Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Flash Fiction 26 - Secrets Revealed

Shortest flash ever! Or at least from me *g* Let me know what you think :)

Thanks for reading!

----



"Excuse me," the woman addressed me, "my daughter wants to know if you're a pirate?"

"Only on the weekends and alternate Wednesdays," I answered, straight-faced as my girlfriend smirked beside me. The little girl's eyes grew wide as she exclaimed excitedly to her mother.

"A pirate?" Julia asked me as the woman and her child continued on their way.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you earlier," I apologized. "I didn't think you'd approve," I said with a grin.

"And here I thought you were playing poker with the guys," she joked.

"Well that would be the more plausible explanation." I put my arm around her as we continued on down the street, the random encounter quickly forgotten other than the odd time it amused Julia to joke about it. But every time she did I had to wonder... How did the child know?

Superpony achieves the previously impossible...

Had a jump school today. Weather delayed my coach long enough that we were properly warmed up by the time he got there, so that was a promising beginning. So he's setting fences as I'm flatting and inwardly just started to cringe. By the second fence I knew what he was building -- one of my fav exercises with Zel, but when we tried it with Sienna a few months ago, we failed horrendously. Was just so far beyond her abilities, even at the simplest level; what Zel had done so easily she was completely incapable of. Not fun.

The week after that rather disastrous attempt my coach had shown up with intent to school some of the pieces in hopes of improving said disaster -- but I was in a different place that day and asked some questions that led to an entirely different (and arguably more useful) lesson. And by the week after that my coach had moved on too *big sigh of relief*.

So I'm watching him set this up thinking "here we go again" but sobeit. The big issue for us here is the first gymnastic is on the centre line -- which means you both start and finish w/ a half 10m circle. W/u fence was np of course -- it's always the same and Si gets it now. Landing was a little dodgy the first couple times, but we got it together. Was very impressed the one time we were debating over which way to go on landing - left/right/left tempis. hahaha they were more motorcycle style than anything you'd ever see in the dressage ring, but they were clean and calm which are both things Miss Sienna isn't known for so I was happy at that (my coach was not as amused :).

2nd fence goes up on the center-line and the two angles get added in. Still no problem, we're trotting in and our first jump is past X so it's all good. Lots of time to get straightened out *g* Landing left took a couple tries but soon we had it so we could land and go either way and canter through the corner to the diagonal (to put this section in perspective, last time we tried this, leads were not bad but not terribly consistent, and we never managed to make the turn in the canter; sometimes didn't even make the turn at all). Then same exercise with the approach in canter. Frig. That horrendous turn that caused all kinds of trouble last time. But at least we have half a ring to get straight so can cheat (uh, I mean recover! that's it :)

Well she did it. It wasn't entirely brill, but she made the turn onto the line and held it without any real drama or concern. Thereby proving strength, coordination and balance have all improved significantly. This was where we had failed horrendously last time -- the exercise never got past that point. In fact if we're honest it never got TO that point. N so I was good to end there, but I could see from the standards that my coach had grander plans.

Sure enough, the next two fences in the gymnastic are put into play (the end result being pole, bounce, one stride, two stride; there was also a ground pole in the middle of the one-stride, and the two was an oxer. All the fences were <2'9 though, so nothing scary. Well nothing scary except the turns!). So the first time we were allowed to trot it (thankfully!) She definitely looked at the bounce ("Where did THAT come from??? I'm supposed to have time to think here!") Which, esp w/ the pole in front of it, meant that as you come off the 10m turn the pole is there. There is no time to overshoot and get straight -- thereby removing my cheating ability. Booo. But she did the whole thing and kept her little brain fully involved. Same thing off the harder rein which was a little more frazzled, but we survived.

And then... "Do it in canter." I definitely had a moment's hesitation before picking up that gait. Easy way first (I'm not new here :). Forget any doubts about her ability to turn, straighten and jump, and just do it. Ride the horse you want her to be. So I gave myself the entire long side to get through my mini mental games and to get her canter established (speed/balance/impulsion -- we used to only have speed. Too much of it!) And she did it. The turn wasn't perfectly balanced -- there was definitely some leaning involved, but really I was still pretty impressed. We made the turn bang on with enough impulsion that the gymnastic was a complete non issue and enough brain that we could get through that and keep going to the diagonal. I was thrilled. And ready to leave it.

But no, we have to do it the other way. Now to put this in perspective, I have *never* been able to make that tight a turn to the right in the canter. Not on the flat. Certainly not when she'd have to jump anything. And as was noted, you turn and the jump is THERE. There's no space for correction. Well I have to admit we overshot it a little bit, but I was able to apply my cheating techniques for good -- we jumped the bounce on an angle right to left which put us right dead centre for the rest of the gymnastic. And she did it honestly and without getting frazzled by it (she doesn't usually care for bounces so I wasn't sure what she'd think off angling one off a tight turn). And the rest of the exercise was textbook. Seriously. Amazing canter through the other (equally tight but easier due to walls turn) and the single fence on the angle perfectly on stride with no galloping away towards home. hahaha.

