Saturday, January 23, 2016

Cuba 2016 - Goodbyes

We wake up early, get showered, load up and are in the lobby to check out at 5 am. Dad, of course, is already there, enjoying a coffee and waiting to give us the final send off. Interestingly there is still a leftover group of people from the previous night, partying at the bar. Marty and I look at each other, grimace at the thought, but then remember all the times we were the ones pulling the all-nighters. That makes us smile.

Dad gave each of us a final hug and we then boarded the bus and were soon relaxing in our seats as it meandered down the roads and onto the causeway. The kids all slept the entire way, Marty and I nodded off here and there, and Jen and Ana had a lively discussion the whole way to the airport.

Marty and I pulled the same trick we did at the start of the trip and managed to get to the front of the check-in line, and it was a good thing because there were multiple flights leaving that morning and the line soon stretched right to the back of the airport. We breezed through immigration and claimed a table in the departure lounge which would serve as a base for the two hour wait until boarding time.

By now we were getting hungry so we got out all the remaining snacks (and there were a lot – two kinds of trail mix, pumpkin seeds, chocolate wafers) as well as the large bag of roast beef and cheese sandwiches that Angie and I had made at the buffet the previous evening. Again, we beat the system as everybody else had to stand in line for an hour at the small snack bar that sold lame toasted cheese sandwiches and not much else.

Marty and I went to explore the duty free store and he found a bottle of rum he wanted. The line was long and especially slow moving, and as soon as we reached the front we realized why. They had the slowest credit card machine in the world. I think that when they put the credit card in the machine it sent a small printout of the order to the top of the terminal building where a communications engineer rolled the paper up, attached it to a raven, and sent the bird flying off to Florida to transmit the message. When the raven returned to the rooftop with the authorizing stamp on the bill, the message would be transmitted back down the line and the credit card machine would ring out "Transaction approved!"

We finally boarded the plane and were all seated together. The flight back was great as it went by fast and they served a delicious Montreal smoked meat sandwich for lunch. I also picked up two bottles of Bombay Sapphire gin from the on board duty free so now I'm all set for Canadian summer.

We landed in Toronto, zipped through customs, grabbed our bags, jumped on the shuttle and were back in the Skyway parking lot saying our goodbyes. Marty and the gang had a long ride back to Ottawa and we were going to the Toronto International Boat Show to get some prices for new sails for our boat.

And with that, the 2016 trip to Cuba came to a close.

Cuba 2016 - Lobby soccer, beer boogers and the last supper

The final day of Walking Club was totally overcast, windy as hell and spitting a bit but that wasn't enough to stop us. Mards, Jen, Leif, William, Dad and I were the participants and we had a lovely stroll along the wind swept beach with ocean whitecaps as far as the eye could see. It was reported that William actually slept in until 7am – a personal record I believe.

It's funny how you can never really run out of things to talk about when on a walk. And it's been said that a long walk can solve anything. I believe that.

The one thing that is hard to tire of at an all-inclusive resort is breakfast. Yes, the lunches and dinners have the potential to get tiresome, but somehow that first meal of the day is always anticipated and enjoyed, especially when taken slowly. So we enjoyed our last breakfast together as a group, gave our waiter one final quality tip and then went for a long walk around the nearly deserted side of the resort that few of us had explored yet. For some reason the hotel had an entire section of nearly a dozen buildings that seemed to not be in use, and we explored all of them. There was even a giant pool filled with water, but due to the absence of a stocked and staffed bar it attracted few patrons.

We continued into a building that was a mirror image of the main lobby, except that it was completely deserted. The funny thing was that it was still set with tables and chairs, ashtrays, cushions, and pretty much everything apart from people. So we did what any normal group of humans would do and rearranged four chairs to serve as goalposts and created an impromptu soccer pitch. The game was on, and the only rule was that we had to let Lukas give the ball a kick every couple minutes. The match was spectacular, and a real nail biter right up until the final seconds when Ethan and Magnus threaded their way through the defenders and gracefully slid the ball right past the goal keeper. Goal!

