Opening Statement



Thursday, 28 May 2015

ETFO WTR Strike: Phase 1 Update!




This ETFO memo has been sent out to it's tens of thousands of members. It was posted online by the CBC, May 26th @ CBC

Effective June 1st, ETFO is ratcheting up it's WTR strategy which has been running concurrent to the OSSTF Magnificent 7 strikes. The OSSTF strikes are now on hold as a result of the recent OLRB/ ERC rulings, and the Wynne government's subsequent "back to school legislation."

According to the memo ETFO teachers now WILL NOT:


  • complete any paperwork, applications or proposals to the Ministry of Education for special grants or funding
  • participate in the preparation or completion of Grade 8 to Grade 9 transition reports
  • participate in any grade-to-grade transition meetings
  • complete end of year Ontario Student Record (OSR) activities including filing, sorting and completion of French cards
  • participate in any in-school meetings or professional learning activities on the end of year Professional Activity (PA) day
It's very significant that the first extracurriculars; school trips, are now being included in the WTR job action mix. Will the trustees resume their mandatory EC OLRB case from 2013? It's interesting to note that board lawyer Mike Hines, recently successful at the OSSTF OLRB hearing, was lead that charge too. See @ Fall 2013

The professional learning activity boycott will include the in services for the MOE's new controversial Sex Ed program. Combined with ETFO's instructions not to book any school trips, we see the momentum building for a very explosive teacher protest when classes are scheduled to resume this fall!

Kindly note that ETFO's refusal to fill out MOE applications and forms for grants or funding WILL NOT apply to GSN's [Grants for Special Needs]. That's an appropriate concession to our most needy students, a most welcome and seemingly heartfelt touch! One hopes it isn't lost on those who will falsely accuse the province's teachers of being self serving and only concerned about personal gain!

FURTHER READING

ETFO WTR Phase 1 Memo @ ETFO

Teacher contracts: What was ETFO offered? @ Here!

News links are posted @ News + Views and Contract Guide!

My Blogsite Acronym Guide is @ Here! 

COMMENTS:

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

OECTA's Autumn Strike Memo!


The following OECTA Member Update, now circulating online, was sent to OECTA's tens of thousands of teachers on May 27th and is being widely commented upon in the media. The text follows below, for your consideration:



Your Provincial Bargaining Team met with the employer side of the bargaining table, consisting of representatives from the government and the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA) on May 21 and 22. This was the first time the parties had met with the assistance of the mediator, Jim Breckenridge. He helped the parties engage in talks regarding a major stumbling block: superior provisions.

We will continue these mediated talks on May 28 and 29 and June 4, 5, 6, 24, 25 and 26.

However, given all of the contract strips that are still on the table, and in light of the difficulties confronting our sister affiliates regarding employer intransigence, OECTA continues to prepare for job action in the fall.

It will not be business as usual in Ontario Catholics schools in September.

Some members may be in the process of planning activities for the fall that would take place outside of a teacher’s regular instructional day duties – duties that would be cancelled in the event of a job action. As such, you are advised not to schedule any activities in the fall that are outside of your regular instructional day duties.

In addition, you should consider notifying your financial institution to make arrangements to discuss monetary obligations such as mortgage payments, loans and leases.

Please continue to monitor the situation via provincial bargaining updates and e-blasts. Bargaining information is also available on the OECTA website (www.oecta.on.ca) in the Provincial Bargaining Updates section of the Members’ Centre.

If you have any questions or concerns about the bargaining process, please do not hesitate to contact your local bargaining unit president.




OECTA: Me too!?

COMMENTARY:

This "bulletin" might make it seem that OECTA is doing more than they presently are as a part of the union battle plan, while ETFO steps up their WTR strategy and the striking OSSTF teachers are being legislated back to work. Like the cavalry in the wild west, it suggests OECTA Provincial might be expected to come to everybody's assistance, come September. 

The media is making much hay out of the advice that members contact their financial institutions about any outstanding loans, payments and leases. However, this is pretty common practice in the case of any possible strike action, and, well, the members have voted for a strike. 

One might well argue that OECTA is just being prudent. Then again, the media are now using the memo to boost the "rising tension", that is the spectre of Ontario's teacher unions preparing to strike in mass this fall. Is everybody and everything spilling out of control as the OLP's new CB process unravels?!? Staid OECTA too??? No matter! The attention creates the illusion that OECTA provincial is doing something/ anything besides just continuing to try to negotiate with the intransigent OLP MOE. Hopefully, the members will feel reassured about OECTA Provincial's questionable leadership ability. The MOE is advised accordingly. Maybe for OECTA provincial this is as rough and ready as it gets this spring?

Job actions, outside of not planning any activities outside of the regular school day for next year, otherwise remain vague. OECTA isn't about to get boxed into any corner for strategic reasons. Fair enough, but the advice, and list of upcoming meeting dates though interesting tidbits are very minor all the same.

Do you feel better all ready?! The messaging isn't exactly reassuring! The offerings? Still pretty slim pickings indeed, considering their track record with the 2012 OECTA MOU!



She: "I .... I .... I .... feel better all ready!"

FURTHER READING:

No teacher strike actions! Is OECTA to be believed? @ Here!

OECTA: Manufacturing Consent @ There!

News links are posted @ News + Views and Contract Guide!

COMMENTS:
  

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Ontario Interlude: Land o' the Lakes!



There is no place finer, nor more majestic, than Canada in the summertime.  Late spring will also do in a fix. So it is, with our winter travels now over. Cuba? St. Maarten? I find myself back out in Canada cottage country. Most days are a balmy, seasonal 20 degrees Celsius, with perhaps more rain than shine. Night times can be nippy, but so far, not too cold. The weather remains unpredictable. Most everyone has left our trailer park with the forecast of rain. I find myself all but alone at our summer "home away from home" in the woods beside Mississaganon Lake, Land of the Lakes, Lanark County, in south eastern Ontario.

It’s a relaxing respite. A chance to shake off the jet lag. Set up camp for summer. Sunset brings the "Spring Mating Symphony of the Frogs and Toads". It's a thunderous, ageless, repetitious croak emanating from the nearby pond. Echoing back throughout the millennium. Absolutely hypnotic. A reminder that nature was here before us, and might well still be around long after we are gone, if we don't totally destroy the environment first. Mosquito Stutka dive bombers come alive! Sensing our fresh blood, they swoop down in a thick cloud, soon quickly dispersed by the flotilla of dragon flies come to our rescue. Hoovering overhead. A loud buzzing cloud! 



