Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas in GTMO- Faries on the Tour of Homes

One of the events that take place here in Guantanamo during the holidays is the Tour of Homes, sponsored by the Guantanamo Bay Spouses Club. During this event residents volunteer to have their decked out homes show cased and entered as part of the tour. Their job is simply to decorate as much or as little as they wish and in any style they wish and some choose to provide some light drinks and snacks, others simply show-off the outdoors. The rest is up to the visitors who tour in groups of five or six and make their way from home to home. There's no competition or judging, we simply visit and get ideas or get to see how others decorate during the winter holidays.
One of my favorite homes this year had the prettiest fairies throughout the house. I loved their faces, their poses, and the different personalities. The owner of this home gave me permission to take pictures and post them. They are just so precious. Here are some of her treasures. I hope you'll enjoy them as much as we did and if you have anything to add about these pretty fairies or your own collection of winter decor, please leave a comment.

I have to say, she is my favorite :-)

I have more but have no access to my photos from this location.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Holidays, GTMO Latino, and life in Guantanamo Bay

I can not believe it is the middle of December already. I feel like November was a mad rush. Even here in GTMO, people prepare themselves for the Holidays in December. You've heard me talk about our store here. It's adequate for size of this base and the population. But when a sale is announced you better believe the store sells out of their merchandise...FAST! Black Friday was Special. There were people lined up for hours before the store opened at 6:00 am. What could be on sale? Most likely video game systems, games, and other electronics. I chose to rest, reflect on all we have to be thankful for, and I went for a run.. The 10K Turkey Trot. That was fun, sort of, I overheated and almost passed out but in the end, I finished the race and glad to have participated.

Here we are already planning the Christmas celebrations. Three days into the month we started celebrating with the tree lighting ceremony and performances by the local children. Then to the outdoor movies to see the Muppet Movie (it was just OK by the way). Exactly one week later we continued the celebration with a float parade. Last year we rode the float for Public Works, this year we chose to just watch the parade...that was way more fun and the kids had a great time visiting Santa, eating cookies and hot cocoa, and again watching the carolers on stage. Yup, another fun evening in GTMO. That wasn't, isn't the end... There's something going on daily it seems. Santa can be seen at the store, at school, the Bayview and at no point are we waiting in ling lines nor do we ever pay anything for pictures with Santa. The kids will be so spoiled when we leave here. My favorite is that in every picture you'll see the kids with shorts and t-shirts and sandals while Santa is probably cooking in his suit. But he is a cool Santa, you never see him sweat.

We've been to a few parties, a coup,e of luncheons, and best of all was experiencing the GTMO Latino's Parranda. They show up when you least expect them and start singing the most lively, fun, Christmas songs. I offer them a little drink and they keep singing. It was a lot of fun! Not your everyday caroling that's for sure.

Speaking of GTMO Latino, if you happen to be Latino and are considering moving to GTMO, trust me, you will not be alone. You will have an instant family upon arrival. It is so nice to have such a welcoming, fun, active community in a place so distant from home. You don't even need to speak Spanish to hang with them. I will miss them when we leave.

Speaking of missing people... I miss all my friends who have left the island before me. It has been hard, every time one leaves because we really don't know when well see each other again. However sad it may be to say goodbye, missing them this much only means that our friendship was real and strong. I have been blessed with some really great friends .

Our time in GTMO is approaching. Six to eight months from what I hear. Not sure where well go next so I won't dwell on that right now. I will just continue to enjoy life in GTMO... Diving, running, teaching, and watching the most amazing skies I have ever seen!

Until next time....


Monday, October 31, 2011

It's where I live... for now!

I love this view of Guantanamo Bay.  It was taken from the airplane window with my iPod.  I recently went off island on a Girls Weekend Getaway to Jacksonville, Florida.  It was great to be on the mainland but I have to say that we were feeling a little anxious just stepping into the stores.  Everything is so big, so many options, so many isles... it's just too much.  I appreciate going to the grocery store here and not having so many options.  I may have to work my up to big stores when we move back to the states.

So it's been a while since I've updated this blog, mainly because I get frustrated at my slow internet and because I am too busy to stop and write.  I can promise to do better but, really, who are we kidding.  Apparently it's fall season, Halloween parties everywhere, a makeshift pumpkin patch and hayrides for the kids, and of course, Soccer, 5Ks, and live bands. No fall weather here... still in the 80s, lots of mosquitoes, and humidity.

