Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Too Many Questions; or, I'm Still Not Hanging With Fidel

I  have been so good about posting about once a week, but throw in our RAT trip, and BAM! I have fallen off the wagon.

Here is my first of many posts about being back in the Real World. Hopefully I'll be back on track soon.

There's a crazy bird in that Cuban tree.
I'm missing the banyans while in the U.S.

Being in a small, isolated base means that you have to travel to the United States for certain services you can't get in GTMO.

In just the first week I was back on US soil, I managed to get fitted for two pairs of glasses, got a much-needed haircut, and had a much-overdue mammogram.

You can get a haircut at GTMO, by the way, but the other two things I cannot do there.

Any time you go into a place for an appointment, you have to fill out paperwork. It's just part of dealing with insurance, etc. I will never, ever take for granted again how easy it is to fill out said paperwork once I have moved overseas.

You know that section you have to fill out about your address, employer, etc?

Try explaining to a stranger that you live in Cuba.

The conversation on my end goes something like this:

Well, my address is FPO, AE, which is Fleet Post Office, Armed Forces Europe. I actually live overseas. 

In Cuba. 

Yes, Americans can live in Cuba, as long as it's on the military base there. There is a small Naval base that's been there for over 100 years. 

No, I'm not military. 

It's funny you asked. I am a librarian and teacher. I work at the school. 

Yes, there is a school there. There are hundreds of families on the base. 

No, I haven't met Fidel. 

It is safe. Seriously. It is the safest place we've ever lived, hands down. 

No, I don't get to speak Spanish everyday. I do, however, speak it. 

No, I can't buy cigars there. There is still an embargo. 

Yes, I hear that Havana is beautiful and there are many old cars there. Again, there's that crazy embargo. And no, I cannot ever, ever leave the base to go to the rest of Cuba. 

At this point, either the person catches on that I live at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, also known as "Gitmo," or I have to tell them. Then things sometimes get rather funky. For example:

No, I don't work at the prison. 

My job has nothing to do with the prison. 

No, there are no children at the prison. When I said I teach at a school, I really meant a school. Like for children. Not for adult prisoners. 

No, I haven't been there. Like I said, I don't work there, and you can't just randomly show up for a tour or anything. 

I really don't have an opinion about it. 

I really don't know if it is Obama's fault that it is still open. You may want to contact your Congressperson over that one. 

Like I am going to have a conversation about politics and give my personal opinion about Gitmo with a total stranger. . .

It is bizarre. And it happens EVERY TIME I have to go to an appointment that requires some paperwork.

So for my last appointment?

I'm from Mississippi. I'm just visiting relatives.

And thankfully I didn't have to give my Cuban address.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Yankee War Candles and Cuban television; or, From South Korea to GTMO

I've done a great job of only buying what we need at the NEX in preparation for summer vacation next week.

But how can you resist a cute 8 y/o boy who tells you that your GTMO special, well, stinks, and you need a Yankee Candle car air freshener for it?

A friend in Germany has observed that those Yankee car air fresheners seem to be EVERYWHERE on overseas American bases and used by a large number of Americans. It's true---you can't avoid them---there is always an end cap of them on display. Son 2 picked up the following air freshener and said, "Look mom, it's a Yankee War Candle! It smells like war!! Let's get the War Candle!"
Nothing says "Patriotic!" like a candle air freshener
that smells like "Midsummer's Night." 

So that's how I ended up with a really smelly War Candle hanging from the mirror of Pearl.

Even though I'm not in Pearl but a few miles a day (it's a very, very small base), I do manage to listen to Cuban radio every chance I get. Sometimes they surprise me with American music, like Whitney Houston ("I will always lub you"). About a week ago, I took Son 2 to Glass Beach and on the 15 minute stretch from the house, we listened to part of an album by Coldplay.

I'm sort of "eh" about Coldplay, but I did like that the Cuban station was playing an album in its entirety. If you are old enough to remember 1970s radio, you remember when stations would play side one of a record album, pause to turn the record over---the DJ perhaps saying a few words during the break---then continue with the entire second half. It's how I first heard Led Zeppelin as a kid (thank you ZZQ in Jackson, Mississippi).

A few days later, my Cuban station was playing Bon Jovi's "Slippery When Wet." It was a nice slice from high school so I took the long way home (still only 15 minutes or so), and sang "Living on a Prayer" at the top of my lungs, much to the annoyance of my 8 year old in the back seat.

A few days later, I tuned in to my now-favorite Cuban station, and what album are they playing?

Something by Michael Bolton.

Michael freakin' Bolton.

Ugh. So much for Cuban radio.

H has an ancient television set in his bedroom that my husband picked up in South Korea when he was stationed there way back in 1995. It works great and is small enough to fit on a dresser, so he watches movies on it. Unlike our new television sets, his also has an antennae, so it picks up Cuban television. He comes home every day excited about what's on "my Cuban t.v.," as he calls it. Most days after school it's Garfield (en español, !Claro que sí!), but oftentimes it's the news or beísbol, the Cuban national sport.  The husband has taken it to work so he can watch the World Cup on it since they don't have cable t.v. there.

Yanks (Americans, not the Candles) watching a Cuban television station broadcast of Argentina and Switzerland playing fútbol on a South Korean produced television. . . sometimes you just have to love how things work out in this crazy world.