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La Despedida Paraíso

Cuba_Resort

For the first time all week, I was the first to rise and get ready for the day. Neither Cheyenne or myself wanted to waste a moment, with the hopes to enjoy as much time on the beach as we could before we had to catch the bus to the airport at 5pm.

We enjoyed one last meal in the dining hall, and decided we would spend the morning lounging at the pool before our 12pm checkout. As the weather person had promised, it was the hottest day of our vacation with clear skies and very little wind. The pool was the warmest it had been all week so we both spent some time actually relaxing in it instead of jumping in and jumping right back out.

I partook in my first poolside game but unfortunately, our friend Herbert was enjoying a day off. Our entertainment person this day was Fenye (or Obama as he jokingly called himself), and the morning game for a bottle of Cuban rum, was ‘basketball’ with a liquor box on the ground that we had to bounce tennis balls into. As always, there were many contestants but the big winner wasn’t me. Us Canadians all had fun playing against one another.

We were checked out with a few minutes to spare, and from there we had a hotdog by the pool before heading to the beach for the rest of the afternoon. There would be a room for us later on so we could shower and change before we left.

The ocean was like bathwater and was the busiest we had seen it all week. It was never ‘can’t find a lounger’ busy, but it was definitely alive on this day. We spent the entire time in the water, talking with Cam from British Columbia (Richmond I believe), whom we met on the Havana trip.

I left Cheyenne to dry (literally), around 3 so I could enjoy one last writing session by the pool bar before we headed off. Cheyenne joined me for the last half hour, a bit choked up by our experiences and sad to say goodbye. “We’re coming back,” were her final words as we rushed to get changed.

We had realized the night before, that the group of lady guests we referred to as ‘14 kids between them’, were not only from our hometown, but they lived in the same neighborhood as us. We spent our last moments on the resort talking to them about our experiences.

I was the last to board our bus, and took a few moments to look back with fond memories before the door closed on a week we won’t soon forget.

The sun shone brightly during our 30 minute trip to the Varadero airport, as we enjoyed the sites of the resorts and ocean one last time.

From the moment we arrived last Tuesday, Cuban’s worked very hard to sell us something whether it was exchanging from/to Canadian currency,  a beer as we opened the airport doors into Cuba, right up until those last moments before we re-entered the airport to return home. We learned a lot, and are not sorry for a peso we spent.

We continued our conversation with 14 kids between them as we waited in line to check in for about 45 minutes, and continued it even further about a half hour after that when we finally all found ourselves through all the security, and waiting that last hour at our gate to bid farewell to Cuba.

As we waited to board the plane, we realized our hotel WiFi cards also worked at the airport. Only I had any time left so I let Cheyenne share. I laughed as she logged in, because she got an error message she didn’t understand, and I scrolled up for her and hit the English button. Apparently she’s been using the default Spanish screen. Silly lady. No hot showers, wi-fi in Spanish. She also got burnt as we soaked as much sun and sand in the last remaining hours before our bus arrived at 5pm so a few blips for Cheyenne but she’s had the time of her life so nothing has phased her.  

The flight home was quiet and a lot of folks took this opportunity to sleep, including Cheyenne. The in flight movie wasn’t working so I spent almost the entire flight finishing off my travel posts.

We arrived in Toronto around 12:30 am, and were home around 3am by the time we figured out the self-serve security checks, got our car, and drove home. We grabbed decaf coffees for the trip. Let’s just say it didn’t compare to Cuba coffee.

The cats were quite happy to see us when we got home, after they spent a few minutes peeking up through the basement cat door, staring as if to say ‘who are you?’ Needless to say they were very cuddly all night, either sleeping on our chests on on top of our heads.

We both slept in, but quickly got dressed to go pick up our pooch. She too was quite happy to see us although I think she had a fun week with my brother Andrew and his girls. They live in a one floor ranch on a half acre of land in the middle of our big city. Talk about paradise. She smelled of campfire which made us eager for our yearly camping trips to the beautiful, quiet north.

While Cheyenne went to pick up her daughter, I took off to my home paradise, a little lake just outside our city that I love to take our dog to. I not only missed her, I missed our walks and hikes so we more than made up for a couple of days apart anyway.

By early evening, the 5 of us were finally all together again. We gave the girls their gifts which they all loved, enjoyed hugs and kisses and telling them all about our trip. We look forward to sharing Cuba with them hopefully sooner than later.

I want to take a few moments to thank everyone that we met in Cuba, and all who followed our adventure. This blog has never been so busy with viewers from all over the world checking us out. We had guestsfrom:

  • Cuba
  • United States
  • Columbia
  • Canada
  • Czech Republic
  • United Kingdom
  • European Union
  • India
  • Dominican Republic
  • Germany
  • Belgium
  • Hong Kong SAR China
  • Italy
  • Norway

I hope you will continue to pop by to follow our story as we attempt to buy a school and change how we deliver local education. Especially where special needs students and those disengaged in their education for various reasons. 

Yours in adventure,


Sincerely,
Jack Taylor (but not really)

 

Chickens and Dogs, Horses and Bulls Oh My

It had been almost 10 years since I had driven a standard and I was a little worried I had forgotten how, but once our caravan of 12 jeeps started to role, it quickly came back. It’s like riding a bicycle I guess. We’ll see when I get my first cycle since I was in my teens this summer.

A tour bus comes to pick you up bright and early to drive you the half hour into downtown Varadero where the rental company is. The lot is chalk full of jeeps with each caravan color coded to make it easier to monitor drivers lagging behind I assume.

Our first stop after driving through the town, on the highway for a bit and then down a long, bumpy dirt road through rural Cuba, was snorkeling. I had never snorkeled before and Cheyenne didn’t want nothing to do with swimming out into deep ocean waters. I don’t remember the last time I have even wore flippers which I quickly realized were a challenge all in themselves. It’s not easy to stop and tread water while you adjust your mask with those fins attached to your feet.

Snorkeling wasn’t easy. My mask and breathing tube both kept filling up with water and countless times I stopped to try to adjust everything but I never had any luck. I was very panicky swimming out the 150 metres to where we had time to just explore the coral reef as it isn’t easy only breathing through a small tube.

Although I felt kind of closterphoebic, I swallowed and snorted a tonne of salt water, and worried my contact lenses were going to float away, the view of the clear ocean floor between the reefs and the site of the colourful array of fish were so worth it. I’d love to try it again with a better mask and tighter fitting flippers.