I want to share some things we call GiTMOisms here because there are so many things that only happen in GTMO. For example, only in GTMO do you lose your 4 year old kid in the store and simple tell others around you "hey if you see my kid, send him my way, I'll be in the cereal isle." YUP! That was me and he was lost in a surprisingly crowded store.  Only in GTMO are you late because you had to wait for the Iguanas to cross the road.  Only in GTMO can you call the local grocery store, the pool, the gym or the day care center looking for a friend and know that you'll find her.  I called the pool today, asked for my friend, first name only and they simply handed her the phone. I mean, seriously, where else can you do that?

How about this one, only in GTMO do you meet TV and Music personalities, have drinks with them, have pictures taken and then see them off as if they were your buddies.  For example, this past weekend we had a couple of bands in town for our Customer Appreciation Weekend Celebration.  We were also really excited to have three of the chefs from Diners, Dives, and Drive-Ins.  Such fantastic food and great people.

I should really start writing down all our GiTMOisms... hmmm maybe I will.

I think I will miss the simple life here. How quickly we can go from one place to another. How kids don't have to compete to join the soccer, football, basketball, or rugby teams... they just join, learn and enjoy. So glad I had a chance to be a part of this community but really looking forward to being back in the states-- reality is going to hit hard :-) This last year will be great!

Be back soon with more updates of Our Life in Guantanamo Bay.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Diving Pebble Beach-Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

Since I became PADI Dive certified just a little over a year ago I have to say that I found a completely new past time I love. Diving. It's peaceful, it's always different under water, you never know what you'll see next. It's truly, a whole new wold. I had many moments where anxiety took my breath away and therefore the air in my tank. That had to be frustrating for my dive buddies-- could be why they stopped calling me to dive with them, hmm. Well I am not as afraid anymore, I am so much better on air conservation then I was last year and my new passion is taking underwater pictures.

I only have a little camera, nothing fancy. I have an Intova CP9 if that means anything to anyone out there and it takes OK pictures. Visibility helps and of course if the creatures stop moving for a second while I take their picture. One of these days I'll get the settings just right and show off great shots. For now, I'm just happy to have something to show the kids when I surface.

This year I finally convinced Michael to get certified and now he is the one addicted. He would go everyday if he could. We have been on several dives together. Off a boat, shore, and bay side. Sometimes we get lucky and the visibility is incredibly clear and other times not. Like I said, it's a whole new world out there and its always an adventure.

This week Emily began her certification class. It's part of making her senior year the best she can and I think adding this to her bucket list will make her feel so accomplished. I mean, not many kids can say they've been diving in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

This is Pebble Beach... doesn't look like much from this angle but it is a nice little beach, perfect for the kids, get some wave action and it has some sand, not just pebbles.

Enjoy. Until next time.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hurricanes in GTMO

As soon as Hurricane season comes around we are bombarded with information on how to prepare in case this is "the big one," how to prepare a hurricane kit, where to go if we have to evacuate (funny as that sounds, some of us do have to evacuate), and we learn to memorize the sirens played around the base that tell us exactly what to do, you know, in case the big one hits us here in GTMO.

I have lived here almost two years and after all the preparedness we've done we have yet to get anything more than some wind and some rain. In fact, we've seen more rain in the month of May with no major storm preparation then in the last two hurricane threats of the season.

Now understand, that doesn't mean you shouldn't prepare or have kit ready as well as an evacuation plan. Not at all.  We always have a plan, we just never get to put into action, which is just fine with me and we are very grateful to be spared the troubles of housing the pets, tying down the outdoor furniture, and moving to the Elementary School.  I would have to include Wine in my Hurricane Kit.

During this hurricane season, I can't help but think about the people who live in the Hurricane Alley and can't evacuate or can't protect what little they have.  I can only pray they do the best they can to survive and that the Hurricane loses strength or takes a detour, something.  We are fortunate enough to have the means to protect our loved ones and our homes.

If you are considering GTMO as your next duty station or even as a contractor know this:

The last major Hurricane to really hit GTMO was in 1963.
Base security does a really great job preparing the base.
We have hurricane safe homes and other buildings used for evacuation purposes.
Our NEX and Commissary are well stocked and also do a great job helping us prepare hurricane kits.

