Saturday, May 22, 2010

A visitor's experience in GTMO

Windmill Beach, Guantanamo, Cuba

This week we have a visitor in town.  My friend's mom came all the way from California to experience, first hand, life in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  It's hard to believe that anyone could be so happy living in a tiny part of an island where leaving is challenging and EVERYBODY knows your name (and sometimes, your business).

I'm happy to say that she has been pleasantly surprised by the activities, the people and the location, dry as it may be at times.  Eve, as we like to call her, still can't believe that we go snorkeling in the morning, followed by a light snack at the park, go home for a quick shower and change of clothes and then go to an all-you-can-eat seafood fest at the Galley.  The kiddos go down nap while mom's catch up with the daily chores, read, relax, etc. Then, off we go to the pool for swim lessons during which time the kids are trained and the parents simply sit and enjoy the company or go for a swim themselves.  All in a day's work.  Granted, this could easily be the schedule for those of us who work part time or are stay-at-home parents and while it might be a little more challenging for the full-time employees, they do have some flexibility in taking time off for R&R (rest and relaxation) and the weekends/evenings are generally filled with other activities.

Eve wondered when we would encounter some down time, not because she wanted any, but because she expected us to get tired of going to the beach, the pool, the Galley, and all the other activities available to us.  Well sometimes we do get tired of these things.  But then there are the birthday parties, the hails for incoming families and the fair-wells for those leaving, Bingo, Bunco, Bible Study, the Movies, and a whole list of other activities that take place throughout the week. Obviously, we don't all participate in everything but the opportunity is there if we want it.

We are lucky and blessed to have what we have here. I thought the people here were just nuts to be so in love with GTMO. But now I understand!  I don't have friends here, I have a family.  If I need a car, a ride, something from the store, I can simply call or email (or FaceBook) my friends and someone will be at my door within minutes.  If I need to vent, share a happy moment, have an evening cocktail, I just make a call, email, FB and someone will be at my door within seconds.  Funny thing is though, when I need to be alone to think, cry, read, rest and relax, again I make a call or send an email and the response to that is... "Good for you! You deserve "ME" time!" and no one will bother me (except my kids, they don't get it yet!)

So Eve said to me today when we left yet another pool party, "I still can't believe how nice everyone is and how friendly they all are to people they don't know and will probably never see again.  Everyone is so welcoming.  You are all very lucky to have each other."  I think she wants to stay longer.  I have a feeling she'll be back before her daughter's tour here is over.

Personally, I can't wait to share this little paradise with my family and hopefully, my friends as well.  It can be challenging getting in and out of here but the experience is well worth the trip.

We had a busy day and now we must got to the Tiki Bar for some adult fun with my girlfriends :-)

Until next time,

Monday, May 17, 2010

Proud Moments in Pictures

I love taking pictures.  My kids used to call me "mammarazzi" because it seemed like I was always trying to catch every special and not so special moment on film (and now digitally). I'm not necessarily good at catching the shadows or certain special details that some professionals catch, but what I do have are the most amazing stories for every single picture I take.

I take pride in being a positive, energetic, generally happy person.  Now that school is out for me (yeepee!!) it is much easier to wake up happy too.  If not for my pictures I might have forgotten how much fun we've had and I might not realize how much I was really doing amidst final exams and written essays.  I still wonder how I managed to do it all and managed to smile each and every day.

Today I'm just sharing a few pictures of proud moments that I did not miss and I have the pictures to help me always remember.

Sent my first born off to college, we stayed in touch, he managed to get on the Dean's List and finish the first year with a bang!  I miss him so much but I'm always happy when he's happy.  We are so proud of him :-)

My little artist managed to amaze me yet again with another interesting self portrait.  I can barely manage stick people so I really don't know what talent gene pool she's taking after. I love it when she draws herself or others in a short period of time and doesn't realize how talented she is.  Anyway, we are proud of her and her improvements!

My little swimmer.  He started off screaming at the idea of getting in the pool and now he is jumping and swimming.  How crazy is that.  Kids learn so fast and adapt so quickly.  Now he's fearless, which makes me even more afraid.  I must keep my eyes on him at all times.  We are proud of him for taking such a leap in his swimming lessons.

