The Fifty Fifty Club

There’s a ski slope inside a mall in Dubai while there’s a beach inside a mall in Edmonton!

Fifty Fifty Club - Reboot Social

The Fifty Fifty Club was formed during the winter of 2006, in Edmonton, Alberta. I am the founder of the club.

It’s an elite club, though not elitist. It has only four members in it. Two of the members are Japanese, one of them my sensei aka, guru-dev. And, the fourth is an Indian. The club’s charter is very simple. Everyone is welcome, but membership is restricted to those who have worked in Plus 50 Celsius and Minus 50 Celsius environments for a minimum of five years each.

As for my credentials, the minus 50 I worked in was in Fort McMurray, Alberta where I worked at the oil sands projects. My plus 50 was a few years ago, within the oilfields of the Middle East countries.

Surprisingly the changeover was not too difficult, neither in terms of the physical aspects of the job nor in its cultural dimensions. I guess, I need to explain this in a little more detail since the overall experiences of moving countries is not always successful — immediately, or in the long term.

Firstly, I worked for the Japanese. That ensured I uncomplainingly worked 16-hour days in all kinds of (hot, hotter and hottest) weather.

Secondly, my conservative estimate is that I personally cut and inspected close to 7,000 truck tires with my own hands, in 20 years. I may have forgotten to mention that I specialize in Off-The-Road (OTR) tires, the giant kind you see in mines and excavation sites. At approximately 100 kg a tire, that is an awful amount to lift, cut open and roll away by a single person.

On the positive side, it did bring about an almost magical skill in being able to stand away at a distance and identify the exact reason for a tire’s failure; a skill I employed and raised to another level while working in Fort McMurray.

The similarities of living and working in extreme conditions are striking when you give it some thought. There’s the safety aspect of working and travelling in hostile environments. Driving in deserts — icy or sandy — engender a certain amount of self-discipline, advance planning, and technical knowledge.

In addition to these work factors, the cultural aspects have some similarities too. People generally tend to congregate indoors in malls during the bad months. To give you a sense of indoor activities, there’s a ski slope inside a mall in Dubai while there’s a beach inside a mall in Edmonton!

The dynamics of the oil industry is generally the same all over the world. The industry is driven by coin-flipping corporate heads.

All over the world, the oil industry is populated with westerners. Many Canadians work in it outside of Canada. This allowed me to learn the cultural skills required to communicate and understand people across a wide swathe of backgrounds.

But, the strangest part of the story is now apparent to me. Working in the regions of the “first 50” is what I really should be most grateful for, because it helped me make a success of the “second 50”.

I am not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination, but…

As people in that part of the world would say, “Mashallah!

The wonders of God…

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Keshav Das - Fifity Fifty Club


Keshav DasKeshav is a tire industry veteran who lives in Edmonton, Alberta. He specializes in Off-The-Road tires which take him to the less travelled parts of the world. He is a true outdoor enthusiast, music lover, and always up for a hearty debate over a good glass of wine…

Peru – Beyond Machu Picchu


Peru beyond Machu Pichu

The fashion show broke out as I was working on my blog post.

I was on a Vistadome train heading back to Cusco from Machu Picchu, Peru.

One minute the cabin crew were serving us food and drinks, the next, they were striding down the aisle wearing SOL Alpaca garments and accessories, striking poses akin to professional models on a catwalk. It was Peru Rail’s creative version of “Duty-Free” that you typically find in international flights.

I bought a scarf.

The five-day trip with my wife and daughter to Peru was an impromptu decision. Not a lot of research went into it. There were the travel advisories – don’t trust strangers; don’t walk alone in the night; don’t show affluence, don’t underestimate altitude sickness.

I ignored the last one.

I was sure I would be able to handle the rarified air of Cusco, a city that stood 11,150’ above the sea level. After all, I am used to playing squash without a lot of air in my lungs.

Big mistake!

Much has been written about the tourist attractions of Peru. Machu Picchu and Inca ruins of Moray have a sense of mystery around them. They are precise, intricate, and detailed. There are many interpretations of their purpose and how they ended up as ruins.

