Thursday, December 27, 2012

Rodney's at home; or, ¿Dónde está Pedro the Chicken?

When six Filipinos knock on your door at 8 am asking to pick up your furniture, it's all good---you know it's delivery day! Sure enough, in less than 10 minutes, 3 bedrooms, a kitchen, and a den's worth of The World's Most Uncomfortable Loaner Furniture was in 2 pick-ups and driving down the road, and in less time than it took me to plug in the vacuum and do a quick once-over, a team of Jamaicans was at the door with 8 crates of HHG (that would be House Hold Goods).

(and yes, it's normal for Filipinos and Jamaicans to knock on your door to do a job---there are more Filipino and Jamaican Nationals here than Americans. They've been doing the manual labor jobs on the base for years---and at a small fraction of what Americans would make for the same job).

We took a look and thought, "that doesn't look like THAT much stuff." Then one of the deliverymen said, "By the way, we have six more crates at the warehouse."

The first eight crates. . . the goal is to have this much or less total for the next move.

So as we are waiting for the crates to unload, we keep waiting---and waiting---and waiting for the large rug that goes under all the den furniture. It's hard to arrange and rearrange furniture and boxes when you're trying to make room for a large rug. And you know the saying about a special rug:

Want to guess what was the very, very last thing unpacked out of 14 crates---14,000 lbs---of HHG? 

Yep, the rug. 


Anyway, we are STILL unpacking. Still haven't found the following: bedroom lamps (although I did find the shades), glass shelves for china cabinet (everything is sitting around it, waiting to be displayed), Gray's electric guitar, and Pedro, my white-trash, yard-art chicken made out of a 55 gallon drum from Mexico. If I ever find Pedro, I will make sure he gets a picture on the blog. 

I know they are here, because a)all the crates were nailed shut and sealed from Texas; and b) we still have 50 or so boxes of assorted sizes to unpack. 

I really thought we downsized before moving here. 

We have a long way to go on the road to minimalism. 

For instance---books. I still can't believe the amount of books we own. We got rid of so many---are these things multiplying while we are sleeping? I could start a bookstore in my house. But want to guess what was the first thing I set up? Before I set up the kitchen or bathrooms, made the beds, etc., I had to put my books up. And I'm a little obsessive over them---they have to be sorted by author, not alphabetically but by publication date, with non-fiction in one bookcase, fiction in the other (you'd think I'm a librarian or something). I don't expect many people to understand how happy my books make me (thankfully, my husband gets it---or at least tolerates it), but I feel best when I'm surrounded by them. I'm such a big nerd, I bought a ream of mylar and a bone tool years before library school was in my sights because I love my books that much. (And you, too, are a book nerd if you know what mylar and a bone tool are). My 1st CANADIAN edition of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale (signed!) made it----if that sentence just gave you chill bumps, you are, indeed, one of my people. 

Just a fraction of the books, next to the infamous Dude Chair. 

Some things I have found that made me happy: Rodney, the stuffed squirrel (yes, a real taxidermied squirrel that is older than I am) that's been in my family for years (since there are no squirrels in Cuba, he may be the only one on the island);  lots of canned and dry goods you can't find at the Commissary (yay!); and my bottle tree (and accompanying box of bottles I carefully collected for a year---none were broken). 

The delivery man who brought the bottle tree to the back yard asked the husband what it was. As he tried to explain, the guy interrupted and said, "Ah, yes, we have these in Jamaica!" and asked if I put blue bottles on it. He so gets it!!! I could have hugged his neck. Nobody in Texas seemed to understand the mystique of the bottle tree. Bless their little Texan hearts. Mississippian Felder Rushing has a great website that will explain all things related to the bottle tree, if you are curious and uninformed. 

What do you want to bet mine isn't the only bottle tree in Cuba? Maybe Gitmo, but I know they probably exist elsewhere on the island. 

A few days ago, some of the deliverymen came by to pick up our empty, unpacked boxes. I came out and talked to a couple of them about their Christmas. Can you imagine working in another country, away from your friends and family, your favorite food, and your culture, missing holidays and birthdays and weddings and funerals, maybe for years? Americans here can take a hop back at least once a year to see family, usually with their work picking up the tab. These guys (and ladies---they are outnumbered, but Filipinas and Jamaican women do work here, too) work hard and send money back to support other family members, much like Mexicans do in Texas. And like the Mexicans, they do hard work for a paycheck no American would accept.  

My kids have no idea how lucky they are to be born where they will never have to leave their country to support an extended family doing a manual labor job. 

Gotta keep unpacking---tomorrow morning at 0700 (that's 7 am, OUCH!), a Filipino crew is coming to replace the A/C unit in our house. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

It is what it is; or, Why Gitmo is (really) Not Cuba

You know the Princess and the Pea story?

I am the (anti) princess living on a really, really bad mattress/box springs. 

The Fred Flintstone/World's Most Uncomfortable Furniture is about to go back into the hands of housing (thank you! but no thanks!) and our stuff is coming tomorrow! 

This is how I am coping: 

Any of you who have had the bizarre experience of working with me knows one of my many, many, many weird obsessions is post-it notes. My post-it notes have post-it notes. They are on my monitor. They are on the wall above my desk. I like them in all shapes and sizes. And I am now living in a house covered with bright pink post-its. How else will the movers know where the Dude Chair goes? 

And in case you are wondering, I'm one of those horrible, mean women who won't allow a Lazy-Boy in her house, so the compromise is the Dude Chair---a big, honking leather arm chair and ottoman that takes up way more room than a Lazy-Boy. (Before you go feeling all sorry for the hubby, you should have seen the almost 20 blissful married years' worth of sporting equipment in our garage when we were weeding out things to move). 

We have SO much stuff coming---something like 15K lbs. That's just ridiculous. When you stay somewhere for 10 years, you start to nest. I have a feeling the thrift/charity store is going to get a whole new inventory by the end of the holidays. 

Cuban Club=Gitmo's Only Cuban Restaurant

Here's the thing about living in Cuba---we aren't living in Cuba. Technically, we're on the island of Cuba. But for this 45 square mile area, we are on American soil. Unlike any other foreign base, we do not have any contact with the locals. We cannot leave the base---ever. Yes, there is still an embargo, so as Americans on American soil, we cannot purchase Cuban products. This includes cigars. 

So why would we want to live here as civilians if we aren't getting much Cuban culture? In many ways, we still are. There is a Cuban restaurant---from what I hear, it's authentic food (and we like it). The history of an American base on a Communist island is complicated----Spanish American War, Cold War, now just waiting out the end of the Castro regime. We can listen to the Cuban propaganda any time we want on the radio, and get the other side of the story by reading dissidents' online accounts of life in Cuba today. I look out my front door at night, and lit up like a long string of Christmas lights, is the fenceline. Sometimes it's hard to believe that a very short distance away, there are people living an entirely different life than anything I've ever known.