Little Miss Scientist here announced that she wanted to grow up to protect endangered animals.  For her diorama she chose the Mountain Gorilla, learned all she could about them and then during the fair, shared what she learned with other adults and children.  We are so proud of her for persevering and completing this project.

So I think it goes without saying that we only have four kids, Ha! Kidding!  That we are proud of our kids and so happy that they are happy in everything they are doing.  I'm glad to have these and hundreds of other photos to go back and relive these very special, proud moments in pictures.  They don't have to be organized, in an album, or in a scrapbook (that would be cool but let's not kid ourselves) I'm just happy to have them.

Have a fantastic week everyone!


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Friday, May 7, 2010

...updating, it's been so long!

I'm finding it hard to believe that we've been here almost five months. Time flies amazingly fast when you're busy and catching up is almost impossible. But those days are soon coming to an end for me. In one more week I will turn in my last written paper for my Medical Anthropology class, my last class before graduating college.

At the age of 42, I am finally getting my BS in Social Studies and Humanities with a concentration in Anthropology from the University of Maryland University College. So what am I feeling every time I think that this is it, no more reading text books, no more writing papers, no more communicating with the intellectuals at my school? A little separation anxiety, ok, maybe more than a little. I have been doing this for so long that I'm almost afraid to give it up, although, some downtime would be nice.

The next question I often get is "So what do you plan to do with your degree?" Hmmmm, good one. I would like to be a Cultural Anthropologist who travels to India and other Asian countries to study their culture and discover more than one could ever imagine in societies that are so different than our own. It is enriching, humbling, and has helped me to appreciate all that I have more and more each day. However, I don't know if that's something I will ever do, but I can try... someday, maybe.

In the short term I just want to continue working as a fitness instructor so that I have the flexibility to raise our children and be home for my family when they need me. I will have some time, here in GiTMO, to consider different possibilities for my future job. Teaching PE is appealing as long as I have kids in school and I feel that's the only thing I would ever want to teach, except maybe something in my field, but for that I need experience. I have discovered that there are more jobs than I expected with the government and in the civilian sector, for people in anything related to societies, culture, humanities, sociology, etc. so that's another option. There are many things to consider but I can't stress about that right now.

The one thing I will miss is my graduation. I can't travel to the states to graduate and the one scheduled to take place here was cancelled for reasons I don't yet understand. I wasn't notified until 3 days ago and the only plans to celebrate included a pot luck party at the Directors home. So I had to choose between that and a full body couples massage in my home... what do you think I chose! Yeah! The massage! It was relaxing, soothing and stress relieving.

The list is long but I will give you the abbreviated version of our busy lives these past few months-- Emily has softball and is doing really well, she also has tennis lessons, Natalie also goes to tennis as well as Swim lessons for her and Jonathan. Four days a week I'm at the pool for two and a half hours each time. Yes it gets old and during the off times we just don't go there. Natalie is also doing her first communion this coming weekend, another momentous occasion, another reason to gather our closest friends, pretty much everyone in GiTMO and have a party.

I had to take four classes this semester to avoid postponing the graduation date. The were intense, all required several long papers and more reading then I could fit in one sitting. A lot of analyzing, researching, and worst of all, the slow internet connection that sometimes kept me from posting my homework.

Then there's the matter of cleaning this house. It never seems to be clean. Dust is our friend and so are dirty floors. Thankfully we have Cuban tiles and they are easy to clean but it all takes time. Fortunately I have yard people. I feel so special :-) But they come by once a week to do everything yard related, including watering the grass. This, my dear friends and family, is why I've been too busy to do much, except the occasional escape into the world of FaceBook, which, around here, seems to be the only way to know what's going on around the base -- well, not the only way, but the most reliable way. Wouldn't want to miss a social event, Ha!

I hope to be more active in sending updates, pictures, calling and writing. I'm sorry I have fallen behind but I will catch up. I can't wait to see many of you this summer during our summer vacation in Virginia. I'm very excited about the trip, not so much the beach but certainly mall, real restaurants, Coldstone Ice cream (yum), seeing my family, my first born, and my friends. I can't wait!!

Until next time.... please leave me messages on the blog :-)