What’s Something The Average American Doesn’t Understand About Being Poor?

How expensive it is.

Music Monday – “To feel the ground beneath my feet/Knowing I’m free/To walk the walk and talk the talk/Sounds okay to me”

This song has a few scenes shot in Shea’s hometown (including shots of a community store and grain elevator that figured prominently in our wedding reception which we held the summer after our destination wedding for all the friends and relatives who couldn’t make it to Mexico.)

The Hobo Song” – Bob Westfall and Westfall Mountain

When Donald Trump Is The President, Should Canadians Travel To the United States?

I’ve seen a few debates on social media sites as well as some media articles about whether Canadians and other non-Americans should “boycott” the United States with our business and/or personal travel?

Those who say we shouldn’t boycott, say that it will hurt ordinary Americans.  Or the non-Trump supporters need us more than ever.  Or that nothing’s much different down there than it was before Trump was elected – Disneyland is still Disneyland is one way to think of it.

Those who are in favour of a boycott say that it’s one of the few tangible ways non-Americans can send a message to Americans that we don’t support their President or current government.  The analogy I think of is that if you don’t agree with a corporation’s policies, you can boycott the company and if you don’t agree with a country’s policies, you can boycott a country in the hopes of creating change.

It’s a tougher call for some colleagues who are inclined to boycott the US for the reasons listed above but maybe got accepted to a conference or planned a personal vacation or are visiting a blue state.

Ultimately, it’s everyone’s own call but I do know that Shea and I are *very* unlikely to go to the States while Donald Trump is President – either on a big Hawaii/Florida/California holiday or even a short hop weekend across the border to Minot or Williston North Dakota as we’ve often done in the past.

We’re not Muslim or part of any targeted group (er, unless you could liberals who believe in science?) but at the same time, entering the US is a privilege and not a right and even many of my previous blog posts or Reddit comments about Donald Trump could conceivably get me hassled or even turned back at the border.

The world’s a big place and for the time being, Shea and I are happy to vacation near home in Saskatchewan, elsewhere in Canada or in beautiful tropical locations like Mexico.

(Hmm, okay, maybe Hawaii wouldn’t be so bad?)

Saturday Snap – 306 Hip Hop Sk8 Shop

Pace got a skateboard for Christmas but it took us awhile to get him to 306 Skate Shop in north Regina to try it out at their indoor skate park.

(To be honest, we wanted to wait until after our Mexico vacation on the off-chance he managed to break an arm or something!)

Anyhow, we left him there for an hour this afternoon and he had a blast!

Friday Fun Link – SongSim: Visualizing Song Lyrics

This site uses an algorithm to visualize patterns of repetition in song lyrics and other texts (anthems, speeches, etc.)

Throwback Thursday – #tbt – Just Another Night at the ER (June 2016)

When I had my really bad elbow infection last summer, I did a course of antibiotics but the infection didn’t go down at all.

After a weekend in Saskatoon without any noticeable change, Shea suggested I go to the ER (well, after we called the Healthline because why would I trust my RN wife unless a random anonymous RN on the other end of a phone line also told me to go the ER?) 😉

Instead of coming to hold my hand, Shea stayed home with the kids so I had an adventurous few hours in the waiting room alone (I won’t post the sneaky photos I took of the highlights of my ER waiting room experience but they included a woman in an ankle bracelet getting chatted up by a drunk bleeding guy who’s buddy had chucked a beer can at his face all topped by the guy who couldn’t walk for some reason, crawling along the disgusting hospital floor looking for an electrical outlet to charge his phone!)

Anyhow, I finally got in to see the doc and he said he wasn’t going to be my best friend for it but they were going to have to freeze my elbow then cut it open to drain the abscess.

Again, I won’t share the photos I managed to take before and after the procedure (stupidly dripping fresh blood on my phone in my eagerness to document this unexpected minor operation!) but I will say I’m glad they didn’t have to push this button…

The People in Your Neighbourhood

I’d been a patron of Regent Place library in Regina long before I ever applied for library school, let alone before I applied to be the Branch Head there.

So when I went in for the interview, I laid it on pretty thick about how I was involved in the community, how my son went to the local school and played sports in our neighbourhood, how my wife worked in the area, etc. etc.

But then, after I started the job, a funny thing happened…

I realised I hadn’t really been exaggerating that much.  I kept seeing people I knew in my library that I knew from other areas of my life – University, other jobs, volunteering, politics and so on.

I’m more accustomed to it now but it still hits me sometimes – when I see one of my Muslim patrons at a gas station near where Pace takes parkour classes and he’s surprised that I recognize him, when I see one of my regular patrons working at the deli counter of my local grocery store, when I see one of my young “Regent Regulars” shopping with their parent at the shopping mall.