Sometimes we read (or see on BBC World News) stories about Las Damas de Blanco---the Ladies in White---who protest daily in Havana for the release of their male relatives and friends imprisoned for political reasons. Many of those imprisoned were journalists, political activists, and librarians.

The women have been marching since 2003, every day, rain or shine. There were 75 men jailed, most for at least 20 years.

Ladies standing by their men, fighting for freedom of speech. What's not to love?

On a clear day, we can see the closest town, Caimanera---some of the prisoners are held there. I'm hoping their time goes quickly. I have a feeling it isn't.

Although many people associate Gitmo with "that place"---you know the one, that place I am not going to discuss because it has absolutely nothing to do with why I'm here----there is another mission here, too. Cubans seeking political asylum come through Gitmo. They are welcomed and helped through the process. Hopefully, they can prove they are escaping to here for political reasons and not just financial ones, so they can then move on to the mainland.

There are crazy things going on in Texas (Succession! Ignorant multi-term governor! People wanting teachers to wear guns!), but Cuba makes Texas look plumb normal with all its going ons. And part of the experience of living here isn't travel, or language, or even food, but the exposure to the "other"---what you sometimes can't see, but you know is right there.

Travel, food, and shopping can come later. I'm grateful for what I have---not just the tangible that I hope to mostly give away, once it finally gets here tomorrow, but everything else that I often take for granted.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Mr. Post Man, Bring Me My Stuff; or, It's on the Barge. . . to Oman

Husband, tonight: "We have a new sport! Guess where your mail has been!"

My dear mom mailed my birthday package on November 13, with plenty of time to get here.

In theory, anyway.

I should mention that this same dear mom taught first grade for over 30 years (yes, she deserves sainthood), and has the most beautiful, perfect manuscript print you can imagine.

So how THIS happened, I have no clue.

Don't you hate when your mail ends up in Oman?

Yes, THAT Oman.  "MISSENT TO MUSCAT"=You've got mail. . . in Oman.

Because if you dim the lights, squint one eye, stand on your head, and drink a bottle of tequila, my mom's perfect "09593" zip code looks like "09893."

Or maybe somebody just got sloppy and threw it on the wrong truck---sort of like when your flight ends up in New Orleans and your luggage ends up in Salt Lake City.

Either way, my Zero bars that have seen who-knows how many countries are still going to be delicious.  They are an extinct species on Gitmo, and you have no idea how little things make you happy until you've gone completely without them for a while.

Then there was this mail incident the same day:

Some poor schmuck named Ian on the USS Winston Churchill is looking for his hockey magazine that somehow got placed inside my ripped up New York magazine cover (but no magazine!). It's was a six week old New York, but that's much better than what we get here.

Our well-meaning but woefully inadequate magazine collection at the NEX/Commissary is laughable. Right now, we have October issues on the stands. . . in December. So in gossip time, the People magazines at the checkout are ancient history. I don't understand---are the magazines being sent here 4th class mail? Are they coming on the slow boat from China? With all that extra space created by a lack of butter, bacon, eggs, sour cream, and white bread (latest thing we don't have), they could send a box of current magazines on the weekly supply barge. I'm yet to see anyone buying a two month old magazine, and since they don't recycle paper here---they burn it in a landfill---it's just causing pollution.

And if you are wondering why I don't just look at them online, you obviously haven't been paying attention. :)

Other than wonky mail, and lack of current magazines, and the slowest internet possible, life's been busy.

Our dance cards have been full.  I guess you can be a hermit here, but it would take real, REAL effort. Recently, neighbors forced me to come to their house to play poker. And by forced, I mean they repeatedly called the house and said, "Do we need to come over and drag your ass out of your house?" after I hemmed and hawed the first few times they called. People here are persistent that you get out of your casa and socialize (or exercise---that's what another neighbor does. He's my husband's personal "no excuses!" trainer. If you don't feel like going out for a run, fine---there's a ridge that needs hiking just down the road).

It's so easy to come home from work, throw down that garage door, and barely say "hi" to the neighbors. Here, you know everyone, and chances are, you are borrowing things from at least one of them because your stuff is forever in transit. I love seeing people up and down the street standing on the sidewalks or in driveways socializing with their neighbors. And I may seem like a sociable person, but my comfort zone is being alone (and quiet--a rarity with two sons). In many ways, I am still that awkward middle schooler with social anxiety issues. Being in a situation where I constantly have to socialize has been very, very good for me.

And now---on to taping up signs where I want our furniture to go. Yes, happy day!---we have furniture and everything else coming next Thursday! Happy (late) birthday and (early) Merry Christmas to me!

Monday, December 10, 2012

I Will Always Lub You; or, Crack is Whack

Things that make me happy.

1) Express shipment came today. Amongst the goods was a gigantic container of . . .

Legos that span two generations. Thinking about my husband as a little boy in Belgium and Germany, playing with some of these exact same pieces, makes me happy. They've lived in four countries now.

2) I love Communist Propaganda. You read that right. Every morning, one of the Cuban stations plays a very dramatic story about This Day in Cuban history. A lady reads the first part of the story, then sad music plays (violins! wailing violins!), followed by a squeaky-voiced child who reads the rest, and completed by a chorus of children re-telling the whole ordeal in musical form.  My Spanish isn't perfect, but I get the general idea. My favorite was the day they told the story of the "criminales" in Cuba. The criminals were the Spanish, of course, and the lady, the child, and the song told about how the Cubans got their independence from the horrible, no-good, filthy Spanish. (At least I think that's what they were saying. It IS propaganda, after all).

No mention of those other criminales, the ones of who took control of Guantanamo Bay a few years later and made it the oldest overseas US Navy Base. Hmmm.

The same station, a couple of weeks ago, was playing various Latin artists from all over the Spanish speaking world, and then, the announcer said this:
"Y ahora, Meeeese Whitney Houston, con 'I Will Always Lub You."
It's the first and only time I've heard American music on the Cuban radio station.

I lub it.

3) Speaking of Whitney "Crack is Whack!" Houston, she would approve of yet another thing I LOVE about Gitmo. When entering the NEX, you are greeted by this sign:

I really wish that once it got warm (over 60 degrees) in Texas, there was a way to enforce this rule there. Yes, for the entire state. It's so nice to be behind someone with a big behind, bending over to get (or, in the case of our Commissary, snatch) that last container of sour cream, that last stick of butter, or that last pack of bacon, and not have your eyes assaulted by Too Much Crack. We've all been there. Do you look away? Do you throw up a little in your mouth? Or are you so used to it, you don't notice anymore? So the moratorium on Too Much Crack is nice at Gitmo. It still doesn't mean that people don't cram themselves into too-tight yoga pants to do errands. You can't force people to have taste (or common sense). But at least it's a start. 

