The week before March Break, quite a few Caribbean resorts were selling off vacations before the rush. So my sister and mom grabbed at the deeply discounted chance and hopped on a plane bound for Cuba.
My sister kept her office buddies close by naming her little stretch of beach 'Reinsurance Accounting Emporium'.
Mom enjoys the shade on the gorgeous white sand beach on Cayo Coco, an island in a chain of islands along the coast of Cuba.
My sister Michelle salutes her boyfriend with his travel mug, which she took along with her. Have coffee, will travel.
This trip was just what the doctor ordered! In fact, for my mom this vacation was a special treat - as someone with environmental illness, she has not been well enough to go on a trip like this for about 15 years.
My sister, my mom and I all have chemical sensitivities as well as regular allergies. My sister and I also have asthma. We've all been treated at a forward-thinking allergy clinic here in Nova Scotia, which has helped all of us to better health than we've enjoyed in ages. Both Mom and Michelle found their resort experience to be extremely easy as far as allergies were concerned. Their heaviest exposures were at the Cuban airport (tobacco smoke - tons of it) and on the plane (jet fuel.)
Americans may be puzzled about Canadians' tendency to flock to Cuba when the US enforces a trade embargo against it. Apparently 100,000 to 200,000 Americans visit Cuba every year by travelling through a third-party country, such as Canada or Mexico.
Canada and Europe have no such prohibitions against Cuba. In fact, I would say that it's one of the more attractive qualities about Cuba for Canadians. This may or may not come as a surprise to my American friends, but an essential part of the Canadian identity is being unlike Americans.
This stems from being a former colony of Britain, while remaining loyal to the crown during the American War for Independence. What did it mean to be a Canadian? Well, we weren't British any longer. And we certainly weren't going along with that radical lot down south (the States.) So if an American did A, Canadians did B - just to be not-American. It's an old habit that has never died.
Mom suddenly finds herself in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
My sister does her best Christmas ornament impression.
This was their view from inside their villa looking onto their deck. Mom was amazed to be directly over the water with no omnipresent mold smell. It would be impossible to have a building over the water here in Nova Scotia and not have mold.
Mom peeks out of the window of their villa, built right on stilts in the lagoon. The Krystal Laguna Resort also has hotel facilities and is a huge, sprawling all-inclusive resort.
Michelle relaxes in the shade of a palm and gets down to some serious reading.
Mom gets ready for some fine dining. She and Michelle brought loads of essentials for the Cuban staff, which is the custom for travellers to Cuba. Every day they left the hotel staff little gift bags containing soap, toothpaste, hand cream, deodorant - all the things that money can't buy for regular Cubans.
Michelle enjoys a Cuban blossom passed to her by one of the resort staff.