We wandered back to the rooms and somehow Magnus reprogrammed our safe with a new code and then promptly forgot the code. So Ana put the call into the customer service line and they said there would be a technician coming in "un ratito" which, in Spanish, basically means it could be a couple minutes or several hours, or perhaps never. I volunteered to stay behind and wait while Ana and the kids joined some of the others in a final trip to the Pueblo. I'm much better at lying on a bed reading a book than browsing shops so it worked out very fine indeed, and the technician didn't show up for two hours so I actually got my first bit of substantial reading done on the trip.

I arrived at the pool restaurant just in time for lunch and found a whole tray of these little miniature octopus babies that everyone else managed to pass by. Well, the kids were mesmerized by these purple beauties and each of them came by my plate to poke and prod at my meal, but none were brave enough for a taste test so I got to enjoy them all myself.

A lot of people have trouble with the food in Cuba, and looking around today I saw the perfect picture of why this is. Despite dozens of fresh salads, fresh vegetables, seafood, and stews, there was a line-up of twenty people behind the single buffet tray that held French fries. So I guess it comes down to this: if you are not willing to give new foods a shot, if you refuse to eat seafood, and if you are used to eating French fries and double cheeseburgers five times a week in Canada, then you are probably not going to like the food in Cuba. Fortunately, none of our group fit into that category and I can't remember anybody having trouble finding something they liked.

We did the shift to the pool and relaxed there for what seemed like hours. I spent a lot of time chatting with Curt about the topics we usually cover – investing, business, electric cars and housing. And I finally had a breakthrough moment with Lukas after all my hard work to cozy up to him this week. Curt had brought back two nice big beers for us, which he put on the ground and then left to go to the can. I called Lukas over and he actually sat with me on my chair, which was a first in itself. We sat for a few minutes and then I noticed a big, meaty, green booger doing that slip and slide thing in his right nostril. So I put my thumb and forefinger on his nose in Farmer Hanky position and told him to blow. Sure enough, that booger shot right out onto my finger. I then made sure he was watching and flicked it toward the ground then said, "Look Lukas, I just flicked that nasty booger into your dad's beer! Don't tell him." His face lit up with the biggest and most mischievous smile I've ever seen. We were now partners in crime.

After a chill out session back at the rooms we soon found ourselves enjoying our last cocktails at the lobby bar. Magnus celebrated by spilling another drink on the bar, but thankfully the rest of us kept our beverages contained.

We arrived at the Cuban a la carte for 7pm and they got our entire group seated at a single table, right next to the "buffet fighters" from the previous night. The food selections were interesting. One of the appetizers was a meat filled potato and the other was something that was, in Spanish, called a "fried grandma". Surprisingly, the fried grandma beat the meaty potato hands down.

Angie had come up with an idea for the final night. She and Ana gathered some slips of paper and on them wrote things like, "Tell us one time grandpa spent some special time with you" and "Tell us one interesting thing grandpa gave to you" and "Tell us a time grandpa played a trick on you". So we each had a turn to recount a fond memory of Dad in honour of his 65th birthday, and it was not hard thinking of examples. Dad has always been the most positive, accessible, easy going, hard working and genuine person you could imagine and we all love him so much.

We finished off the meal with some super sweet, Cuban-style rice pudding and then returned to our rooms to finish preparing for the next morning's early departure at 5:30 am. Most of the Saskatoon crew came by our room and we said our goodbyes after a fun filled week. For me, it had been such a great opportunity to get to know those members of my family that we don’t see frequently. And seeing all of our children get along so well, and have so much fun together was a real pleasure.

Cuba 2016 - Slugs, five layer leftovers and buffet fisticuffs

Today was fishing trip day so we were up for an early breakfast in order to meet our departure time of 8am. A cold front had definitely moved in as the sky was overcast, the temperature had dropped and the winds had risen. So we packed a few extra items of clothes in our day bags in case it was cool on the water.

We were in the lobby by 8am waiting along many others who were there for their day trips when one of the staff announced that all water activities had been cancelled for the day because of the weather. Damn! We stood there for a few minutes looking each other, unsure of our next move, then finally decided that our next move should be a second breakfast.

Marty and Dad returned to the lobby for 9am to talk to the Sunwing representative and see if we could book the trip for the next day, but they were told everything was fully booked and there were no other options. So we decided instead for the entire group to take the big double-decker tourist bus to the other, smaller Pueblo which was located to the west a few miles.