So that still needs some work, but really, the difference between this time and the last time was astonishing. I was sooooo excited. Another 6 mths and it might become one of my favs again *g* Sooooo proud of the superpony. N really, I think she was feeling pretty proud of herself too!

Don't try this at home....

So sometimes in my job I get to learn kewl things. Yesterday's topic was Kameraflage. This is a way of creating images so that if you take a picture of them, what the picture shows is different from what the eye sees.



Was sort of interesting -- wiki talks about uses for anit-pirating in films but apparently cameras already have lenses that will filter this out, so I don't think it'd last long *g*

For those of you still in uni, this site is an invaluable resource. Can just think how many hours of reading it could've saved me over two English degrees *g* Book a Minute. Enjoy!

This week's Theory Thursday is dressage. hahaha actually had fun with this one :) Let me know what you think!

So I've been having a lot of fun w/ my little horse this week. Tues was a super-quick flat ride cause I was short on time (but did get to go ride a bunch of other very nice horses :) Wed we jumped around a bit, mostly at the trot, but got up to some decent height. Big enough that I was impressed she could trot it -- esp as she entirely launched me when she did it :) Cleared it significantly. Fun fun fun. Anyways completely no stress fun and entertaining and Si was all about it *g*

Anyways, Si needs her teeth done, so dressage is kinda a write-off these days. So I randomly decided that I'd try riding her without a bit, but as I lack any form of bitless bridle I had to be creative. Simply attached reins to a noseband and away we go. I had done this once-upon-a-time with Zel to great results, but she was significantly more trained at the time *g* So I hop on my pony (who was fairly chilled out after the jumping yesterday; I'm not *completely* insane :) and was pleased to discover walk/halt transitions were a complete non-issue. Before too long we were good at w/t/c and doing 20m circles and serpentines. I was pretty impressed. Stop and go was no problem -- the response was exactly the same as when I have a bit, so I was thoroughly thrilled at that. Turning, however, was a bit more of a challenge. hahaha apparently I rely on the full-cheek a little more than I realized! So now I know what we have to work on :) But really, in less than 10 mins I had pretty complete feedback that I have really good gas and breaks, but no steering. My mum's comment: "not a Toyota is she?" hahaha made me laugh :) We def occasionally have the unrequested inexplicable acceleration too so who knows :)

Was very impressed though that (after a fair amount of work and not for very long, but still) my horse went on the bit -- even without a bit *g* Yet another reason that phrase should be renamed! But seriously, connected back to front, round and through. N way better than we've had since her teeth started bothering her (vet in next week :)

Flat was really successful and informative, stop and go home right? Yeah you're not new here :) Why not jump? Jumps were all very low and in the same places they'd been when they were high the day before so a reasonable setup. This was when I learned just how much I position her when we jump. Cause w/o me setting her up, first she was *very* confused, and after that as eager as ever but man did we ever end up in some really scary places. I could still control the pace w/ my body, but the refinement necessary to keep her balanced and to a consistent spot.... Not so much. Good to know. Need to do some work on letting her figure it out, clearly :) But on the plus side, she was eager and happy about it.

Anyways -- it's been an entertaining couple of days if nothing else :)

Of old books and other exciting things

So I have come to the conclusion that "final" is just wishful thinking. To quote something I heard once upon a time, "nothing is final until you're dead, and even then I'm sure God negotiates." Clients give us final copy -- and it is never really final. The design guys won't ever say a project is final -- even after it's been printed it's open to one last touch-up. Dev guys only deem a project "final" when they never want to see it again -- again with the wishful thinking. And really, I entirely get that this is the way life is -- I just think we need a more realistic word. In grade school we used to present a "good copy" to the teacher after we'd done several revisions; they knew better than to call it final! I think it's time to relearn that lesson and acknowledge that all we're really getting, or giving, is really a "good copy". If the world is happy it might be really good copy. hahaha but it is never actually final.

Ok end of rant. Found a really kewl (well to my geeky self anyways) website the other day. Liam's Pictures from Old Books. A relatively plain but accurate title :) Liam himself has scanned thousands of images from his (and other people's) antique book collection. Illustrations, old photographs, lettering, tons of stuff. There is a section on how people have used the images -- some of them are pretty impressive.



I think that one's my fav @ the moment :) That's a talent I wish I had! I could recreate it -- the photoshop skills are ok -- but never create it on my own. Ah well.

Another one I quite liked:



Ok that's enough of that. The original photos kept me amused for quite a while flipping through as well :)

Wrote two stories this week, both of which I'm quite happy with, and both of which are too long to post as flash. Boooo. hahaha no idea what flash will be this week. The longer ones I'll post eventually just as random stories (one I can't till post till Apr, the other one I'll put up as soon as I get around to typing it :)

Ok lunch is over, back to work :)

Mini-bio

So I was asked to write my bio in 140 characters or less. This was the end result:

Educated to the point of stupidity, Lauren’s a project manager by day, a riding instructor by night, and a writer all the time.

hahaha amused me anyways so thought I'd share.