But, nobody really knows for sure.

Then there is the Salineras de Maras, a five-hundred-year-old salt making system of ponds and channels carved into a canyon that utilizes natural salt water to produce copious amounts of salt, even today. If our server Javier at the JW Marriot, a convent converted into a hotel, were to be believed, we were being served salt from the Sacred Valley itself.

Besides the tourist attractions, there are a few things that I found distinctive to Peru.

Peru has a big food scene. Classic Ceviche

I did not know that three of the World’s Fifty Best Restaurants are in Lima, the capital of Peru. Everyone eats ceviche and drinks pisco, the Peruvian equivalent of tequila. If you like raw-fish dishes like sushi, ceviche would appeal to you. I preferred the classic ceviche over a couple of other variations. I was told that the “tiger’s milk” in ceviches – the citrus-infused marinade – is a perfect cure for hangovers.

I didn’t get to test that theory.

I was feeling hungover without consuming alcohol. I even passed up on complimentary pisco sour cocktails offered at our hotel.

The altitude and the lack of oxygen in Cusco will do that to you.

Suffice to say that we had to bail out on our reservations to one of the restaurants featured in the world’s top fifty list. I had been really looking forward to it.

I should have invested $10 in some altitude sickness prevention pills.

Peruvian cities are clean.

There was hardly any litter on the streets and the restrooms in the tourist destinations that we visited were clean. People seemed to take pride in their country and communities. In a city like Cusco where almost 80% of the population depend on the tourism industry, there is clear recognition that killing the golden goose would not be a good idea.

For example, in stark contrast to my recent experience with Air Canada, when our flight from Lima to Cusco got cancelled, Avianca put us up at the Sheraton and covered the cost of our transportation and meals.

Towards the end of my trip, I figured out why the song “El Condor Pasa,” the song made famous by Simon & Garfunkel, was stuck in my head.

Everywhere you go, you hear strains of it. It was originally created by the Peruvian composer Daniel Alomia Robles and is easily the most known Peruvian song in the English-speaking world.

When it comes to Peru, a line from the song says it all: “I’d rather be a sparrow than a snail…”

You can see it in the people of Peru.

Beyond the horizon

Beyond the horizon - Reboot Social

By Paolo Gardino

A few weeks ago I met Myrtle Simpson. The lady is well over 80.

In the 1960s she became the first woman to ski across Greenland with four others on an unsupported expedition.

As this wonderfully feisty lady recounts her adventures to a small enthralled group of mostly women, she says so many things that make so much sense.

“Don’t assume the answer is no, you will never know if you don’t ask.”

“Your family is most important, even if it means you climb one less peak or go on one shorter expedition.“

But the one thing that really stayed with me and has been echoing over the last many days is the answer she gave to someone who asked her, “why do you do what you do – why the mountains, why the exploration?”

“I want to see what is beyond the horizon,” she answered calmly. Simple and yet so profound!

Over the last many days I have wondered what it was about her answer that struck a chord with me.  Then, as I lay supine on my bed staring at the ceiling and reflecting on life in general (my favourite Saturday routine), it suddenly came to me.

I left India 12 years back to come to Canada.

I had a very comfortable life with the usual trappings of the upper middle-class Indian family – cook, maid, chauffeur, and most importantly a mortgage-free home (oh yeah!). Yet there was a hankering for something more, a desire to move, to leave, and to explore.

My friends and family thought I was nuts.

“Why?” “Don’t rock it.” “Stay, we will promote you.”

There were dire warnings: “You don’t have a job, what will you do?” “You don’t have Canadian experience, no one will hire you…“

It went on and on.

Strangely, I too could not articulate what was pushing me – the “why?”

My most oft-repeated answer (very banal) was “doing it for the kids”.

Fast forward to this Saturday, 12 years later (yeah I must be slow), I woke up to the realisation that like Ms. Simpson in the 60’s, I wanted to see what was beyond the horizon. I wanted to explore to stretch my boundaries, to push myself into the unknown, to take a risk.