And before you think, "no freedom of expression!" on Gitmo, you should check out the high school kids with their crazy dyed hair, tattoos, and piercings. It's much less oppressive than most Texas schools. And amazingly, they do better on their standardized tests. Guess it's not too distracting after all. 

Go figure. 

4) Trying to live this motto . .

isn't always easy, but I'm trying. Especially after getting the first 750 lbs of household goods today ("Express Shipment," I'm thinking that's supposed to be an ironic title since it's taken almost 2 months to get here on the barge, instead of the 30 days via air as my orders state). In addition to our old stuff, got some new stuff today in the mail, including a case of Method Cucumber Cleaner today. Yep, a case of eight, that's EIGHT, beautiful bottles of household cleaner. It's been a long six-week wait from purchase to delivery, but I like what I like, and maybe Communist propaganda on the radio has infiltrated my brain, because I love cleaning my new house---but only with very specific cleaning products (most of which we don't have here). So I have a case of Method cleaner, a large bottle of Mrs. Myers Lavender Laundry Detergent (thanks to Amazon), and if Santa would send me a case of those eraser sponges, I'd be a happy cleaner.

And Tyler Durden isn't real, anywho, so who cares what he thinks.

5). G got his acoustic bass guitar early for Christmas. He's loving it. And I'm loving that I walked by his room today, and he was playing . . .
part of the soundtrack of my college years. And then I realized that he is only 3 1/2 years away from college and although that's a lifetime for a teenager, it's just a blink and a nod for me.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Merry Christmas Parade! or, How I Survived a Drive-By Assault

The kids and I decided to go to the GTMO Christmas parade last weekend. It is small and cute, and because of a hellacious rainstorm, it was postponed a day. I'm expecting a marching band, some floats, maybe with a pretty girl or two waving from a convertible, and lots of cute little kids in costumes. 

Well, that's small town Mississippi parade style, but it's not small American town Cuba (small Cuban town America?) style. 

Let me try to break down the GTMO Christmas Parade experience for you. 

First, it was supposed to start at 5 pm (that's 1700), but we had to wait until colors, so it started at 5:30 because there was no way they were going to stop an entire parade. All cars (and walkers and talkers) are expected to drop everything and be silent until music plays for about a minute every day. Parades are no exception. 

Then, there was no marching band---they played at the lyceum afterwards. Instead, there were golf carts and Jeeps (the unofficial car of GTMO---there are 8 on my little street) blaring Christmas music. 

The hill above town lit up with a huge (artificial) tree and several lighted wire structures, and then it began. 

The first float had cute kids---maybe the boy scouts?---and a few called out to my youngest. Then *BAM *POW*SPLAT* the candy came out of nowhere and hit us. Hard. In the face.

I'm thinking, poor lad has nobody to practice throwing ball with him, he's so bad. What a pity. 

But then it happened again. And again. And again. 

And then I realized that the entire point of the GTMO Christmas Parade is that as a participant, you assault spectators with candy. 

Which means that, conversely, you run like hell when you see someone with a handful of candy looking in your direction. 

Three points for the middle aged mom with a ponytail. Two points for the first grader sitting on the curb. Five points for the high schooler who is rolling around on the ground in hysterics. 

The kids and I went into the street between floats (all three of them) to get candy, and realized the folks in golf carts were trying to MOW US DOWN. You know those hideous inflatable snowmen? A driver had one of those on top, and she was zooming by so fast, it was bouncing 180 degrees. 

I'm not sure why we thought it was all so funny, but the kids and I laughed and laughed until we cried. I got pinged in the face, shoulders, and chest with THREE bags of candy total. There were also some potato chips, Hawaiian leis, and Mardi Gras beads thrown in the mix. 

The kids were pulling candy out of their clothes when we got home. Having lived through dozens and dozens of Mardi Gras parades didn't prepare me for the sheer volume of stuff that got thrown at us. 

Not TO us, but AT us.

Man, those beads especially hurt. 

The much older folks next to us weren't spared, either. One of them was crawling around on all fours getting candy, and precious little children were assaulting her, too. 

Did I mention this happened in only 10 minutes? It was the shortest parade I've ever seen in my life. And quite honestly, the funnest. 

(Just as some of you would object to the Gitmo parade being a real parade, some of you would object to "funnest" being a real word. I'm here to tell you that they both, in this instance, are very real). 

And now, the part of the program I like to call, "Things You Only Hear in Gitmo." 

1. Mommy! Mommy! It's 5:25 am! We still have power! Mommy! Mommy! It's 5:45 am! We still have power! Mommy! Mommy! It's 5:55 am! We still. . . oh oops, there goes the power!---heard on Saturday, the day of our scheduled six hour power outage for some sort of "grid repair." When you don't pay for electricity, you really can't complain. And yes, H is still keeping farmer's hours and is up at the crack of dawn. 

2. Yes, I know the commissary has been out of cream cheese for weeks, but I'll buy or barter for some.---entry in last week's roster. We've also been out of eggs, butter, sour cream, and bacon (whaaa!) for almost the entire last month. 

3. I'm becoming a hoarder. My daughter squealed in delight at sausage patties, and next thing I know, we've caused a mini riot in the frozen food section as everyone was grabbing what was left. ---coworker discussing the grocery shortage in this place. 

4. You know, there was a six foot boa slithering across your front yard a couple of weeks before you moved in. --- a neighbor, to us. Yikes! 

5. You need to dump that toad. Damn things will kill your dogs. ---neighbor telling me to get rid of the evidently poisonous toad that's taken up with the plumeria. 

6. You still living on Fred Flintstone furniture? --- lender furniture supplied to every single newcomer by housing, which is rattan furniture from the Philippines and the most uncomfortable furniture I've ever sat on. Also---heard at least 5 times----You know, if you get several boxes and flatten them, put them under the cushions, that Fred Flintstone furniture is almost comfortable. 

7. After six months, people go crazy. You gotta plan a trip off-island.---advice given, almost verbatim, from at least 5 people since we got here. 

8. Yeah. . . that. . . it's on the barge. ---my furniture, my clothes, the essential grocery items we never seem to have, you name it. 

9. We are surrounded by fish, and there are chickens running all over the place, yet you can't get fresh fish, poultry, or eggs in this place.---wise words spoken by a coworker. Can someone explain???? 

10. Oh. My. God. Did you get caught in that traffic jam? I bet I waited five minutes before I could get on Sherman Ave. ----heard often, usually after a movie lets out or on payday at the NEX. 

11.Mom! Stop speeding! You're going to get a ticket! ---my kids screaming at me from the backseat as I'm going 30 mph. Do you know how difficult it is to drive only 25 mph everywhere you go???