And why was I asked for my bio? Well cause my first ever Friday Flash Fiction (A Normal Life) was chosen to be published in an anthology of flash. Woohoo! Ok so it's a little thing, but I'm still pretty excited about it.

Flash Fiction 25: Night Swimming

I was swimming under the moonlight; not the safest thing to do, perhaps, but sometimes opportunities need to be taken. I lay, floating on my back, watching the stars as my body rose and fell with the swells of the incoming waves. As a shooting star crossed the sky I made a wish, a childish habit never forgotten. I wished that things could stay this way forever.

Just as I was completing the thought, a wave crested slightly too early and crashed down over my face, leaving me treading water sputtering. Don’t want things to stay like THAT forever, I qualified to the long-gone star while thinking ruefully that that’d be just my luck – chaos and destruction when I was aiming for peace and tranquility.

I returned to my floating, but the moment was gone and I was starting to get cold. I rode the next large wave in close enough to the beach that I could stand. A man on the beach held my towel. I hesitated a moment, but he offered it to me so I approached to take it. Wrapping it around me I was surprised at how warm it was – as though it had just come out of the dryer, even though I knew it had not.

“I was worried for you,” the unusually attractive man said while I pondered my towel’s warmth, “it’s not safe to swim alone at night.”

Acknowledging the truth in his words I thanked him for his concern and assured him I had no more such plans. Tonight, I silently amended. The look he gave me suggested he knew about my mental qualification.

“Would you come with me? There’s something I would should you.” The look I gave him made it quite clear I knew his thoughts – and was not impressed. “Not that,” he said with an exasperated sigh and a roll of his eyes, “unless…?” he let the question trail unasked and I didn’t deign to respond, “yeah I didn’t think so,” he acknowledged, “I just though you might like to experience the true magic of the night.”

Thinking this was one of the odder pickup lines I’d heard, I had to admit to being intrigued. I had some consideration of the fact that I was a woman, alone, and far from home, but all my instincts screamed that he could be trusted. Funny, they’d never done that with my ex.

He led me down the beach, the white sand soft under my bare feet. He let the waves do the talking – telling the world their story as they rolled over one another to crash on the beach. It was hypnotic, mysterious, and romantic all at once.

I shivered, whether from cold or anticipation I knew not, and followed my guide as he turned off the beach onto a trail only he could see. “We’re almost there,” he assured me when I hesitated. Shortly, we found ourselves at the mouth of a cave from which a strange green glow radiated.

“This,” he told me, “is where the fairies meet to decide which star wishes to grant.” Ok so evidently my sensors were broken. I was so stunned, I had absolutely no idea how to respond. Fortunately, it seemed I didn’t have to. “Yours is next on the list – do you want to address the council?”

Yeah right, like I was about to go in a strange green cave with some guy talking about fairies. Even if he was insanely good looking. Except… “My wish?”

“The one about being forever choked by a wave,” he reminded.

“But how…?” I let the question trail off, suddenly doubting everything I’d known. “Just in here?” I asked. He nodded and stepped back; apparently I was to go in alone.

I stepped around a rock to enter the cave, and had to blink a few times to allow my eyes to adjust to the ethereal glow. At first I saw nothing but cave walls; then out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement. I turned, but nothing was there. I sensed rather than saw movement behind me and spun around again – and still there was nothing. I rapidly began to feel like a fool, but some part of me was ready to believe. Wanted to believe.

“Relax,” it was my guide appearing behind me, unannounced. “Don’t try so hard; let your eyes soften and open your mind to what’s really there.”

While his instructions were impossible to follow literally, I somehow understood what he was saying. Like looking through the beautiful person’s makeup to see the nightmare living inside, I’d always been good at reading people. Well, until tonight that is – nothing in his countenance had triggered my crazy warning signals. Dismissing that thought I tried to consciously apply an unconscious technique. And gradually the cave came to life.

Soon the buzzing that I had put down to distant cicadas started to make sense; I could make out words here and there. And as their language became recognizable, so too, did they. In a rock I could see a face; in the dust, a wing. Until I was surrounded by dozens of the most stunningly beautiful creatures I had ever seen.

They were tiny – none bigger than my thumb; their wings reflected an ethereal light that bounced off the crystalline cave walls. Their bodies were stunning shades of turquoise, emerald, and blazing sapphire.

A melodic whistle sounded almost and I was amazed to see my guide immediately drop to one knee and bow his head. Unsure, I copied his movements, feeling more than slightly foolish.

I lifted my head enough to see what was going on; my guide had his hand out in front of him, cradling a fairy who wore her elegance as comfortably as old pair of pjs. That degree of grace, beauty and power was enthralling. There was another flute song and then surprisingly, my guide spoke.

“She has the sight and the soul, but no knowledge or imagination. And without those, no matter what she could be, she’d never be complete. Now, she can.” He finished simply. I briefly considered being offended at his words, but given the way the night had gone so far, I was about ready to concede he was right.

When the flute started again I let my mind go blank and then brought the song inside to fill the empty space, hoping it would translate itself in the oral equivalent of what my eyes had revealed earlier.