I often paddle out on the lake in my kayak. The trees and brush are a fresh, virgin green, new growth everywhere, still somewhat sparse, not rich and lush like come July, nor tired yet from the heat of August. My kayak drifts lazily far out on the still water, my only companion, the cry of the loons. Later, a crackling campfire. We are peaceful and alone in the starry night.
Empty nesters now, Janet and I have downsized our life to a city condo in Toronto, three hours away. Family and friends abound. Our home is always a busy place, whether I am there or not. Everybody likes to visit the big city, especially as school ends and the summer holidaze schedule begins. I’m glad to share and head off to the country instead. In our best of both worlds, it’s winter in the city, with frequent last minute escapes to warmer climes and summers spent enjoying Canada's rich bounty in the unspoiled countryside. These are the joys of my retirement. But enough, with a cold drink, a good book and my lawn chair, I head back to the beach....



Thursday, 21 May 2015

Our Caribbean Trip to St. Maarten!



The screeching roar of jet engines send thunderous sonic waves and whipping white sand over Maho Beach, knocking the excited crowd of thrill seekers off their feet. "Plane spotting": It's truly bizarre, very exciting and quite dangerous! The jets are arriving and departing from Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Maarten. The beach bar patio is packed, as are the sun chairs. I lie on my back, camera ready, snapping photos of the huge silver birds. 

I feel as if I could reach up and touch it's smooth underbelly. The aircraft arches overhead on it's mad descent to the tarmac less than a hundred feet away. An ominous street sign warns that our proximity could result in death. No matter! Janet and I are here to partake in the Edge of the World Party on this tiny French and Dutch island to the southwest of our regular holiday hunting grounds in the Gulf and Caribbean.



Fortunately, my Joys of Retirement include last minute half price sales at the end of tourist season. We have booked a fancy, well heeled resort, the Sonesta Great Bay, on the outskirts of the Phillipsburg, the Dutch capital city. We could usually little afford to stay here. Every meal at the all inclusive resort is scrumptious and picture perfect. It's a quaint, pastel green, eighties style building with three pools, a multi-layered lobby and small casino on the side of the mountain hilltops surrounding the city. There's always plenty of available beach chairs and umbrellas. 

Our ocean view balcony looks out across the bay at the huge luxury cruise ships coming and going each day. Sometimes during high season there's up to eight at a time, providing the duty free port with it's source of wealth. The bay is a breathtaking turquoise. Further out to sea, it's a pleasing royal blue stretching to the horizon. 


A room with a view!

Overhead, the trade winds create a psychedelic sky. Rows of white ripples slowly spread out in wide circles extending from the big, pillowy, cumulus clouds so common in the region. There is even a rainbow around the sun! The winds carry sand from the Sahara desert across the Atlantic creating a pastel effect. By mid day the sky and scenery become very surreal as everything fades in the blinding white light.

In St. Maarten, the homes, villas and condo towers are big, but it is the huge yachts that are the competitive measure of ones' true wealth. The average monthly income? Well, it's only $600. It's very hard to attach any sense of a national identity to St. Maarten. A quick Wiki search reveals that most of the inhabitants aren't citizens of the country. It's historically been run as an oligarchy along the high powered cocaine drug route extending from South America due north.



A perusal of the local "Daily Herald" letters to the editor is rife with complaints of corruption, government lethargy, and a preoccupation with happenings in Holland and the rest of the Netherlands. Anywhere but here. Indeed, it seems not much else happening! I flip the T.V channels from one infomercial to another, past the US CNN news channel and endless reruns of tired, old reruns of popular North American t.v. shows without any noticeable local flavour.

Outside on the streets, St. Maarten is like a wild west version of a Caribbean island. Merchants lie in wait to hawk their wares to the endless daytime throngs of cruise ship patrons. They are renowned for selling clothes, jewellery and electronics at supposedly ridiculous low prices. You could fool me. Oh well, maybe if I liked to haggle? Hey big spenders! I buy a few Hawaiian shirts for $10 each, and Janet some cheap baubles and gifts.



By sunset, as the ships leave port, the capital city of Philipsburg shuts down tight for the night. Driving while on the cellphone is very popular and still quite legal. Tires screech. Tempers flare. All manners of vehicles snake in and out along the narrow mountain roads from town to town along the islands approximate 38 mile coast.

On our hotel beach, impossibly thin, tiny, black children perform dangerous flips, and leaps off the high sand dunes for an American dollar, until they are chased off by staff.  "Back Street" is Philipsburg's second major thoroughfare and the local, discount shopping strip. We are quite shocked as an angry mother brutally whips her helpless preschooler with a bare, tree branch. He desperately pleads, and screams as he tries to wiggle free from the fierce lashes and her iron tight grip. The locals lean out the street doorways and windows making indecipherable cat calls. They seem to be quite enjoying the afternoon entertainment. Frightened, Janet and I can tell we are far from home!


Everywhere we go most of the staff are polite and give us a per functionary MacDonald employee smile. One senses it's a job requirement. They aren't rude. Perhaps just lacking in the self possessed, natural warmth and charm one usually finds elsewhere in much of the Gulf and Caribbean? 

For the cabby's, it seems to always be open season on us as visitors, with endless tales of folks literally being taken for a ride. No two fares to the same place ever cost the same, plus there's no haggling entertained here. There's apparently an unmarked local bus stop a few blocks from the hotel. However, many of the tourists we met became resigned to a cheap car rental. Considering the mad traffic, I myself am not game. For us, a minibus, catamaran and motorboat excursion will have to do.



The churly, choppy sea swell sprays us as we sail from one picturesque white sand beach to another. Each is the perfect picture of paradise, one in which a beach chair and umbrella cost big bucks, except fortunately at our resort. The shoreline invariably drops off quick and deep making for a vigorous and very refreshing swim. Its great fun bobbing on the waves crashing against the shore. However, non swimmers will definitely need a floatation device to avoid getting swept under. 



The snorkeling and diving at St. Maarten is very basic, nothing special, compared to many other Caribbean sun destinations, but it can still be fun. I saw some good sized tropical fish, a green turtle, a fair number of conch shells and a few types of coral. There didn't seem to be many easily accessible shore dives. The noisy, dangerous Seadoos definitely had right of way. Invariably, I had to pay to go out farther on a boat. I live to dive. Regretfully, the safety and accessibility concerns definitely put St. Maartens at a serious disadvantage as far as future visits go.



