Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Every base has it's quirks

Photo by Tere Cornelio

I'm pretty sure that most people who have been here too long for their taste and many who have never been here at all would vote that being secluded to the base would have to be the number one thing not to like about being stationed in GiTMO, Cuba. But think about it, once you settle into a routine in your new home, new surroundings, the kids go back to school, you go to work, etc... how far do you really go away from home and how often do you do that? Granted I can't get up and go visit my friends in the next town, nor could I just get in the car and visit family members (I'm not really helping, am I?) but I could plan to leave on military flights that cost next to nothing so I do have some options. I could even spend the money and buy a pricey ticket, however, I'd rather wait for that Space A seat.

I have found many things that bother me about being here and yes, not seeing friends and family is one of them.

Also on this list --

1. I have to use a calling card to call anywhere off island; but they are easy to get and they do save lots of money.

2. I am limited to the shopping experience as we only have the Navy Exchange and it is not very big at all (I have plenty to say about the NEX, later); but I am a friend of online shopping and planning trips off island for the simple purpose of going shopping.

3. it is pretty dry - rain is a rare thing, so water is controlled; but the temperature is tropical, it is always beautiful and the homes have central AC!

4. mosquitoes--ugh! Bring on the deet-free bug repellent, any tips on plants that repel mosquitoes would be appreciated; still working on this one!

However, there so many things to like and LOVE:

1. The people -- I am so thankful to everyone who has made life so much easier for me and the kids. When we arrived, our home was furnished with temporary loaner furniture, every bed was made, we had towels and food to get us started. Within days everyone knew we were on island and since then we have been welcomed and invited to several activities that include the entire family and some only for us Moms!

2. The beaches are not resort like, they are very much in their natural state, except for some added beach huts with showers, phones, grills and tables. There's no carefully tended sand or restaurant or bar by the beach. What you have is sea glass, pretty rocks, sea shells and a lot of fun. The water is clear, cool, and in many areas shallow so the kids can play without being swept away by the waves :-)

3. We have a mass transit system throughout the base so you can walk, bike, or ride without ever using your car - It's Free!

4. The Marina, where you can rent boats, the pool, gym(where I plan to teach spinning), the sports complex, the galley (they serve way too much food but it's pretty cheap and yummy and someone else cooked it!)

5. Snorkeling, scuba diving, boating.... I'm sure there's plenty more but I've only been here about 10 days.

So far, it still feels like a summer vacation and I feel like I need to start packing up the gear and heading home. It will soon hit me that I'm here for a good 30 months and I'm pretty sure that during this time there will be many things that will annoy the heck out of me but the annoyance will be washed away with a little salt water from the beach! I can't complain.

Have a fantastic year 2010 everyone!! Stay safe, live, love and laugh more than you ever have before!


PS: if you want to see a really cool picture of an old Iguana, click here

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Is it really December?

We're not used to being this warm during the holiday season and to be honest, I do miss the white or almost white Christmas from the North East.  When is cold out you dress up a little more, you talk about playing in the snow and drinking hot cocoa. On this day we were not eating or drinking hot foods, we were not concerned about the right weather clothing to go outside and I, personally, was not worried about getting shocked upon entering or leaving the car.  This time we were concerned with having enough water bottles in our beach bag, realizing that some of us did not have a bathing suit and "where's the sun block?" "Do we have enough towels?"

Well that is definitely different for us.  I'm not ungrateful at all.  It was a very casual day of opening presents, playing outside in the sun, eating delicious, not-so-great for the waist foods, and going to the beach.  On Christmas Day? Really?  People in warm parts of the country do this all the time.  We had a great time playing in the waves, the water was crystal clear with shades of emerald green and deep blue.  We collected sea shells and sea glass just for fun and we ate ice cream for dessert.  The kids went to the outdoor movie theatre, "The Lyceum," after a heavy Christmas Dinner at the Galley.  

Everything about this day was different.  One thing remained the same.  We were together as a family and that is at the heart of every family, to be together celebrating life.  Soon everything will return to a normal routine.  Josh will go back to school in the states, the kids will go back to school here, the baby will soon start a 3 day a week, 3 hours a day program and I will busy myself with going to the gym (to work and play), finishing my degree, and unpacking, getting things organized and coming up with delicious meals that fit the environment, I think I'll be grilling A-LOT!.  Michael will continue to work as he has since he arrived in September and we will establish a routine just as we have in every duty station.

We have met many great people already and that makes this place very unique.  Everyone knows we are all here for the duration and we have to support each other because we've all been "the new family" at some point.  Those with more experience help the new ones get around, learn the ropes, and just be friends.  I will be forever grateful to those who came and made our beds, provided extra linen, towels, toys, and food.  The welcome letter went out to everyone so now we're not anonymous.  Thank you everyone for being so welcoming, that means a lot to all of us!

Enjoy the rest of the holiday season, where ever you are.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

We are here, finally

Well, we have finally arrived in GiTMO and I have to say that it is most definitely beautiful here. Speaking strictly from the two-day experience I can safely say that it is an easy place to love if you don't mind waking up to a view of clear blue water, mango trees in the back yard and a rope swing. The breeze is very tropical, translation very warm and sometimes humid; however, I have not been uncomfortably hot yet. It is still winter. The temperature ranges from 70-90 degrees and we have had some rain, nothing much to speak of but enough to water the trees.

I have had the opportunity to meet some of my neighbors in my housing area and some that live in other areas as well. We've been to a party, the kids made it to the Lyceum (the outdoor movie theatre), the "mall" where we realized that online shopping will become our best friend, a place that "serves Starbucks coffee" and has free WiFi and Breyers ice cream, and Subway which also serves rice, beans and pizza. We hope to make it to the Marina, the beaches where we can collect sea glass, and many other activities throughout the base.

We did have a tour of the base which did not take long and while we drove around I kept looking for "the fence line" everyone warned us about and tried to get a peak at the prison camps too; however, I'm here to tell you that was not possible, at least not without a military escort and a really good reason to go there - none of which we had.

While we may be confined to the base and what little it has to offer, we realize that we can leave as long as there's a flight available, sometimes we pay a lot for a secured seat, other times we get lucky and pick the right times and dates and we can fly for close to nothing to the States or Puerto Rico - so it is not impossible to leave and when we do we will hit to malls because I do miss the ability to pick and choose where I get my shoes, underware and food.

The house is one floor, extremely spacious and with 12 foot ceilings. The problem with that is the echo - will have to work on that. On the bright side, we face the bay, we will fit everything we brought and more, we have an nice sized, enclosed back yard. All the walls are white-- ouch! If you know me well enough, you know that's a problem for me. I can paint but then I have to paint back to white before I leave. I may opt for painting one wall for accent that way I don't have much to change back later. Anyway, nothing lots of pictures and color window treatments can't fix.

I look forward to sharing pictures, stories and adventures of our tour here. This is going to be a great tour, I already know it!!

'Till next time!

(I have pictures but it won't let me insert them for some reason, must work on that!)