Since we had an hour before the next departure we went back to the rooms. Along the way Ana stepped on a giant slug and her flip flop launched the slimy remains up onto her leg. I used some leaves to wipe off the goo and was reminded of Marty's earlier observation that these boneless, meaty slugs must be like chicken fingers for birds. We had another small bit of bad luck when we discovered that all the stuff we had drying on our chairs on the back patio (a towel and three bathing suits, including Ana's favourite) had gone missing overnight so we had another look around the building and in the bushes in case somebody just threw them around for a joke, but no luck.

We boarded the bus on the upper level and after a short, windy, hold onto your hats ride we arrived at the smaller Pueblo. The cool thing about this one was it had a giant pirate ship with a bar inside the hull and a deck you could climb onto, so we took the kids up there to check it out. There was also a high tower that offered excellent views across the island, to the resorts and out to sea. We could see whitecaps across the whole ocean so were a little glad we weren't out there bouncing around in a boat.

The kids bought some souvenirs from the vendors there, including a wooden AK-47 that Magnus simply could not pass up. Curt and Carrie bought a nice piece of original artwork, Ana picked up a flashy ring, and Angie and I each bought a three dollar bottle of flavoured spirits in case we felt like having shots in the hotel rooms.

We returned to our hotel for our Groundhog day lunch at the pool restaurant and played another game of Settlers of Catan. As the day was cooler, around 23 degrees, there wasn't as much pool activity and I think a few of us slipped away for afternoon naps, something that had been strangely absent during this trip. Later in the afternoon the sun peeked out for a while so we got set up on pool chairs and watched the pool show which was a dozen super fit Cuban men and women doing acrobatic tricks and synchronized swimming/diving in the pool. And they watched up unfit folks lying on our pool chairs sucking back free bar. I think they were more jealous than we were.

We went back to the rooms to get ready for dinner and Lukas and Eliot came over to ours for a wrestling extravaganza.  We pushed the beds together, threw Magnus and Stella with them in the ring and let them go for it. This is Eliot and Lukas's specialty and Curtis tells me they can't sit beside each other for 5 minutes before a wrestling match breaks out. Before long, Lukas had Magnus in a magnificent choke hold and was not letting go. But since Magnus was laughing and his face was not turning blue, we let them continue until they were both simply tired out.

We were soon back at the main buffet for dinner and were surprised with some new items on the line. First, they had one giant, regular looking turkey that was being carved and served and another one on the buffet that looked to have been dipped in yogurt. They also had a huge roast beef that was thinly sliced and delicious. Last, there was a full fish that had a similar yogurt coating, though this one was pink and completely tasteless. The strangest new item was a bizarre dish we called, "Jellied Five Layer Leftover". Imagine squares of clear gelatine with five, clearly separated layers of foods you know you have eaten at some point in the previous day or two. What an amazing way to get rid of those discarded beets, corn, peas, onions, and carrots! I didn't actually try any, but I did get Curt to take a photo of this odd creation.

During our long, long dinner I sat with Stella and she told me that she had decided what she wants to save up for. Stella is our family saver and seems to have more cash available at any time than the rest of us put together as she rarely spends any of her allowance. But she had become quite enthralled with Dad's new camera, especially the zoom function and the little display screen that had a swivel. She asked grandpa how much the camera cost and was a little shocked to hear it was nearly a thousand dollars. But we told her we could probably find something a little less fancy for less than that if we shopped around.

Just as we were about to leave the restaurant an altercation broke out at the table close to us. Two ladies were trying to beat each other up but were being held apart by a man holding a small baby. Classy! At one point the mother or mother-in-law got involved too and we were sure there was going to be fisticuffs, but after several minutes there was only shouting, eff-words and frantic finger pointing – no real violence. Bored, we tiptoed around the combatants and skedaddled back to Marty's room for a nightcap while the kids once again got set up in our room with a movie on the laptop.