Gratefully what was beyond the horizon was this amazing country, a beautiful mosaic of different cultures. A land of immigrants where every beautiful tile in the design had its purpose, and, opportunity to shine.

It was not a melting pot.

I did not have to become mush to blend in; I could be me and live in a kind caring compassionate and ever so polite environment.

I got a job beyond my dreams, I made friends, the children thrived and we learnt more about kindness and goodwill than we ever imagined.

We learnt this from a stranger from whom we were buying some equipment.When he realised that we had no way to take things home other than on the bus (could not afford a taxi then), he put us and the stuff in his car and drove us home. We learnt from our neighbours who dropped us to the train station during winter so that we did not freeze while waiting for the bus. We learnt and learnt and most importantly learnt to pay it forward.

What was beyond the horizon was a country I am proud to call my home.

Thank you, Ms. Simpson, for helping me articulate my ‘Why?” albeit after 12 years.

Kiran Ramnanae - Reboot SocialKiran Ramnane is an extremely curious person who is also a mom, a corporate educator and a Leadership Coach. Having travelled extensively her passion is exploring the diversity of human beings and cultures. Kiran lives in Oakville, Canada with her husband Satish and their dog Zoe. Her favourite place is home and her favourite thing to do on any day is curl up on the couch and read – anything!



A 90-minute flight to Philadelphia that cost me over $3K

My concerns about flying have little to do with the security screeningConcerns about flying - Reboot Social

I am afraid of United Airlines.

For that matter, I am afraid of most airlines. I feel that they always have the upper hand.

It may have a “flying while brown” element to it.

Though, I must admit that these days I am a little bit more convinced about the randomness of the “additional screening” process at airports. When an eighty-year-old grandmother gets pulled aside for “explosive trace detection swab,” I know the system is not randomly picking me every time.

I digress.

My concerns about flying have little to do with security screening. It has got to do with the unilateral decisions that airlines seem to be able to make with total disregard to passengers.

We live in a capitalistic society. I won’t complain about the airline’s ability to capitalize on market demand by charging passengers exorbitant fares when they can.

So, when I paid Air Canada over C$1200 for a return flight in economy class from Toronto to Philadelphia for a business trip, I was not overly worried.  After all, it was the NFL draft week in Philadelphia. I was booked for a night at the Ritz Carlton. I was looking forward to it.

To put things in perspective, I can generally fly to New York LaGuardia, which is about the same flying distance, for less than $300. For that matter, I can fly to London Heathrow and back for under a thousand dollars.

Once again, my issue is not about the fare. It is more about what I get for the fare.

Should there not be some expectation of performance on the airlines’ part? What can I take for granted for the high fare that I paid?  At a minimum, a confirmed seat on the return flight?

As I found out, high fares don’t guarantee you much.

I arrived at the Philadelphia airport to catch my return flight to Toronto, only to find out that the flight was delayed – the incoming flight had not arrived.

As someone who flies often, I have a couple of theories on routine messages that I get from airlines.

If the airline staff tells you that the incoming flight on which you are planning to depart is delayed, I hear “your flight may be cancelled.”

When the airline’s online application tells you that they are unable to allocate you seats online, I interpret it as “the flight is oversold, you may be bumped.”

After about a two-hour wait, my worst fears came true, my flight was cancelled.

Air Canada did not have a flight later that day. They were not going to try to rebook passengers in another airline going to Toronto. The cancellation was attributed to “traffic congestion” at the destination airport – Toronto Pearson.

As the stranded passengers milled around, the lady at the airline counter made it clear.

“There are no vouchers, nor are we offering hotel rooms.” “And, we are unable to rebook you at this time. You will get a communication from the airline at some point regarding your rebooked flight,” she went on to add.

At some point?

For those of us who were not satisfied with her message, she handed out the number for Air Canada’s Customer Service department.

The call to Customer Service was short.

The automated message made it clear that due to the high volume of calls, they were unable to handle my call nor take a message.

The message redirected me to their website.

“Thank you and goodbye,” there was no attempt at niceties as the system hung up on me.

The website was not much help.

