Friday, January 11, 2019

Cuba 2019 - Do Your Friends Inspire You?

Before leaving on our trip, I found Jordan Peterson’s book “12 Rules for Life - An Antidote to Chaos” on sale so I bought it. These days I rarely, if ever, buy new books; we usually get them used or from one of the Little Free Libraries. Mostly, I borrow my books from the library in Brantford, and if I find one that I love and know will read again, or if I want the kids to read it in the future, I will buy it. I had a feeling this book may be worth owning, so I took a chance on it. I’m about a quarter of the way through it, but I’m not sure yet it if’s a keeper. Some of the writing is very dense, academic, and difficult to process, while other parts are at written at a much more accessible level. One thing the book does not do is pussyfoot around - he strikes out with bold statements, direct language and painful truths.

The chapter I’ve reached is “Make friends with people that want the best for you”. The idea is simple - don’t spend time with people who drag you down. I have been most fortunate in my life and I don’t ever recall spending significant amounts of time with anybody who I felt had the potential to drag me down. Peterson says it’s easy to surround yourself with people who are inferior to yourself, but much more difficult to be with people who are superior. But to keep growing and progressing in life, I think that is exactly what you need to do.

Late in the afternoon Ana and I left the kids in the room and went down to the lobby for a pre-dinner drink and cigar. And we talked about all the hundreds of people we’ve met over the years and how fortunate we’ve been to meet so many inspiring ones. We’ve lived together in nine countries, and have done our best to maintain long distance friendships with the people who most inspired us. We’ve been settled in Canada now for a long time and continue to try and meet new people and spend time as much time as we can with those that inspire us in some way. This idea is even more important to us now as we see our kids growing and approaching adulthood as we want them to find friends that can challenge them, support them, draw them in new directions, and expose them to their own good habits. So far I think they are doing well, but it is something we pay particular attention to, so this chapter in the book was particularly useful to me.

The day began with a blunder. I’ve been getting up at 6 am every morning to write and drink herbal tea down in the lobby. At that time of day those little no-see-ums are ravenous and love to chomp hungrily on exposed skin, so in my morning stupor I found the bug spray and liberally coated my feet and ankles, but then realized I had grabbed the bottle of sunscreen. But I put on so much I think it must have masked my human smell because I didn’t get any bites and will certainly not suffer any ankle sunburns today.

Ana and I went for a long, slow beach walk at 7 am, enjoying the still air and the glassy, unbroken ocean surface. This is the time of day when the beach keeners all march down to claim the best spots by draping their towels, bags, hats, and sometimes just flip flops, on top of the beach lounger chairs. Every time I see this I threaten to gather up all of these personal items from the chairs and put them into a giant pile, claim a prime spot for myself and then sit back and enjoy the frenzy as the beachgoers finally arrive hours later after their leisurely breakfasts and find their precious spots taken and have to root through the pile for their stuff. Am I evil? Yes I am. Am I too much of a chicken to try it? Yes I am.

The kids and us spent the morning at the beach (in a sub-prime location, but still perfect). Besides the regular swimming and beach combing (finding a gorgeous hermit crab whom we named “Champ”), we also got some sea kayaks and did a long paddle around the rocky shoreline and out beyond the resort. We also wanted to use one of the six-man paddleboats available, but it was extremely hot and we were getting too roasted so we decided to save that for another day.

In the evening we walked down to the Plaza Pesquero for a game of bowling. There seems to be a bowling alley within walking range of every all-inclusive resort in Cuba, and here was no different. Along the way Ana spotted a gigantic, and I mean GIGANTIC, toad poking his head out of a hole in the curb. We tried to entice him out but he was predictably wary and retreated into the safety of the underground before we could take a photo of the magnificent beast. The road leading to the plaza was dark and deserted, which would set off cranial alarm bells and tingling Spidey senses anywhere else in the Caribbean (or perhaps world?), but not in Cuba. There is simply no safer country to visit as Cuba does not tolerate crime, and we know this from experience. One time in Varadero, we had the hubcaps stolen off our rental car, and were advised by our hotel to report it to the police. This resulted in a team of cops being sent to the hotel to perform an intensive investigation, which included sniffer dogs and interviews with hotel staff. That was for sixty bucks worth of hubcaps. On the flip side, do not ever, ever considering doing something illegal in Cuba, because they will catch you and the consequences will be severe. During that same trip, we drove to Havana and back and I was pulled over four times by police for minor traffic infractions. I was able to play the stupid tourist card, and didn’t get fined, but there’s no doubt there are eyes everywhere.

The bowling expedition took us much deeper into the night than usual, and by the time we returned the evening show was well underway. A seven piece a cappella band was ripping it up on the outdoor stage and creating the illusion of a full Cuban band with only their voices. One of them was doing the stand-up bass, one did guitar, one did the flute, another did the drums, another a trumpet, and the last two were the main singers. They were extraordinary musicians.

And then, out of nowhere, the MC shrieked, “It’s time for a Cuban foam party!” As the high volume dance music started pumping, a shiny foam cannon was revealed at the corner of the stage and white gobs of suds erupted from its mouth, spraying foam over everything and everyone nearby. The crowd went wild and people rushed the stage and began dancing uncontrollably. A crazy Cuban foam party ensued and yes, we joined in.

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