We crammed a bunch of chairs Marty and Jen's deck, cracked out what booze we could find, and solved a few of the world's problems. Ana brought up a People magazine that she wanted to show Dad, as she found a product ad that might be very relevant for him in his aging condition. They were called Butterfly Pads and the tag line on the ad said, "Discreet protection for accidental bowel leakage". They were basically panty liners for sharts. And considering the state of most people's digestive systems at Cuban all inclusive resorts, I think this company could serve a very motivated market segment by putting these suckers in vending machines outside of all the buffets.

Ana and I returned to our room, got the kids settled and were getting ready for bed when a howl came piercing through the night. Poor Lukas two rooms away was having a major meltdown. In fact, it sounded like his parents were torturing him (or was it maybe the other way around). After a while I went over and knocked on the door to see if they needed any kids Tylenol, handkerchief gags, shots of rum or the like. Curt answered the door all groggy-like and said it was fine; Lukas just wanted to sleep with them but that wasn't allowed so Carrie and he were having a showdown. We found out the next day that Carrie stood her ground and won! I must say, I do not often miss the days of having young kids, but I guess we all have to put in our time.  Makes you tougher.

Cuba 2016 - Slow meals, Settlers of Catan and vandalizing the lobby

After the busy day yesterday we had decided to plan absolutely nothing today, which was good because I was feeling the effects of those after hours drinks the night before. Even so, I woke up at 7:26 and was down to the beach for Walking Club at 7:30. I was the only one there so I just walked into the ocean and stood there for a while to figure out my next move. Fortunately, Angie, Marty's gang and Dad soon appeared so we went for a nice walk.

Ana had gone to breakfast earlier and tried to sit at our table but the waiter wouldn't let her, saying it was reserved for a group of 17. She finally convinced him she was part of the group of 17 and he allowed access. The rest of us arrived after the walk and we enjoyed another long, slow breakfast. Curt and Carrie told us that Lukas was finally feeling much better and they were thinking he may been having a reaction to the sunscreen as he was constantly rubbing his eyes and face when it was on. I tried cozying up to him but got another cold shoulder, but think I spotted a slight smile. Eliot, on the other hand, was comfortable with us right from the start, which was great, and he is such a friendly and gregarious kid. I don't get to see these nephews too often, which makes it a bit tougher. I do see Leif and William frequently so we are already good buddies.

We went to the pool after breakfast and nearly everybody except me participated in a big pool volleyball game. I just sat silently in my chair with my sunglasses on and tried to stay upright. Marty and his gang went to the beach and took a ride on one of the Hobie Cats as the wind had picked up, providing for a good sailing day.

We had a long, slow lunch at the pool restaurant and then cracked out the Settlers of Catan board game Magnus had brought along. For once, Magnus had bad luck and just couldn't get his numbers to come up so I managed to win, but Curt and Eliot were close behind me. It was Ethan's first game and he caught on fast – I expect him to be dangerous in future encounters.

We of course returned to the pool and enjoyed a slow afternoon, except for William who must have taken his mask on and off a hundred times and was in constant motion in the water. Stella too spent all her time with the boys in the water and Lukas had really latched onto her, like all young kids do. Magnus and Ethan have really hit it off so they have been spending a lot of time together. It's nice to see the cousins all getting along so well.

While the kids were goofing around, Dad and I were doing some serious work and developed a new trick which allows foreigners to double their beer consumption in Cuba. The only Spanish words anybody knows are "Dos cervezas, por favor", which obviously gets you two beers. But with a clever, yet simple rearranging of a few letters, we came up with the new standard phrase. It is "Yo cerveza!  Pour for four." Since most of the Cubans speak at least a little English they almost understand this.  So now you get four beer instead of two.  You are welcome.

After a chill out session at the room we all met at the lobby bar for cocktails. A few of us and the kids were elbowed up to the bar ordering drinks. Lukas got a glass of pinks slushie and almost immediately dumped half of it on the bar, which the bartender quickly cleaned up. Then when the bartender was serving the drinks he dumped an entire gin and tonic all over the bar and half of it splashed on Stella. He apologized profusely, but we assured him she was fine and it was no big deal. We went out to the lobby and got settle in the comfy chairs while Magnus waited for his drink. When he returned to join us a few minutes later he reported that he too had spilled his drink on the bar and most of it had hit the bartender. Then less than five minutes later Lukas hurled a chair cushion onto the table which took out a gin and tonic, a Miami Vice and knocked one of the glasses on the floor which shattered. At that point we decided we had done enough damage in the lobby and continued to the buffet, where our favourite waiter had the table all ready for us.