“You have seen and heard,” the fairy queen started, “what will you do with the knowledge you have now?”

I considered carefully, knowing instinctively that my words were critical. “I’ll look at the world differently,” I said simply. It was in the running for understatement of the year, but it was an honest answer. The only honest answer.

The stunning fairy nodded regally, and I exhaled with a huge feeling of relief. “Tonight, by moonlight, you wished on a shooting star. That wish holds power. Do you still wish it true?” she asked. I had the distinct impression that if I said yes, she could make it happen.

“My lady,” I started, feeling foolish yet again as I had absolutely no idea of the correct address for a fairy queen – for her manner certainly bespoke of royalty, “wishes I’d never even imagined have already come true tonight. If anything, all I would wish now, is to be permitted to keep the memory of this night clearly,” and I bowed my head again, feeling instinctively that was the right thing to do.

“A wise wish indeed,” the elegant fairy pronounced as I dared a glance at her, “and one we’re happy to grant. See that you remember your vow,” she told me in a tone I knew to respect. And with a tilt of her head towards the mouth of the cave, I was dismissed.

My guide returned with me to the beach where we’d met a lifetime ago. I had so many questions, but it seemed inexcusably rude to interrupt the waves, so I held my silence.

“Remember,” he told me when we go to the end of the beach, “it’s not safe to swim alone after dark.” And with that, he was gone.

Looking for horse-people's opinions!!!

So I was typing away my Theory Thursday and I ran the spell check (since my ancient pc doesn't auto-check anything), and was thoroughly astounded at what it didn't flag. Now I'm used to one word in five being flagged since it understands absolutely no horse vocab, but for reasons I do not entirely understand, it knows "hackamore". Don't ask me why. Most of my students wouldn't know that word. It didn't like pommel or cantle or pelham or any number of other random tack related words but was happy as could be with hackamore. hahaha ok so we know I'm easily amused. What can I say? :)

I also left the entire intermediate section on another machine so it'll be posted when I get home from teaching tomorrow night. Oops.

Those of you reading this blog from the horse world, I'd love it if you'd take a few mins to look it over and tell me what you think (click here). I've tried very hard to keep it casual and semi-entertaining -- I figure if readers wanted to read a textbook, they already would've :) But I'm not sure if I might've gone the other way. One of my students told me she was quite enjoying them, but really that might just be cause she didn't want me to take her stirrups away *g*

If you've been involved with all things equine for a lifetime or two -- am I presenting relevant info? Would you send your students to read it? Why? Why not? What would you like to see? (obviously at one topic/wk, probably only in the off season, it'll be a long while before everything gets covered, but still... Always open to suggestions!). When you take on new students, what do you find are the biggest holes in their previous education?

If you're a horseperson focusing on learning the basics -- does it work for you? Is it too long winded or is the chatty style ok? TMI, not enough, or just right? How bout the Int/Adv levels -- useful content? Advanced enough?

Anything else?

Let me know your thoughts! (Can post a comment here or email lauren@graduateridingschool.com

Sienna proves herself special yet again :)

So a week after my trip the tan I loved so much is gone. *sigh* Easy come, easy go eh? Back to reality it is...

So part of what I love about riding and horses is there's always something new to discover :)

I rode Sienna yesterday; she was in a bit of a witchy mood in x-ties (more than even her usual not-so-friendly self -- pony does *not* like being groomed). Sobeit. Got on and did the usual ride. She was definitely tense, but not the least bit silly or high. There was no bouncing, rearing, spinning, bolting, anything. Just a "not quite there" mentally. We even jumped a bit (for the first time in almost 3 wks) n yeah she was quick, but never lost it. N I kept things really simple too (every fence in trot :). So overall it was an ok ride. Nothing spectacular -- but she did spectacular yesterday so I wasn't really expecting it again today. But nothing horrid either. Really nothing to write home about one way or the other *g*

And yet here I am doing just that. Because after I finished, cooled her out, and untacked her she was still super-tense. And *that* is not normal. She still never likes being groomed, but she's usually @ least relaxed after. So I'm looking @ her wondering if she might be sick, but tpr are all normal as is every sign except her tension level. So I start thinking maybe she really is just tense and needs to blow off some steam. Bring her back in the arena where she stands patiently while I put up the boards. I let her go and she looks at me like "yeah? Now what?" N then I told her she could play. N she trotted a few steps, looks back at me over her shoulder "really?" and then was gone. Galloping, bucking (more impressively than I've ever seen her do before actually), generally tearing around the ring. Lunged herself at top speed around me in a perfect 20m circle @ hand-gallop speed. N I just watched her go. Afterwards she was puffing and hot so we walked for quite some time (far more so than the actual workout) and *this* time when I brought her back in she was normal again.

