadian, I think) male. They talked. And talked. The security staff talked to the male. He somehow convinced her it was a good idea to go somewhere else. (Back to her room, possibly?) The security staff escorted them both out. The remaining patrons breathed a great sigh of relief. Handled as well as it could have been.

But I swear think I saw them rutting in the hyacinths later.

There have been some sad ones.

Like the night, after the show at the resort, that one of the dancers in the troupe joined us at our table, where we were sitting with another couple. A young woman - early twenties at the most - strikingly beautiful and terribly sad. She told us about her dream, which was to emigrate to Canada and get a job with the Cirque de Soleil in Quebec (which is where their "farm team" for the Vegas and other shows is still based). She saw little future for herself in Cuba, she said. She watched the satellite tv at the resort and saw the amazing lifestyles people were living in other countries, with cellphones and such and such. Her long tale was essentially a barely-hidden plea for one of us to help her achieve her dream of emigration to Canada. The unspoken (and uncomfortable) question in the air was what she was willing to do to make that happen. We were polite and friendly to her, but nobody was offering any hope that we would assist her with her quest. She finally left, a long, long time later, smiling, but sadly. I keep wondering what would happen to her if she pitched that dream to someone who was much less benevolent and more predatory than she was hoping.

Or what did happen.

Whatever else Cuba brings, it always brings surprises.