Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Sh*t my GTMO says; or, Happy 3 Year GTMO-versary

Things only heard or said in GTMO:

You don't want to go to Ferry Landing Beach yet. They still haven't brought back the sand the storm blew away. 

I'm sorry I'm late. There was a traffic jam on Sherman because 2 male iguanas were fighting and wouldn't budge. 
Can't sit down yet. That's the iguana that likes to beg for food. 
We had a scorpion in our light fixture/tarantula in our garage/cane toad in our plants/banana rat in our engine block/feral cat on our patio/boa in our backyard/crab in our toilet.

You live in Nob Hill? That's like living the in country. It takes at least 10 minutes to get to your house from the NEX. That's got to be rough. 

Don't tell anyone, but the Commissary has plain yogurt/sour cream/eggs/butter/bacon/fresh vegetables. And if you hoard what's left, I won't tell anyone. Just let me borrow something if I need it. 
Can't leave yet. An iguana is in my fin bag. 
Amazon Prime is amazing! It only took 2 weeks for my package to get here! 

I'm so tired of explaining to people how we can't leave the base/can't drive to Havana/can't eat Cuban food/can't buy Cuban cigars or rum/still have to abide by the embargo/don't speak Spanish here. 

Wha g-wan, mon/ma brudda/ma sista! 
Every ting crisp? 
Can't mow the yard yet. Got to wait for the iguana to move along.
Just walk to my house and I've got wine. I NEVER run out of wine. 

We don't have cabs. We have safe ride. It's free. 
We don't have cell phones. We use pay phones. They're free. 
We don't have a movie complex. We have an outdoor movie theater. It's free. 
Can't leave yet. There's an iguana in my fin bag. Again. 
Today is Surf -n- Turf. I'll save you a place in line. Make sure you bring your $5.55. 

Subway is out of bread. 
Taco Bell is out of meat. 
Pizza Hut is out of cheese. 
Can't drive yet. Got to wait for the iguana to cross the road. 
Do you think you can die from inhaling too much DEET over a period of a few years? 

I lost my kid. I think he's in a tree with your kid. 
Your kid's not with my kid? Well, I'm sure they'll be home by dark. 

I saw a manatee/shark/octopus/ray on my last dive! 

What's the best way to cook fresh conch/lion fish/snook/lobster? 
Can't park there. There's an iguana in the way. 
I'm pretty sure you won't die if you eat expired eggs/yogurt/milk/meat. 

Kids in the States are boring. They sit on their cell phones all day. 

Be home by Colors!!
Can't speed here. Iguana crossing!
Happy 3 Year GTMO-versary to us!! And THANKS to all of you who have kept up with our crazy adventures along the way and for all of your support. XOXO

Saturday, October 17, 2015

It's Complicated; or, Slow and Steady

Picture of Son 2 taken by Son 1. Great capture of his cowlick!

I'm sitting here in bed, sick with what docs here call "the GTMO crud." Or probably that's what it is. To make a long, complicated story short, the hospital no longer accepts civilian insurance and we have to file our own claims. We have thousands of dollars (not exaggerating) of claims that were either never submitted or were coded incorrectly from the last 3 years, so I am terrified of going to the hospital for an appointment because there is no telling how that bill will turn out. Instead, I'm treating myself with every OTC pill or cough syrup for a cold, and hoping that rest will heal what ails me.

Sometimes what is considered normal in the real world---like going to a doctor when you are sick---is just difficult here.  Things are just unnecessarily complicated.  And yes, I'm aware that I've used the word "complicated" in two paragraphs in a row---because that's how I feel about my relationship with GTMO. It's complicated.

When I start to bitch, complain, rinse and repeat, my husband says, "Do you regret coming here? Do you want to go back?" 

And the answer is always, "No." 


Life has slowed down since we moved from Texas. A lot. No more hour-long commutes. No more hundreds of dollars in tollroad bills. No more weeks where my husband and I were lucky to sit down to dinner 2 times together. We celebrated our 20th anniversary nine months after moving here, and this is honestly the first place we've been able to spend so much time together. 

And we still like each other. 

With kids, it's a mixed bag. I have been disappointed in times at the number of online classes my oldest has had to take (at any other post with decent internet, this wouldn't be an issue). But there are little things, too, that make up for it. Last year he got to travel to DC in the middle of a snow storm for a Model UN conference. He represented Cuba (oh, the irony) and had a great time, and was recognized at the conference for his hard work. In our larger school in Texas, he would not have had that opportunity. This week, a music group called The Plain White Ts came to GTMO. (They sing "Hey There, Delilah" and "Rhythm of Love.") They came to school to play with the current and former guitar students. About 15 kids, including Son 1, got to play with professional musicians. He was nervous but absolutely loved it. Again, you don't get an experience like that in a large Texas school.

