Sunday, September 20, 2015

Crabby Days; or, Let's Pretend This is Normal

And now the latest addition of Let's Pretend This is Normal.

Exhibit A: I've got crabs. Lots of crabs.

They like to do things like tip my tacky yard art over. See my "gazing ball?" I don't even know what the point of these things is. I have a nice metal planter and I can't manage to keep a plant alive inside of it, so it's now home to this blue bowling ball-sized glass ball. It's quite heavy. And thanks to a blue land crab, it's always on my front door step (next to piles of banana rat poo).

I have to fight crabs sometimes to get in my classroom. They are small and feisty---they put up their little crabby claws and run towards me, like they are going to take me down. I pick them up, move them off the sidewalk (so nobody steps on them and squishes them---sadly, it does happen), and an hour or so later, do it again. And again. All day long, they keep sideways walking into the wall by my door, and I'm always moving them to the grass. It's like a crazy game, where a crab is getting the last laugh.

(Or maybe, just maybe, Island Fever has officially made me crazy).

Either way, this is the new normal.

Exhibit B:
We also have a major food crisis. McDonald's, one of our eight fine eating establishments (we also have Windjammer/Pizza Hut, O'Kelly's, Bayview, Jerk House, Taco Bell, Triple B, Subway), will be closed for six weeks. The high school kids can no longer eat at the Galley, our mess hall (and best eating establishment here, in my opinion) for a discount price. The buses no longer take kids to the Galley or anywhere else off campus for lunch. So we now have even less options.

Am I sad? Not really. It is unhealthy junk food, after all (as are about half of our food choices here). But their chicken wings and sticky rice are my FAVORITE go-to meal/comfort food. We are small and isolated, but our McDonald's secret menu item is the BEST I've had anywhere else we've lived.

Of course, I've eaten at McDonald's here more in 3 years than in the 40+ years of my life combined pre-GTMO, so who knows what super-secret items are really out there. All I know is we have even less places to go for a quick meal. The fact that I would even consider fast food a "meal" is a new normal, too. 

Also Exhibit C: I recently berated a childhood friend on facebook for killing a huge tarantula he encountered while working in Equatorial Guinea. Did I mention it was huge? I wouldn't have blinked an eye if this had happened 3 years ago, but my new normal is loving tarantulas and making sure they aren't unnecessarily killed.

There's D: 

I feed iguanas hibiscus flowers for fun. Just letting that sentence percolate in my head blows my mind.

I call her "Mama" because she has baby iguanas running all over school. I'm afraid a boa has eaten some of them; let's hope that the remaining ones can outrun it and grow up to be other cute iguanas. I am glad that a female has taken up at school instead of a male, since they are SO much friendlier. 

So feeding wildlife hibiscus blooms is my normal. I am not kidding when I say that even on the roughest, toughest, most exhausting of days, I feel 100 times better by just watching her walk around our school atrium. 

And finally, E: 
The Map of Lost Map has THREE new pins, thanks to our ever-exciting mail service. Sometimes we get it three times a week; sometimes, three times a month. It's always like Christmas up in here. I am still waiting for a package I mailed in July to get to GTMO (and it's September). It's been stuck in Customs in Chicago forever now. 
I still can't understand how 09588, the USS Truxtun; 09009, Ramstein, Germany; and 09357, Kuwait City, Kuwait, look anything like 09593, but whatever. My mail is well traveled and my map contains lots of pins of places I have never been (but would like to visit one day). 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

If You Give a Student GTMO Internet; or, Let the Circle of Hope Spin

9 am, Saturday morning:

If you give an online student GTMO internet, she is going to wait. And wait.

While waiting the 5 minutes to log into the computer, she will get up and make a cup of coffee.

While standing around waiting for the coffee to brew, she will get creamer. She will notice that the fridge needs cleaning, and will throw out 4-5 containers of leftovers. She has good intentions, but nobody ever actually eats the leftovers.

After cleaning the fridge, she will go back to the computer. Success! She will now log into the college Blackboard site. She will wait. And wait. And wait.

While sitting around waiting, she will sip her coffee, go to put the empty cup in the dishwasher, and realize the dishes are clean. She will unpack them and pack the cup along with the leftover containers that were in the sink.

She will notice that the "fresh" fruit she bought yesterday has attracted fruit flies. Those suckers are multiplying like crazy. Where the heck do they come from? Were they IN the fruit when she bought it???