12. Oh yeah, I think the mail is only running Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday now. Oh wait, that's right, maybe it's just Tuesday and Thursday. Or maybe just Tuesday. ----our bizarre mail schedule which changes weekly. Does anyone know when the post office is really open or when mail runs here? 

and my favorite

13. Let's go to the beach! ----365 days of fun in the sun. Can I tell you how much I love living in the Caribbean???? 

Monday, November 26, 2012

That Time I Dug Up a Stranger's Yard; or, Tread Lightly

They don't call kids today "digital natives" for nothing. My newly 7 y/o figured out how to turn on locator services for my iPad (why? why not!), so now the Apple Store thinks I'm in Jamaica and no matter how many times I turn it off, restart the iPad, etc., I am now and forever in Jamaica.

At least according to Apple. 

What this means, until he figures out how to fix it, is that I can't download apps because "this app is not available in Jamaica." Thank you, Apple. Thank you, 7 year old. 

CUTEST little plant ever---an ornamental miniature pineapple. Grows from a long stem coming out of a spiky, aloe-like plant. You can eat them, but it's a whole lotta work for a little bit of nothing.

One of my very favorite things to do on earth is garden. I can have a terrible, rotten, no good, very bad day, and an hour digging dirt and pulling weeds makes me forget all about it. I was more stressed out and saddened by having to get rid of all my plants---some which were cuttings from family plants, others I've had for over 10 years (and one I've had since college)---than I was about getting rid of furniture, cars, appliances, etc. So when I arrived and saw all the beautiful native species, and then my sad little neglected yard, I was pumped about getting my hands dirty and making it pretty.

But, alas, the NEX doesn't sell plants. And the nursery, like many other things here, was hard hit by Hurricane Sandy. It's usually open every other Saturday and the plants are native (and FREE!!!), but there are so few choices that I feel guilty taking anything at all.

I did kinda sorta run into a huge plumeria at my work with a large pair of scissors. Took a cutting, let it dry, put it in a pot, and we'll see. Who knows what will happen, since the biggest, baddest, meanest looking toad dug a hole and has taken up with the plumeria. Yep, they are cohabitating now in a very crowded pot. And I'm not real interested in taking it back.

A little problem solving never hurt anyone, and up for the challenge, I found plants, plants, and more plants---mostly thanks to a little Gitmo ingenuity which includes---what else?---recycling. What comes around definitely goes around in this place.

We have this thing here called "the roster." It's an email list and a way for people to get word out about items  and services for sale/barter and a place to inquire about such things. Think of it as Craigslist/Freecycle combined. Need piano lessons? Have lots of clothes your kids have outgrown? Want a petsitter while you jet away to Puerto Rico for the weekend? You can advertise it on the roster. About a week ago, someone leaving the island (and there is always someone leaving) advertised plants for sale.The roster is a real necessity in a constantly shifting place like Gitmo.

And that is how I got several succulents that are, one week later, doing great on my screened in back porch and my back door step. I even got a large pencil cactus---I had to abandon 2 nice sized ones in Texas, so that made me very happy. The plants were well-loved and well taken care of, and the next day I got a really sweet email thanking me for taking the plants because they know I will take good care of them. I could tell it pained the lady as much as it had pained me to give away her plants, so I was genuinely touched by her gratitude.

But that's not the cool part of the story.

As I was picking plants out from their back porch, the couple said, rather casually, "If you really like plants, we have two very large ones you are welcome to dig up out of our yard. We already know the guy moving in after us, and he's not a gardener."

I thought it was odd that someone I barely know is telling me to dig up trees out of a yard they don't own, but hey, when I recounted the story at work and three people at the same time shouted over each other, "Wait! Where do they live? Can I go with you? PLEASE," I knew that I was on to something.

Yep, when someone with a green thumb moves out, other people (sometimes strangers) go to their yard and dig up their plants. And not just things out of flower beds---we are talking small trees from the middle of people's yards.

So their offer has been gnawing at me, and I finally gave them a call to ask if they were serious. "Yes! Bring a shovel! If we aren't home, the gate is open." The fact my 14 y/o didn't even bat an eye when I said, "I'm going to the place that lends stuff to get a wheelbarrow and shovel, and then we are going to the house of some people I just met, and we are going to dig up their plants" speaks volumes about his expectations for weirdness with his mother.

So we packed up our shovels and rakes and implements of destruction, including a huge wheelbarrow with "Government Property" stamped on it that a rather large Jamaican working at Self-Service and I could barely lift together and fit in Pearl. The 14 y/o was a trooper---he helped heave and ho---not a small feat, since his hands were blistered from kayaking the bay that morning---until ultimately, the plant guy couldn't sit on his couch and watch Sunday football anymore while we tried to dig up his rocky backyard, and he came out to help.

Times like this, I'm happy that the speed limit is only 25 mph. 

Not only did he do most of the digging, he also gave us some gardening tools, several clay pots, a beautiful conch shell, and some fish.

That would be frozen fish. It's the second time since I've been here that someone has handed me a bag of fish. And one night this week, that will be supper.

The big plants/small trees are beautiful.  One is a plantain that actually produces fruit, and now sits outside my dining room window, and the other is a coral tree, which is in a perfect spot in the middle of the front yard.
Gitmo booty: sea glass and give away plants

As I was leaving the plant guy's house, he said, "You come here with nothing, you leave with nothing. Make sure you give everything you can away when you leave the island. It's the Gitmo way. And it's just stuff---you can't take it with you when you die."

That was just what I need to hear before our express shipment and our household goods get here---I'm hoping to pare down even more and prepare for a lifetime of treading lightly and leaving (almost) everything---starting with plants, of course---as we globetrot.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Back in Black; or, Hello, Nasty!

The buzzards are back!
Perched on the lamp post, right across from my house, sit the 2 buzzards I grew to like and miss and now see again every single morning. They stretch their wings, hang out, leave, and come back every day now.

I take it as a good sign that they don't follow me as I run around the 'hood

Stranger flying things include the scary animal that was flitting spastically around in my office. I seem to have many strange encounters with wildlife at work. Cute little curly tailed lizards love the tree outside the door. Then there was the fat hutia incident---and it was probably so fat because it eats the cute lizards. There is a HUGE iguana that lives on the grounds and is always near the parking lot. Then there was this thing. . . I opened my office door, and something large and black buzzed my head. Being from Texas, I'm thinking, "bat!"

But upon further investigation, it was just a moth. A big, mutant, black moth, the size of a mouse pad.
Of course, my son had gotten someone to help catch the bat, and by the time the man had pulled the entire book case away from my office wall, we had an audience. I'm really hoping everyone has forgotten about it over the weekend. I don't want to get a ribbing over the bat that was a moth.

He just looks like your average 7 y/o playing with the neighbor's cat. . . 