We weren’t done the water part of our day next as we headed off to a cave to wash off the salty ocean water. It was a hundred or so stairs into the earth, and was like nothing I had seen before. I shouldn’t have been surprised as the entire trip had been this way, but it really was something. The water was as clear as the ocean as you could see the floor of the swimming hole. The water was slightly cooler than the ocean but it was beautiful and refreshing.

Driving through the narrow streets of town were tricky especially with there not being a lot of stop signs or lights in Cuba. You’re watching out for bikes, motorcycles, scooters, horses and buggy’s, taxis, cars, buses, and critters, all while trying to keep up with the group. It can be a bit stressful at times but worth every minute.

The next stop was a ranch which took us through the hills and through villages where children ran out for about a km stretch to wave at the jeeps going by. This must be a daily spectacle with 3 or 4 groups of jeeps heading out each and every day – passing by these villages twice. The kids were adorable and we could see jeeps slowing down giving the children gifts. We didn’t have anything with us unfortunately but next time we’re raiding a dollar store before we leave.

It wasn’t the vehicles we had to worry about in this stretch as much as the live stock. From dogs wandering, grazing horses tied to the side of the road, to chickens crossing the street to get to the other side. At one point a bull jumped out from the bushes and scared us a bit but no animals or little children were harmed from us booting across Cuba with the likes of Dave Matthews, Phil Collins, and Chilliwack providing the soundtrack from my phone, to our adventure. We could”t find a signal on the Jeep radios.

The ranch provided us with a gorgeous view of the surrounding hill sides. We had an opportunity to try various items and a chance to purchase more afterwards from coconuts, something that tasted a bit like peanut butter, starfish fruit, and a couple of other fruits. We chose to buy a cup of coconut to tie us over until lunch which as it turns out, was a quick Jeep ride further down the ranch path.

Lunch was good. We shared it with a nice family of four from Winnipeg. We talked about the Jets, Bombers their new stadiums and the revitalization that has ensued. We were also accompanied by some baby chick’s booting around the restaurant deck looking for scraps. They were a cute addition to the ambiance.

We had time to explore for a bit and we found cows, goats including a baby goat that loved attention, peacocks, turkeyeys, and other birds we did not recognize.

I had a chance to ride a bull, pulled by a person mind you, for a few minutes before we took a handful of horses for a ride for 5 minutes just a quick walk from where we had lunch. I hadn’t been on a horse since I used to show them as a little kid. What beautiful creatures.

Our last stop on the Safari was to what looked like a lake tucked below the hillside. The boats were by no means fast boats, but it was a great afternoon for a cruise around the warm, calm waters. There were 4 to a boat, and we stopped half way to allow the other couple a chance to drive as well. I was finally able to use the boating license I got last summer but we didn’t even need it in Cuba. I did need my drivers license to drive the jeeps however.

It was a good truck back to the rental agency, where we got back into the bus for the trip back to our hotels.

The last child we seen on the return trip through the village, we slowed down to give away the only thing we didn’t need for the rest of our trip. It was my baseball hat representing our local professional team. The boy couldn’t have been 6 or 7, and greeted us with a polite and cheerful ‘Ola’, and followed with a very excited and appreciable ‘Thank you. Thank you’ as we drove away.This part of the trip had Cheyenne and I a little choked up. They were so sweet.

We barely had enough energy for dinner and a drink after arriving back around 7, before I passed out flicking through channels in bed.

It was a hot, whirlwind of a day but I would say it was my favourite part next to the big proposal. From the villages, the children, seeing the poorest parts of Cuba (that we seen anyway), and the various scenery, this was truly a great way to really experience Cuba. It was much more hands on than Havana, including driving yourself and realizing the challenge of getting around amid all the life and other obstacles in your path.

Each day, we fall in love with this place even more. One more sleep and it’s home we head.

Dos Baked Chickens

Cheyenne finally had her first hot shower today. I gave her a high five. We couldn’t figure out why everyday, after I heard her shriek in the shower, I would enjoy a nice, warm shower. Apparently she may have thought they put the sticker on the wall indicating which way is hot, upside down or something. It may not be a strong stream but give it a few moments, and the heat does at least come. “It’s much easier to wash off the soap with hot water”, Cheyenne smiled.

We attempted the pool after breakfast, one meal we never missed in the dining room all week, but it was cold. It was a quick, refreshing dip after baking in a lounge chair for a couple of hours.

We also had our first lunch at the beach restaurant which wasn’t bad but we prefer the poolside bar or the dining hall for lunch. The atmosphere was the best at the beach bar though with the Cuban band playing throughout our meal and all the foliage separating the bar from the ocean.

The afternoon was beach day numeral dos and it was the perfect day weather wise. The beach and ocean were both packed, and their wasn’t a cloud to be found.

In the evening we met a group from Quebec at the poolside bar, and they called us over to their table where a personal boom box was pounding popular English and French tracks. We danced, did shots, and tried talking to them all but only two spoke any English and one, Jean-Paul, helped his girlfriend translate the words she didn’t understand. JP still had a think Francophone accent and sounded like a charterer off of Slapshot. They were a fun, pleasant bunch. Even Linda from Saskatoon came over to party with us.

We checked out another show by the beach bar late in the evening before calling it an early night with the bus leaving at 7:45 for our Jeep ‘Safaris’ the next day.

Baking in the hot sun all day really takes a lot out of you. Relaxing is exhausting. Laughing out loud in my head.

La Habana or Cuba 101

Today was definitely the earliest we have gotten up since weve got here. The bus was to leave at 9am so we had to squeeze in breakfast and pack our gear for a trip we had been anticipating from the moment we decided upon Cuba as our vacation spot.

We’ve heard people singing the song, we’d seen the video in the discotheque a couple of times, read the brochure and the different flavours of the same destination much more than twice, and finally the day was here.

Our tour bus arrived almost right at 9. Our guide for the day was Reuben, and the bus drivers name, at least to make it easier on us, was Elvis (not Presle). We love the Cuban humor.

The bus wasnt quite packed but it was a good sized group – mostly from Canada I believe other than one couple from China.

Reuben was an Encyclopedia of knowledge. I thought I was going to be able to write a bit on the 2 hour trip to Havana but for the most part, he chatted the entire way. For a couple with so many questions about this place and it’s people, we quickly realized this was a trip we should have taken first. From currency, politics, education, religion, immigration, business, housing, the economy, military, and even why we didn’t see banana’s at our resorts, our cranium and spirits would be full by nights end.