She will take the leftovers and fruit and put them in the garbage. She tires of the buzzing, so walks four houses down to the closest dumpster.

While walking back through the yard, she will notice that plants need watering. She will turn on the hose, and mid-watering, realize she has a cloud of bugs surrounding her. They are now in her nose, ears, and eyes. They are multiplying 10 times faster than the fruit flies. She will go inside to get bug spray to kill the mosquitoes and no-seeums.

While in the laundry room getting the bug spray, she will notice that the laundry needs to be changed. She will put the wash in the dryer and the clean clothes on the couch.

On the way to finish watering the plants, she will check the computer. Nope, the spinning Circle of Hope is still doing its thing. Not yet!
It's the Circle of Hope!! Let it spin!
She will water the plants, come inside, and change her sweat-soaked shirt. Did you know that you can sweat a gallon in less than 10 minutes? If you live in GTMO, of course you know that. She will check the computer again---we have connection! Now she will log into the page for the assignment. She will wait, and wait, and wait, so she decides to fold the clothes on the couch.

While putting up the clean clothes from the couch (okay, just the towels---the rest of the clothes will sit on the couch all day), she will notice that the bathroom mirror needs to be cleaned. She will go get the Windex from under the kitchen sink.

While in the kitchen, she will unpack the second load of now-clean dishes. She will get the Windex and go back to the bathroom.

While cleaning the mirror, she will think about brushing her teeth but then realize, damn, I'm hungry! She forgot to make breakfast and now it's lunchtime. She goes to the kitchen to make a smoothie and checks the internet. Not yet!!

While making a smoothie, she realizes that she is out of yogurt. The grocery store is out of yogurt. Oh well, who needs yogurt in a smoothie?

The smoothie becomes a margarita. She now checks the internet with drink in hand. We have connection! Again! And now she goes to attach the assignment she worked on the night before, all while off-line.

She finds the file, hits "attach," and waits. And waits. And waits. And drinks. And forgets to make lunch. Who needs a sandwich when you have a margarita?

And decides to go outside to wait with her margarita. The Commissary never, ever runs out of tequila or triple sec, although it's hit-or-miss with the limes. Or yogurt. Or onions, and most fresh produce, Coke Zero, and many dairy products. Wow, it's hot in the hammock! Maybe it's time for another margarita.

After another margarita, she will go back to the hammock and. . . ZZZZzzzzz. Wow, it's a magical hammock. Within a few minutes of sitting in it, she has mysteriously fallen asleep.

In an hour, she will wake from her nap. She had dreams of fast internet. She goes inside and checks the internet.

Not yet!!! Dreams don't come true!!! And now she has weird diamond-shapes from the hammock all over her legs. This is as good an excuse as any to not go to the Commissary to get something to cook for dinner.

She decides to switch the laundry again. She takes clothes to the kids' rooms and realizes they need to be vacuumed. She tries to find child 2 to beg him to come home and vacuum. He is in a tree. A BIG tree. She will water more plants, talk a 9 year old out of a huge tree, do ANOTHER load of laundry, clean the remains of the margarita carnage (okay, drink the rest), and think about what she would have cooked, had she not sat in the hammock or had 3 margaritas for lunch. She will come back and check on her assignment.

We have confirmation!!

(Is it really 5 pm already?)

And just like that, that's how you spend 6-8 hours doing a 5 paragraph assignment online.

This semester marks the 8th and 9th online classes I'm taking here in GTMO.

Of course, I am crazy. I am also notoriously cheap and refuse to pay $300 a month for about 1/10 of the speed we got in the States. We are on the even worse plan. Think Dial-Up from the 90s. Now think even worse than that.

Why am I torturing myself? I'm taking various education/technology classes so I can add more teaching certifications. You can either complain about not getting a transfer, or you can do something for if/when it ever comes again. . .

With all apologies to Laura Numeroff, that's basically how I roll most Saturdays and Sundays here in La Isla Bonita.

Part of my survival plan for 2015-16---I'm teaching 7th, 9th, 11th, and 12th English AND Yearbook, to give you an idea of the insanity that is my job---is to go to the beach at least once a week. I went once last week, so I need to go again this week. I can slip out to the beach, come back, and my weekly essay assignment is still loading.

When not going to the beach, I also do yoga, watch the news, sometimes read a book, and on weekends when the internet is even slower than I thought humanly possible, I can do all three. The world's a little slower here sometimes, but the paradox of GTMO life is when you slow down, you will be amazed how much you can accomplish.