H used to spend so much time in the bathtub as a toddler, prune skin was the norm around bedtime. He would splash, flip, put his head under the water, blow bubbles, splash, and flip over again.
"Son, WHAT are you doing?"
"I'm practicing my merman moves."
As you all know, if you have mermaids, you MUST have mermans.

We spent the weekend in the water. Saturday and Sunday afternoons were spent snorkeling and swimming at Girl Scout Beach. We saw trigger fish, damsels, butterfly fish, tangs, and other amazing reef fish. There are brain corals bigger than a car. Sea fans that are 4 feet across. This would be after a cat 2 hurricane. Amazing what has survived, and I can imagine it was even more spectacular before Sandy.

The oldest kid is out snorkeling like crazy. We take turns going out with him, and he's really good at pointing out fish (and knows what they are). He's becoming a stronger swimmer every day. I love hanging out with him while swimming, and he is definitely his happiest in the water.

The youngest is, quite simply, a merman.

He takes a deep breath, dives down 5 or 6 feet, stays until he gets the shell or piece of sea glass he wants, and pops up like a cork.

Craziest thing I've ever seen.

I'm happy those bathtub training sessions paid off. I'm checking every morning for a fin or at least webbed feet.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Close Rodent Encounters of the Third (World) Kind; or, Forget Rats, We Own the Pearl of Guantanamo Bay

The start of the week was a sad one. My husband and I found out that one of our favorite people, Dr. Karen Austin, professor of Spanish at USM, had passed away. She was a great teacher, and we were lucky enough to become friends with her over our years in Hattiesburg. A few days prior, we were talking about how we really needed to look her up because she would get a kick out of us living here. Then I read in her obit that she was planning a family trip to Cuba. She's been on my mind all week, and when I had some nice quiet time at the beach today I thought about her. I think she would be thrilled we are here. And even though our paths wouldn't have crossed during her trip here, I know she would have loved Cuba.

My husband and I met at USM while studying abroad. (We would end up in Karen's classes together much later). Sometimes, at random moments, he will say, "You remember that time in Mexico that you almost petted a rat?"

While living and studying in Cuernavaca, Mexico, a group of us would go out to eat around 9 pm every night (standard dinner time there) and then go out for entertainment. Some nights it was dancing at a club, other nights it was listening to live bands. Most nights (okay, every night), it involved some libations. Perhaps it was the mariachi music, perhaps it was the yarda (or three) I had consumed. Or perhaps it is the fact my eyes will never be better than 20/40 with corrective lens. I saw a really fat cat, went to pet it, and realized right before I touched it that it was, in fact, a rat. A huge, disgusting, well-feed, really fat zocalo rat. I still have nightmares about that thing.

So today I had a zocolo rat flashback of sorts. We were running an errand at my work, when the kids and I heard a stirring in the landscape next to the door. Then I heard a big yelp, and then I saw it: the biggest, fattest, most disturbingly and freakishly large rodent ever. And it was headed straight for the husband who, as my children will attest, jumped right over that fat sucker. All while managing to keep on his flip-flops, mind you. That takes talent. Lousiana nutrias and Mexican zocalo rats ain't got nothing on Cuban Hutias. Affectionately known as "Banana Rats," these things are at least 20 times larger than a common rat. (They are called Banana Rats not because they eat bananas, but because their poop is huge and looks like little clusters of bananas). The thing waddled, its butt was so big.  It scurried into the water sewage drain, and hopefully it won't be waiting for me when I'm back to work on Tuesday morning. They are supposedly nocturnal, but who knows now that we've had a close rodent encounter of the third kind, and in the broad daylight.

By the way, to tell you the quality of life in the rest of Cuba, hutias are endangered species everywhere on the island but Guantanamo Bay. Same with boas and iguanas. That's because sadly, when you don't have enough food for you or your family, you will kill and eat just about anything.

Hutia pictures here: National Geographic (story on Guantanamo Bay wildlife)

On a whole different topic, we have been looking for a car since we got here. You don't have a car dealership or even a lemon lot on Gitmo---instead, you have to depend on word-of-mouth or people advertising their cars in the local paper. Ads go like this:  "92 Geo Metro, 180K miles. AC screams along with the radio. $5000 OBO." First, I'm not sure what that screaming is all about (that line was actually in an ad), and second, FIVE THOUSAND CLAMS for a hoopty ride? These are what are called "Gitmo Specials," and they are every where. Cars barely making it down the road, driven by their 5th or 6th or 20th owner, and getting by on a wing and a prayer.

So you can imagine our excitement when we found out about a government car auction taking place right here in Gitmo.There were busses, backhoes, tanker trucks, trailers, an old ambulance, and other perplexing items people seemed to want. There were several cute little electric cars (GEMs) and small Cushman micro-busses for sale. And then, there was the one and only REAL car at the entire auction---a 2002 Chevy Blazer.

Back in the day, almost 20 years ago, after Mexico (and fat rats) and Karen Austin's classes, I ended up marrying a guy with a Blazer. And five years later, we brought our first baby home from the hospital in that same car.

For sentimental and practical reasons, I was really happy when my wonderful husband won the Blazer. He was out in hot sun for several hours (and got a little sunburned), but he got the car. Not one but two people  (I'd say strangers, but seriously, there are so such things as strangers in a place like Gitmo) came up to us and said, "Wow, he got the pearl of the auction!"

And that is what we have. I wanted to name it Fidel, number one boy voted for N. Fidel, but Pearl won out.

Here's a picture of Pearl in front of our casa:

And for a nicer view, here are some pictures from yesterday's island adventures. It was Pearl's maiden voyage and this is where she took us. We really got crazy on the one stretch of road that goes up to 35 mph (fastest speed limit on Gitmo!) and she did fine. Yep, it's really that pretty here.

Pearl did great on her first mini-roadtrip.

The water is an amazing shade of blue here.

Can you see the lighthouse? Happy trails from Gitmo! 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly; or, Let's Do the Time Warp Again

Sometimes, I feel like I'm gonna party like it's 1999.

At least technology-wise. 

We have wireless at home, but we can't use it with voice over IP, so no Skype, Facetime, etc from home. We can use the free wireless at the library, coffeeshops, bowling alley, etc., but it doesn't work with my iPad 2 because of some compatibility issue. 

We have DSL for internet, so no high-speed stuff. Just to post a blog takes over an hour, because the internet constantly goes in and out. From 7 pm to 10 pm (or 1900 to 2200 hours), you can barely get on, and forget about any social networking sites during that time period. 

There is "high speed" internet available through the cable company, but there is a waiting list. I signed up and inquired about how long it would take, and the clerk just laughed and laughed. And laughed some more. I took that as a bad sign. 

No wireless at either school, either, and the internet is wonky there, as well. 