The sites from the bus were breathtaking with as full an explanation of these places as possible with how fast sites passed us by.

Reuben opened up questions often and travellers took him up on every inquest. ‘How do you keep the old cars running, where do you get the parts, how much are Cuban’s paid, and why were there two currency?’ Reuben had an answer for everything as Elvis quietly weaved us around the countryside.

I debated whether or not to talk about what we learned as transcribing the sites we’d seen alone would be a long enough post, but I chose (through everything we learned), to do my best to share this knowledge. I would recommend you also do your own research if this is at all of interest as there is little time to fact check with limited WiFi. I will do more research when I get home as well. A lot more. Please feel free to comment or add anything below as well. ‘More input Stephanie.’

One of the sites we learned about, was the modest university which we passed the first hour of our trip. Schooling – including post-secondary, is free. The caviet is that the men have to serve in the army for 1 year before university, and they also must work (paid), for a government company with free training, for another two years after graduation. The woman must also work with this same criteria afterwards, except she must work 3 years. She can also join the army if they wish but I am not sure we asked how this would affect her mandatory work term.

Books are also free, but Reuben talked about how they are all being digitized so students can download them to a USB. As we would later see at a school we toured on our own in Havana, at least some Elementary schools have computer labs. Maybe they all do?

Reuben talked about the mining business and their relationship with Canada, and we seen smoke stacks for one or two plants. They have coal, natural gas, and oil.

I may be wrong in the order but I believe health care is number one with tourism at number three, and agriculture at number 2. Reuben knew one lady who was a nurse and quit to clean rooms at a hotel which pays very well with tips and other gifts left by tourists.

We were curious about the two currencies, Peso’s and Convertible Peso’s (CUC). The tourists are not aloud to use Peso’s but the locals can use CUC’s. Apparently CUC’s came about because America wanted a currency equal to theirs (which CUC’s are). There is talk that with the new government that will come in, that perhaps Peso’s will once again become the only currency.

Catholicism is the primary religion but we would later see a Mosque downtown. We were told Muslims are relatively new to the country.

The one thing we were very disappointed about is the fact their Indigenous people are mostly extinct. At one point Spain tried to cross Cuba and were slaughtered by the indigenous, but when the Spanish did come to inhabit Cuba the disease they brought wiped the Indigenous peoples out. We are thankfully this isn’t completely true in Canada and that we are finally repairing a long history of abusing, assimilating, and generally treating them like third world citizens. We have a long way to go.

One question brought up was the fact there weren’t banana’s at the resorts. This was due to hurricane Irma and her devastation of banana trees.

Reuben had travelled quite a bit and had a good understanding of the world including Canada. Obviously the relationship with America is non-existant which left us also greatful for the relations the late Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau built with Cuba. It’s an honor to see our flag flown at all resorts.

Our guide talked about the different periods immigration from certain countries happened, and their own history with slaves from Africa.

Lastly, from memory anyway, it was noted that health are is free for all. I am not sure of the details of this care as we know in Canada, there are certainly many holes in our system but it’s great to see the basics like housing, food, education and health are covered.

About an hour in, we pulled over to a highway-side bar and cafe for a rest and to stretch our legs. We enjoyed a couple of cervaza’s, watched as other tour buses and locals alike popped in. It was a busy little hub at which, like we would learn was true of all tour stops, there was an opportunity to also buy souvenirs. We stayed maybe 20 minutes before jumping back on the road.

Our next stop, was the former home of the late author Ernest Hemingway, who fell in love with Havana during his travels and eventually bought a home and a vast amount of property. He used to stay at a hotel at which we would eventual see at one of our stops in old Havana. We quickly realized upon entering the old city, why he fell in love with this place.

Hemingway’s house is now a museum, but you cannot enter the home. The doors and windows are all left open with rope to stop you from entering and stealing things like books, skins, etc as the house is how he left it when he would eventually kill himself due to this overwhelming paranoia he suffered from with people telling time the Cuban government was watching him.

I took panoramic photos of every entrance way and paid a few Peso’s to have a museum staff take my camera into Hemingway’s bedroom for which there is not an open door or window you can peak in from.

There is also a large garage and a tower he had built but there was no way I was climbing that narrow staircase. Cheyenne braved that. Heights and me don’t have a very good relationship.

Down the path a bit, is his old pool and tennis court area, but the courts had been converted to a resting place for Hemingway’s old ship.

With the lineups, it was a bit of a rush back to the bus (as would every stop be we’d quickly find out), and I had to use the restroom to boot. I asked the tour guide who asked the merchant whose business other riders on our bus were buying special drinks from, if I could use their bano. What I didn’t realize was this was their house. I passed by a bedroom, into a skeleton of a bathroom. I felt bad for asking but was appreciative none the less.

Our next stop was lunch, which was at this nice little bayside restaurant with a remarkable view of some ruins and the ocean. Lunch was a tasty toasted meat and cheese sanwhich which hit the spot.

After lunch, we’re were treated to rides in old 50’s cars, touring around Havana checking out a few sites including John Lennon Square, before our final stop in the old cars – the Catholic cemetery. If my memory serves me correctly, The Beatles music wasn’t allowed in Cuba until some time in the 80’s when Fidel Castro recognized them as revolutionary, and memorialized him with a bench statue and a square named in his honor.

The long walk through the cemetery was fascinating, but hot with it being nothing but marbel and concrete. The one grave was a mother who, along with her child, died during delivery. Legend has it that when they dug up the bodies years later, the baby had moved from its original position at her feet, to up around her breast. Many come to the graveside today to pray, bring flowers and other gifts, and the site was alive with flowers adjourning it on this day as well.

I may be getting the order of events wrong, but I believe from there, we stopped off at liberty square where large 3D outlines of a couple of popular Cuban figures, including Che who is everywhere from painted on buildings to in artwork. There were a tonne of old cars parked here which is where I believe the Rolling Stone’s held a free concert a couple of years back. One gentleman, Murphy, from our resort had attended the show. Cheyenne swears she spotted Ryan Gosling in one of the old cars as we were leaving the square. We’ll have to check his Twitter to see if he was leaving his heart in Havana too.

Next was a cigar and rum shop, where you could also get a coffee on fire, where flames were poured from face level into your coffee. It was quite a specactle. We stayed there for another half hour and had the opportunity to go across the street to a market with fresh foods. We didn’t go in but looked inside and talked to a local that lived next door who with a great big smile, told us to have a nice stay.