We also took a minibus shopping trip around the island. Clothes, jewellery, and electronics abound in the stores. The sellers were invariably Indian, except for the handicraft stalls and shops staffed by the locals. Alas, our various excursions were rather pricey and invariably cut short, for one reason or another, with our guides basically disinterested in us except when we were being hustled for tips.



St Maarten? It's a beautiful place, where the beautiful people go to be beautiful. I much prefer Cuba for its natural charm and authenticity. There's nothing really wrong with St. Maarten itself as a tourist destination. We were at a very nice resort, on a very beautiful island. We also seemed lost at sea in a strangely, non generic version of the America's. Like the overhead roar of the jet loads of tourists overrunning whatever the island might once have been, our one week visit seemed to come and go like a figment of the imagination. Here but not here. Everywhere but nowhere. In a place where most anything goes, but probably not us anytime soon unless on the very cheap.

I'm glad we got to visit and see St. Maarten. Make no doubt, for the most part we had a very lovely time, except as noted. Still, on the surface, it's oddly picture perfect but with a subtle nagging feel. St. Maarten seemed rather empty, formless, intangible and quite unreal, like a faceless, commercial extension of the US Sunshine states lost somewhere far out on the sun drenched, pastel edge of the Caribbean Sea. Where's it's heart and soul?




Youtube Video: Best of the landing + take offs at Princess Juliana International Airport @ See!

MY RECENT TRAVEL BLOGS

Cuba: What Do They Think? @ CSP

Cuba: What the Heck is Going On? @ Santiago

Cuba: Sea, Sun + Sand @ Brisas

A Canadian Teacher On The Road In Cuba @ Cuba Si!

Christmas in Cuba @ Holidaze

Habana Diary: Club Rio @ More Cuba!

A Whirlwind Trip to New York @ NYC

Ontario: Land of the Lakes @ South East Ontario @ Lake Mississaganon

Jamaica: A Trip to Bob Marley's Home @ Jah Bob!

Jamaica: On the Beach @ Runaway Bay

Paris: The Eiffel Tower @ France

London: A Visit to The Beatles Abbey Road @ England

Joys of Retirement @ Brisas

See my Site Archives top left screen for many more!!!



Tuesday, 19 May 2015

No Teacher Strikes: Are OECTA to Be Believed?

The following May 13 OECTA Collective Bargaining Update appears was found online. It was sent out in "secret" to tens of thousands of teachers across the province. It is presented here for our ongoing open forum, teacher free speech info, and discussion purposes. Please see my Commentary below, and have your say!



WHEN WILL OECTA TAKE ACTION?

As OECTA members watch their counterparts in other teacher unions commence strike actions across the province, some may wonder why OECTA hasn’t commenced strike action given our overwhelming strike vote.

This is a result of legislative requirements. OECTA was delayed, and as a result, is following different timelines. Nonetheless, OECTA is in constant contact with our sister affiliates and is working closely with them.




WHAT HAPPENED?

In 2013, the Minister of Education introduced provincial bargaining legislation in the Ontario Legislature. The legislation, called the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, 2014 (or Bill 122), mandated a two-tiered approach to bargaining, where certain items are negotiated at the provincial bargaining table, and local specifics are bargained between individual school boards and the union districts.

If both the union side and the school trustees/government teachers’ side can reach agreement on which issues are local and which are provincial issues, bargaining can commence. According to Section 28 of Bill 122, parties may refer issues that cannot be agreed upon to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB).

The affiliates on the public side of the equation were able to reach the necessary agreements with the public trustees and government, thereby avoiding any OLRB hearings.

OECTA’s provincial bargaining team met with the employer side of the provincial bargaining table (representatives of the government and the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association) in October 2014 to establish which matters would be dealt with at the provincial bargaining table. Although both sides agreed on 17 items, they did not reach agreement on the five matters to be included in the scope of provincial bargaining (matters relating to sick leave, staffing provisions, etc.).

Since an agreement could not be reached, the parties referred the matters in dispute to the OLRB to make a determination. We did not receive a ruling until February, putting us behind the other affiliates in terms of the bargaining process.

Meanwhile, both OSSTF and ETFO moved ahead on their own different paths. OSSTF is in mediation at the central table. At the same time in local OSSTF negotiations, conciliation was sought and ‘no board’ reports obtained in several areas. Currently, OSSTF locals in Durham, Sudbury and Peel are on a full withdrawal of service. ETFO chose to apply for conciliation at the central table and received a ‘no board’ report from the Minister of Labour, enabling them to initiate province wide strike actions. ETFO began “phase 1” of a work-to-rule strike action on May 11.




  
WHAT’S NEXT FOR US?

While OECTA members provided their union with a strong strike vote mandate of 94.2% on April 24, the Association is committed in trying to reach a negotiated settlement. Most recently, OECTA announced it would continue to bargain, with the assistance of the Ministry of Labour, in an attempt to move OCSTA/trustees off of their entrenched positions – similar to OSSTF’s provincial bargaining approach.

Our upcoming bargaining dates are May 21, 22, 28, 29 and June 4, 5, 6, 22, 23, 24, 25 and 26.

If we are unable to secure a fair and just agreement, we will move forward and apply for conciliation. This would likely place us in a provincial strike position in September, a more realistic and tactically superior time to commence any type of action than mid-June. This is the earliest OECTA would be in a position to start any action if we filed for conciliation immediately, because of the mandatory procedures and timelines under the Ontario Labour Relations Act.



  
COMMENTARY

Fair is fair. OECTA deserves to be heard on the thorny issue of why the Catholic teachers are still in class and schools open, while their public counterparts commence strike action. Past experience, however, requires one to be quite critical in assessing the credibility of their claims

In 2012, OECTA teachers, despite OSSTF and ETFO claims to the contrary, were reassured that no deal was in the works as they left for summer holidays. On July 5th they did indeed sign a deal, the infamous OECTA MOU, over which the members had no ratification vote. [1]

All Ontario's teachers suffered when OECTA agreed to contract stripping and concession bargaining, destroying decades of hard fought CB gains with the stroke of a pen. In the months that followed, the OECTA MOU became the OLP Road Map or blue print for the same cuts that the OLP then dished out to the rest of our teacher and Education Worker union colleagues across the province, in AEFO, ETFO OSSTF and CUPE! [2]

Ironically, the OECTA secretariat fared much better with their own contract. They secured comfy raises for themselves with their sick days and gratuities intact, all of which they had given away, without a ratification vote, when it came to the due paying members. An unsuccessful OLRB run at further padding their own plan on the membership's dime proved unsuccessful. Nonetheless it still provided insult to go with the injury suffered by the rest of the province's teachers. [3]



In 2014, we are again faced with an OECTA CB redux team made up with many of the same players back at the provincial bargaining table. All opposition has seemingly been quite thoroughly jackbooted and silenced by the tight knit oligarchy now ruling the OECTA roost. It would be foolish not to watch and question everything OECTA does very carefully. Do you still believe in and support a democratic, teacher union movement in Ontario? Then regretfully, OECTA which has no credibility left, leaves those hopeful, remaining reformers among us without any other choice! [4]

It is interesting to read OECTA's claim above when it states that they are still in contact and working closely with the other teacher affiliates. If so, their members had best watch out! If not, then what's really being said behind closed doors at your executive level? How does ETFO and OSSTF square off the awkward fact that the membership are meanwhile out on the street, or involved in a controversial WTR? With the public schools closed? While parents decide which school system to register their kids in for next fall?