Well that's all well and interesting Laur, but so what? Why thanks for asking :) I ride young horses, almost exclusively. And they usually have at least a reasonable amount of TB in them. Not always, but usually. So I'm used to horses coming out high. And sometimes I'll let them run around and burn off steam; sometimes (most times) I lunge them properly. There've even been occasions where I've gotten on, started to work, gotten off, lunged for a while, and gotten back on again! Don't do that often, but I'd rather have a horse learn that a variety of things might happen in a ride then learn that they can run much faster after they drop me! hahaha. But never have I had a ride where the horse was rideable and showed no signs of being really high, when they clearly were. Which makes me really really proud of little Sienna. She had to have been trying *really* hard to get even to the "ok" level of the ride I'd had given that she had that much energy to burn.

A Cuban Adventure

Since I'm failing miserably at completing my Latin homework (3 weeks of not properly memorizing vocab has left me looking up every other word -- less than fun!) I figured I'd do something "productive" like compile the complete Cuba Adventure into one post. I know -- just what you always wanted!

When I got home from Cuba, my souvenir was wrapped in Spanish newspaper -- had to laugh at the cartoon that revealed itself!:


Without further ado:

Relative Blog Posts:
Hoping on a plane and leaving reality far behind!
Warmth, water, sunshine... Perfection.
Going for pizza
Plan B
Whatimezit?
2806
Trying to make it last just a little bit longer...
In the air again . . .

Relative FB Albums:
Going for pizza - adventures around the resort
A dream come true - beach and pool pics
Spelunking Adventures
Plan B - Hiking, biking and a little yoga for good luck
Varadero
Habana
Getting around
Plants, animals and scenery
and of course... Everything else!
Enjoy!

Flash Fiction 24: Poseidon's Message

I sat motionless, seemingly for hours, watching the waves crest out of the dark to crash on the beach. The horizon disappeared as ocean and night sky merged -- a blank slate, broken only by the constantly forming and reforming scribbles of white. As the waves crested they wrote the God's messages -- if only I could read them.

I was not alone on the beach, although it felt that way. Farther down and slightly ahead of me I could see the telltale glow of a lit cigarette. It's owner too was alone and quiet, although not quite as comfortable with stillness as I. He did not know I was there; it was an unusually powerful feeling. Voyeresque and yet not, for there was nothing to be seen in the dark of night; nothing to be heard over the crashing of the waves on the rocks. But in observing him my self-awareness rose, as did my consciousness of all that was around me -- from the sensuously soft sand beneath my feet, to the little tree bug that landed harmlessly on my shoulder, I was attuned to it all.

My mind whirled and mentally I berated myself for neglecting to bring a pen and paper, but how could I have known that in the dark of the night I'd see more clearly than ever by daylight?

I settled as I realized this was not a moment to be captured, but one to be lived. The cigarette down the beach disappeared with a last ember flickering out; shortly thereafter the shadows moved and the man left me alone, never realizing my presence.

My mind drifted from one topic to another -- covering many but calmly -- not the frantic buzz I was so used to. It seemed as though time had slowed to allow me to sort through the chaos and learn what was important. And as the ocean continued writing it's dramatic message, I eventually found a level of understanding I'd only ever dreamed of. Perhaps, as it turns out, I can read Poseidon's script after all.

And back to Earth I fall...

Ugh - reality sux. Gotta say the return to it was seriously harsh. Feels like the trip was years ago. Boooo.

So pics will be up this weekend and the blog from the trip will be posted :) I think I'll probably just back date it to when it was actually written (so you may have to scroll a little -- sorry!) but I think that'll work best eventually. Since I know Kerri won't want to write a guest blog I'm hoping she'll comment tons to tell her side of the adventures! Perhaps how she always since she was a really little girl *has* wanted to know how Rum is made :) And various other stories :)

Actually got Theory Thursday up this week. Did not really expect that :) Could use some more pics in it though -- kinda bland with all text. But no time tonight to find those, so maybe on the wknd...

Gotta run!

Night.

In the air again . . .


I don't want to go!


Ok so when I said I wanted it to last a little longer, perhaps I should've specified that I'd like that to happen *before* leaving for the airport! Our flight was a few hours late, but we *did* still get home on the same day we were supposed to -- far better than my past travel history *g*. I was somewhat bemused when our flight, instead of reading "delayed" on the list, vanished. ummmm did a flight leave we missed? It's not as though you can't see the entire airport... It didn't reappear on the board until the plane landed and was starting to disembark the other passengers! At which point it said delayed but the departure time had changed by 2h! Gotta luv it :)


But we did make it, and the plane, while old, at least had dry floors! Home now. And there's snow on the ground. Boooo. But the afghan my mum's been making me forever is magically finished! Woohoo. N sooooo comfy :)

Our plane -- notice the dismal clouds; first bad weather of the trip. Even the gods weren't happy we were leaving. Pathetic fallacy @ its finest!

Off to sleep w/ me. Night!

Trying to make it last just a little bit longer...


