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Hello visitors. On my blog I'm talking about my books, but also about what I'm currently working on and, maybe, some other stuff. Browse through my posts and don't forget to check out my older posts in the archives. If you are interested in my books, please, visit my website Fictitious Tales for more information and a few excerpts. You'll find more excerpts in my old website Herbert's World. Also, take a look at my second blog Herbert Grosshans, where I talk about fun-stuff and things that concern me.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Varadero, Cuba

According to the calendar Spring is here, but here in Manitoba the snow is still on the ground. Today it is supposed to go up to plus 2 Celsius. But the signs that Spring is just around the corner are there. Saturday I saw the first geese. Always a good sign.
We spent two weeks in Varadero, Cuba. The weather was great, sunshine and no snow, just the beach and the ocean. Anyone interested in reading my review on Trip Advisor can find it here: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g147275-d151596-r101175148-Brisas_del_Caribe_Hotel-Varadero_Cuba.html
Even though my review may seem negative, we did have a good time. People always say, “Well, it is a third world country.” To me that is no excuse. When you pay good money you expect value in return. But then again, it is Cuba. They have a Socialistic regime (A dictatorship really), and the government owns everything. There is no incentive for people who want to get ahead. There is no competition. If you go shopping in the marketplaces the products and prices are the same everywhere. Apparently, people are allowed to open small business. For instance you can have an eatery with four tables, or your own stand to sell stuff.
They have quite a nice system with the money there. They’ve created the Cuban Convertible Peso. Not worth anything in other countries; can only be used in Cuba. It is pretty much on par with the Euro. It is a joke that their money is worth more than our Canadian Dollar! When you change your money into Cuban Dollars they charge you a 10% fee and when you change them back at the end of the trip you get charged 10% again. So it is best to only exchange as much money as you think you’ll need. Actually, you don’t need that much if you stay in an all-inclusive resort, unless you want to go on excursion trips or buy a lot of souvenirs. The excursion trips are expensive.
There were mostly Canadians at our resort. The tour guides make jokes why everyone loves Cuba: There are no Americans. Americans are, apparently not welcome, which is not true. Cubans have no problems with having Americans visiting. They’ll be treated like any other vacationer. The sad truth is that Americans are not allowed by law to visit Cuba. Anyone who does is, apparently, fined up to $10,000 and is not allowed to travel for 5 – 7 years! I was surprised to hear that if it is true. And that in the country of the Brave and Free! Apparently not so free. I can see that the government prohibits trade with certain countries but to forbid citizens to travel? That smacks of dictatorship.
Americans do travel to Cuba through Toronto or Montreal. We have no problem with that. The Cubans don’t stamp passports for that reason.
When you travel you experience and see many different things. Some good, some not so good. You meet all kinds of people and sometimes it is upsetting to see how people behave. I’m talking about other travelers.
Their type can be found in every resort. Already on the bus from the airport to the resort we had one guy who felt it was his duty to entertain the whole bus. Talking loud, cheering, and demanding beer from the attendant. Luckily, he went to a different resort. Not that it mattered; his clones were already at our resort.
I don’t want to mention any nationalities, but one wonders if some people behave like that in their own country. The large groups are the worst. Forget about relaxing on the beach or having a quiet dinner, because their loud conversations and laughter will keep you alert. Some bring a radio to the beach and make certain everyone can listen to their music. And when they’re done celebrating and drinking at around 2 o’clock in the morning they make it known to everyone how great a time they are having. The fact that some people are sleeping doesn’t bother them at all.
Some travelers seem to believe the waiters and waitresses are their servants, calling with a loud voice for service, or waving their arms and calling ‘Hey you’ or the equivalent in their language.
What really appalled me was the terrible waste of food. Just because it is an all-inclusive resort doesn’t mean that you can load up your plate and leave half of the food behind…uneaten. I’ve seen full glasses of milk, yogurt, wine, beer, and plates piled up high with uneaten deserts, after the people got up and left the table.
And what is this habit of putting plates full of bread, meat, salads, or deserts in the middle of the table and then leaving most of it uneaten? You can do that at home, but this is a buffet where everyone gets their own plate of food.
Clean water in the third world countries is valuable, and yet I’ve seen people order a glass of water and never touch it.
What must go on inside the mind of the waitress who cleans a table and has to throw all this good food into the trash can when she is aware of the fact that the best food produced in her country is only available to the tourists?
People who are this wasteful should be ashamed and hope they never get into a position where they don’t have enough to eat. I grew up after the war in Germany and we went through bad times. We didn’t always have enough food. My parents taught us to save and not to waste anything, and that has stuck with me to this day. I am grateful to live in a great country like Canada where people with ambition can achieve their dreams of having a home, clothing, and there is no shortage of food, but that doesn’t mean we can waste it. There are still many people in this world who go hungry every day and don’t have a roof over their heads. Sometimes it is good to take a step back and contemplate these things.

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