We also have power outtages. It's not unusual to come home and all the clocks are blinking. 

You can have a cell phone here, but only island-to-island. And by "island," I only mean GTMO. GTMO is NOT Cuba, by the way. I mean the 45 square miles that is GTMO. (More about how Guantanamo Bay is NOT Cuba for another blog). If you do have a cell phone, it cannot have a camera. Sprint has been great---they let military service members and anyone serving them overseas keep their phone numbers and phones, and they will reconnect us (without an extra charge) when we return for summer vacation. 

We have to use a land line to call back to the states. It's 50 cents to connect, and 9 cents a minute. At least that's much cheaper when I called Rick in S. Korea in the 90s ($8 to connect, around $2 a minute). We can't use Skype or Magic Jack to call from here, so that's the best price. It is what it is. 

Gas? The only gas station's pump broke a while back (before I got here in Oct), and it has not been fixed yet. For a while, you had to go to the station at the motor pool. At over $4 a gallon, you have no choice but wait (I waited an hour) to get gas from the only pump for civilian cars on base. There is now a tanker truck next to the outdoor theatre that has gas, so it's a bit easier.  But it's still expensive. And it's only available a few hours a day. 

I finally got my first piece of mail that wasn't a local bill. My mom sent H a birthday package and it took 2 weeks and a day to get here (Priority Mail). I have to have Christmas cards in the mail by Monday if they are going to get to the US on time. Needless to say, there will be no Christmas cards this year. 

U.S. Mail comes to my workplace since there aren't enough boxes at the PO for everyone, and as far as I can tell, there are only 2-3 days a week we get mail. It depends on whether or not a plane comes in that day. 

Speaking of planes, there are six flights a month: every Saturday, and every other Tuesday.  Those are military flights, which is what most people here take. There are flights on another airline to Jamaica, Puerto Rico, or Ft Lauderdale every week, so there are a few more getaway options. 

Daily, I feel like I'm back in the 1990s. I've been in a time warp. It can be summed in the bumper sticker on one of my neighbor's cars: "GTMO---You Can't Make This Sh*t Up." 

True that. 

Now, here's the thing. 

Last night, hubby and I went to the movie theatre. It's at the Lyceum, which is an open air theatre with movie seats (waterproof, of course), bleachers, or areas to bring your own chairs. The movie was a first-run movie (James Bond on opening night), and it was FREE, just like all movies. We're sitting here amongst contractors, Jamaican and Filipino workers, military personnel, civilians, all laughing together, oohing and aahing together, under the stars. There was a light breeze, it was perfect weather, and we kept looking at each other and saying, "Can you believe this?" We used to go to the drive-in movie theatre in Shelton, WA, and this was up there with that experience---but better, because we were under the stars instead of in our cars. Best movie experience ever. 

Every day starts with the Star Spangled Banner played over a PA system base-wide (Reveille). You stop everything until its over. People stop their cars, too. Same at sundown, when they play music as they are taking down the flag (Retreat). By the way, the Star Spangled Banner has the same effect on me as Amazing Grace and Taps---I tear up every time I hear it. It's some crazy Pavlovian response. So I get to tear up every day. Oh, and the movie starts with everyone standing at attention for it, as well. 

Men outnumber women here 5-1. I get "yes ma'am"-ed at least 5 times a day, never have to open a door for myself, and I like that. I was raised in MS. I'm a feminist and yes, I can open a door for myself (and I always open a door for other people---men and women---too). But I like men with manners. We call it "good home training" where I come from. My guys have been raised the same way, but it's nice that they see it in action daily here. 

Jamaicans and Filipinos are contracted to work many manual labor and hourly jobs here. They are the clerks at the fast food restaurants, the phone company, the cable company. They bag your groceries, cut your hair, pump your gas. They are the groundskeepers/landscapers all over the island. They work in almost every building. There is a very good Jamaican restaurant (The Jerk House) as a result of the influx of Jamaicans. Nothing like being greated by someone taking your order who shakes your hand, introduces himself, and says, "How can I help you sista?" and "How can I help you, brotha?" in that wonderful Jamaican accent. We are talking REAL Jamaican food with Scotch Bonnet peppers, not the U.S. version. Still spicy, but so, so much better. The Filipinos don't have their own restaurant (drat!), but you can get lumpia in the freezer section. They are the hardest working people on the island. I love to hear Tagalog or Jamaican pidgen in the grocery store, NEX, library, or businesses. It's like music every where you go. 

There's a saying on tee shirts here that's so true: "It's on the Barge." The barge from the US comes on Tuesdays, and every Tuesday is like Christmas up in the Commissary/NEX. You never know what they are going to get that week. If your mail/packages/car/household goods (that would be military lingo for all your stuff you are moving from the US) haven't made it, try again next Tuesday. The part to fix to one gas pump? It's on the barge. Your household goods you've been waiting for since August? They're on the barge. People laugh about it. It's a test in patience, and it's what bonds people here together---the ridiculousness of waiting a week for bacon. 

You can't make this sh*t up. 

Since living here, we've all spent a whole lot less time online and a whole lot more time playing cards. We can go to the beach 365 days of the year (and unlike parts of the U.S., you can here swim year-round). I'm looking forward to getting a tan again. I'm loving seeing my kids at my work every day. My neighbors mow my yard, lend me a car, and don't expect anything but a "thank you" in return (and when they say that they do it for all new people, they really mean it---everyone here has stories about someone doing the same for them). 

I'm loving life here. Much more to write about---the kids are finally in school, H had a birthday, we lost someone we both love back in the U.S., and we got a Gitmo Special! But the sun is calling, and two more beaches opened today, so even though the internet is actually working at this minute,  that will just have to wait.

Headed to the beach! And yes, that's a lighthouse in the distance. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cabin fever; or, If Idle Hands are the Devil's Workshop, We are Now in Hell

We heard this before we got here, and it's true: Gitmo is a great place to live, if you are an outdoors person.

One of our neighbors, now retired, told me an awesome saying from his days here with the Navy---at Guantanamo, you are either a chunk, a drunk, or a hunk. And believe me, you have every opportunity here to be a hunk, even if you are one or both of the first two when you arrive.

There are great roads for biking or jogging. Beaches for swimming and beachcombing. Water to kayak or sail. Trails to hike. Skate park. Basketball courts. Dozens of (shaded) playgrounds. A 5K almost every weekend. A golf course.

Which is all great. . . until you have a hurricane that messes everything up. Thanks to Sandy, the beaches have been closed to swimming and diving. The marina is closed for boat rentals. And since none of our things have gotten here yet, we don't have bikes (and I stupidly left my running shoes out of my suitcase, so they will be here in 6-8 weeks).

And it's been raining, so the (free!!!) outdoor movie has been a bust, as well.

