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Monday, 6 May 2013

Here We Go!

So with the 'force' with us, we were staring straight into the eyes of boating season. First step, we ponied up the small pound of flesh for the purchase of the boat. As I sat in the boat, writing the final check, a surreal feeling overcame me. I was sitting in what will become our living room. Are we really doing this? Or should I say "we are really doing this!". All my life, I've talked about buying a 'grown up sail boat'. I've talked about selling t-shirts on the beach, when I grow up. But now I was sitting in the boat, making it real! What's better, is we have a plan that COULD work!

I handed over the check, and made plans to come back to finish the bottom, and get the boat launched. On the ride home, I finalised details for boat insurance, while also working on getting a motorcycle on the road and insured... another long sought item on my 'one day' list.

Everything was falling in place, almost as though life had a plan tailor made for us. That was until I got 'the email'!

Back in November 2012 I got a new boss at the company I was working for. My time there had already been tumultuous, with reorganising being a regular way of life there. There was reorganising of divisions, reorganising of responsibilities, and reorganising of compensation plans. That reorganisation cost me a LARGE sum of money that I felt was owed, but that's for another day.

The latest reorganisation meant I was no longer reporting to the person who hired me. In fact I was now reporting to a new hire, and reporting into a new division. The new boss came in at the VP level, from a much lower position at a competitor. For reasons I didn't understand, I never really seemed to mesh with this new VP. The fact I had won back to back Chairman's Club awards earned me nothing more than the comment "It's the successful ones you have to look out for". When I won a third consecutive Chairman's Club award I got kudos from most executives, but not this gentleman.

Fast forward to April 4, and things got interesting. I had long resigned myself to simply doing my job to the best of my ability, hopefully winning a 4th award, and getting into 'the plan' shortly after. Suddenly, I get an email enema, blasting me for trying to hire a rep group, against this gentleman's authorisation. Long story short, I discussed this move with him, he gave the go ahead, and I proceeded. Once he got questioned by his superiors, he either forgot the conversation, or found it easier to pass off the blame. Either way, once I apologised for misunderstanding, and explained that I thought I had clearance, it got ugly. It was later explained to me that I was dealing with a man who never admits he is wrong. Unfortunately, I am a man who believes in standing up for myself, even when tangling with VP's. I knew I was not guilty of what he was accusing me of, and wasn't about to let 3 years of great success be diminished by the accusations of a man of low morals. Long story short, a new job offer came before the dust settled on this mess, and I walked away on my terms, with a few weeks holidays, extra money for a Cuban vacation, and the satisfaction of knowing I took the high road against a tyrant.

With time off, and Cuba more than a week away, I made plans to finish the 'immediate to do list of boating season', and get the bike on the road, due to the unseasonably good weather. Unfortunately, when I went to get insurance, I was informed that due to a major speeding ticket in my past, I was unable to get insurance. Luckily, the 3 year window expired April 15, allowing one day of riding before we  hopped on a Air Transat flight for Cuba. Have I mentioned it's funny how things work out sometimes?

We arrived in Cuba around 10, and by the time we got to the resort, the beer was cold! Even better, the weather was warm. All that we could ask for. In typical resort style, we waited in the lobby for minutes, for a bell boy to show us to our room. We were warned that it was "too far to walk" from where we were. Once straggling arrivals boarded a shuttle ahead of us for the third time, we took matters into our own hands, and ventured off alone, to find our room. Due to my clever use of the flashlight I brought along, we managed to quickly find the distant room, that was located within view of the lobby. We quickly ditched the bags, broke the air conditioning, and made our way to the 24 hour snack bar, for a bad ham sandwich, and cold beer courtesy of the tyrant!