Surely, OECTA won't want to be the first past the post in signing a new contract in the current round of negotiations. Another boner will be too much for even them to try to hide, deny or explain away. However, is it just happenstance that OECTA had to go the lengthy OLRB route? Knowing full well it would cause a lengthy delay, while the other affiliates cut to the chase? Then blame it all away on the the Ontario Labour Relations Act? 

Are OECTA to be believed? 


FOOT NOTES: 

1] Coincidence? In late June 2012, OECTA President O'Dwyer, now a Contract Services Officer on the current provincial negotiating team [Here], denies OSSTF and ETFO's claim that a "secret deal" is imminent. [Yes][No] Surprise! On July 5th, the OECTA MOU is ratified on the members behalf, in their absence, after everyone had left for summer holidays! [Here]. Fool us once, shame on you .....

2] The OECTA Road Map or "Putting Students First Act" is @ August 2012 Also see "Comparing the OECTA and OSSTF MOU's" @ April 2013 ETFO's MOU is June 2013

3] The OECTA Secretariat 2012-14 contract isDownload The 2012-14 OECTA MOU that they helped negotiate for the membership isDoc Compare? Contrast? Conclusion? 

4] See "OECTA: Manufacturing Consent" @ Here



YOUR COMMENTS:

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

ETFO Work to Rule Phase 1 Memo!

The following is provided for your Teacher Free Speech information and discussion purposes. It is from copies of the memo as posted on the CTV and Scribble Live website @ CTV and @ Toronto Star My Blogsite Acronym Guide is @ Here!



STRIKE PROTOCOL: WORK TO RULE PHASE 1

Effective May 11, 2015 ETFO shall begin strike actions by the withdrawal of administrative services; Effective May 11 Teachers and Occasional Teachers will:

NOT undertake any EQAO related activities including field testing, marking, administrative duties, or EQAO test preparation activities with students or other personnel;

NOT undertake EQAO testing with students;

NOT prepare report card comments, complete or package the June report card -teachers WILL provide the school administrator with a class list of marks for the various subjects/ strands taught;

NOT perform the duties of a report card administrator [eg: merging, printing reports etc];

NOT perform the duties of a computer site administrator;

NOT attend staff/ divisional/ grade team meetings;

NOT act as Teacher Designates or Teacher-In-Charge unless receiving an annual allowance or annual stipend under the collective agreement for this assignment;

NOT participate in Ministry meetings/ activities of any kind before, during or after the instructional day;

NOT meet with Student Work Study Teachers [SWST];

NOT conduct any reading, writing or mathematics assessments other than those that the teacher deems necessary to report on student progress;

NOT input or submit any student assessment data [ie for MISA/ OnSIS] for any purpose other than their own personal student assessment;

NOT participate in any professional development workshops/ activities/ discussion forum/ webinar sessions on Ministry initiatives and 



MOE Liz Sandals: Not impressed [of course]!

NOT attend meetings or undertake tasks related to the following Ministry of Education activities:

Annual Learning Plan [ALP] projects
Associate Teacher [AT] Pilot Projects
Board Improvement Plan for Student Achievement [BIPSA]
create Pathways, All About Me Portfolios, Individual Pathway Plans
District Reviews
Early Years Collaborative Inquiry
Experiential Learning Pilot Projects
Learning for all Regional Projects
Math initiatives...
Ontario First Nation, Metis, and Inuit [FNMI] Education Policy Framework Initiatives
Ontario Focused Intervention Partnerships [OFIP] activities
Professional Learning Communities
Regional MISA Professional Network Centres [PNC's]
School/ Student Improvement Plans [SIPSA/ SIP's]
School/ Student Support Initiatives [SSSI]
Steps to English proficiency [STEP]
System Implementation and Monitoring [SIM]
Teacher Learning and leadership Program [TLLP]
Teacher Learning Critical Pathways [TLCP]; and
21st Century Learning Projects.

Effective May 11 2015 Teachers and Occasional Teachers will:

CONTINUE to teach and provide extra help for students;
CONTINUE to take attendance;
CONTINUE to maintain contact with parents regarding students during the instructional day;
CONTINUE to provide scheduled supervisory duties.

This job action is incremental in nature. This action will continue in effect until the labour dispute is satisfactorily resolved or ETFO's Provincial Executive deems that further actions are required. Should you have further questions or require clarification, please contact you steward or local.



COMMENTARY: 

ETFO's Phase 1 plan will first and foremost direct it's consequences to at the OPSBA and MOE, rather than place the heaviest burden on the parents and students whom the teachers are there to serve. Note that report card marks will be submitted, for the school to compile, complete and send out. Teachers will be available for parent contacts concerning their students during the regularly scheduled instructional day. Also note that the plan is incremental, and but a first step prior to further, escalating job actions as deemed necessary by the provincial executive.

ETFO's Phase 1 plan treads lightly on the contentious issues of a teacher's extracurricular duties as they apply to student supervision and after school activities, which as of Fall 2013 is still a part of an unresolved issue/ case before the OLRB.

ETFO's Phase 1 plan effectively diversifies and supplements OSSTF's Magnificent 7 incremental strike plan. So far, OECTA continues to be missing in action, without any job actions, including Work to Rule or a Teacher Strike not expected until June, or more likely, by OECTA's own reckoning, not until much later this fall, effectively maintaining business as usual during the period when parents will be deciding where to register their children for classes next year. Tch Tch!!! 

RELATED LINKS

See the ETFO Media Release @ ETFO WTR!

ETFO's 2014 Bargaining Goals are shown here @ ETFO

OPSBA: What was ETFO offered? @ Initial Offer!

