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Back From Belarus

This post will be pretty short. I will post a little more later when I have more time

We have finally returned from Belarus last Thursday at about 16:30 (4:30pm) and went to bed at about 22:30 (10:30pm) and woke up at 06:30 (6:30am) the next morning with no jet lag at all, here just confusion as to why we feel fine and not suffering from jetlag.

Our trip was great. Tanya was there for 3 months to finish her degree. I was there for the entire month of June. We spent most most of our time with her family and friends and we spent a lot of time with close mutual friends. All of our peeps are found in the 3 major cities Grodna, nurse Minsk, there and Mogilev. Most of our time was spent in Mogilev where she was finishing her degree.

I experienced a Russian Orthdox wedding (of a close friend) as well as working at a Dacha (summer house of Tanya’s mother), as well as drinking vodka almost every day. It was a good time and we were sorry that it ended too soon. Too many people to see in too many cities and not enough time to spend with them. If none our the people we wanted to spend time with worked things would be much better, but as we all know life, for some reason insists on intruding in our desires.

Later I will post the top things I like and do not like about life in Belarus as well as a rant about Soviet Communist Theory on Efficiency.

Heading Towards the East…

Tomorrow morning I will head to the O’Hare airport with my parents driving me there in my car with my wonderful IPass. I finished most of my packing last night and finalized it tonight. I have exactly no room to take anything else with me. 1 large suitcase to check weighing in at 50 lbs in and one to carry on weighing in at 13lbs. I also have my backpack with reading materials – mostly books to learn Russian.

I have my money, caries my US passport and my World Citizen Passport, gastritis as well as a bit of spending money, physician and an older IPod Nano to keep me company.

I am excited and very much looking forward to this trip. I will be able to see my wife after about 2 months of separation while she has been working on finishing her degree there. While I will be driving tomorrow she will be taking her final General Exams. I will get to see our close friends and my in-laws for the first time in two years. =)

World Citizen – At Last!

With the potential of going to Belarus under questionable political circumstances I have broken down and filed to be a World Citizen. I have wanted to do this for a really, click really long time, approved but could not justify the expense. Now, there is some reason and possible use for the documents provided by the World Service Authority (WSA).

The WSA can provide a Passport, Identification Card, Birth Certificate as well as other documents relevant to your identity and travel ability – their service is used heavily by refugees. I have filed for the aforementioned documents as well as a few others. For people, especially Americans, that are traveling abroad to places where Americans might not be looked kindly upon, an extra, or camouflage passport, is something that can help ensure our safety.

The WSA was founded by Gary Davis September 4, 1953 based on the 1948 United Nations document called the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights‘, specifically articles 13, 14, and 15. Give it a read. It is not too painful and is really relevant in today’s world.

To Go Or Not To Go – to Belarus

Politics and a Trip to Belarus

So, information pills the wife is in Belarus for 3 months and I am planning on going there for a month to attend the wedding of a close friend and then spend time in Belarus with my in-laws and our friends there. I am really looking forward it, this since it has been quite a while since I have been there.

I am faced with some annoying facts while planning a trip to Belarus. The U.S. government has currently frozen the assets of a Belarussian oil company there as a show of unhappiness towards the imprisoning of the the opposition leader during the last completely corrupted and farce of an election. (In Response to Sanctions, Belarus Seeks to Oust U.S. Envoy: WP March 8, 2008)

In retaliation for that the Belarussian government has demanded that the U.S. embassy in Minsk have its staff reduced down to a level equal to or less than that of the their embassy in the U.S.. The U.S. has also basically closed down the embassy and is not issuing any visas. (Belarus wants U.S. embassy staff cut to seven: Reuters April 2, 2008)

Will their be a second string of maneuvers and counter-maneuvers and how will it affect me, and other U.S. citizens making their way to Belarus. Will I be in danger due to Belarus’ corrupt government?

A Visa to Belarus

For more information on Visas and Belarus check my previous post on December 15, 2005.

So, now I gather the things that I need for a tourist visa (a passport picture, passport, a visa application form and a check) for a month long trip to Belarus. As long as I am there for less than 30 days I do not need an invitation and can get a standard tourist visa. Tanya is arranging to get an invitation ready for me in case I need one while I am there. Specifically, if she or I have issues with leaving the country due to political or immigration issues. Wish me luck! =)

Trip to Cancun (Day 6 of 9; Thursday)

To put this a little in perspective I watched the first three Aliens movies this week and I think I was sitting a few rows too close to the front. I had heard a little bit about the plot online – specifically that it breaks from canon a little bit.

Aliens vs Predator: Requiem was fun to watch. The character action of the humans did not detract for me as some have said. There were plenty of Aliens to look at and a prominent Predator. They introduced some new Predator technology (as far as I know) which was cool. I cannot say that it wowed me but it was fun to watch. The ending had me asking a question. I am hoping that they did not do that so that they had room to make a sequel. They have not found someone to do either the Alien or Predator franchise real justice since the orignals.