On the boardwalk to the beach

Sitting at the bus stop waiting for the bus to Varadero -- Cuban time so could be whenever, but the weather is soooo perfect. Not even worth taking a pic of cause it couldn't possibly capture the moment. Sun rising in a brilliantly blue sky over the marina where we're watching them cram a seemingly impossible herd of cattle (ummm tourists!) onto a catamaran. And being really grateful we didn't go for that tour :) Temp is absolutely perfect for 9am -- will be hot later when we want to be on the beach :) Even better, there's just enough of a breeze to keep things comfortable and blowing just the right way and strength to gently lift my hair from my shoulders -- the ultimate girly feeling :)


----

So the trip into town was successful; we saw all the things we missed the last time and found the souvenirs we were looking for. The rest of the day was spent on the beach -- perfect beach weather. Even the water was warm. Possibly the best beach day of the trip. I'm so not ready to go home.

Went and watched some dolphins by the Dolphinarium today. We stood on the bridge and watched the ones who weren't actually at the centre. More fun AND free -- great combo!

Dolphins play (on our side of the fence :) while pelicans look on...

Dinner tonight at the other a la carte restaurant. Both a la cartes had significantly better food than the buffets. N I loved the band at this one (both had live music, this one was more classical).

I am so not ready to go home! But what an amazing trip.

2806


Today we're going to Habana. Our bus, #2806, was only about 20 mins late. Not bad for Cuban time :)

Apparently the museum we were supposed to go to is closed on Mondays so we're going to a rum museum instead. I am not overly amused at that; it's something you'd think the Sunwing rep *might've* mentioned when we booked it. He turned out to be less than useful overall. Boo. Cause we could def have come on a different day. I'm seriously considering just skipping that part of the tour and wandering around town instead; Kerri's not quite brave enough for that though I don't think -- that, or she suddenly has a deep interest in rum *g*

----

Yeah so I definitely went off on my own. Way more fun -- if a little intimidating at first. I'm back now waiting for the tour to end and hoping it wasn't the first thing ever in Cuba to finish early! But I think I'm prob ok -- I didn't see them on the street, so methinks it's all good. Got some good pics and found this little hidden garden that belongs to a local church. I love the old classic buildings juxtaposed with the coloured spanish style ones. Gives a sense of history and personality that's just not found in suburbia. Perfect city-exploring weather out. Warm but not insanely hot. Took a shot of an old car that had stopped on the road to chat with a horse and buggy, about to be passed by a bus -- only in Cuba! Oops -- tour's done. Later!

----

So by all accounts the tour I skipped was rather pathetic so I'm particularly glad I did that -- esp as my own tour was quite interesting AND when we did the city walk with the guide there was no time to stop and look at the stuff I stopped at earlier. The walkabout was quite interesting and I was having a lot of fun with the camera.

I also totally fell for our tour guide >;-P Well over the course of the day, but it def started with the flirting while playing tourist -- which may well be part of his job, but Kerri seemed convinced it was only directed at me *g* hahaha But seriously, cute smart and a little charmingly-naive (one might even say sweet) -- which is a characteristic I seriously thought only existed in the movies. Kinda wish I'd met him at the *start* of the trip *g* Ah well - such is life.

This pic was made so much better when Mike unexpectedly jumped into it :)

After the walking tour (where my fellow tour mates had dubbed me "the wanderer" -- and even more amusingly, started to follow to see where I'd end up :) we had lunch at the 12 Apostles restaurant at the Habana fort. The food was surprisingly tasty. Even more surprising was that I (she who doesn't drink) was the only one to finish a Mojito (yes I might've had to look up the spelling). hahaha One of the guys we were with was simply appalled by it, while Kerri's conclusion was that it tasted like a Christmas tree (I don't really want to know how she knows that, but ok :).

After lunch we went to explore the fort -- and really, if you know me at all you'll know that I love exploring old buildings. Castles outrank forts, but they're a pretty close second. Once again "wandering" away from the tour led to some great pics.

The later afternoon was in "New Habana" which didn't interest me nearly as much, but it was also mostly a bus tour so I just sat and listened. A stop at a market that was too short and somewhat disappointing (unfortunate combo there) n then back home again with a brief pina colada stop (waaaayyyy better than the hotel version!) on the way.

This shot amused me to no end. Their capital building (modeled of the US one, who they're supposed to despise) -- but 4m higher *g*) with old train cars parked in front. hahaha ok so maybe it's not funny to anybody else, but I was amused anyways.

Overall, a fairly entertaining day -- well I fell in love, really what more can you ask? *g* - although I do wish the Sunwing agent had been a little more on the ball since I was looking forward to the other museum, but as always, I ended up having fun with Plan B -- even if I had to make my own instead of using theirs :)


Taken from the fort -- at least you'd have a great view as the pirates approached!


Oh and it turns out I'm not imagining the whole "everyone is Canadian" thing -- seems of the two-million tourists Cuba has every year, more than a million of them are Canadian. There's your fun fact for the day :)

So not ready for this vacation to end.

Whatimezit?