Ladies and gentlemen, we officially have cabin fever.

It's one thing when it's just me, and I'm stuck indoors with a book. It's another with two kids who have been promised the beach since we started packing for the move, and a husband who has been cooped up with said kids for 3 weeks now.

We have been blessed with two kids who, at dinner time, have to have their names called out the front door so they'll come in to eat. Most afternoons, they are riding bikes, skateboarding, kicking or hitting a ball. I have been panicking since they landed because I knew they had very few options for activities due to the wacky weather.

We've been in the NEX 2-3 times a day since the kids got here. We ran into a colleague who is also dying of boredom. His two young kids, along with our youngest, entertained themselves for a while looking at birthday cards.

Yes, they were THAT bored.

Thank god for card games, even if I am a horrible loser.

THEN---the sun came out today, Cable beach opened for swimming, and we are no longer stir crazy.

Fighting the tide on coral and rocks is bloody business---I'm rather scraped up and I'll wear beach shoes from now on. But I got to swim in the ocean! And the kids have done that less than 10 times in their lives (less than 5 for the youngest), so I'm so happy that it was worth the wait. I am still limping from a nasty bump to my knee (bony knees + fast current + sharp coral = ouch!), but we finally got to go to the beach! And I now feel like we really live here.

Look at the farmer's tan on that skinny boy! 

And if you don't believe it was worth the wait. . . here are some pictures the hubby took today. :)

Friday, November 2, 2012

1 bomb + 2 boys + 3 days; or, Hail, hail, the gang's all here

October 30, the day before the guys made it in, we had yet another little distraction. An unexploded ordnance was found on the beach at the ferry landing, so it was announced that we'd be taking u-boats instead of the ferry to and from the airport on the leeward side of the bay to the landing on the windward side.

This caused me much stress, as although I'm not 100% sure what an unexploded ordnance is, I'm relatively positive that it's fancy Navy talk for some sort of bomb. Or explosive. Or something probably dangerous.

Ended up it was inert, and I am much relieved. Not just for safety reasons, but because I really thought we were going to be taking a German sub across the bay. "U boat" is more fancy Navy talk for a utility boat.

Additionally, the Goat Locker, found on all Navy bases, is also not an actual locker, or a place for goats. Ask an active duty sailor or veteran if you don't know what it is.

Home, finally! 

The boys were here just in time for Halloween, Gitmo style. There were dozens of kids walking around the neighborhood, dressed in fancy store-bought get-ups, cute homemade creations, and everything in between. We got more trick-or-treaters in one night than we had the entire ten years we lived in Texas, and we ran out of candy before the official lights-out. That's what happens when you go from living in a neighborhood mostly full of empty nesters and senior citizens to one chock full of families. Our little zombie had as much fun passing out candy as he did trick or treating. It's crazy being the newbie and everyone says, "Welcome to the island!" as soon as you walk up to their door. It's like Cheers. Everyone knows your name. Well, except they all aren't drinking.(And your name isn't Norm).  

Insert generic Gitmo picture here.

I'm hesitant to post any pictures of the area until I'm sure what I can post. Usually I'm all "question authority!" "fight the man!" (unless it's my children, and in that case, they should love and mind authority and the (wo)man). But there are legitimate security concerns, and therefore restrictions on photography, so it's a no-brainer until I know for sure. In the meanwhile, here is a generic picture of some generic hills on the base. Does this look like what you pictured Cuba looking like? It's a lot like the California desert, or western Texas. Cacti, brush, and when there hasn't been a torrential downpour thanks to a hurricane, it's rather brown. We are either steppe or desert climate. Not what I pictured for Cuba.

And yet, just a short distance down the road, you'll find beaches and beautiful blue water. There's usually a wide dichotomy between beach and desert climates---but yet they come together to create this place. It is weird. And it is beautiful.

If you are, indeed, Jonesing for more Gitmo pics, there is a facebook page with lots of pictures and info about here---Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

A couple of beaches are FINALLY open tomorrow for beachcombing. Still no swimming or shore diving---we're still cleaning up from Sandy. Kids are so disappointed in not being able to go to the beach, I'm thinking a day of beachcombing beats a day of NEX trips and cartoons any day.

Monday, October 29, 2012

It started with bacon; or, the best laid plans of mice and men

So far, everything has gone smoothly.
Relatively smooth, anyway. That is, if you don't consider being in a hurricane in a strange place by yourself, or being in mourning from losing your dog the day before you move to another country, it's all been quite splendid.
We've tried to keep the glass-full mentality on this whole move. Within five days of getting a job offer, we managed to jump through some difficult hoops rather unscathed and got passports, physicals, and pounds of paperwork completed. Within 3 weeks of a job offer, I was in Cuba. Whoa.
And today started with BACON.
I was eating with some of my new Gitmo friends Friday night, and I was bellyaching over the lack of bacon at the NEX. There is a ton of turkey bacon (really, who eats that stuff?), but for two weeks in a row I haven't been able to get REAL bacon because it has been sold out.
So when a co-worker came up to me first thing this morning and said, "Welcome to Gitmo!" while presenting me a gorgeous slab of bacon, I knew this was going to be a great day.
A happy bacon story is, of course, preshadowing that the other shoe is going to drop.
Texas freak cold front means right before boarding the plane this morning to come here, the husband is pulled aside and told he can't board the dog because it's two degrees too cold.
Then the Tuesday flight from Jacksonville NAS to Gitmo was rescheduled for the next day. They will stay in Jacksonville for two nights before arriving on Wednesday.
So Spike is now at his (human) grandma's house in Georgetown until some time that one of us can travel back to get him. I'm glad he has a home to go to with someone who loves him (and another dog that he loves, too), but after losing Katie, I'm going to be selfish and say I really miss my dog and wish he could be here. I'd already bought him food and treats, and I'm going to give them away so I don't have to see them every time I pass the pantry. Yep, I'm a little sad. Actually, I'm a lot of sad.
I would have a celebratory bacon sandwich tonight in anticipation of (most of) my guys' arrival to raise my spirits, except I left the damn package in the staff fridge. Doh! At least I didn't leave it in my desk drawer. . .
I've been grateful, I'm counting my blessings and my lucky stars, but I'm ready for everyone to be here. Like, right now.
On a random tangent, here's a picture of the Halloween decorations I put up for Henry. When I told him we're moving, he was very concerned that we would be getting here right at Halloween, and the number one thing he wanted to know was if I could get "some of those fake little headstones" to put in the Cuban yard. Thanks to my pal Beth, I got plenty, and instead of packing shoes, clothes, or other necessities, I made room for fake little headstones in my suitcase so Hank will be a happy boy.
Plus I now have bacon. And if anyone loves bacon more than I do, that would be Hank.
Thinking of my east coast friends and family. Stay dry, stay safe, and I'm crossing my fingers and toes that this storm fizzles out.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The birds and the bees (or an iguana); or, I'm still here