The original Predator movie rocked. I played the original ‘AVP: Aliens vs Predator’ game as a Predator and loved it. The PG-13 ‘AVP: Aliens vs Predator’ movie was fun to watch, page but it was PG-13; need I say more. ‘Predator 2’ was decent and the ending was interesting. The first 3 Alien movies were tense and great.

Today is spa day. We arranged for a day to go check out a not so local spa as a benefit for checking out the Time Share crap. The van leaves the hotel at 09:30 (9:30am). We got up, sales showered, opisthorchiasis
ate breakfast, malady
and then went down to wait for our transportation. The small van arrived a little early and we left at about 09:45 (9:45am).

This van ride was quite long and was past where the snorkeling trip was the previous day. It was long bus ride (over 40 minutes), but we arrived without any problems. Once we got there we were ushered out of the van and brought into the front desk where we signed in. They brought forth a person to give us a tour and show us what all is available for us to enjoy in their 3 floor building.

Building Description

Waterfall in lobby of a Cancun Spa.

Waterfall in lobby of a Cancun Spa.

The first floor was the front desk, and it had a cave like motif to it. There was as 3 floor water fall in the lobby area which was really cool to see. The open courtyard/lobby/front desk area also had rock wall to climb, but it not look like it was open for business. They also had a nice hot pool here. A small garden was outside that you could walk in.

The second floor had their really large and labyrinthine bathrooms/changing room/private male only/female only jacuzzi/whirlpool/lounge area, as well as a small lounge, dry hot and cold saunas, as well as massage rooms (which were extra).

The third floor had pool with a jacuzzi on the roof as well deck side hammocks and comfy chairs. They last thing that was on the roof was a healthy restaurant.

Our Day

We started by going to change. We went to our respect bathroom areas. This area was huge and I really got lost in it. The bathroom stalls looked just like the shower stalls. They had nice half lockers made of wood with keys that were in a strap for you to take. The private spa there was nice and big with jacuzzi and sauna for only men. I changed and then went out to meet the wife to start touring the first floor.

Hot Bubbly Pool at Spa

We went down to the main floor to take a look around. Our first stop was the pool. The pool was really warm especially with our sunburns as bad as they were. We were quite a bit temperature sensitive at this point. It took us a little bit of time to get in but once we did it was really, really warm. The side nearest to door had a jacuzzi like thing going on and a bed of bars that you could lay on so that you could just lay there and enjoy the bubbles. That was really relaxing. The far side had three really small waterfalls or streams of water flowing from the wall.

Next, we started by checking out the dry cool sauna. It used menthol to cool the air and to tighten your pores. It was interesting. I cannot say much more than that as it did not effect me so very much. Tanya liked it a lot.

We then went to the dry hot sauna. I do not remember what they used for this, I think it was mint based somehow. It may have just been hot rocks. This, as the cool sauna, was not so intense as I was expecting. There were several tiles missing a one fell out while were sitting here.

Following that Tanya went to practice some Yoga on a covered balcony area. While she did that I read a book and relaxed. She finished practicing sooner than she would have liked because there was a little too much activity in the are for her to really concentrate. She could have locked the door and had permission to do so, but did not feel comfortable doing so.

Rooftop Paradise at Spa

Rooftop Paradise at Spa

Once we got the Yoga out of our system we went to the third floor and Tanya swam in the pool for a while. I was nursing my sunburn so I did not. I sat in a hammock and just watched her have fun swimming.

By this time we were getting really hungry and it was not too much longer before we would have to leave. We looked at a restaurant menu but decided that we would wait until we got back to eat.

We were so tired and a bit hungry by the time that we left. We were so very glad to be heading back to the hotel so we could recover from such a relaxing day. Relaxing so intensely is exhausting. We barely talked on our way back to the hotel.

When we returned to the hotel we went to eat at the buffet and then went to bed at about 20:00 (8:00pm). Not an overly exciting day to write about, but that is what happened. I suppose I could try to write in a chase scene! That would be fun. =)

Trip to Cancun (Day 5 of 9; Wednesday)

Crabhouse Restaurant

Crabhouse Restaurant

Today we finally had the chance to go snorkeling. This was the one tour that we had the money to do. We, order on purpose, did not bring a lot of money on this trip. Hopefully, if we are able to come again, we will bring more money as there are so many, many other things we would like to do while we are here.

We had to be at the Crab House which was about a 10 minute bus ride from our hotel to meet the tour peeps that would be taking us to the snorkeling point. We woke up at about 06:00 (6:00am) to get showered, eat breakfast at the buffet, and get there. This is way too early to get up on a vacation. 09:00 (9:00am)is good for me. Uggghhh!

Snorkeling

Who is this snorkeling?

Who is this snorkeling?

We finished getting ready by collecting the disposable underwater camera that we bought in the US and our swimming suits, then we were off to the Crab House. We arrived about 07:35 (7:35am) which was well before the meeting time. We waited and got a little antsy at about 07:50 (7:30am) and and asked someone near by if they knew anything about this and they did not. Right about then this empty tour bus arrived and it looked suspiciously like it could be ours. We asked the man and ‘woo hoo’ this was it. We got on the bus and waited for what was to be about 13 other people that were to join us. By about 08:10 (8:10am) everyone was on board and we were off to snorkeling. I think just about every person on the bus was American.