So the question of the week has been "whatimezit?" - and yes, that's all one word. Cause I, of course, did not bring a watch but we seem to need one with disturbing regularity since meals are only at certain times as is the ability to book activities etc. And there's no clock in the room. And my phone (always my backup watch) doesn't know what day or time it is (it thinks it's about 11:00 some day in March in 1981 -- don't ask me why it picked that but such is life :) Ah well -- Kerri hasn't strangled me yet for asking. hahaha



Spent the day at the pool again since the beach was still red flagged. Was about 27deg which made it nice enough to be out happily in a bikini but there was enough of a breeze that we didn't really feel the need to go in the pool (although we did once just cause :). I've been somewhat entertained by seeing what the other sun bathers are reading. There are a few I wouldn't mind borrowing *g* Kerri's working her way through Twilight :) Fun fun fun. I read one that I enjoyed that's the first of a trilogy (one of the airport purchases) so I'll have to find the other two when I get home.

Plan B



There were some pretty ominous clouds in the sky this am, so Ker and I decided that instead of the beach we'd take a tennis lesson (which neither of us has played before -- our disastrous volleyball experience had clearly faded in memory or we'd've known instinctively this'd be a bad idea...). Except that when we got to the club house it turns out it's the pro's day off. Sheesh. Clearly fate trying to tell us something >;-P



So we skipped around the hotel (ummm "we" might've been "I" but the rest of that statement is actually accurate. I was a *little* high after next to no exercise for a couple days and literally bouncing -- but rule #1 remember? Couldn't run. N no tennis. N too cold to play in the waves sooo....) Anyways -- at the front of the hotel we found the bike and scooter rental. Ker wasn't big on the scooters and I had already realized I had to burn off some energy, so we asked about the bikes. The charge - free! For two hours. "And if we're out longer than two hours?" The response was a shrug and a smile. Ok. Borrowed (can you say rented if it's free?) two bikes and headed off down the road. Stopped to trade bikes by the end of the driveway since I couldn't reach my pedals and Kerri was crunched into a tiny ball on her bike. hahaha


Flashlight died while I was crunched deep in a small section of the cave; we learned that in Cuba, when something doesn't work, hit it.


Very shortly we came to a random hut; let's see what this is! hahaha it was the entrance to a cave we could explore -- complete with cave paintings and lots of bats. Cave paintings to the left, bats to the right. N while I could figure out the bats didn't go to the left because there was more light there, I'm curious as to why there were no paintings on the right. Original inhabitants didn't like bats? Or maybe just don't like the dark anymore than the bats like the light? hahaha is hard to paint in the dark after all!

He was none to happy with us for disturbing his nap; can't say I blame him!


Anyways after playing in the caves for a while we continued our trek, w/ Ker stopping every km or so to reattach her chain to her bike, and found ourselves in a nature preserve.


Kerri fixing her bike; you can see the hotel in the distance...


3 pesos later we were exploring. A decent hike through a trail with guide posts along the way (we were given a paper with the corresponding info in fractured English). Some of it was really interesting and the photo ops were brilliant. By far the most fun was all the places we weren't supposed to go *g* Kerri plays by the rules more than I though so I mostly did those on my own while she looked on bemused. Climbed up a rock wall to see the view from the top and went past the "return" sign to find some great wetland shots (worth the risk of being deported - clearly!) Don't worry -- was careful where I stepped :) All good.


The best things are found off the beaten path


Was fairly entertaining (although I think the park gate keeper was about to send out a search party for us -- we were out a whole lot longer than some other people who went in about the same time as us. More photo ops :)

Kerri admiring the cactus

All in all, far better than a tennis lesson would likely have been. Plan B wins again! And we were only an hour late returning the bikes :) But he wasn't even there to return them to, so I figure it's all good *g*


We never did figure out exactly what the "Other Varadero" was all about; my best guess is it's still Varadero but the opposite end from the city -- where most people go...


That aft we tried to go back to the beach but it was red-flagged. Crazy strong waves and dangerous undertows. Boooo. So deciding not to make the lifeguard's job more difficult (there are limits to my adventuring -- generally anything that crosses the stupidity line; although where that line is may be open to interpretation :) -- we resorted to lounging by the pool. Life's rough. >;-P Was a little cooler than ideal, but still significantly better than at home. N those clouds? Long gone by the time we got back from our adventures!

Going for pizza

It's 7:40 am and I'm sitting on my balcony in my pjs. It's a little over 20 deg -- a bit cool for the beach yet but otherwise gorgeous, with just a slight breeze and the sun rising a little off to the side. Our hotel is pyramid shaped so all the balconies are open on top -- it's like being in the penthouse :) Since it's slightly cooler today I'd like to go to town, but Kerri's not up yet so will see later :)



Not burned yesterday but actually getting a slight tan already. Woohoo! I haven't been doing well with the whole beach thing yet -- loving every minute of it, but I keep getting really tense thinking "I have to go do . . . " and then I realize there's absolutely nothing I have to do and chill again. 20 mins later "I have to go, I have to do . . . " rinse and repeat. Jumping in the ocean has so far been a reasonable solution to the twitchyness, but I can't wait till it goes away entirely :)

-----


Waiting for the bus


So we did end up going to Varadero -- which other than the phenomenally long wait for the bus (on Cuban time clearly) was great. The markets are much like those in Jamaica except the people here aren't pushy at all, so it was a really pleasant experience. By the end though I was ready to come back and jump in the ocean, even though there was still more to see. Maybe we'll come back another day :)


Some random homes in Varadero


We made it back to the hotel just in time (like by seconds) to snag some ice cream before lunch ended (ice cream bar was all that hadn't been put away :) Perfect vacay lunch.