ETFO at the OLRB @ Fall 2013

COMMENTS:

Cuba: What do They Think?



Marta, Jose Luis, yours truly, with Yeyito!

In my April blog "Cuba: Just What The Heck's Going On?" [Link] I explained that during my upcoming Cuban School Project trip I would examine firsthand what the local reactions are within the Santiago de Cuba school community to the recent announcement by Presidents Castro +Obama that they will be "normalizing relations" between the countries. Well, I'm back now. Here is my report:

Santiago de Cuba: after 50 years of the US economic embargo, the city is bustling. For the average Cuban Santiaguero y Santiagueras who've been to hell and back at least a couple of times, there ought to be prize. My flight is packed with repeat Canadian visitors to the local resorts. In town, the towering Melia Santiago de Cuba Hotel is flush with European and South Americans! Also, a handful of American tourists on their new US government, specially designated trips. 



For the locals, there's a construction fair in town as residential and commercial properties begin to shake off the dust of 50 years of financial ruin. This 500 year old city, a mad mix of Spanish and French colonial, American art deco and Soviet block architecture is getting a face lift! [LinkThere's an influx of new cruise ships, family remittances, and new cash flowing under the new changes brought about the recent economic reforms. 


The crowded streets are lined with family "mom and pop" vender's selling their services and wares everywhere across the sprawling mountainside city; snacks, produce, haircuts, nail polish, shoe, movie rental, bike and appliance repair stalls abound! Family run "particular" restaurants as well as bed and breakfasts are everywhere! Some of my teacher friends have also opened a Santiago de Cuba Rock Cafe. Locals and tourist mix nightly to enjoy a potent hit of now legal Beatle tunes and western pop culture!



Santiago de Cuba Rock Cafe

It's another revolution of sorts, unheard of since the Cuban people arose during the 1959 "Triumph of the Revolution" to toss the Yankees out, and reclaim Cuba for themselves. Now, the 50 year old crippling US embargo seems to be fading like a bad dream in the rear view mirrors of the vintage Ford, Chevy, Dodge and Willy taxi cabs still on the roads. Cuba, it seems, is on the comeback trail, as one of the most laid back, colourful and hospitable holiday and business destinations in the America's.



Melia Santiago Hotel

An American visitor in the Melia lobby sniffs at my task. "What I'd like to know", he asks as he orders a round of $2 rum drinks on his way to the pool, "is if the Canucks, Euros and everybody else has been here all this time, then how come this is the best the Cubans can do?"

He's on a carefully guided tour of the island being set up by the US government allowing Americans to legally holiday in Cuba under US law. These are becoming increasingly popular, if they haven't exactly turned into a flood yet, since US and Cuban Presidents' Barrack Obama and Raul Castro announced last December that the two countries are going to try to normalize relations. 



He's not entirely wrong. The changes might seem pretty rinky dink and late in coming for the modern American cosmopolitan visitor to laid back Cuba. Nor are they complete or even widespread across the country. Still, since my first visit to Cuba in 1981, the visible changes here on this hot, sun drenched tropical island nation are ultimately as different as night and day. What can one expect after 50 years of a permanent state of emergency? With a crippling, devastating US embargo, rogue terrorist attacks and the constant threat of military invasion? All things considered it's a miracle that Santiago de Cuba is still standing on it's feet!

Yeyito is a Santiago de Cuba teacher, tour guide and local entrepreneur. We first met in 1992. He was moonlighting as a musician playing banned Beatle songs at one of the few places he could, the Bucanero resort. Also sometimes in the band was his teacher buddy Jesus. Jesus recently opened the new Santiago de Cuba Rock Cafe. Yeyito is also working as his weekend doorman and concierge. 



At first, Yeyito was keen to enter as a full partner under the new reforms. However, as the noose of the US economic embargo continues to slip, he is now hopeful that a lot more Cruise ships, including Yankee ones, will soon be making Santiago de Cuba a port of call. One ship a week can help make ends meet. Will there soon be many more? 

Yeyito's hopes seem confirmed by the mad rush of renovations and new construction stretching along the city harbour front in a long US embargoed city lacking many of the amenities the modern traveller will be sure to expect. It's enough to make our group of 6 raise glasses high in a toast of "Viva Cuba! Viva Canada!", if not quite "Viva USA!". Not just yet! It's Friday night and Yeyito has reserved a choice table for my Cuban teacher friends and I in front of the overhead TV screen pumping out nonstop rock, salsa and latin hit videos at the Santiago de Cuba Rock Cafe! *



Yeyito speaks of a chance for the economy to "heal". It's an interesting way to describe gradual change. He thinks that the changes will be slow and incremental. Nobody is going to just throw the door open for the Yanks to rush back in and take over again. Beyond that he welcomes the new reforms for creating opportunities. 

Family is everything to the average Cuban. For all his life even the most basic of food, medicine and everyday necessities have been rationed and in chronically short supply. He and wife Kathy run the eco and motorbike tours at the mountain and seaside Brisas Sierra Mar resort [Blog], about an hour outside of town. The many repeat Canadian tourists are great, but how many repeat tours of the countryside can they possibly be expected to take? 



Yeyito is looking at setting up personalized holidays in Santiago de Cuba. A bed and breakfast in an nicely renovated American art deco home in the once ritzy enclave of Alegro will cost $25 [CuC's] **, with an extra $8 for meals, or you can cook for yourself. Otherwise? Transportation is ridiculously cheap in the mad crush of $5 to $8 cab trips around the city in a vintage American car. Indeed, for about $20 a day I am bopping about town this trip in a 1942 "Willy" that's always at my beck and call. But more importantly, he and Kathy can arrange a specialized itinerary to meet your eco, history, cultural and other travel interests in Santiago or for that matter elsewhere across the island. ***

Recently, a new room was added to their crowded, two floor, family home in the city, so that they can now finally have one all their own. Like most Cuban homes, the house is packed with a large extended family of all ages. There are lots of mouths to feed and people to dress for work and school, but despite their long work hours, things are looking good!



Gretel shows us how it's done!

Yeyito's daughter Gretel absently stirs her drink while he heads off to manage the growing line up at the door. We are a bit late getting seated tonight when a large Scandinavian group arrived again for a second night after their city tour to eat, drink and party. Gretel stares at the rock videos blasting from the large tv screen. She wishes there was more new music. My fellow Cuban baby boomers look perplexed. Gretel might very well be at a small, trendy, baby boomer DIY restaurant, cafe or club along Toronto's "Soho" Queen St. West back home in Canada, but of course she's not. 