The rest of the afternoon we had an opportunity to explore Old Havana, with our free time centred around Plaza Vieja. Within this square, we were able to catch a quick tour of an elementary school, Angela Landa primary school – just up the street from our dinner stop, La Bodeguita Del Medio.

La Bodeguita was remarkable. A big, narrow staircase takes you up and around to the top floor, with a Cuban band playing, and a small balcony where you could enjoy the view of the merchants and shops below. All the walls were covered in signatures of all who had been there. Downstairs, the second and third floors – everywhere. You understand from your stay here, why so much artwork – including paintings of old cars, captures the sign to this famous restaurant where Hemingway used to frequent.

We had a few moments to have a drink before checking out a couple of more buildings. During this break, we sat next to a couple from Toronto – originally from Iran, who were asking Reuben about entrepenurealship. The gentleman was floored that someone couldn’t open a second location if their business was running well. He was obviously a big fan of capitalism and I could see, although Reuben was quiet and polite, that he really seemed to love his country and looked a bit uncomfortable with the conversation. The family and their cute little child were wonderful, don’t get me wrong. We all had so many questions. I mentioned Cheyenne and I being big supporters of small business and not so much corporations. My recommendation for visitors is to not knock anything. You don’t have to agree with their way of life but we certainly – by a long shot, can’t say our capitalist systems are really all that great either.

We really hated to leave Old Havana as the sun started to go down on this dream come true, but we were off to catch the bus to an old fort (Castillo De Los Tres Reyes Del Morro), to catch a ceremonial cannon shot. The place was packed full of visitors and as usual, there were many merchants selling their artwork. The boom, right at 9 as promised, was loud and woke us all up but it was a great show.

As all great things must, our day in Havana was over. We boarded the bus and Cheyenne edited her pictures the entire ride back to Varadero, and I did some writing. We did stop an hour out at the same rest stop, where I spotted a mother cat standing guard with her kittens, where earlier that day chickens roamed.

Havana is a destination we will never forget. It was magical from the people to the architecture and every stop in between. We’d recommend doing this trip first to really get a good understanding of the country and it’s people to help guide you through the rest of the trip. It’s a long day but well worth the sites and knowledge gained.

Thank you Reuben. You were a remarkable guide and travelling companion. This day would not have nearly been the same without you as our guide.

Into the Ocean

Friday was mostly an uneventful day after a day in Veradero and celebrating our big evening well into the night hours.

It’s amazing how tiring a day relaxing in the blazing sun can be. Maybe it’s the constant flow of cervaza or maybe the fact that this was also the hottest and clearest skies yet, and likely a bit of both.

We are lucky to be sandwhiched in between two storms as we were told it rained all day Monday and that after we leave, mother nature plans to cool things off again with a little wet stuff. From our Canadian weather forecasters, it seems Monday and Tuesday will be the hottest days of them all here in sun city.

I jumped into the pool for the first time today but it was a quick dip. How do the kids do it? It’s shocking.

As someone who likes to keep busy, it’s not easy just lying in the sun doing nothing but I finally gave in for a full day and it felt great. Cheyenne caught me letting out the occasional deep, long sighs as I further released the stresses of two jobs and our crazy, but wonderful, lives back home.

Today we also jumped into the ocean for the first time. We’ll, I jumped – Cheyenne walked a couple of sandbars in. It’s a bit cool at first but not like the pool. Once your in, its warm and liberating. I’ve never felt sand so soft, or so void of rocks or seaweed, and there are very few shells to crackle under foot.

The water is so unbelievably clear and refreshing. We reqlized why our time by the pool had been so quiet earlier, as Herbert, our poolside entertainment guy, was walking up and down the beach with whistle going, shouting out ‘beach windy volley’ in that fun, thick African accent. We didn’t partake as we were far too settled into the hot sand, but it’s great hearing his enthusiasm in the distance in between the sounds of the waves crashing into shore.

We tried lunch for the first time today in the dining room, which was more or less the dinner menu but far less crowded by the time we got here.

After spending the afternoon on the beach, we jumped online again to another wave of dings and vibrations with congratulations still pouring in from the night before. Cheyenne called my soon to be step-daughter and step mom as well, who both were very excited for us and looking forward to the big day.

For dinner, we also finally stopped into the beach bar for our favourite meal thus far, steak and rice. It melted in our mouths. Can we eat here every night? It’s a lovely, more relaxed atmosphere as it’s basically a hut in the raised above the sand surrounded by foliage, and frequented by curious kitties.

With our dinner reservations made for the latest possible time (8pm), we only had energy for a coffee in the lobby before heading back to our room

We ended up watching some Cuban television while we laid in bed, and caught a discussion about Terry Fox. From what we could understand, apparently they have a marathon in his honor every year. They showed some footage of him running across Canada. It was nice to see this tie between our two countries.

Cheyenne and I are very greatful the late Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, had a good relationship with Cuba. This resort is packed full of Canadians as was downtown Varadero. Most from Quebec it seems too.

We’ve definitely found peace, romance, relaxation and big, grateful smiles in this tropical wonderland. We hope we’ll have an opportunity to bring our children here one day. We know they’d love it too.

The Proposal

Today was the day.

First and foremost, there was to be the proposal. Second, we had decided it was time to venture off the resort to explore at least a little of the Cuban culture.

We realized that breakfast was more or less the same every day except say a few minor additions like another style of bread thrown into the mix (the bread and buns are really good), or slightly different meats. Either way it hits the spot.

Cheyenne wanted to book meals in the other resort restaurants before we left so we sat down with Kaly who I could tell out of the corner of my eye, couldn’t stop smiling during our conversation. ‘No reservations at Varadero 1887 for tonight’, Kaly tried to say in a serious manner.

So for now, so she thought, we at least had evenings of Cuban and then Italian cuisine booked for Friday and Saturday evenings.

While Cheyenne took care of a few things at the front desk, I followed Kaly over to the Cafe Bar to confirm the details for later that evening. The flowers, champaign and music were all set.

It’s about a 10 minute walk from the resort to the main road to catch a double decker tour bus. It was finally a clear day although there was enough of a breeze that it still wasn’t overly hot.

We enjoyed the old cars driving by for 5 minutes or so while we awaited the bus, and it seemed every second vehicle honked their horn or slowed down, in an attempt to offer you a ride.