Or on nights like tonight when Pace and I went to his school’s “Family Fun Night” (Shea and Sasha stayed home as Sasha’s been sick since last weekend) and I saw a number of people I know from the library – a woman that I regularly proctor exams for, another woman who comes in with the daycare that she works at, a young girl who comes in with her grandma every week…on and on.

But maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised – Regina’s a small town and if we’re six degrees of separation from everyone else on earth, we’re probably one degree of separation from everyone else in Regina.

And the connections never stop – the Vice-Principal who Pace is capturing with a hoop in the above photo?  From the area where Shea grew up in rural Saskatchewan.

Walking Tours on YouTube

Shea recently told me a great tip – YouTube has numerous walking/running tours that you can put on your TV while using your treadmill.

What a great way to make time on the treadmill more interesting!

Music Monday – “Now why don’t you look down/To where your feet is planted/That U.S. soil that makes you take shit for granted/If not for Santa Ana, just to let you know/That where your feet are planted would be México”

I heard this song on the TV when we were in Mexico in 2003 and even without understanding (most of) the lyrics, it struck me as something very political and meaningful which has only become more relevant in light of Trump’s desire to build a border wall with Mexico.

At the time, I jotted enough of the lyrics I heard to be able to track it down when I got home and still listen to it to this day.  (Honestly, I can’t believe I’ve never posted it as a Music Monday post before – such a great song!)

I’m posting the official music video which won a Latin Grammy for Best Short Form Video as well as a live performance because who doesn’t want to see a guy in a Metal Gear t-shirt rocking an accordion? 😉

 

Frijolero” – Molotov

My Trip Advisor Review of @SandosCaracol #allinclusive Eco Resort (with bonus pictures)

It’s still pending approval on Trip Advisor but I thought I might as well post my review of Sandos Caracol Eco-Resort, the all-inclusive we just stayed at here as well (with bonus photos, external links, and a few other edits/additions)…

[Edit: This might not end up being my Trip Advisor review after all.  I got a message that they weren’t publishing it because they have a rule against “commercial links”.  As far as I can tell, it’s because I included the web site of Pack For A Purpose – a charity. I hate stupid, petty shit like that so will have to think about whether I want to make this, admittedly, small edit or just leave it as it is and keep the review here instead.  My long-standing analogy of the “big” sites being like apartments with lots of information/noise/neighbours and my blog being like a private acreage in the country holds and part of me isn’t too concerned about adding to the noise on Trip Advisor and would prefer to leave this info here for those “deep diggers” who seek it out!]


If you’re like me, you prefer trying a different all-inclusive every time you go on vacation rather than returning to same one over and over again.

But even if you do that, you’ll eventually have the realization of the dirty secret of all-inclusive resorts – at their base, they’re all essentially the same. All will have pools and an ocean, all will have buffets and a la cartes, all will have daytime activities and evening shows, and so on.

So then, the only thing that makes them different is how well they do in each of these areas.

And you don’t have to read very many Trip Advisor reviews to realise that this is, ultimately, a matter of personal opinion. Even the highest rated all-inclusive will have people who hate it and even the lowest rated will have people who find something to love.

So why this long preamble?

When my family, including my wife, two kids aged 9 and 3 plus my retired parents, visited Sandos Caracol during the last week of February 2017, I realised we found the rarest of rarities among all-inclusive resorts – a truly unique experience.

Yes, Sandos has ocean and pools, buffets and a la cartes, activities and shows. But they have truly embraced their commitment to being an eco-resort with a focus on Mayan culture and history, which results in all sorts of additional features that are rare or non-existent at most resorts.


These include:
* animals in their natural habitat (including monkeys which we spotted daily and couldn’t get enough of watching!)

* rescue and various other animals you can interact with, either in the wild or in captivity

* numerous things that would be a paid excursion at any other resort – cenote swimming, authentic Mayan ruins, waterslides, bike riding

* there is decent snorkeling right off shore
* a river you can swim in that runs through the mangrove forest
* a romantic river boat ride
* really high quality theatre shows but also a rotation of three outdoor shows that are educational and entertaining.
* numerous other activities that highlight and educate about the Mayan culture
* a great authentic Mexican meal before the amazing “Fire of Life” show on Saturday night
* a full waterpark with slides tiered by height for very small, young, and older kids
* herb and botanical gardens

That’s not to say this is a perfect resort. We knew going in from Trip Advisor reviews that the ocean was rocky and not great for swimming but this turned out to be more of a negative than we thought it would be. Luckily, a ~$25 USD one way cab ride took us to sister resort, Sandos Playacar, which has perhaps the best beach I’ve ever seen in my life. We enjoyed Playacar’s beach so much, we went twice during our one week stay at Caracol!