Note the sprinkles


Hit the beach after that (was about 3:30 by then) and stayed there till the sun went away.


Beach


I'm having fun with languages; almost all the tourists here seem to be Canadian, and second choice is the UK. So getting english and french from the tourists and spanish from the locals. Amazed myself today by managing an impromptu casual conversation in french. Random person addressed me in french and so I responded in kind. Not that it was exactly an intellectual debate -- more of a how are you? Fine. Great weather. type conversation. But really that's all there's time for when you're scooping ice cream anyways :) I was still pretty proud of myself. As for spanish I'm pretty much limited to hello, good evening/day, yes/no, please/thank you. hahaha Oh and I can count to 5. :) I'm sure that'll be important at some point.

So Kerri was laughing cause we both had pizza for dinner -- came all the way to Cuba for pizza. We'll never consider "going out for pizza" in quite the same way again. But this was *special* pizza. Double crust, random toppings, cooking optional. hahaha as in it was really pitas turned into pizza with some creativity. Surprisingly tasty.


Cuban pizza

Friday Flash

Alas I have no access to a computer this week, so Flash will have to wait for next week.... Thanks for checking in though!

Warmth, water, sunshine... Perfection.


Boardwalk to the beach


So it's Thursday. In Feb. N it's about 27 deg, sunny with a bright blue sky, and the only sound I'm hearing is that of the waves crashing on the beach. Life doesn't get much better than this. Watching a really phenomenal windsurfer practicing -- seriously impressive. Lifeguard I was chatting w/ says he's a pro -- I'm inclined to believe it.


Our pelican friend


So I think Kerri's the first person I've ever met who enjoys playing in the water more than I -- and can outlast me effortlessly :) I'm both amazed and amused by this (yeah it doesn't take much -- esp when I'm on vacation!) hahaha tons o fun!

Well off in search of a drink... mmmmmmm strawberry and pina colada :)

Hoping on a plane and leaving reality far behind!


Kerri and I on the bus to the hotel


There was snow when we left this morning -- and I spent the afternoon on the beach! No sleep last night, didn't even start packing till 10, bed around 12, up @ 3:15 to leave for the airport. N during those 3 hours woke up every 20 mins or so since some part of me clearly didn't trust the alarm (that manages to wake me for work every morning, but obviously can't be trusted for the *important* things in life!)

The flight left on time, but the floors were soaking wet (apparently had been cleaned but not vacuumed). A fact we didn't discover until long *after* storing our luggage under the seats in front of us. Everything was soaked - and worse, stained. Boo. Hopefully that's it for the stupid stuff this trip. Glad to get it over with early!


Kerri's shorts after being in carry on luggage


On the plus side, since my last min trip to Chapters wasn't entirely successful, I was excited to find some beach-appropriate reading material in the airport. Love those stores cause they tend to have a large eclectic collection of mindless materials. Perfect for vacation.


Blau Varadero


The hotel is gorgeous (well on the inside and out back -- the actual building is somewhat unfortunately ugly). Staff so far have been amazingly friendly. As are the other guests (who all seem to be Canadian :). We're on the 4th floor -- but to put this in perspective, the lobby is on the 3rd, and the exit to the pool/beach on the 2nd. This is very handy as the elevator is very slow so we're getting our only exercise this week by taking the stairs. Running is out. Rule #1 over the first few years has always been "keep horse between rider and ground" but for the purpose of this trip Rule 1 has been redefined as "no running". We've deemed running is not a vacation item and is, therefore banned.

Had a great time bouncing around in the waves. Tons of fun and "aqua" contacts survived! Woohoo. Worth the extra $20 since my other ones would've meant I couldn't play in the waves, or even swim, without losing them. Played some beach volley-ball where I was proven to be rather horribly inept -- but by the end I was getting better; the ball was going the direction I intended it to. I even served the winning shot! Yeah nobody was more surprised than I *g*




Lunch food was surprisingly good, while dinner lived down to Cuba's reputation. It was edible, but that's about it...

The evening offered a fairly impressive synchronized swimming routine that admittedly wasn't entirely synchronized but was an impressive display of athleticism and had some incredible costumes. They were doing "around the world" with representations of dance from various countries. Very kewl.

oh hahaha have to tell you -- one of the waitresses @ dinner had a nametag that said Zenia -- a name I thought I'd invented for one of the first stories I ever wrote when I was about 12. Makes me wonder if maybe there's a Jezina out there somewhere too :)

*edited later -- Google tells me it's a last name and a city in Kosovo but doesn't seem to be a first name. A little disappointed that it exists @ all, but such is life eh? Some of the other ones I invented for that story are not googleable though so not too bad....*