Dinner with an entree, main meat dish, rice, veggies and four mixed drinks cost $10. Unfortunately, most teachers in Cuba would only earn the equivalent of $40 [US] to $60 a month. Dad's tourist tips of course, go a long way to helping out the family. Still, a $10 night out is a great luxury when there is so much else the family still needs. No matter, tonight the food and drinks are on me. The final bill, for our group of 6, with dinner, drinks and a tip? The equivalent of about $70 [US]! Hardly Queen St West Toronto indeed!


Gretel has just graduated from teacher college. She's gotten a position at the local college teaching English to the dentistry students. With one eye to the new changes, they are also expecting to graduate soon. As we talk, I remember Gretel as a very young child. The cute, typically skinny, little Cubana with a pretty ribbon in her hair is now a very pretty and sharp young modern who little remembers the hard struggle her parents went through during the Special Period from 1992 to 2010. The Soviet Block collapsed along with all foreign aid to the country. The Red Army pulled out of town. For many years all hope seemed lost. And now? 

Gretel's comfortable with her new job teaching English. The staff and students are pleasant, the work hours and location great. However, she eyes the young models in their stylish make up, fashions and new cars in the t.v. videos. Wonders sheepishly if she might ever be able to get out of here. Things are really hopping in Habana! Carey, from the Toronto Friendship school is also her age. She managed to go live and work there rather than stay in Santiago. But travelling beyond Cuba's shores? She smiles, looks off for a bit deep in though and shrugs nonchalantly. Who knows?



Before the US embargo, Habana Cuba was militarily run by the dictator Batista, under the auspices of it's US multinational and mafia power brokers, defacto as the wide open, vibrant, political, economic, social and cultural capitol of the Caribbean. With the US embargo, that action moved en mass to Miami, making the US the winner by default of even greater wealth and increased influence in the region. With the US gone, Commandante en Jefe President Fidel Castro's revolutionary changes were able to root out the nation's post colonial Spanish and US influence and control, hopefully for good. It created a level of independence, though at a price, that's still virtually unheard of let alone enjoyed by most of Cuba's like minded independence seeking neighbours in the Caribbean, or for that matter quite arguably in Latin and South America too


Might Habana's reawakening help re-establish Cuba as the "place to be" in the America's under the new changes? Could Habana become the new mecca for the young Cuban on the move? Most Cubans I've met in my travels to the schools, have a deep pride and love of their country. It might be very hard for us North Americans, largely weened on "manufactured consent" horror show "news" stories about the Cuban struggle for independence, to understand that El Commandante Fidel Castro is still a much beloved founding father figure for the average Cuban living on the island.



Despite 50 years of the US embargo, Cubans enjoy universal education and medicare. Their housing and food rations though meagre, are also guaranteed. Policing is strict, but the streets are usually safe and quite decidedly gang free. Cuba is still very neighbourly and family orientated, reminiscent of our own Canadian towns and cities back in the 1950's and early 60's. In Cuba, some things never change. The island culture, largely untainted by the crass commercialism of the past 50 years, remains rich and pure both in it's traditional musical and dance styles and in the new trova music and salsa staples so popular among the young Cuban people today.

As I listen to Gretel talk I realize it's false to assume that most Cubans might want to leave someday. Of course, one can argue that about 75% of the world might well like to immigrate to the United States and Canada. Most, including the Cubans, would probably qualify as "economic refugees" in a perfect world. In reality? If the average Cuban can survive a dangerous boat ride across the Florida Strait and make landfall, they will be granted landed immigration status. Otherwise? The Cuban government is willing to let them go. Let's face it, it's one less mouth they can barely feed. However, unless you win an immigration lottery, or perhaps can be sponsored by a family member, it is a crap shoot at best. 



It's a false, dangerous Cold War game of "look at the poor Cubans fleeing communism" to shock us and build consent for US aggression against Cuba on the evening news. Much more sensational and easier to explain and label than the hordes of illegal Mexicans fleeing that supposedly democratic NAFTA country in their economic plight. Its a dangerous US immigration "carrot and stick" game, not one the average Cuban wishes to play. Nor might they want to if the situation was better at home!

Perhaps Gretel is tempted by the opportunities of a new life in the US if the immigration wrinkles can ever be ironed out with the US offer to "normalize" relations with Cuba. However it would mean leaving behind her family and life in Cuba on a huge roll of the dice at a minimum wage job. Her university and teaching qualifications would need upgrading. That wouldn't be free, as countless foreign trades people and professionals have learnt in coming to both the US and Canada. Gretel tosses back her long dark hair nonchalantly, stirs her drink. Who knows what changes the future will bring? But it doesn't seem like she will be going anywhere in a hurry anyway. Not yet.



She knows another Canadian friend has suggested that he might be able to get Yeyito a seasonal job on a Quebec farm. It's well below his skill and training levels but could provide Yeyito and his family with the best of both worlds. So far nothing concrete has emerged. Would Cubans also be allowed to join the other migrant workers from Jamaica and Mexico doing similar work in Canada, let alone the United States? 

The lure of the bright lights and fast life that they can see on t.v. or in the movies is not lost on most of the Cubans I've met. However they are well educated, like Yeyito, Gretel and Carey, with many trade skills and degrees that unfortunately will not be accepted on par in the United States and Canada. They would face a long life of separation from home and family earning low wages under very uncertain circumstances if they were to "flee" Cuba. Despite everything else it lacks in the material sense, Cuba has a strong strong sense of family, of national pride and a wide social net, all of which is forfeited in going abroad. 

I sense the prospect gives Gretal pause for thought. She seems noncommittal when asked if she'd want to leave, perhaps mostly just miffed that things still haven't picked up that much here yet. Sure, she would like to travel, visit, and see new things, but beyond that? The prospects remain frighteningly unclear.



Prof Alberto teaching class at the Toronto Friendship School!

Professor Alberto, a teacher at the Toronto Friendship School is much more certain that he would like to leave. He enjoys teaching at the English school. Its a good work environment in the heart to Santiago de Cuba close to to his family home. However unlike Gretel, Alberto has to support a young family with a new born baby. At the going rate of $40 [US] a month, he is keeping open his options out of necessity sake. Other than that? He says he loves his country and his job. Everybody he knows is here. He's lived in Cuba all his life. He too plans to take a wait and see attitude about what he will do as the changes kick in.