We started our excursion on the bottom level of the bus, with the view of the open air through the stairway to the top a bit intimidating at first for this height challenged traveller. A couple of stops in, paused long enough to feel safe to venture into the blue skies atop the vehicle, we found a couple of seats with the warm breeze against our faces. Cheyenne took the outside railing seat and was a bit intimidated by this freedom from enclosed quarters at first, but after building up speed a few times and a few twists and turns into various resorts, we settled in and enjoyed a trigger happy ride.

At least where we are, it’s about a 20 minute walk we’d guess from the Oceans edge of our resort, to the other side of the island peninsula of Varadero. Although it’s a little river with trees on the other side and catamarans parked along the shore, it feeds into the Atlantic just a little ways up from us.

With how high you sit above the roadway, each direction of the bus trip provides you with a vantage point that makes you feel like you are driving along the shoreline ready to topple into the ocean at any moment. It makes for a breathtaking view of vast open waters with the shoreline of Cuba’s main land in the far of distance.

There are quite a number of stops between our resort and midtown Varadero where we got off, but we didn’t mind. We finally felt like we were in Cuba rather than any American resort in say South Carolina, California or Florida. Not that I haven’t loved the people and places when I visited these destinations but other than the marvel of seeing outside your country, and the various accents from the coastal cities I have seen from those mentioned above to New York, Boston, and New Jersey, this was unlike anything else either of us had seen before.

Our first stop was the bank as being unknowledgeable travellers, cuc’s (cuban convertible peso’s), were going fast and we also were relying on American credit cards which are of no use. The building was quite bland but cool, and we quickly learned that only one person could stand at the counter at a time. They weren’t mean about the request.

From there, we walked for a bit taking a few pictures before being enticed to jump on a horse and buggy ride for 5 cuc’s each. We weren’t riding more than 5 minutes before we asked to get off to use the bathroom (bano), which cost us another 10 cuc’s. Thankfully we just stopped at the bank.

Conveniently for us, the bano was at the flea market that we wanted to stop off at. We spent a couple of hours at least buying gifts for family back home including those watching over our dog and our cats.

The artwork was breathtaking from wood, leather, oil paintings, jewelry and even rum and smokes. We sat half way through for dose cervaza and enjoyed some time to just watch the people. We fell in love with one little dog who had in turn, fell in love with a gentleman and his little girl as while he and another fellow stood and chatted for some time, the dog slept peacefully in their shadows.

We enjoyed talking in great lengths to the vendors who spoke really good English. They chatted about their families, shared photos, talked of their family business, and at times dealt with rude tourists. One vendor however was that guy you are warned about by Ernesto, and before we knew it we were unwillingly paying 20 cuc’s for a leather wallet scribed with your name and year. “Come in. Come in. Free wallet for the lady. Please write your name down here. Beautiful yes? 20 pesos.” Of course we could have walked away but it was far more charming than Cheyenne’s wallet that was likely made in China.

We bought everything we wanted to and more, before taking a nice stroll through the streets with no plans, and nowhere to go.

Eventually a charming gentleman called us down into his restaurant where we enjoyed hamburgers and French fries with a cervaza for me and a Pina Colada or the lady.

We couldn’t have asked for a better day weather wise.

We were finally ready to head back well into the afternoon, so we found a tour bus stop and took photos for some 15 minutes of all the old cars and the fascinating variety of taxied beeping by. “There goes a tilt-a-whirl.”

We decided we would take the bus to the end of the peninsula of Varadero which in hindsight, might not have been a great idea after a long day. There were many breathtaking sights but the ride atop the bus was very windy and bumpy and after a 45 minute detour from our resort, we were ready to put our feet up over a quiet coffee.

At this point, Cheyenne still thinks we are just headed to the buffet tonight but thankfully, I was able to delay the surprise a little longer because she wanted to finally get dressed up nice.

Perfect.

To make it look like I had a wallet in my pocket and not a ring box, I put the room key and money in my shirt pocket. I awkwardly trying to hide that pant leg for the next hour, nervous all night (as I had been throughout this trip thus far), hoping she wouldn’t catch any hints from me or staff in on the surprise with coat hangers in their mouths and big wide eyes.

We returned to the lobby about 7 o’clock with an hour to spare before our dinner reservations. Cheyenne chatted a bit with her daughter while I sneakily shared some pictures and explanation of our day with friends and family, with the last picture being the ring I was about to propose with – hiding Cheyenne from viewing the post.

“We should head up to the dining room”, Cheyenne motioned around 7:45 – both starved after a busy day. This is when I told one more small lie after telling her at least, that we were heading to Varadero 1887 (more of a fine dining restaurant within the resort), for dinner.

I told Cheyenne that our tour guide Ernesto, pulls the gentleman aside after the orientation to encourage them to plan a romantic evening with their partners. She was excited and surprised, but bought it hook, line, and Cohiba.

Upon entry, I say my name and the waitress throws me a big smile. I didn’t notice until Cheyenne pointed it out later, but our table had flower petals spread across it which looking back, was a beautiful touch. There was also a bottle of champaign, at our table only, but I told her that was also courtesy of this romantic package. She thankfully was still not suspicious although at this point I think she’s dreaming of Ernesto being on our date instead of me.

Of course by now the nerves were high and my heart was pounding. This was also due to the fact that although many locals at the resort speak decent English, some words are lost so I really I had no idea when the flowers were coming or the table side music.

Apparently everything was planned for when we sat down for soon after, they brought Cheyenne her breathtaking arrangement of pink roses in full bloom. That Ernesto.

Just a few moments later, Cheyenne looked bewildered as the singer walked forwards us, and she looked around wondering if she was only going to sing to us. At that moment, with her looking the other way, I stood up, walked to her side, struggled to pull the box out of my pocket and then get it open with the ring case still in side. Had I planned better, I should have left the box back at the hotel but I threw that on the floor before Cheyenne turned around in shock as I opened up the ring case to expose the ring.

The singer had an astounding voice, singing a beautiful rendition of Ava Maria as, bent on one knee, I asked Cheyenne to be my bride. It took her a moment to catch her bearings, so I jokingly asked ‘maybe?’, before she said ‘yes, yes, yes.’

With tears in both our eyes, the room erupted into clapping and congratulations, and even a cheers from the couple behind us who had been married for 37 years – wishing us the same happiness.

Dinner was wonderful, especially with Cheyenne glowing against the stage, in utter shock, staring constantly at the ring, and then back at me with that smitten look that always captures my heart.

Earlier in our relationship, in the midst of a horrible divorce, I had stated that I didn’t want to get married again, but I did know early on that Cheyenne was the one. Last year however, I realized through everything that we had been through as a couple, that I indeed want to marry again and so tonight, almost three years together and one and a half years sharing the same roof, we took that next step.