I also wasn’t a fan of the layout of the main pool which is rather small and stretches to another connected pool via a long “river” but which means many of the seats are quite far from the pool bar and main areas of activity (although obviously some will prefer that.) The quieter pool by the Mexican restaurant was small too but more like the type of pool I was hoping for – less crowded but still fun for swimming.

A few other thoughts…

GOOD
* did I mention how much we liked seeing the monkeys every day? The rules say “Don’t feed the animals” and we followed that important guideline. But they didn’t say anything about watching others feed the animals which gave us many close-up views. (If you do this – and you shouldn’t – but if you do, watch your kids closely. We saw a coati bite a girl’s finger drawing blood.)



* the standard rooms aren’t supposed to have Internet at all but we got inconsistent signal in our room (#4821) which seemed to work best early in the morning or late at night.  The lobby also had decent Internet and I read that the pool areas do too though I never took an Internet-enabled device with me to find out.

* this resort has been rated the best resort near Playa Del Carmen for families and I agree – so much for kids and families to do!

NOT SO GOOD
* We had asked for adjoining rooms with my parents three times (when they booked then a month out by e-mail and then a week out by e-mail) but still ended up in separate (but nearby) buildings. Not the end of the world and we got upgraded to Standard Deluxe which gave us a giant jetted tub in our room that I don’t think we would’ve had otherwise.

* There were some very minor issues with the room – the switch for the bathroom light/fan had to be held for a couple seconds before it would flip on, the fan stopped rotating once but we were able to get it going again by giving it a “jump start”, one corner of our bed had a piece of plastic cover loose and sticking out that could’ve scratched the leg of someone walking by.   (Unlike many reviewers, we understood why – and appreciated – that we might end up with geckos in our room!) 😉

* The various soft ice cream machines, both in restaurants and outdoors, were often out which was disappointing.

* All resorts divide you in certain ways – adults-only sections, Elite/Gold/Privilege member, Regular/Standard guest – but some do a better job at “hiding” these divisions than others (especially if you’re in the regular category.) I felt like Sandos Caracol made those lines a bit more obvious to us as Standard Guests – our balcony was tiny with hard chairs, no coffee maker in the room, not even a full-length mirror.

TIPS, SUGGESTIONS & OTHER THOUGHTS
* You can change money at the front desk. (Side note: I never knew this before but my local branch had small amounts of various currencies including pesos that I could walk in and buy without having to go to our main branch or order them in advance.)

* They give you pool cards but aren’t too concerned (we were able to get additional towels from an unstaffed room in the waterpark without giving our pool cards)

* I liked that they used plastic, reusable cups at pretty much every bar. We’ve been to other resorts where they give everyone, even small children, real glasses at certain bars and it always made me nervous these would get dropped or broken

* they have lots of bacon on the buffets! 😉

* Take a decent-sized stroller if you have a little one. We were going to take a small umbrella stroller but were happy we took a bigger one that had storage underneath, a zippered pocket and drink holders plus lots of places to hang our towels, Bubba Cups, snorkel masks and so on.

* I like that they partner with Pack For A Purpose and have bins where you can leave any gifts or donations. At other resorts, it’s often unclear about the best way to ensure any gifts or donations you take end up in the right hands.

* We read lots about aggressive timeshare approaches but didn’t have this ourselves at check-in – just a phone call later in the week about a “free gift” which was likely a pitch to buy a membership or something and which we ignored.

* I’m pretty sure they said guests can take out hobie cats by themselves but it’s $30 USD for a guide, something that’s always been included for free at any other resort we’ve visited.

* It was a great idea to have various concert videos playing before the theatre shows started (Katy Perry, Santana, U2) but perhaps turn down the volume a bit so this is more of a background effect and people can still visit before the main show starts?

* We had really great service from all staff but I have to specifically mention Jesus on the romantic river ride and Moses when was our guide for the Jade River swim and let us slide into a Cenote Swim even though we hadn’t pre-registered. He was incredibly good with both my daughter and son in each respective activity.

* We went to four a la cartes and would rate them like this:

1) Mediterranean (great view, especially if you show up early)
2) Steak House (best meal – slightly confusing as it’s in the Royal Elite area so we weren’t sure if we could go or not at first)
3) Japanese – we’ve been to a few in other resorts and in our home city and this was the best show we’ve seen. So much food too!
4) Vegan – wanted to try it as something very different from what we’d normally try. It was okay but not as good as we hoped. (But going back to my original point – most resorts have the same mix of a la cartes but how many even have a Vegetarian – well, actually it was even Vegan! – restaurant?)

AND ONE LAST SUGGESTION
* I understand why they don’t have a full bar at the waterpark – both because they don’t want the water filled with spilled sticky drinks and/or parents getting drunk. But it’d be nice to at least have cerveza on tap to enjoy while sitting in the sun watching the kids.

(And one last photo of a couple of monkeys…)