During my visit, I taught 3 classes of conversational English and reading to the mixed aged basic, intermediate and advanced classes at the Toronto Friendship School. I had the chance to quiz them informally on why they are studying English and whether they want to leave the country. Perhaps few of my US readers understand that Canadian foreign policy, contrary to the US embargo and other economic sanctions, has been to "engage" Cuba in our ongoing relations instead. It is with that in mind that I began the Cuban School Project in 1992 [Link].

Most of the students in my classes expressed interest in learning more about the outside world, which none have ever visited. They are eager to be able to talk with the many visitors, especially the older students, many of whom are starting new family businesses under the recent reforms. Also those with regular government jobs who are increasingly coming into contact with customers from the English speaking world.



The advanced class!

During summer in Santiago de Cuba during the early to mid 90's, I once spent 6 weeks without meeting another foreigner, or for that matter anyone who spoke fluent English. That's been gradually changing for many years now, especially with so many Canadians and Brits visiting Cuba. However, the momentum and excitement is now really starting to grow. Although most students said that they would love to travel outside their country, very few told me that they would want to move, even though a handful worried that it might be an economic necessity. There was nobody else listening and they had no reason to bullshit me. Nobody really wanted to "flee"

Most claimed that they loved their country very much and were very proud of their independence, much like us. There wasn't any cartoonish ringing of hands nor cries for freedom like the US media might have us believe, just a cautious optimism. They too hope to able to someday travel abroad but live in their own country, enjoying many of the same benefits that we take for granted, such as more opportunities and a better standard of living. 


Jose y Marta

Prof Jose Luis gazes around the Rock Cafe quite pleased. For Jose, it's a dream come true. Now there's a rock and roll club in his home town of Santiago de Cuba! Retired and in his sixties, Jose Luis and his wife Marta are both unassuming but well respected university academics, still actively involved in the cities rich literary life through their leading volunteer work with the Jose Marti institute. 

Both Jose Luis and Marta are also actively involved in developing our "Ingles Para Ti" Made in Cuba English language workbook, as they have been for the past 15 years since it's conception. Marta loves learning how to work on a computer. They are keen to begin an English version, "Espanol Para Ti" which might be useful for visitors to Cuba who'd appreciate a specially tailored Cuban Spanish language instruction program. Usually the quite different ones from outside the country don't reflect the Cuban social, economic, political and cultural reality. 



Another purpose of my trip to the Cuban schools this time is to provide the seed money for getting the new project started. Regretfully, Jose's $40-60 [US] pension is barely enough to live on let alone develop the first step, a new book. As is usual, local school funding is, out of sheer economic necessity, virtually running on empty.

Jose is amazed by the Santiago de Cuba Rock Cafe; the cool, exciting Beatle videos, baby boomer posters, artwork and sleek custom built club furniture. It's beyond his wildest dreams. Jose grew up, lived and worked most of his life in Santiago. He fondly remembers listening to Paul Anka records as a teenager, his earliest experience of Canada. Also the wild, contra brand Beatle records the Soviet experts, technicians and ship crews would later sneak into Cuba with them during the Cold War. 

Jose knows that at his age it's increasingly unlikely he will ever be able to afford to travel north, perhaps even for a visit. Still, he takes a deserved pride in the accomplishments of his life work and as such, in his own small part in the triumph of the revolution. Still, he enjoys the many new liberties he increasingly enjoys in the form of the music and movies, that were once forbidden fruits. Perhaps for Jose and Marta that's as good as it gets, but despite their dire financial straits, it's somewhat of a consolation prize all the same.



Lunch at Jose's casa/ home!

Jose's once youthful idealism is now tempered by the realization that mistakes might've been made over the course of the revolutionary struggle. It's understandable considering the enormous size of the task and the gravity of the situation during the permanent Cuban state of emergency over the past 50 years. Such idealism, perhaps Utopian in a sense, has helped bear many fruits for his country and his people. He continues to take great pride in Cuba's independence, it's literacy campaigns and universal medicare campaigns. Even for when he had to stop teaching classes and cut sugarcane to help feed the hungry during the darker hours of the US embargo. He remembers it all quite well.

Like Jose, most of us who grew up in North America under a quite different political, economic and social system, also automatically plugged into it as a way of life. It's what you are expected to do, and so it is for the average Cuban too. Jose remembers the revolution from his own first hand experiences and those of his family, neighbours and friends. Many in Santiago de Cuba personally assisted and fought alongside Fidel y Che at great personal risk and sacrifice as the revolutionary guerrilla army waged war against great odds from the towering Sierra Mountains overlooking the city.



You say you want a revolution ....

Despite being internationally blown way out of proportion, the Cuban revolution was very much just a small, local independence struggle. It got thrown out on the ominous, Cold War world stage, in the seemingly epic 20th century struggle between capitalism and communism. Most of us outside Cuba don't realize the implications of the US government's longstanding demands that free elections be called in a country which was hardly democratic before the revolution. After 50 years of a permanent stage of emergency it still lacks many of the prerequisites for a stable democratic government. Nor do we realize that for the past twenty years or so Cuba has been methodologically trying to move towards a mixed economy with pride of place being maintained for it's Made in Cuba socialist constitution. 

The US government has long demanded that the Cuban government system be dismantled and it's national revolutionary heroes tossed from power in disgrace before it would normalize relations. Very few of us know that octogenarian President Raul Castro has already announced on his own that he won't be running in the next election. Jose thinks the young Miguel Diaz-Canal, a possible candidate from the Central Committee politburo just might have the sufficient experience and credentials, if elected, that would be necessary to carry on the important job of Cuban president after Raul retires. 

I ask Jose whether he thinks that the Americans will now be able to overrun the fiercely independent, socialist state with huge hordes of tourists, corporate businesses, big name restaurants and brand name stores, along with the rest of their long implicit list of other capitalist monopoly demands? He seriously doubts that such US style "normalization" is something the Cuban government will want to rush or be pushed into.


As we discuss the prospect of the anticipated American commercial and tourist invasion of Cuba, he believes that the young people will need to be taught more "ideology" to instill the necessary civic values to weather the coming changes. In our Catholic and religious schools in Canada we also teach a faith to sustain our next generation. In the public schools, our various civic values serve the same purpose. For the older generation of Cubans, like Jose, it is the socialist and independence values of the Cuban revolution that are the ties that bind and instill a greater sense of civic duty, purpose and responsibility. But will that be enough? 

The risk for many Cubans, especially the older generations remains great. Their jobs, food, in many cases homes and pensions came from the Cuban government. What happens when the Yankees return? Will homes and factories revert back to the hands of their former US owners, throwing millions of unemployed Cubans out into the streets? What about their pensions now that many of the Cubans are growing older like us? 