Throughout the rest of the evening, as Cheyenne smiled with roses in hand walking around the resort, the congratulations kept flowing along with the cervaza’s.

I told her at this point that everyone – I mean everyone, knew what was happening tonight except her, so we had a few moments of WiFi time, welcomed by some 100 or so messages of congratulations.

We checked out the rock show by the pool later on with a talented female lead seeing songs from Joan Jett, CCR, AC/DC, and many others. It was a fun and energetic show.

Our last stop was the discotheque for a couple of drinks and a bit of dancing. It was full of life this time. As we watched the exuberant silliness of the young tourists, mostly in their late teens we gathered, we wondered ‘why we hadnt done these sorts of things in our youth?’ I am not sorry because I have certainly appreciated this trip that much more, but what stooped us from such adventures?

One couple came over while we were dancing, who had been in the restaurant to witness the proposal, and joked about how we made everyone wait for dinner,and then we had his wife in tears. He then asked ‘shouldn’t you be somewhere else celebrating?’

We didn’t want this night to end.

Somehow our girls and families kept this secret for months, which made this already perfect night, that much more special.

Cheyenne Gallagher was now my fiancé. Soon, she would be Mrs. Taylor.

The Sneaky Tourist

Day one of our Adventure in Paradise is in the books, and I would say operation peace is Fait Accompli

The point at which total and utter relaxation set in, Cheyenne and I both determined, was that moment we found ourselves lathered in vacation protector, side by side on a lounge chair, at the pools edge with drinks in our hand, books to read (or not), and nothing to do, shortly after breakfast.

Our first full day wasn’t the hottest of days. The morning was mostly cloudy, cool and windy but when that sun did finally show its welcomed face and the wind subsided, it was just the warmth that our internal doctors ordered.

Breakfast was just about anything from fruits and sweets, to pancakes, French toast, breakfast meats, beans, screamed eggs, omelets, tasty breads, juices and even smoothies. The coffee we just realized, is not true Cuban coffee in the common dining area but we did find by the end of the day, that the best and finest was just down the stairs at the Cafe Bar in the lobby. I hadn’t had caffeine in almost seven months but it hasn’t stopped my ticker yet. It certainly is tasty

The staff are wonderful. I know they have to be but from what we’ve encountered, their sincerity it seems is both unforced and natural.

We took another walk to the beach in daylight but we didn’t stay long as it was overcast and the wind was brisk. Mind you we we’re in shorts and t-shirts so it wasn’t the cold we just left behind in Canada from any means. The shot above is about as long as we stayed. ‘We’ve seen the beach. Look at how blue it is. I’ve never seen Turquoise water like this. It’s gorgeous. It’s cold. Back to the pool?’

We seen more dogs in the daylight and one cute little female pup stopped to let us say hi.

Cheyenne and I have talked a lot about wanting to understand Communism and the complete political and social truths of this country. Although the security might have been intimidating at the airport – perhaps it should be in a country we are visiting, the hospitality and bright smiles more than make up for it and have us eager to know more.

The orientation was fun. Ernesto our guide had us laughing as he called his wife a scary tiger and told us our travel company had special dolphins. There are so many great adventures we can take but so far we have not left the resort or really planned anything. We are just ‘being’.

After orientation, while Cheyenne was back in our room, I pulled Ernesto aside as I began my day as The Sneaky Tourist.

When I realized that we were going to Cuba just a few weeks before we landed, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to finally ask her to marry me. I had individually asked my girls and Cheyenne’s daughter their thoughts on me popping the question many months before. Neither of them hesitated and somehow, kept this whole thing a secret all of this time.

I snuck off one afternoon a month ago, and made the hour each way trip to ask her father for his permission for his daughters hand in marriage. I took him out for lunch in their small waterfront town, and we had a wonderful conversation in which he expressed he and his wifes unwavering support.

Now all I needed was a ring, and when and how this would all occur. I had met a local artisan, Kathleen, a few months back who makes her own jewelry and we finally hooked up to find the perfect ring for the occasion. Because funds are not in abundance, the artist suggested a ring she had already made that was in her Toronto studio, that she thought would suit the location of the deed.

When Kathleen and I met, I easily chose her suggestion as the one. It was to be a temporary ring and when we were ready, we could go back and exchange for the purchase value, so we could sit together and design the perfect forever keepsake.

With ring packed in my suitcase, I kept it locked up each day to ensure there was no way Cheyenne would accidentally see it. I was constantly conscious each time I opened my suitcase, to ensure it wasn’t exposed. Talk about a stressful first couple of days.

Ernesto hooked me up with our meal planner Kaly, who eagerly planned flowers, champaign, and a vocalist to sing during the big moment with a big smile. I slipped her 20 cuc and I was to return the next morning to finalize the plans. I was hoping to do it that night but it was too late for both reservations and to get flowers sent to the hotel. I was anxious to have my nerves and my sneekiness put at ease but one more day after almost three years together, was not a big deal.

We met our housekeeper Olga who is a sweet lady who speaks a bit of English. We chatted for a bit before she signed off with Happiness Day in this soft, seemingly more African accent but it’s a phrase that captured our hearts.

We missed lunch somehow although perhaps it was the constant flow of cervaza’s that was playing tricks on our time management – or maybe we had just finally said forget you time. We also realized that we really feel lost in this void of time because when asked last night what time Cheyenne’s daughter had, it matched our phones. Is their DST later than ours?

It’s liberating not having access to phones and having spotty Internet. Although I have spent time typing these posts on my mobile tele, there have been no games, no mindless social media or Internet searching. No news or knowledge of what’s happening in the world, although we did hear of the unfortunate passing of Stephen Hawking.

We’ve mostly just been in the moment and it’s blissful.

We attempted some Salsa lessons on this day which perhaps wasn’t a wise idea a few drinks in, but it was quite fun and I at least, laughed a lot. Cheyenne got it but it didn’t surprise me coming from someone who has a lot of energy and who loves to dance. I was perhaps too much into the band and wishing I could be up their playing harmonica with them rather then paying attention to my two left sandals.

At one point watching the band set up beforehand and showing a couple of locals how to play the bongos, I suddenly felt like another Canadian Jack, Jack Kerouac – In the Air if you will. For a few brief Cuban moments,I was in some San Francisco bar hearing Slim Gaillard before the world knew the charming, playful sounds of his big smile through songs like Potato Chips or Serenade to a Peddle.