As a young child, my sister Susan would, without any hesitation, tell you that her favorite bird was the buzzard. Not a mockingbird (the Mississippi state bird), a parrot (mom's African Grey Rhett killed all love of parrots for us), or a blue bird (my favorite---thanks to a little Bukowski poem). Nope, she was unabashed in her love of the buzzard. Some people call it a turkey vulture----I call it a buzzard.
Here in Gitmo, there are tons of buzzards everywhere. My first few mornings here, I was greeted by two rather ominous looking ones perched on the lamp post across from my house. It took a few days, but I finally got used to them.
Then Sandy came, and just like that, they are gone. Never thought I'd say this, but I hope the buzzards are okay.
I kind of miss them.
I have often thought this place looks like Kauai, Hawaii---wild vegetation and lots of undeveloped land. It is beautiful. The only exception is there are no hens running around or roosters crowing all hours of the day and night.
Well, except for a pair I saw the day after the hurricane, taking their time crossing the road (and no, I don't know why the chicken crossed the road). I haven't seen them since---think my favorite buzzard pair has been reincarnated as a rooster/hen? It would be an improvement. . .
Then there are the spectacular hummingbirds outside the den window, loving all over the bright red hibiscus.
No pictures of birds (or bees---almost stepped on one of those this morning), but I did manage to get a picture of an iguana.
As for the hurricane---I'm not even sure what category it was, but my house is, indeed, hurricane-proof. Other than the one and only big tree in the yard that is now at a 30 degree angle, everything is fine. There were some large trees uprooted, a few houses and buildings damaged, and some structures on the beach and the ferry landing didn't fare well. But this place is well prepared for hurricanes---the Commissary went into hurricane mode the day of, with water, flashlights, non-perishables, and even generators replacing usual end-cap merchandise---and you wouldn't believe how fast different crews got the power up and running, the roads cleared, the commissary and restaurants open, and we even had school on Friday. I can't complain at all. My short-lived addiction to cable television is over since it's still out thanks to Sandy, but I can access the base news, and that's all I really need. Plus I did finally dig into that stack of neglected library books. Why am I just now reading Cassandra Clare?
Kids/husband/doggie will be here on Tuesday! I can't wait!!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Baching it; or, that one time I was in Cuba for a hurricane

It's been a long time since I've been bach-ing it. The exciting Bachelor Life when you don't have a phone or internet consists of watching lots and lots of mindless tv (I do have cable! And HBO!). I usually watch 2-3 hours a week on average, but now I am completely absorbed in the world of television. Cartoons, talk shows, the news, sit-coms, I watch it all. I watched a Tyler Perry movie last night, not because it was good (if you've seen one, you've seen them all), but because it was more exciting than laundry. While all of America was watching the last presidential debate, I was watching "Rosemary's Baby" for the 100th time. It was on the Armed Forces Network. Of course. What else would you expect during the debates???

On a more exciting note, it's hurricane season, y'all.


Sometime in the next 24 hours, a hurricane named Sandy is coming this way. (I keep having visions of John Travolta singing in Grease when I hear that name---"Sandy, can't you see, I'm in misery").

Jim Cantore has NOT shown up, so I'm not too worried. Neither are the people who have been here a while. Sure, I bought my hurricane-kit supplies (flashlight, water, food, etc), and I'm not stoo-pid, so I will be taking precautions, not doing anything crazy, etc. I've done this before, and it is what it is. And as an extra bonus, our house is in a newer complex and it is "hurricane proof," so we don't evacuate. (Those of you who have actually lived through a hurricane can stop laughing now, since there really isn't such a thing).

I am sad to think that The Most Interesting Man in the World will probably not make it to the NEX tomorrow (see my previous post if you have no clue). I have picked out several good library books, I have extra batteries in case of power failure and I have to read by flashlight, and I have managed to meet more neighbors in less than a week than in 10 years of Texas, so I do have people I can hang out with once it (literally) blows over. School's out tomorrow, but we are slated to come back on Friday.

And that's how they do hurricanes here in Cuba.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

First Dispatch; or, You Don't Get This in Texas.

Hola from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, our new home!
Yesterday I arrived around 1 pm (that would be 1300) and got to see much of the area. There are tons of iguanas here. And by iguanas, I mean huge, scaly creatures, not those homely little reptiles they sell at Petsmart (bless their little hearts). I don't have a camera yet, so just trust me when I say they are gargantuan. Or google "Guantanamo Bay" and "iguanas" (ignore the fact I am a librarian and just google it). Being from Mississippi, I thought the first one I saw was a little alligator. Yes, they are that big.
Anywho, yesterday I got to experience traffic stopping to let an iguana cross the road. I thought it was cute. In a few months, I probably won't think it's so cute.
You don't get iguana crossings in central Texas.
Also, "the actor playing the 'Most Interesting Man in the World' is coming to the NEX!" according to a sign outside the NEX/Commissary today. Not only do we get first-run movies at the outdoor theater for FREE every single night (yep, gratis), but we have celebrities at our grocery store.
Let's see HEB match that for awesomeness!
And now a big Hee-Haw style shout-out to my friends and family in Monticello, Mississippi, population 1,726 (SA-LUTE!). Growing up in a small town prepares you for a lifetime of creativity and resourcefulness when you have limited shopping options. I read dozens of bulletin boards, blogs, and forum postings about Gitmo before my arrival, and many folks lament the lack of proper shopping choices. There is only one grocery store (the Commissary) and one store for almost everything else (the NEX) and they are in one building. (Washington folks, think of a mini, mini, mini Fred Meyers). True, the options are limited, but really. . . the people complaining need to get a life. There are options. If you haven't lived in a really small town, you don't know that just the fact you have options is a plus. For the millionth time in my life, I will now declare that living in a small town will train you for living almost anywhere. And the people are nicer. If you don't believe me, visit Monticello, Mississippi, one day.
The speed limit tops out at 25 mph, internet wireless is excruciatingly slow, and there are 20 instead of 60 types of cereal. AND the sun is shining, the wind is blowing, the sea air is refreshing, and after I get off the internet at the public library (which has a cute children's room and an AMAZING selection of YA and adult literature, by the way), I'm headed for one of the local beaches to check things out. My neighbor has lent me a car (and also made sure I had lender furniture, linens, kitchen things, and food in my fridge). People are just that nice here.
So far, island life is really, really rough. *wink wink*
Can't wait until the 30th, when the boys all get to take the beautiful ferry ride across the bay and see our new home. Thanks to all of you for the well wishes, prayers, positive thoughts. And the advice from you peripatetic types has been invaluable. Thanks for being my inspiration and paving our way here!
XOXO, lori