After dinner most of us went to the theatre foyer to listen to the Cuban band, but I took Magnus back to the room as he wasn't feeling too great and I was tired. Besides, the show for the night was Grease, which, in itself, was an excellent excuse to have an early night.

Cuba 2016 - Speedboats, snorkeling and bowling

Back in Canada, Loretta had found us a great deal on a day trip driving these cool little speedboats. Since the tour left today at 9 I got up earlier for a quick walk and bumped into Angie on the beach. She had been getting up way earlier than Walking Club every day so we walked for a short while, had a great chat, and then headed back up to the restaurant to meet everybody for a fast breakfast.

The bus picked us up on time and we stopped at three other resorts before continuing onto the marina. After filling out a short waiver we were lead to the boats which were these little two seater models with a 25 hp outboard engine powering them. The Cubans fired up the engines and assigned us to a boat; Stella and I rode together and the others all teamed up with the exception of Marty who got his own boat since he was the odd man out. We followed the guide out of the harbour and soon we were zipping along at full power doing long broad sweeps across the bay. We drove out to a huge, grounded ship that that guide had told us was carrying molasses. As we neared the boat we were hit with a horrible, sickly sweet stink coming off the boat, no doubt from the thousands of gallons of decaying molasses. What a waste, think of all the rum that could have been made with it.

From here we continued to some narrow channels through the mangroves. At some point Marty's boat died so the leader gave Marty his super charged boat while he fixed up the dead one. But Marty got stuck behind a slow lady so the other guide gave Marty the thumbs up to pass her, and after passing her he passed everybody and was headed for the lead until the guide gave him the "throat slash" gesture to cool his rockets. At times like this we say the "old Marty" is back. You see, beneath that absolutely phoney Bank of Canada, economist, responsible father persona is a wild man. And when the wild man comes out, watch out!

We made it back to the marina with no problems (besides inhaling a lot of nasty outboard engine gasoline fumes, which gave a few of us headaches and sore throats) and they loaded us up on a large boat for the second half of the trip - snorkelling. We took a very short ride just out into the bay, and along the way I took the opportunity to sit beside Leif and crack every single one of his toes, unbeknownst to his mother. I am a renowned knuckle cracker and my specialty is to crack the knuckles of small childrens' toes. I've been doing it to Leif and William since they were babies and their mom has only busted me once or twice. I find it keeps the digits limber and the kids love it.

We stopped at a nice reef where we were all given gear and sent out for a swim. The coral was in excellent shape and all the kids and adults went in to explore the many fish and colourful corals. One of the guests had brought along a water bottle filled with bread and let it loose underwater and was swarmed by hungry little fish!

We arrived back at the hotel in time for lunch and somebody snapped the photo of the trip. William was sitting on Loretta's lap enjoying some snuggle time with Gigi when he let out a giant fart and burst into laughter. The look on Loretta's face says it all.

After lunch we all went to the Pueblo for a game of bowling. We took over three lanes and went crazy with the ten pin. Jenny cleaned up and waxed everybody, but some of the kids also had great games, which were helped when a little man would periodically drop down from the pins, run the up the lane, and redirect their shot right into the middle! You don't get that kind of help in Canadian alleys, of that I am sure. We ordered up a couple rounds of drinks and (ugh) actually had to pay for them, which was quite painful, so that drove us back to the resort for some of the free stuff.

Before long it was time for our nightly feeding. The seafood a-la-carte was beautifully decorated and they had set up three tables to accommodate our large group. The menu had some interesting selections - seafood cappuccino with croutons, chicken pyramid, and rum soaked shrimp being just a few. The four older kids - Ethan, Magnus, Leif and Stella - had their own table and by the end of the meal we realized why we hadn't heard a word out of them – they had been inventing their own language. It was sort of a pig Latin with a special twist. Smart kids, them.

At the end of the meal the servers brought out a big birthday cake for Dad and we all sung him a loud and boisterous Happy Birthday! The cake looked good, but in Cuba you just never know. Well, it turned out to be a banana cake and was super delicious. In fact, it was so good I had two pieces.