The beach side host (I’ve yet to get his name or partake in his fun pool-side games whith Cuban rum as the prize), is as dark as an overcast, rural summers night, but his smile, caricature and energetic bounce with musically timed whistles to the constant flow of Spanish music, has me giggling and following him around from my comatosed horizontal position by the pool. He is constantly on the move around the vast, double pool. There is something almost comforting hearing his fun-loving voice and that whistle both as he walks by you, or in the distance, doing his best to engage us and make our days memorable ones. With all the available day trips, it seems it’s a tough gig but I for one appreciate his efforts. He gets everyone laughing.

I’ve already come to the conclusion a day and a bit in, that Cubans have this passion that along with everything else, makes the language, people and the music the most romantic I have encountered.

We had our first dinner in the dining lounge having not really been too worried about making any plans yet never mind planning meals at the eating spots that require a little better dress and reservations. The food isn’t fancy or as tasty as say a good Italian or French feast but I enjoyed it. I tried a bit of everything and there wasn’t anything I didn’t enjoy.

The dining room is quite large and is a very well oiled machine considering the number of people that pile through through those doors over he duration of each sitting. Its fascinating seeing people leave toiletries for tips. We brought them on recommendation for our housekeepers, but we didn’t think of it for other staff. We have virtually anything at our finger tips in North America. Once again, so much to learn about this mysterious island and it’s hard working and intriguing peoples.

In this sitting area within but slightly raised from the lobby, the same band that played during our Salsa lessons played for us. It was a remarkable show. The lobby is so electric when the there is a show there. Some folks are downstairs getting a wifi fix, some are another raised level above us sitting in chairs along the ledge or at the round bar, and some are dancing in front of us or at one point, engaging in a few laughs over a game of musical chairs. Once again with a bottle of Havana Club Rum on the line.

After the band, we all made our way out to the pool area to catch a water dance. There are a couple of bleachers by the pool, and two rows of chairs were also set up. We were lucky to get front row seats.

Three woman and Three men constantly changed costumes and braved the bitterly cold water and cool winds to put on an amazing show for us including a romantic one on one coreogrpehd to the scene in Titanic where Jack finally tragically sinks into the arctic seas. The lights, the music, the cheers and bodies flying and moving to the sounds echoing through the night air were a wonderful way to end the evening.

Even without making plans, days here can be as busy or as relaxing as you want. We slept well that second night.

Havana-na na, na na

It was around 5:30pm by the time we took flight from Canada. At that moment, in that addictive rush of the charging aircraft leaping into the quiet skies, it was finally time to relax and let out a great big sigh of relief.

There were gentle flurries throughout the overcast day but as we waited those last few moments before being called to board, the sun came out to welcome us to our first trip as a couple.

Our time calmly adventuring through the magical clouds in the clouds was smooth, and the food was quite tasty having selected two different snack boxes with various selections of cheeses, crackers, and this melt in your mouth buttery fudge bar that we reluctantly shared.

The in flight movie was Wonder so it wasn’t a trip void a few tears. Cheyenne took her headphones off quite a few times because well, she cries at commercials. We took the girls out one last time before we headed off to paradise without them, to see A Wrinkle in Time. She was crying over the first preview. Love you Cheyenne. Whose kidding who here. I do too.

From the flight, we thought Havana was going to be a popular song this week with a group of 4 or five guys at the front of the plane standing most of the flight and singing the tune. Honey would later tell us it was Desposito.

It was dark and 8:30 when we touched down on this island paradise. Vacating the plane was easy but getting through those exit doors and finally into the warm, open airs of our vacation were not. Besides filling out some mandatory government forms on the plane, the next step was standing alone in a wide row of booths providing your ID, and saying cheese to the local authorities. Guests in this country are certainly well documented. We didn’t mind. It wasn’t winter here.

If that wasn’t enough, when you exit the interrogation booth (really the woman, who shared Cheyenne’s birthday! was quite kind and had a wonderful head of long, braided black and red hair), you are welcomed into the baggage claim area with one last, long, security check.

After about a half hour, with luggage and the exit in sight, we hand over one last form before being offered our first item from the locals – cold beer. Having just caught our first breath of tropical Atlantic air, we passed only to find a similar offer on the bus which was far more comfortable than the plane we would quickly find out.

“3 beers for $10 Canadian dollars”, our travel guide Honey smiled in a thick Cuban accent as we all entered the coach. Since we only had American, she gave us 4 and we were set for the half hour trip to our hotel.

Apparently Bye Felecia is not the saying in Cuba. It’s Bye Amanda. “Amanda. Amanda from Burlington?”

“Bye Amanda,” came laughs from mom’s with 14 kids between them.

15 minutes later from 14 kids between them, “What happened to Amanda?” No answer.

Bye Amanda.

It was around 10:30 by the time we reached the resort. It’s nothing fancy but paradise for these wayward travellers. Cheyenne had a dream a few nights ago about a green drink. I ordered one in the dark, loud discotheque. It was straight Creme de Menthe. Oops.

After pork and egg burgers for a midnight snack and saying goodnight to our girls, we quickly fell asleep after piling on the blankets, not knowing how to turn off the well tuned air conditioner.

We made it. ‘We’ve never left this continent’ is now a term we can no longer use. Barely as it’s just a hop skip and a swim to Miami. We’ll not quite a swim. Cheyenne is petrified of the ocean although she fears sharks at our yearly summer vacationing spot on a lake in northern Ontario. Well they do have fresh water jellies. Who knew.

One last thing, we even gained back that hour we just lost last weekend. Apparently there is no time change here.

Bon Voyagee

Day 230

Cheyenne and I have been together for almost 3 years now. If I were to take (more than) a few moments to think of everything we have done and all that has been placed in our path over that period in time, I could likely write a gripping tale of love, loss, hope, desperation and new beginnings.

She is patient and kind. Otherwise, we are not where we are today about to board this plane whisking us away to a tropical paradise. Thanks for sticking it out, Chey. If we can survive the chaos that has been the last 3 years, I’d say we can about bloody well make it through anything.

Neither of us have left this continent. In fact, when we took the time to really look back at these past few years, we realized that we have also never gone away just the two of us. We’ve had many fun sleepover adventures with our three girls but time to ourselves has been few days and far between. I have my girls half of the time, and she hers full-time so there aren’t many days just her and I. I don’t mind I know I will really miss this busy life when they are all off being adults even though I have told them to stop growing.

