Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Time for Family Vacation in the U.S.

It's always exciting to go on family vacations, but never has it been more exciting than it is right now.  This is the first year that we have had to live with only three of our four children, one is in college.  The first year we have lived out of the country with limited access to our friends and family... ok with no access except maybe online and that's just not the same.  Here in Cuba I have lots of friends and many are more like family.  I LOVE that we have each other here and I appreciate everyone one of my friends and "fitness followers" who are so committed and dedicated to my classes.  I will miss them all.

But for now I am focusing on how to best spend my time with my college kid and the rest of the family and of course, my friends still living in the area.  I am looking forward to going shopping at a real clothing store, a grocery store with more options, traveling more then 10 minutes and at more then 25 MPH.  Everyone tells me it's a little strange going places and not knowing someone.  I know here it seems no matter where you are you know someone or someone knows you and that's OK, although there are those days when you really just want to walk around incognito.  We have to get really creative to do that around here.

I am starting to get the house ready for our guest/house sitter/pet sitter friend.  Laundering and getting the clothes ready for travel.  My plan is to take the bare necessities so I have room to bring back things I can't get here.  I'm loading the iPods with music and T.V. shows the kids like, just in case we need to tame an angry child in the air plane.  The kids are making plans too.  The beach is not exactly what they're after, but the boardwalk goodies, the pool, family game night.  It's all going to be great.  We can't wait to leave the island for the first time in seven months.

OK, on to cleaning and prepping.  We leave next week and have a lot to do before then.

See you all soon,


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

GTMO Updates- Deep Water

"Deep Water on the Bay"

It has been almost a month since my "birthday adventure" article so I think it's time for an update on where I stand with deep water.  I have been afraid of going in deep water for a very long time.  I believe since my encounter with two rip currents while living in San Diego, over 20 years ago.  Yes, it's lasted that long and the more I put off jumping in the water the more afraid I become.  Because of this fear I stopped myself from becoming involved in many water activities and sports that seemed like fun and exciting to me.

I decided to change my attitude towards water and the Guantanamo Bay was going to become my friend. I am empowered, I am liberating myself from so much needless fear, I am going... SCUBA Diving! That's right, not just jumping in the deep end or going snorkeling.  Nope, going for deep.

I started taking diving lessons along with a few other girl friends and hired the best instructor in town to guide us.  So far we've done our lessons, taken quizzes, went diving in the local pool at a depth of 10 feet...woohoo! I'm on a roll.  Well, I still have to finish my qualification program by diving four separate times in REAL DEEP WATER - up to 40 feet.  OUCH!  I was am a little nervous about that but it's something I have to finish.

My confidence was coming back strong, that is until we went in the water a couple of weeks ago and realized that the water was murky, the current was strong and apparently I float more then most (it's not fat if that's what  you're thinking, maybe my voluptuous boobs, ha!).  Anyway, we (my friends, instructor and I) decided this was not going to be a very good day for diving or at least not instructional diving so we came back out of the water and went kayaking in the shallow side of the bay instead.

That same day we learned of an accident, totally unrelated to diving or recreational snorkeling, that took place in a different, more dangerous beach.  The accident took the lives of three Marines; three of our nations heroes.  We were deeply sadden by their tragedy and decided we needed to take some time to digest what happened. Yes, we were all a little afraid to go back in the water but we had to understand that their accident happened under different circumstances and we needed to be more vigilant of the conditions in the water and basically, listen to our instincts when we didn't feel it was a very good diving, snorkeling or swimming day.

This coming weekend we will attempt to do our first two dives again.  Our instructor is competent, has many years of experience and many dives in his logbook so we trust him and feel confident he wouldn't take us down if he didn't feel it was safe.

Aside from the diving portions of my "get over the fear" plan I recently passed both my written and driving test to get my Captain's license.  I can now drive "command" a boat and I can try to dock or just have my friends pull it in as soon as I get close to the dock.  I'm really excited about that, although, I do get a little nervous when the boat is being moved my the ripples in the water.  I'll get over that.

Kayaking has been the best adventure yet.  We go on Sundays and sometimes during the week with the kids. The water is shallow and calm and in one hour we are done having fun and ready for the rest of the day.

I admit that I still get a little nervous anytime I'm in the water, although, having a life vest on helps.  Sometimes we have to just jump in feet first and face our fears head on, otherwise they will forever control the way we live our lives.

Right now, we're going to the pool for the kid's swim lessons.  I hope they  never have to experience my fears, they should be a little nervous, a little afraid and very cautious, but not terrified. Hopefully, these lessons will take care of that.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

So long, farewell... Adios!

Fare winds and following seas my dear friends!

Everyone gathers at Ferry Landing Pier to say goodbye :-(

After the Ferry takes off many jump in the water and swim after them...

...then they stop, wave one last goodbye and swim back to shore!

Being in the military (and sometimes even working for the military) means having to say goodbye to friends on a regular basis.  It's our way of life. We don't like it. We don't enjoy it. But we realize that this is the way things roll and we must adapt and overcome.

Saying goodbye is never easy.  In the civilian world, where people rarely move and when they do they generally stay put for more then two years (and I really mean generally speaking),  you take your time getting to know the people around you.  You assess the personalities, the likes and dislikes, the kid's ages, and overall relationships around  you and then you begin to form relationships with the people who most fit with your own lifestyle. Nothing wrong with that. Except that it takes a long time to go through that process.  Time is something we don't have on our side.  Immediate family is something else we don't have.  Therefore, we must form bonds very quickly. We learn to embrace the differences in others and learn to trust, and I mean really trust, our neighbors from day one.

To someone in the civilian sector saying goodbye to someone you met a couple of months ago may seem like a simple, ok a little sad, but nothing to write about.  To us, particularly here in Guantanamo Bay, saying goodbye is quite an event and you really only have to have known that person a couple of months to have tears flowing into the bay.

Over the last few weeks we have had several friends leave.  They were like sisters to us all and we miss them dearly.  Each time we celebrated their new adventure by going to the beach or the pool, by taking them to lunch or bringing them dinner.  There were several parties, afternoon tea, coffees and finally a toast to bid them farewell as they took the ferry that would eventually take them to the airport.

Today was the last of them, at least for a few weeks.  Our good friend and her family left the island and is now headed to another island on the other side of the world (and I mean that literally).  She was an avid participant in all my fitness classes, she was a hard-worker, a fun, happy, sweet, beautiful girl.  I wish her the best in her new adventure and hope to meet up with her again in the future.  I've only known her 6 months but I feel like I've known her for a lifetime. It was hard not to cry when the ferry took off and headed to the other side of the island.  It was no different with the others that left before her.  Happy for them but really sad to see them go.

I love all my friends.  Thankfully, I have the ability to form bonds very quickly and lucky for me, the people I've met and have made a part of my life are amazing, wonderful, and the most awesome people anyone would be lucky to have as friends family.

I don't know how we'll ever do this but I do hope someday when we're all beyond the military and child rearing years we meet again somewhere.  I can almost see a book coming out of our lives as military spouses, civilian spouses working with the military and as sisters living in Guantanamo Bay!

My advice to everyone, civilian and military, don't wait to meet the people around  you.  While we may do this out of solidarity, we must also remember that life is too short to waste it trying to figure out people.

Just add smiles and kaboom, instant family!

Until next time,