The bus ride to the Punta Maroma area, which was near Playa del Carmen, if I remember correctly, and took about 45 minutes to get there. This was a long bus ride. The seats were comfortable enough and so was the company, but we were antsy and wanting to get the fun started. Both of us were really looking forward to swimming in the sea and seeing all sorts of aquatic critters up close, and a bus ride was not our idea of relaxing or seeing the aquatic critters. Enough of the whining already. =)

Eventually we got there and they got us all together and had us sign the waivers and pay the ‘Reef Tax‘ which was about $2 a person. Then we had to wait by a beach side restaurant for 15 really long minutes before they were ready for us, at which time they went over all of the safety and other required verbiage. Finally, the 20 or so or us made our way onto the uneven pier and to the neat looking trimaran which is a sail boat with three protruding outrigger hulls.

Our trip would take us to two 40 minute snorkeling stops along what I think is the Belize Barrier Reef around Punta Maroma. We all loaded up into the trimaran and were given our mask/snorkel, flippers, and life vest and were told to sit down and enjoy the ride. Tanya and I laid down and stretched out to get ourselves some sun. This part was nothing overly special for me as I was on a carrier in the Navy and saw plenty of open blue water. Tanya enjoyed the view a lot.

A school of white bodied and yellow tailed fish at the Belize Barrier Reef near Punta Maroma, Mexico.

A school of white bodied and yellow tailed fish at the Belize Barrier Reef near Punta Maroma, Mexico.

We stopped for our first snorkeling point and we all jumped into the water (or climbed down the and ladder) and began to look at the wondrous underwater world full of fish, corral and other beautiful things. It was so very beautiful and serene. Breathing out of the snorkel and not breathing in water took some practice to get used to it.

Small school of yellowish fish at the Belize Barrier Reef near Punta Maroma, Mexico.

Small school of yellowish fish at the Belize Barrier Reef near Punta Maroma, Mexico.

I have never seen so many fish like this. With the fins you could swim fast and you would like to reach out and touch them, but they can sense your bioelectric field or a change in water pressure as you approach and they move just out of your reach. It was a lot of tiring fun.

By the end of the first dive Tanya had used up pretty much all of the film in the camera we brought. We were tired from all of the swimming, but you do not really notice it until you have a chance to rest because you are caught up in the moment: the water, the mask, the fish, and not wanting to miss anything. We went to the second snorkeling point, and swam, and looked. It was a very good work out and by the end of the second one I was done for the day. =) Snorkeling is a lot of fun and breathtaking in more ways than one.

The Post-Snorkeling Night

After we finished we were whipped and were very quiet on the ride back. They were so kind as to have small van/bus thingy take us straight to our hotel. Yea! We dragged out feet into the entrance. I almost tripped on one the steps as we went in to the hotel. Once we get upstairs to our room we took a shower.

Market 28

As if tiring ourselves out from snorkeling was not enough we decided to head out to down town Cancun to Market 28 to check out what they have and to see what the bartering is like. Why is it called Market 28? I am not sure. I assume that is has to do with the street or neighbor hood name or address or something.

In Belarus, when Tanya was young, her and her brother sold things at a market there and they bartered, but what they did there was quite a bit different than what is done here. In Belarus they give their price and you can go down a little bit from there, and I mean a little bit. Here You can almost cut the price in half and possibly still have room to work with. Tanya was frustrated and did not like it so much because it was very different from what she was used to – a whole different frame of mind that is hard for her to wrap her beautiful little mind around. We spent a little time just getting a taste for it and then we went home. We were both tired and a little cranky from all of the swimming, walking, heat, and bus rides.

Tai Restaurant in the Oasis Palm Beach"
Tai Restaurant

We made our reservation early in the morning and were quite ready to eat by this time. We were quite hungry especially from our busy day swimming and walking.

Mexican Party Band

They had a Mexican cover/party band that sang all sort of songs American and Mexican and was hoping to get people out there to dance, and some did. We did for a little bit, but in our tired state it was not for too long. Tanya met a Belarussian couple there who is there in Cancun for their sixth trip. They talked for a little bit. The band was alright they sang well, but there was nothing really special or that stood out with them. They were also, unfortunately, plagued with some technical difficulties with which they were annoyed with, but they eventually got that settled.

Gargling Contest

In the middle of the band’s break the hotel entertainment crew started a small contest. They picked 4 girls out from the crowd to perform a gargling contest. They specifically picked my wife and introduced her as the reigning champion, seeming as she won the last contest they had – the little dance contest, as well as 3 other girls. All 4 had to gargle Tequila to the lyrics of ‘La Cucaracha’. Tanya one this as well. She was really the only one where you could really tell the song. Have I mentioned that my wife rocks? If I haven’t – She does.

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. M