As for the young, modern Cubans like Gretel, Alberto, Carey or the students at the Toronto Friendship School, what happens next to them? Will real help in building freedom and democracy, like after the collapse of the Soviet Union, prove to be an empty promise that the US will ignore, as an invasion of corrupt, self serving corporate and criminal interests race in to exploit the void? 



The Cathedral ["Christmas in Cuba 1996"] is getting a makeover!

Will the only hope for future Cuban generations be to join the hordes of other immigrants used to cheaply supply the underpaid and exploited underground workforce in the US and Canada? Sans even the most basic of sustainable social nets that they still now have at home in Cuba today?

Or can enough local opportunities be created to allow Cubans like Yeyito, Kathy and Jesus to build a better life for themselves, along Made in Cuba lines, within their own country? Perhaps if the US proves too manipulative, the ongoing help of the Canadian, Brit, Euro and South Americans which they already have, despite the US embargo, and derision's of "is that the best you can do", will continue to suffice?

Realistically, when it comes to change in Cuba, there's a lot more at stake than might meet the eye. Much more so than the questionable US normalized and over simplistic "freedom" and "democracy" platitudes and bromides that we are spoon fed by the mainstream news might have us believe!


Fidel y Che: admired throughout the America's even today!

For much of the America's, Cuba is now reemerging onto the scene independent and free of American control after having survived 50 years of most everything the US could throw at it. It has a refreshing, vigorous, pro active, revolutionary thrust that puts even our own struggling protest movements in the US and Canada to shame. Is it possible that Cuba for most Cubans, will still remain the only "with it" place to be? While ironically posing a beacon of hope for others who also still want to be the self determined grass root masters of our own country and lives, free from the exploitative, self serving, corporate America social, economic, and political way of life?

As our evening at the Rock Cafe draws to a close we spill out into the quiet streets of Cuba and the night looking for a cab. Everyone is in high spirits. Jesus waves us goodbye from the front doors of his swinging joint. Among much kisses, hugs and Cuban good cheer we head out knowing a new day will soon dawn, most likely in more ways than one. 



Jesus sees everybody off after a night out at the Rock Cafe!

I can only hope that that the everyday, home grown dreams of my Cuban colleagues and friends will actually come true. The future as always remains uncertain. Will US normalization work out well or not? The final chapter in the history of their life and times is still unwritten. 

Will the US government recognize and respect the many positive, self determined goals and achievements of the Cuban revolution? Will it allow the Cubans to create their own place at home and in the world today, respecting the difference that they just want to do it their own way, but with a little help from their friends? 

If I have been able to grasp any true sense of what I've heard and seen during my visit, after having waited 50 years for the Americans to finally come back around, one can hardly imagine it any other way. It would be foolish to accept change at any cost. Should the road ahead prove slow and cautious, then I hope my report helps us better understand why the changes must be Made in Cuba, not in Washington or anywhere else. 

I am glad to continue helping facilitate a sustainable, ongoing process for welcoming Cuba back into the world fold. That's at arms length through educational engagement, providing the necessary English and business skills by way of the Cuban School Project. One can only hope that others will also get involved in similar ways to try correct the past injustices. Viva Cuba! Viva Canada! 

Viva the USA?



FOOTNOTES

*  =  Santiago de Cuba Rock Cafe 
       Sta 3 e/ Garzon y Escario,
       Rpto. Sta. Barbara, Stgo de Cuba. 
       6 pm to 2 am nightly                  
       T: 22 647729

** = all prices are in "CuC's" [Cuban Convertible Pesos] worth approximately $0.80 US, except as noted, usually in the case of salaries and pensions, which are estimated in US dollars. The local Cuban Peso, by which most Cubans are paid, is worth approximately 20-25 to $1 US. Note that a different conversion rate is used for the Canadian dollar, which was trading at about 0.75 to the CuC. These rates are approximates, the Canadian dollar continues to fluctuate. At any rate, whatever the accurate, current conversion rate, Cuba continues to be an excellent bargain and remarkably cheap! I will review and try to readjust these figures better at a later date.

*** = contact me and I will put you in touch with Yeyito y Kathy who can help you with any arrangements [E: davechiarelli@gmail.com]

FURTHER READING 

For more info, including a "Cuba Study Guide" covering the issues covered above, as well as links to my various, extensive articles, stories and poems about my Cuba trips, please see "Cuba: Just what the Heck's Going On?" @ Read!

The Cuban School Project is a non profit education developmental aid program. I am the founder and director. We are always seeking donations from unions and concerned individuals who'd like to help. Past assistance came from OECTA, OSSTF and OTF before I retired. More info about the the Cuban School Project Story is @ CSP and CSP and CSP and/or contact me [E: davechiarelli@gmail.com]



COMMENTS: 

Communist Girls ARE More Fun!

Communist Girls ARE More Fun!
See below ...

Youtube Bar: Afrika Bambaataa!

Loading...

Communist Girls Are More Fun #1

Communist Girls Are More Fun #1

Communist Grrrls are More Fun #2

Communist Grrrls are More Fun #2

Communist Grrrls Are More Fun #3

Communist Grrrls Are More Fun #3

Communist Girls Are More Fun #4

Communist Girls Are More Fun #4

Art at the Paris Louvre: What does it mean?!?

Art at the Paris Louvre: What does it mean?!?
A careful analytical study!

Help! I Have No Arms!

Help! I Have No Arms!
Please scratch my back.

I can't find my underwear!.

I can't find my underwear!.
Have you seen them!

Weee! I can fly!

Weee! I can fly!
Look! I can crawl thru walls!

I have a headache!

I have a headache!
And a broken nose.

I have a square hole in my bum!

I have a square hole in my bum!

Here try this, it's very good!

Here try this, it's very good!
No. You have a bird face.

I have an ugly baby!

I have an ugly baby!
No I'm not!

Let's save all our money + buy pants!

Let's save all our money + buy pants!
OK but I need a new hand too!

Oh no! I got something in my eye!

Oh no! I got something in my eye!

You don't look well.

You don't look well.
No. My head hurts +I have a sore chest.

Would you like a bun?

Would you like a bun?

Chichen-Itza: Lost Maya City of Ruins!

Chichen-Itza: Lost Maya City of Ruins!
The Temple of Kukulkan!

Gotta love it!

Gotta love it!
Truly amazing!

Under Reconstruction!

Under Reconstruction!

Temples + Snakes!

Temples + Snakes!

The Snake!

The Snake!
It runs the length of the ball field!