This week, I am thankful that we have a lot of great friends and a wonderful, supportive family who ensure kid and critter sitters are in abundance.

Although my luggage is not packed – other than a bathing suit, one pair of underpants, one pair of socks, sandals and flip flops (#ABlokesBaggage), plans for the Gecko, three cats (and our outdoor friends), and our 60 lb Lab/Collie, are all in place. My girls are with their mom for March break since I had them an extra week over the summer, Cheyenne’s daughter is off to camp grams and gramps for the week, and we are both struggling through our last day of work.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

It’s surreal for the both of us. I don’t think the reality of it all will settle in until we are strapped in a giant hunk of steel, ready to take our chances over shark infested waters and #Trumpland.

We’ve gotten a great deal of advice from family, friends, and coworkers who have ventured to our destination before. I thought of packing peanut butter, ketchup, and various other recommendations, but with the items we were advised to bring to tip staff, I think our bags will be full enough.  I’ll survive without condiments in exchange for warm sand between my toes and sunshine as I look out at big, fluffy, white flakes floating in a steady stream outside my window. The snow is a beautiful site but I have had just about enough of this SAD nonsense.

Tonight, Chey and I will enjoy one last evening alone with the critters and by this time tomorrow, we’ll be at Pearson ready to flap our wings.

Maybe I’ll write about from our destination. Or maybe I’ll enjoy a tech-free existence. I’ll say hi at least once and share a pic. I’ll promise at least that.

Wish me luck with this packing thing. It’s always my nemesis.

Bon voyagee!

Education on the Edge

Day 209

Part 2 – True Adventures Yet To Be Lived

Chapter 21: Education on the Edge

This model wasn’t based on research or best practices; two terms we hear often in education circles. Not that either are not important, but to create real change, do we fix what’s broken, or as in the quote at the beginning of this story suggests, do we create something new for research to base findings on and mold best practices after?

One thing that was certain, was that Ivor Memorial High was not closed based on research or best practices, so Jack thought, why should its resurgence? IMH wasn’t given enough time to do any meaningful analysis on, nor the opportunity to garner proper attention to its successes.

Jack often found mention of public education’s need for substancial innovation in texts he read. He had come to the conclusion that to innovate, education delivery had to be re-imagined from the ground up; from scratch. Everyone from the onset had to believe in the mission, vision, and values. They must be in this for the love of teaching, community, their city, children, and people in general. No unions. No politics. No hierarchy of position for that matter; equal partners from youth to adults of varying abilities and backgrounds, for the social good of social education. Once again not in taking a side to the benefits of politics, unions, or educational hierarchies, but merely to begin this particular model as grounded in our local community and its specific needs as possible.

With four years under his belt as a Trustee, Jack had been exposed to a lot in education circles. He knew he had hardly touched the surface in that short a time frame, but he had learned enough about what occupied his thoughts most – vulnerable, disengaged students, decisions being made with little to know research behind them, and simply having been witness to a beloved local model that deserved a second chance, to know that this was what he wanted to focus his educational interests on.

Every so often Jack would bring up going private at conferences or in general conversations with those in education, but as much as people loved to grumble and talk about the change that was needed, the idea of anything outside of Public Education seemed to be quickly shot down. Mention of some bad private models, and the logistics behind offering a pay model for a demographic that in large part couldn’t pay to have their kids attend K-12 programming were all good arguments. It’s exactly where Jack took the conversation when mention of going private with IMH was first tabled all those years ago. Especially in light of the social economical challenges many of these families faced and for many generations.

Jack didn’t blame people for shutting down any conversation about going private. Instead, he seen it as a challenge. There were many great aspects of Public Education. He’d seen so many examples first hand from visiting classrooms, attending Parent Council and community meetings, Gala’s celebrating student success, and talking to educators from Educational Assistants, to Principals, Superintendants of Education and Directors. Examples of success were on Facebook, Twitter, and many other social and traditional media outlets. The problem was that failures, with the best intentions for success, were really not getting the air time they deserved.

At the end of one Board meeting each month, the Director and Chair of the Board took a few moments to talk about successes from around the district. One meeting, Jack felt the need to speak up. Not that he didn’t love hearing about the wonderful and inspiring success stories because he did. However, there was a different reality being written all over the City that very few were aware of which was highly unfortunate because those stories were critical to the bigger picture of Public Education.

“Mr. Director, through the Chair, first I wanted to say that I really enjoy these stories of our successes. It’s somewhat comforting knowing that we are having a positive impact on so many of our staff and students from all walks of life and varying abilities across this Board. My concern however, is that we often talk about the importance of our students seeing themselves reflected in their education, but I fear there is a significant cohort who do not find their experiences within the walls of our educational facilities, reflected in these celebrations. Not that I want us to discontinue highlighting the positive, but I would also like us to reflect on our many challenges and discuss what we are doing every day to tackle these barriers. There are likely thousands of students and staff for that matter, that are not reaching their full potential and who do not see their reflection in the same mirrors you or I reflect in each day. Mr. Director, through the Chair, I would like us to take this time each month to also recognize this; to highlight that we care, we are listening, and to acknowledge that addressing our challenges is equally as important as recognizing our successes.”

Nothing ever came from that plea. Well, not nothing or we perhaps wouldn’t be where we are today, however every time the Director and Chair spoke of success, Jack recalled that speech and internally, thought about all of the phone calls, emails, and social media posts he had read over the course of that month. He hoped that others around the Boardroom whether it be Trustee, staff, or those in the audience or watching the Livestream feed of their meetings, thought about their own local challenges during those moments too.

Jack wasn’t looking to go Turbo, but he made a promise to advocate for IMH students and staff when lobbying to be their elected official. He had fought hard for both the students and staff, but now he not only wanted to make good on his word, he knew with every inch of his being that IMH must exist again but in a format drastically opposite to that which initiated IMH’s demise. Not out of spite or to prove anything to anyone, but because it was the right thing to do.

There were too many staff and students that didn’t find themselves reflected in our neighborhood schools so why were we fighting change and shutting down conversations about models outside of that with which has always existed and for the most part, all we know and understand?

From that first conversation Jack had with a teacher about going private, he knew that that was a word – or anything of similar meaning, he would not use to describe this new model of school. For one, this wasn’t a private school. It wasn’t not a ‘public’ school either, but it also wasn’t technically free. Is anything really?

This was Education on the Edge. Throw out everything you know, and be open to letting your imagination let in everything that you don’t.