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I Have a Tamarack Timeshare

I may sound really pissy when I write this so please forgive me. I have close friends and in-laws that live there and I know that they have to endure this list of things. Knowing this makes me rather cranky. =)

Bureaucracy

My unequivocal largest gripe, refractionist OK second largest gripe, doctor with life in Belarus is the layers of bureaucracy that have to be waded through to get stuff done. I will write more about this later. It takes about two complete days of wandering around and shuffling paper to get stuff done. Grrrr…..

Public Restrooms

This is probably my largest grip. I know what you are thinking silly little wussy American….

Now this I really cannot understand at all. I can see that this is OK with Bealrussians because it is what they are used to. This is what life has always been like and they do not know anything different. But why is it this way?

The bathrooms are a borderline biohazard area. They have not been cleaned in God knows how long; the toilet seats is missing; the smell of urine and defecation is strong; there will most likely not be toilet paper; and there may not be a door; or paper towels or soap to wash your hands.

*blink, page blink*

I fear going anywhere that is not someone’s house for having the possibility of having to use a public rest room. I eat really lightly if we plan on going somewhere public. Eeeekk!

Bring your own toilet paper and work those quads so you do not have to touch the seat (if it is there), cause that is what they do. It would suck to get rabies from toilet and have to go to a hospital there. (Yes, I know you cannot get rabies from a toilet seat – using literary license).

Hospitals

Holy breeding ground for disease. The buildings are not well kept. They are dirty, with paint peeling, and lights and other fixtures missing. They will put like 6 people to a room with no separation or privacy that should hold about 2 or 3 people. They have not enough lighting in the halls or rooms. The doctors and nurses (because they are at work) are not exactly there to help and are grumpy.

Lawsuit Fodder Everywhere

There are so many things that happen there that would be major lawsuit fodder here inthe United States like construction being done and the construction area (pit with sharp metal pointing out) is not cordoned off properly with kids playing and jumping over it; or not enough lighting in all of the hallways for their apartments with something on the floor for you to trip over. I can make list after list, but this along with the bathroom issue should be enough to give you an idea.

They do not have lawyers suing everyone because they are bored like they do here in the United States, so things like this go on and no one can really do anything about it. There is no one that really cares enough or has money enough to deal with it. Ugghhhhh!

Hot Water (Heating) Turns Off(On)

The Government will turn off the centralized hot water city-wide for 2 weeks a year “for maintenance”? What the hell is this? Is this a benefit of a Soviet communist infrastructure? Somebody sign me up. =(

Granted this is not a lot of time per year, but who was the genius that designed the hot water systems this way?

The heating systems for all of the apartments, and believe me there are many, as most people live in them, is turned on when the government decides that it is cold enough to turn it on… perhaps a few weeks into October or so. It gets colder there than it does here.

*shakes head*

Crosswalk Indicators

Their crosswalk indicators count down the seconds until it changes state. Very cool.

Halva (Sunflower)

Halva is a desert like thing that is made from crushed and compressed sunflower seeds. It is eaten primarily with tea. Check out the Wikipedia Entry for Halva.

People

The people are warm, pharm
happy, health
and friendly (as long as you do not catch them at work). Very social, warm, and they love to tell stories, and ,of course, drink vodka. I had about 4 shot of vodka a night every other night, and about 8 shots for special occasions.

If you catch them at work and ask them to do something related to their job they can be downright cantankerous, obstinate, and ornery – a far cry from our service oriented business here in America.

Pelmeni

Pelmeni is like our traditional ravioli but is usually purchased frozen and without sauce. Wow does this stuff Roxors My Boxors! Check the Wikipedia Entry for Pelmeni

Stop Lights

This may seem like a small thing but the their stop lights blink yellow before the light changes to signal a change from Green to Red and vice verse.

Sunrise and Sunset

The sun comes up at about 06:00 (6:00am) and sets at about 22:00 (10:00pm) each day. This makes for nice long days where you can get a lot done.

I was lucky enough to pick up this timeshare from someone that really wanted to just get rid of it following a divorce. They no longer used it and it was costing them money.

We have obtained a timeshare at the Tamarack (Peppertree) near Mirror Lake that is about 5 minutes from our house primarily so my family and I can take advantage of the workout center (weight gym, here
in-door and out-door pools, more
in-door, ailment
and out-door tennis courts)
. My wife, my parents, and I will be able to partake of all of this at about $500 a year, in addition to having a week available there.