As we left the restaurant, which shared a foyer with the main buffet, we were faced with a strange sight. There was a young guy passed out cold in a chair, and somebody had pushed all the potted plants around him and thrown a chair cushion on top of him. The kids all went up to him and gave him a poke to see if he was real, but he didn't stir. Even the Cuban staffers walking by weren't sure what to make of him so they just shrugged, laughed, and continued on. We took a few pictures of the poor chump and I silently congratulated his friends on a job well done.

We went back to our building and got the kids all set up in our room with the laptop (babysitter) and a whole bunch of movies. We then set up shop in Dad and Loretta's room and cracked out the tunes and the bottles of wine somebody scoffed from the restaurant. We had a lovely chat and came up with the idea that we boys should go back to the pool restaurant bar when the ladies were ready to turn in. So the ladies turned in and we went back to the bar. That was easy.

This was the first night we'd stayed out past 10pm so we encountered the night crew, mainly young Quebecers, which wasn't too much of a surprise as those guys like to party. We ordered up some drinks and were having a laugh when some young girl came over with four glasses of strange green liquid. Being gentlemen, we accepted the drinks, knocked them back, and were surprised to find they actually weren't that gut wrenching. Then Marty looked over at some guy wearing a black t-shirt with bold writing that said " J’ai soif".  Mards, being the French speaker, let us in on the joke and told us it means, "I'm thirsty", ha ha. Then Curtis looked at the guy closer and asked him, "Hey, were you the guy that was sleeping in the buffet lobby a couple hours ago?"

The guy said, "No, not me."  So Curt gets out his phone, pulls up the picture he took and notices the guy in the picture is wearing the exact same white sandals as the guy wearing the "J'ai soif" shirt standing in front of us.

"What's this?" Curt asks. "You sure you weren't sleeping in the lobby? Those look a lot like your shoes."

"Ok, maybe I was sleeping in the lobby for a little while," our new buddy replies in that hilarious French accent.  Of course he is a Quebecer, and we rename him "Jay" in honour of his fine shirt.

We meet a few other characters, including an old war vet with a white poppy tattooed right on top of his Adam's apple and his stripper friend who claimed to have been looking for a decent beach pole to put on a show earlier that day. I'm glad the kids gave this one a miss.

Right around that time our legs decided it was time to go so they started moving and we followed them back to the hotel rooms. I call it the "drunk man autopilot".  It takes years to develop and is an excellent technique for self preservation when out partying.

Cuba 2016 - Sandcastles, tennis and paper airplanes

The Walking Club left on time and this day we headed east on the beach under a slightly overcast sky that created a beautiful, morning light. Marty brought a Frisbee so we threw it up and down the beach which added some sprinting to the morning exercise regime. The kids wanted to know what the holes in the sand were so Dad told them it was from crabs so we tried in vain to dig one out but they tunnelled too deep and our Frisbee/shovel just couldn't go down that far. We found a lovely set of sandcastles that somebody must have made the previous day; they included a mermaid, a shell, an underground temple, a Star Wars star destroyer and a perfectly formed pyramid. We also found three live starfish that we watched intently for several minutes just to make sure they were actually moving. To cap off a morning of many sights, on the way back Ana spotted a hawk sitting atop a pole, munching a delicious gecko. Dad was disappointed that he forgot to bring along his new high zoom camera.

We all met up for breakfast and had the standard fare. Curt gave me one of this boiled eggs and it took me 15 minutes to peel the sucker as the shells came off in microscopic pieces. That was the last boiled egg for me. I ate a massive amount of papaya and offered a piece to Marty.

"I don't like that stuff," he said.

"It's probably because you had it Canada and the ones there are always unripe and taste like a baby's dirty ass," I explained.

"OK, let me try a piece." He ate it and frowned. "That still tastes like a baby's dirty ass.

"Yes, but much less so. That's why it's so much better here."

We moved the Olson Horde down to the beach and reclaimed our favourite spot, though there seemed to be a lot more people around today. Poor little William had blisters on his cheeks so he was instructed by his mom to say these lines to any adult he met that day: Could I please have some sunscreen? 