After having taken me halfway through an online form to rebook my flight, it let me know that I had to call Customer Service for resolution. The same Customer Service that hung up on me.

I was in a bit of a quandary.

There was no way of knowing when I will get rebooked. If I went back into the city and had to come back to the airport for an early morning flight, that would not be efficient. So I decided to stay at the hotel attached to the airport.

The cheapest room at the hotel set me back C$475 for the night. Around 11:00 PM, I got my rebooking info. I was booked on a flight leaving at 6:30 PM the next day.

For me, that was not an option.

I had to back in Toronto for some in-person meetings that I could not miss. So I decided to take a chance and buy the only available business class ticket for a 9:00 AM flight back to Toronto.

The return flight cost me another C$1350.

I still had to cancel my rebooked return flight.

After waiting for an hour on the line, I reached an agent. She informed me that I could cancel my rebooked flight, but she could not credit me the cancelled fare right away due to complex calculations that she was unable to make.

I had spent $3025 thus far on my flights and related issues.

I still had to eat.

Fortunately, I was on a business trip!

What if I wasn’t? What if I was travelling with family and children? How much money would I have had to shell out to get home?

What happened to the concept of reservation, and the guarantees that come with it?

What if other services adopted the airline model?

Imagine getting to your vacation destination to find out that the hotel had overbooked and decided to bump you!

What if your Doctor could bump you?

What if your child could get bumped from his or her college admission?

Where do you draw the line?

Eating raw leaves in the name of nutrition

Eating raw leaves When the report from the medical clinic referred to me as “obese,” I took a double take.

The reference was in the Body Mass Index (BMI) section of the report. My family doctor had suggested a series of preemptive risk avoidance tests at a facility specializing in stress tests and the like. The report included a few brochures on nutrition, diet, and general well-being.

My bruised ego aside, I was concerned.

I made a mental note to go easy on the beers.

I have never been on a diet, nor cared about nutrition. I just assumed that whatever I ate had enough nutrients in it to keep me going until I got to a reasonable vintage.

Time to rethink that. Or, not.

If dieting simply meant that you could eat everything in moderation, I can work with that.

Some of my friends seem to have adopted more regimented versions of it. They count the number of nuts they eat, measure the amount of rice they consume, and eat raw leaves.

Growing up in India, eating raw leaves was never considered a food option. Cows ate leaves. Keeping that background in mind, you can understand why I am not a big fan of kale juice which is apparently good for you.

I remember the bewildered look on my mother-in-law’s face when the server put a large bowl of garden salad in front of her. It was her first visit to Canada.

As I knew it, a salad meant, cut up vegetables – mostly cucumber, tomatoes and onions. While things have changed, rice (or wheat) remains the staple for humans, and at home, seafood was the main side.

From a body weight perspective, I had always considered myself as being sort of middle of the pack. Sure, I won’t win any bodybuilding competitions; but, I can still fit into a pair of 32-inch-waist jeans.

I had my logic. I try to stay active. I play squash and tennis a couple of times a week.

Then there is the Fitbit, which I don’t use any more. I had figured out ways to get my step count in. Of late, my health concerns have generally been focused around my knees and elbow which take a pounding on the courts.

So, if you lead an active lifestyle, do you still need to worry about nutrition?

Harvard Food Pyramid Reboot SocialGoing by this recent post titled Healthy Eating, looks like you do. Looking at the top of the Harvard Health Pyramid shown here, I can tell where my BMI score needs work.

When you start paying attention, you hear a lot about nutrition and dieting. It’s like man buns, suddenly, you see them everywhere.

However, there appear to be many schools of thought on diet and nutrition, often contradicting each other. For instance, when did coconut oil become the next best thing to sliced bread? Wait, sliced bread is not such a good thing anymore, unless it is whole wheat. This post in the Irish Examiner sums up a few contradictory nutritional recommendations that exist out there.

Does food have to be just fuel for your body? I know a few people who think that way.

In these days of meal replacement shakes and energy bars, I feel that there is room for tasty food that is also healthy. You don’t have to be a foodie to enjoy good food.

Planning to order the 4 oz. steak with a side of broccoli this evening…