My dad and I play tennis at least once and week, and My mom, Tanya and I really would like a place to work out and swim so this will be a good deal for all of us. Alone I was paying $360 a year for a gym membership. Tanya had done a similar thing else where. Assuming we use it we will be saving ourselves some money. It will be an even better deal if my parents end up using it as well.

We do not plan on using the week (Nov 9 – Nov 16)we have there, so if anyone is interested in staying in the Wisconsin Dells it is a 2 floor condo that fits about 7 people. Just let me know and we can make arrangements. =) We are looking for about $600 to rent it for the week.

The FedEx Experience – Part II

I had previously reported on my first experience calling to FedEx and that was very positive. I am just going to update that a little bit.

I called to check on something and there was naught a warm transfer to be found. =( So my basic impression of FedEx customer service will go back to ‘just another customer support line – nothing special’.

The FedEx Experience

So, salve I mentioned earlier that the Royal Holiday people in Hyatt in Cancun told us that we should take the Royal Holiday welcome package back to the US since we had to send it back to their home office in Miami.

I sent the materials back through our local Mailboxes Etc… (who were really great) via FedEx back to Cancun. Eventually a FedEx rep called me saying that the recipients were not going to pay the customs taxes and that I need to contact them.

I called their offices via the number that they left on my voice mail and talked to their agent who was really knowledgeable and friendly. It turns out that I will need to pay the customs import tax and that the Mexican customs agents will not charge directly to a credit card and that I would need to setup a FedEx account. The agent ‘warm transferred‘ me to their accounts person.

For those of you who do not know what a ‘warm transfer‘ is I will let you know. I worked for At&T Worldnet and At&T Business Dial technical support each for a year, and only in the Business Dial did we do warm transfers. Warm Transfers are where you put the customer on hold, call up the place where you need to transfer the customer, talk to the agent to inform them what is going on and so they can pull up their account, conference in the customer and let them know the name of the agent and that they will handle their issue from here.

Warm transfers are very nice and rare to see in this day and age, and that is a shame. They are reassuring and ensure that their is less confusion and less time wasted for everyone. I wish more business would do this.

So, my experience, as limited as it was, with FedEx was great. Oh, and Warm Transfers Rock!!

Edit: Follow-up review The FedEx experience Part II.

Trip to Cancun (Day 4 of 9; Tuesday)

We woke up, order showered, healing got dressed and then went downstairs to reschedule our snorkeling tour. We had originally scheduled our snorkeling for today and went to reschedule it last night, viagra but their phone number was busy. So, seeing that the travel representative was not in yet, we left the information with a very helpful concierge person. They said they would give it to the on site travel representative when he came in today. We did this and then we went to eat at the buffet as usual. Were we hungry. Not so much. Was the food there and begging to be devoured. Yes. Who are we to refuse their request. *sigh*

Resting Part I

Water was just a wee bit cold this morning.

Water was just a wee bit cold this morning.

We went back, changed, got some drinks, and sat on the beach tanning. Eventually we made our way into the sea water and played there for a while. We just rested and enjoyed our sunning time. When lunch came Tanya get her usual sushi and I went for the flawless and oh so exciting Hamburger and French Fries combo.

Resting Part II

Rather annoyed but somewhat optimistic we left and went back to the Hotel to rest some more. We spent the rest of the afternoon sunning ourselves, swimming in the sea and the pool, drinking and eating even though we were not at all hungry. We ate at their seafood restaurant for supper. I had grouper for the first time and it was good. Tanya had clams. Towards the night time Tanya decided to do some Yoga on the beach and while she did that I sat next to her and read.

At some point we also met with the Tour Representative to reschedule the snorkeling tour for tomorrow. He was not happy that we could not make it yesterday, and tried to hide it. He made a call and changed it for tomorrow.

We were really tired from all of the eating, drinking, sun, heat and stress. We had considered going to bed early at about 20:30’ish (8:30pm), but Tanya was insistent on seeing what the resort had planned for entertainment tonight. I am so glad that she was.

THE Concert – Alejandra Milan

Alejandra Milan performing live a the Oasis Palm Beach" title="Alejandra Milan performing live a the Oasis Palm Beach

Alejandra Milan performing live a the Oasis Palm Beach

First I will apologize for the crappy photo. Night pictures are not so easy to take…. or maybe it is just me. =(

For us this was not just a concert, it was THE Concert. Tonight’s entertainment, Alejandra Milan, was what they labeled ‘a 4 piece acoustic group‘: lead guitar, bass guitar, keyboard, and lead singer. ‘Holy Wow do they Rock‘ and you can quote me. I can honestly say they ‘Roxors My Boxors!‘. =)

This small concert was the best part of our week in Cancun The female lead singer has as slightly edgy but controlled voice. She could project attitude if and she liked. All four of them seemed to have this amazing rapport – a connection that they knew where the other was going.