It was a very hot day and we all spent most of the time in the water floating, lounging, snorkelling or simply rolling around in the sand. A few of us were floating together and noticed a dude walking down the beach with a metal detector looking for goodies on the beach and in the water.

"That is my retirement plan," said Ana. "I want to be that guy." I was previously unaware of her scavenging ambitions so I am going to have to start looking around online to buy her some gear so she can start practicing. Maybe she can begin with cast off nickels down at the local park to hone her skills.

Several times during the morning Leif had asked me when we were going to play tennis like I promised. Well I couldn't really remember promising that but I did remember telling him there were tennis courts on the resort, which was as good as a promise to a young eager lad. So I checked out a couple rackets from the sports centre and led a parade of youngsters to play tennis. Today was extremely hot so I was quite sure it wasn't going to last long. As expected, the court was blisteringly hot, but it didn't stop us from smashing the tennis ball around for 45 minutes and all the kids got a crack at it. Curt, Carrie and Lukas also showed up and had a few hits, but soon it was just too hot so we got the gang moving, sticking to the shadowy side of the path, and made our way to the pool restaurant.

We enjoyed an extremely slow and long lunch, in no rush to go anywhere. I was continuing my attempts to get to know Lukas, but he would return each of my advances with the "Lukas cold shoulder". Marty reported he was getting the same treatment so I didn't feel too bad, but I still resolved to become his buddy by the end of the trip. I got a lovely consolation prize when Leif came over and gave me an awesome back scratch – he is the master of that. Actually, several times during the trip we'd be walking in a group and all of a sudden a hand would slide up my back and start scratching away. What a champ!

After lunch everybody went to the Pueblo except Dad, Loretta, Ethan and I who hung out at the pool instead. Dad and I snuck away for a quick cigar and beer in the lobby then returned to the pool and Ethan and I played a fun game of chess on the giant board they had at the sports centre. It wasn't long before the others returned and Stella, Leif and William were all sporting newly purchased trinkets.

Most seasoned all-inclusivers bring along their own drinking vessel as the resort serves drinks in those tiny, plastic disposable cups that probably all end up in the bellies of cute sea turtles. In one way, the cups are good in that by the time you return from the pool bar to your chair you have already drank all the beer so you need to return to the bar, in effect getting double the exercise. But if you're not into exercise (seen the typical Canadian lately?) then what you want is a Big Bubba Mug. These fit about half a bottle of rum and a litre of Coke so can last you for up to an hour and there is no exercise required, unless you have to roll into the pool to take a leak. But today I saw something brand new – the Big Bubba Keg. This sucka was twice the size as the standard model and you needed two hands to lift it once filled with the gallon of beverage of your choice. Somebody noted that the lady carrying it had a physique remarkably similar to the vessel itself so I think she'd been hitting the all-inclusives with some regularity.

After a good swim everybody returned to the rooms for a pre-dinner cool down. During the day Marty and Dad had booked us a half day fishing trip for Wednesday and the ladies had booked us spots at both the seafood and Cuban a-la-carte restaurants so we were all set for the week.

We met up for dinner at the appointed time and it was delicious, though uneventful, at least until the paper airplane battle broke out in the restaurant. I think Magnus constructed the first one with his place mat and tossed it across the table. I folded up a second one and threw it and everybody else jumped in soon after that. Paper airplanes of all varieties and construction standards began to fly, initially restricted to the airspace of our own table. But soon some of our planes were flying into the hair, soup and plates of neighbouring diners so they began constructing their own planes and launching them back. One of them even dipped his plane in shrimp sauce and stuck a few antennae on it which gave it a seriously deadly look. We continued this battle for air supremacy just up until the point where a neighbouring table of boring people who didn't like getting hit with planes were about to come over and punch one of us in the face. Some people have no sense of fun.

Somehow during the epic fighter plan battle William had fallen fast asleep, face down on the table. I must have been a little intoxicated because I offered to carry him, knowing damn well that William is basically a solid chunk of lead powered by rocket fuel. I made it about halfway back then ran out of steam and Marty took a shift. Together we managed to lug him back to the room, then we met most of the gang back at the theatre to see the evening show. Unfortunately, the first two performances were sufficiently lacklustre to drive Magnus and I out the back door and back to the room. I can't tell you what happened after that.