After a good sleep, we were up early to discover everything that we stumbled over in the dark, the night previously. The beach was typical of Cuba... beautiful! The turquoise water play out in numerous shades, giving way to dark patches where coral lined the bottom. The pool was simple, with a hint of datedness. This was much to be expected of a 4 star Cuban resort. Perhaps most noticeable was the many fountains around the resort, which were dry, or nearly dry. Our first impression was that the resort was left to neglect. Later in the week, we had about two hours of rain, spread out over two days, which left the fountains and ponds properly filled, and much nicer.

Our week in Cuba was to be simple. Mostly relaxing, and little money to be spent. Largely, we obliged. However, day three saw us catch a cab into Varedero. We shopped around town for a few souvenirs, and some pints. We came across a horse and buggy, and decided to take a tour. After a brief negotiation, we settled on 20 pesos. Later, we discovered it was 20 pesos per person.

We made arrangements to meet our cab driver at a set spot, for a ride back, and went there at 12:30, only to be left stranded. Shortly after, an old convertible pulled up, asking if we needed a ride. We quickly forgot who we were waiting for, and hopped in. It was an extra 5 pesos, but the ride in Cuba, in a convertible was well worth it!

Back at the resort  we pulled up to the swim up bar, and took in the entertainment. Perhaps the star of the week was a 20 something girl, who thought the world of herself. On this day she sat at the bar, bragging to anyone who would listen about how men just want to get into... well you get the picture. In fact, she went so far as to say the young man beside her, only wanted that, but went onto say it was ok, because he was nice. She struck me as a little self absorbed, and a lot full of herself. It was quite interesting when a couple days later, she showed up looking like a snake who was half way through the shedding process! It was even more interesting when the gentleman following her, found someone else he rathered to follow!

The next day was our trip to Havana. Many told us it was a must to do the Havana tour. Being a history buff, I knew it was something I would enjoy. As for my wife, the fact she failed history 3 times, left me with doubts. Before we even reached the city limits, I could see I had nothing to fear. Cuba is a land lost in time. The old cars, the old buildings, and the simplicity of the people, give you the impression that time stopped in 1959. The tour bus took us to the heart of old Havana, where this feeling is even more amplified. In standing in the middle of the square, you can almost picture the bustling times of pre-revolution, and the uncertainty of post revolution. It's hard to find a street that's not filled with the sounds of music, or a flash of the past. Some would be turned off by children, or elderly begging for money. It's undeniable that Cuba is a land of less wealthy. But it's important to remember that wealth is measured in many ways... monetary wealth is considered by many, to be far less important than other types of wealth.

After lunch, we walked through the streets, to the Capitol building, where they have almost duplicated the Capitol building found in Washington DC. Humorously, they ensured their Capitol building was a whole 5" taller. From there we loaded into a bus, and toured around the embassy district, and onto the Presidential Palace. The faces of Che, and other heroes of the revolution line the sides of buildings. As a history buff, I found myself questioning the history as told by our tour guide, but didn't feel it was the time or place to question his version. It made me realise how isolated the citizens of Cuba are.

The rest of the week was spent enjoying the warm weather, the beach, and the pools. One day we decided to take a walk along the beach, and we were advised of a resort down the beach, that used the same colour wrist bracelets. We decided to wander around the resort, in the interest of future visit, along with the fact the service at our resort was terrible! Before we could even get onto this resort, a member of their activities team approached us. Busted? Nope, he wanted to take a video of us for the presentation later that evening, "Faces of Iberostar"! We carried on, proceeding to their swim up bar. It was an incredible oasis of activity and luxury. The service was prompt, and the drinks were better. They even had a poolside ice cream bar!! We enjoyed a little more of that resort!

Soon it was time to head back to reality, and back to my new job. Our flight arrived at Pearson at 1:45 am, and I was scheduled to start my new job the new day at 8:30. We planned on staying at the airport Marriott that evening, close to the new office. Unfortunately, the desk clerk failed to recognise that Marriott's Gold Members are supposed to enjoy late checkouts, so I had to take Leanne home. After 3 hours sleep, it was a tough first day. The good news is the start of boating season is almost upon us. We'll save that for the next chapter!


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