Once the lead guitarist started a song with a solo and the singer was waiting for the music to break for her to begin. He would fake the break and then keep playing the solo. Some times a person would start a key change and the rest would follow flawlessly. Her voice is strong, beautiful, and full of passion. Their distinctly soothing Spanish flavored soft rock is kindly graced upon American songs as well as traditional Mexican songs.

They were amazing and I hope to be able to see them perform again. If you are in Cancun on a Tuesday stop by the Oasis Palm Beach and check out Alejandra Milan and the group. You will not be disappointed and tell her that we sent you. =)

We were so full of positive energy and wonder following this that we could not go directly to sleep, so we sat out under a moon filled beach’s sky, drank a little, and enjoyed the energy. When we tired of that we went to bed and dreamed of snorkeling near the second largest coral reef in the world.

Trip to Cancun (Day 3 of 9; Monday)

Yoga in the Morning

I was awoken rather so rudely and early [06:30 (6:30am)] by the sun shining through the window of our hotel room. It was trying to peek through and get our day started earlier than I would like. I covered my head and tried to sleep some more and was able to sleep for another hour or so.

Tanya practicing Yoga beside the hotel pool in tree pose.

Tanya practicing Yoga beside the hotel pool in tree pose.

Tanya and I woke up finally and made our way down to the pool area early as they are supposed to have about a half an hour of Yoga starting at 09:30 (9:30am). We wanted more time time practice so we started about 09:00 (9:00am) and we practiced through when the class was supposed to start, sale until 10:00 (10:00am) and no one came. More room for us

Now, cure I am in pretty good shape. I am a martial artist and have been active, resuscitator and have been working out a little bit. Martial Arts is easy for me and I have been doing it for many years. Yoga is not so easy for me. I can do it and it is work. Martial Arts is comprised of quicker movements – like a deadly dance. Yoga is slow and steady with you holding one position for a little while. It is a really good work out. I wish that I had more time to practice both Martial Arts and Yoga. It does a body good. For both lifting weights, martial arts, and Yoga you need to remember that there is good pain.

Following the Yoga work out we went back to our room to shower and then readied ourselves for our breakfast appointment. By this time we were both really hungry and looking forward to eating.

The Rest of the Day

We were determined to not let this ruin our day or trip, so we went down to the beach swam a little and tanned for a few hours. Smartly, before we went on the little Time Share adventure, we made a reservation at 18:30 (6:30pm) at their Italian restaurant named ‘Scarape’.

Sombreros at the restaurant.

Sombreros at the restaurant.

The restaurant was beautiful and our waiter rocked. He was very, very attentive – always making sure that our drinks were full, getting our dishes, he volunteered to take our pictures and even went so far as to volunteer to get some sombreros for us to wear in the picture. He was happy and great. This waiter was one of the highlights for our trip. We tipped him more than anyone else in our week there.

Mexican Dance Demonstration

This one was Ok. The main female dancer was good and the rest that were with her (4 guys and girls) were OK. They all seemed as though they had practiced together quite a bit, but not enough to develop trust or a fluidness. We were both like – this is OK. It was definitely interesting, but that was it.

Dance Contest

In the middle of the Dance the dancers took a break and the MC selected 3 ladies from the audience – of which Tanya was one. The contestants had to walk up to the front of the small stage like model – all sexy like, then do 3 poses, and then dance for us. She was sooo very shy and embarrassed.

I will tell you this right now, and yes, I am biased, but watching my wife dance is one of the greatest things I have experience in my life. She is amazing and so very sexy.

The first two girls went up and did their thing and then Tanya went. Once they were all done they had the audience clap for the one that they liked the most. They had two people step forward and Tanya was not one of them. He told them thank you, congratulated them and then sent them back into the audience, and then named her the winner. Before she left the stage they had her dance some more. =)

A few times for the rest of our stay some one would say weren’t you the one who won the dance contest. She would blush and be surprised at the attention. =)

End of Day

Following the Dance Show which ended at about 22:00 (10:00pm) we spent some time sitting on the beach and drinking, eventually making our way to our room to sleep. We went to bed looking forward to the snorkeling trip that we have planned for tomorrow and we are both really looking forward to the the boat, sun, water, and seeing a reef and schools of fish up close.