I love not having a house payment or a car payment. I love being homeless. I love my short commute, and I'm learning to not hate shopping at our one and only store. It's a battle, and some weeks I hate it more than others, but it is what it is and you get what you get (and you don't throw a fit). 

Today I got candy corn for the second time in 4 Halloween seasons here in GTMO. I felt like a rockstar at the checkout. Later on, as I was sitting in bed, typing away and trying not to hack up a lung, Son 2 was speaking to me in Spanglish and showing me funny Pokemon videos. We just chilled out together most of the morning. In eight short years, I will helplessly watch him grow up and move away, much like I am going through with my senior this year. I'm going to be selfish and say that as a mom, this place has been good for me. I have been lucky to work at both of my kids' schools these last 3 years. I'm thankful for the days my high schooler stops by my room and says, "Hey, Mom, you want to go to lunch together?" I don't have to take off a half day of work and drive 30-40 minutes to make it to my kids' assemblies anymore. I've gotten to see them interact with their classmates and teachers. I know the minute they've done something wrong, but being a teacher's kid myself, I try not to overreact until I hear their side of the story (Okay, that one's still hard for me---"the teacher's always right" is how I was raised).

Once you've lived a crazy, fast-paced life, and then step away to a slow-paced life, you realize that you've missed out on a lot of your kids' lives. I feel fortunate to have time with them, which is something worth the hassles and complications. I need to learn to breathe and deal with unreliable mail and shortages of fresh food, and realize I can live without those things---one day, hopefully sooner than later, we'll move to where we get all of those things and more, but we won't always have our 2 boys around for sharing candy corn or lunch dates. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Blustery Days of Our Lives; or, Sands Through an Hourglass

In the words of Pooh, it was a "rather blustery day." Make that two or three of them.

For a few days, we were at what's known as "COR III" for hurricane readiness. COR III this time around meant we were not in the direct line of the projected hurricane, but we got a tremendous amount of wind and rain. 

Watching hurricanes is always in the back of our minds since we got here; after all, Hurricane Sandy hit a few days after I arrived. 

According to Weather Underground, in September we got 0.41 inches of rain. August we got 0.8 inches, and July, 0.26". And on and on. You get the picture. For the last year, the forecast has been: arid, dusty, with a rather miserable amount of humidity. Two days before the storms hit, the heat index was 104º.

Then we got our first measurable rainfall in over a year. It was exciting. The kids at school literally jumped out of their seats and to the door before I could say anything. One student pointed and kept stammering, "Whhhhaaaat is thaaat?" I am serious. That stuff falling from the sky is rain, y'all! Everyone driving Jeeps, the unofficial vehicle of GTMO, realized that they were going to have a very wet ride home. Roads and sidewalks were temporarily flooded, the ceiling in my classroom started leaking, and sandbags were out. I'm happy about the change in temperature, but I can do without the howling wind and sideways rain.

Sirens go off and we get base-wide announcements on a PA system, or as most people here call it, "The Big Voice." The problem is you can't understand it. At neither work nor home can I actually hear it for the pouring rain. It's like Charlie Brown's teacher: Wuh Wah Wah wuh wuh wah.  Like so much here, you depend on word of mouth. People are very dependable about letting everyone know what's going on. 

Preparations included moving potted plants and anything else that can fly around the backyard onto the back porch and taking the bottles off of the bottle tree. My sweet little trees I transplanted from our Nob Hill house, including 2 that were from a cutting of the Truffula Tree, are now blown almost completely down. I'm going to wait until the rain passes to stake them back down again. 

Now for the aftermath---I'll put the bottles back out and stake up the tree when it's a little drier out.
The Commissary has been out of any edible produce for four days now. Supposedly we'll get some tomorrow. My son's SAT test this weekend has been put on indefinite hold; he couldn't take it Saturday because they couldn't unpack the barge container that housed the tests due to rain; Saturday they didn't unpack it due to wind, so he couldn't take it on Sunday, either. Now he is at the mercy of College Board as to if he can take it at all in October, or just scratch that and take it for November's test day (hopefully). Life is complicated when you are isolated and have freaky weather.

We did go for a ride around base, and stopped at Ferry Landing. Here is is, April 2013:
The sidewalk above has at regular intervals three stairs that go to the sand.

Or at least it did have sand. Here is one of the staircases this morning:

And here is Ferry Landing. Lots of big rocks, but no beach whatsoever:

They will bring sand back in, just like they did with Hurricane Sandy, and all will be normal (or as "normal" as you can be in a place where the beach washes away).

Today marks 3 years that we announced to everyone that we were moving to Cuba. It's been a crazy, wild ride. I didn't dream I'd live somewhere where keeping a hurricane kit is normal, or running out of basic food items is normal. I didn't think I'd be chasing iguanas or tarantulas at work, or dodging huge rodents in the road at night. It's been in many ways a new life, one of frustrations and joys, disappointments and life-long friendships. The one thing it's never been is boring.