As for the pets, we generally talk to families with pets and arranged to have ours stay with them. There's always a way around the shelter restrictions.

On this Hurricane number two of the season I can say that our Soccer or Volleyball games have not been canceled; swimming lessons are still on, and everything functions as usual. Hopefully saying this wont mean that the next hurricane is going to flood the base, yikes! Anyway, it's alright here, even during the hurricane season.

Emily gave us some rain, Irene a little wind, that's all.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Cirque Odyssey

Last night was a really fun night here in GTMO. MWR has been doing a great job bringing in different acts. Musicians, comedians,even the Missoula Children's theatre was here recently. I have pictures and more to say about that later.

But about last night. The one time I leave my house without my camera, we went to see Cirque Odyssey, similar to Cirque De Soleil, sort of. There were contortionists, dancers, really strong guys and very interesting acts on stage.

Recently weve been tailgating prior to any good show. It's a way to have fun, get out with friends and let the kids play while we wait for the show to start. Tailgating at an outdoor theater has been the highlight of our evenings out.

Chelsey Handler was here a few months ago making us laugh along with a few of her friends, we've had several musicians in every genre, and now were gearing up for the Navy Ball, the Marine Corps Ball and early next year the Seabee Ball.

Never a boring day here in Guantanamo Bay, at least not if you don't want it to be.

So much more to share...until next time!

Friday, August 19, 2011

My cat in a cast

Mittens broke her leg, right down the middle and none of us really know what happened. My guess is she was scared off a tree or had a bad fall jumping over the fence, who knows. She now has two broken bones. Thankfully for us, we have a vet in town and she's pretty inventive with what little we have here in GTMO.
After a few X-Rays and determining the extent of her injuries the Doc said my options were:
1. Amputate the leg
2. Fly her off island - expenses would reach nearly $3000
3. Attempt to straighten and cast the leg
Obviously, we chose option #3. It was the least expensive, least invasive, and humane way to treat her. However, unlike people, animals have a way of wiggling out of a cast. The first cast got a little wet and she was out of it within minutes. The second one took a little longer, about a week. After that one the Doc suggested we keep her confined in a crate or the bathroom. We went for the bathroom with a few visits to Emily's room for some cuddle time. Somehow she managed to wiggle out of that cast and now she's in her third cast. Third time's the charm... I hope!
Mittens is very playful and lively little cat. This, as you can imagine, has put a crimp in her style. But, we promised to help her heal and so we must follow doctor's orders.
We're just glad we have our Vet and her assistants to helps us help Mittens keep her little paw. She may not be crazy about her condition or the life style she's had to adopt, but she'll be thankful later when she has all four paws to play with.

Mittens, you have three more weeks of confiment and then you'll be free to roam, well, the house at least. As much as we love to see them playing outdoors, it's evidently not a safe world out there. Updates on her condition will be forthcoming.

Photos by: Emily Wanger

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Family Vacation in the Mountains

This year our family vacation took us to Deep Creek Lake.  A beautiful Ski Resort in McHenry, Maryland.  We, of course, did not do any snow skiing, however, we could not have picked a better location to go during the steaming summer weather this year.  I really can't complain about our high of 89 when everyone else was experiencing highs in the triple digits. I'm sorry and I hope you did everything possible to stay cool.

During our week at the lake we had a chance to really relax.  Being off island can truly be appreciated if you can just stop and slow down for a little bit.  We spend plenty of time on the water and in the water, hiking the trails, and playing in the sandy beach at the State Park.

Things we saw that were different (No Iguanas here) but we did see several Deer, Chipmunks, and pretty Butterflies.  The Ducks and Ducklings came out every morning and this was really neat to share with our little guy.

I would recommend this area to anyone who really wants to have a great summer vacation without the overwhelming heat, not much traffic to deal with, and not many people vacation in the mountains so there was really no waiting in any line anywhere -- that was the best part.  WISP resort has a ropes course, a golf course, and a mountain roller coaster you control yourself.  Of course I cant forget the go-carts, mini-golf, and arcades in town.  A lot to do but still a lot of time to relax.

Week two might not be so relaxing but it will be fun to visit old friends and family before heading back to the rock.  I miss my friends in GTMO.  See you soon!