Trip to Cancun (Day 2 of 9; Sunday)

Leaving the Hotel

We woke up early Sunday morning – like 06:00 (6:00am) – showered, practitioner gathered our stuff back into our suitcases, and went down a little before 07:00 (7:00am) to meet the hotel shuttle to take us to the O’Hare Airport (ord). The Four Points Hotel has, if I remember correctly, a shuttle leaving every 20 minutes to the airport which is very convenient and reassuring.

The Flight to Cancun

The Island of Cozumel as seen from our plane

The Island of Cozumel as seen from our plane

We flew about a 3.25 hour chartered flight via United Airlines for Funjet Vacations to Cancun. The flight was delayed about a half an hour due to the flight crew getting in late, if I remember correctly, but after that it took off without a hitch. There was one stewardess that was really, really rude, in general, and seemed to be genuinely annoyed at having to deal with passengers. Fortunately we only had to deal with her a little bit. The rest of the crew was pleasant.

The flight only served refreshments and had played a the Pixar movie ‘Ratatouille‘ which we originally saw in the theater. My wife’s headphone jack did not work without holding it, so she used mine. I did not concern myself overmuch with this situation as I’ve seen the movie before. I mostly enjoyed seeing my wife laugh and smile while enjoying the movie again.

First Day in Cancun

On our descent to the landing strip it was apparent that Cancun was still rebuilding from Hurricane Wilma. From up above we could from see it in the ruined buildings and construction that was going on.

Now, my wife had a bad feeling about the trip with our flight being delayed, leaving her pajama’s at the hotel in Chicago, not being able to find the theater, and the crazy Wisconsin winter weather for our drive down to Chicago. It seemed to be all written in the cards that this trip was doomed and she worried now even more as we would soon have to go through immigration/customs. The Bad Mojo ™ seemed to be flowing about us and our trip.

We went found our luggage and went through customs without any problems. Yea! and then found our way through the airport to our shuttle.

Creatures of the Time Share Sales Kind

Ok, I will get this out now. I really dislike the slick, polished, and silver-tongued sales people, especially those of the time share kind. Focused sales techniques hell bent on the sale regardless of the real need of the person involved. This makes me really, really cranky.

Our letter of welcome from Funjet said that their would be a bunch of time share people there in the airport and we avoided all but one who we promptly got information out of and the deftly left him in our dust.

Here is a quotable quote for you: Friends don’t let friends make decisions while under the influence (of a Sales Person).

Our First Day at the Hotel

Our hotel, the Oasis Palm Beach was about a half an hour from the airport and the shuttle took us there without a problem. We checked in and got our room. They gave us an appointment with the concierge/travel people to get some information later that night.

The view outside our hotel room.

The view outside our hotel room.

Our room was on the 8th floor and was OK. It was simple and to the point. two beds (one of which we slept in and the other bore our clothes), TV, table, tile floors (and not carpet because of all of the sand), and a tiled bathroom. Our first annoyance was that the towels were stained just a little bit and there was a hair or two in the sink. =( We also later found out that noise travels really well. The view outside our window was nothing amazing. We got the cheapest deal we could so I should not be so cranky. More than serviceable, but nothing that stood out.

Resort Food

After getting settled in we decided to eat. This resort has like 7 places to eat. A small sushi stand, a small hamburger like stand (hamburgers, hotdogs, nachos), the International Buffet, which were open most of the day; and then they had a Thai, Mexican, Italian, and some other restaurant which all were open at night. We ate at the Buffet because the ‘restaurants require require reservations which usually fill up in the morning.

My first fear with a trip like this was that the food was going to be fancy and that my very selective taste in food would find the selection wonting. I expected fancy hotel restaurant foods that my wife would love. That is exactly what we found. My wife was basically in food heaven and I found a few things that I liked. My taste in food is simple and not fancy at all. No surprises there.

The Rest of the Night

Following eating and walking around a bit we went to see this concierge/travel person. We talked with her and she gave us some information and then she also made us an appointment for breakfast in another hotel. I assumed that this was a part of the Funjet package so I did not think anything was amiss. We made our reservation and then went about the rest of our day.

We spent some time checking out pool and the ocean. We swam a little and then towards night time we went to the Sports Bar where they were having a Movie Trivia Contest which started at 21:00 (9:00pm). If you get a question wrong you had to drink a shot of Tequila. They asked about pretty much all American movies. I was quite surprised with this. There was this one guy who was Mexican, I think, who was knew and a crazy amount about American movies. The MC said he question in both English and Spanish.

The Sports Bar had like 4 televisions that showed various sports channels. ESPN plus basketball, football, soccer, boxing and some UFC type stuff. This was open pretty much all day.

After the movie trivia we walked on the beach and then went to bed ready for a full day of sun, ocean, and fun.