Sunday, July 3, 2011

GTMO Updates- staying connected

Over the past year I have met several families via this blog.  Most get here because, like me, they want to know more about this place and usually hit a brick wall on the internet.  Most of what you find pertains to the detainees, the camps, and some negative reports from reporters who judge the base solely on one 3 day visit.  All I can say is don't believe everything you read and understand that what I "report" here is simply my point of view and experiences.  Other's may have a completely different of life on the Naval Station Guantanamo.

That said, I have seen a few more people creating blogs about life here and many of the organizations on the installation have created FaceBook pages to help us stay abreast of events and activities.  I will post those links here and hopefully reading about what goes on in GTMO and the opinions of others, those of you transitioning or even thinking about it will become a little more educated.

When we were moving to GTMO there was nothing out there.  I found one FB page which lead me to a couple of people who were stationed here and they answered many of my million questions.  I am thankful to have had them in my life, even if only for a short while after I moved here.

Anyway, these links will provide information about sporting events, activities, recreation, entertainment and some news and noteworthy events around the base.

As for me and my updates for this week.  Hubby and I just finished our Advanced PADI Dive certification and it was great.  The water was just right, the visibility was mostly OK, could have been better but I'm not complaining.  We reached depths of up to 100 feet and saw the prettiest fish, a couple of sea turtles, a few lobsters and even managed to eliminate a few Lion Fish in an effort to save the reef.  This invasive, non-native species is spreading through the Caribbean. They have no natural enemies here. They are said to be able to eat four times their weight each day. Native reef species don't recognize them as predators so they will swim right up to the lion fish and are quickly eaten. For this reason, many divers here will go prepared to hunt and kill the Lion Fish.  But no worries, they can be eaten and they do taste pretty good.

Looking forward to some time off island with family and friends. Here are some photos from under the sea... Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hurricane Season or Mosquito Season?

I'm not really sure what's more important in my hurricane kit, batteries or bug repellent?  We have lived in hurricane alley (is that what we call it?) The focus of living in an area frequently affected by hurricane weather is to pack, plan, and track. Pack the emergency baskets, plan the evacuation route, and track the weather so you know when to go.

Here in GTMO there aren't many difficult routes.  Those of us who live on the bluff or water front homes simply plan in advance, to go to a friends home away from the water or one that is considered hurricane safe or the shelters (schools and gym.)  We are encouraged to pack a kit, to which I say how about I just bring lots of food and water to my friend's house at the beginning of the season, we do have to have a road plan, food, water, clothing, etc. But it's really a no-brainer.  Most important, however, is what happens during the season.  We get a lot of rain, on and off, or worse yet, it stays humid, very humid the majority of the time, day and night and the best part, we get lots of mosquitos.  They are big, hungry, and could care less about repellent or thick jeans.  They'll sting through clothing as if it wasn't there.

We go through gallons of Off, Skin-so-Soft and alcohol, and a host of other chemicals aimed at keeping us invisible to the bugs.  Let's not forget the citronella tiki torches, citronella candles, fans, and special bug lights.  It really is a nuisance to have such a great  view and not be able to enjoy it or the warm summer breeze because of these naughty bugs.

I generally can see the bright side of any situation and rarely speak negatively about GTMO or any other place but now I'm just tired of the bites.  OK I'll have to change the tune now to a more positive note.  We have great windows, air conditioner, and our grass is once again green.  So for now we'll just have to limit our outdoor time and enjoy the view from inside.  Soon the rain will stop and we will go 6-9 months without a drop of rain.

This is life in Guantanamo Bay and we do learn to make sangria out of every bad bottle of wine we're given!

Take Care,

Thursday, May 19, 2011

So much is happening, so fast

I finally have a few quiet moments to write an update on our life in GTMO.  Our life here is constantly on the go, in demand, and in the midst of it all, maintaining sanity.  I've said it before, I really did not expect to have such a full schedule living here, but I do and just about every minute is accounted for, unless I just choose to ignore an event or an appointment or my job. That wouldn't be good.

Speaking of jobs.  I have a new job and this one actually pays me with real money, not hugs and kisses.  I am now one of three Social Service Assistant and Linguist for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), right here in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  I knew they were here all along but never really researched their purpose.   The fact that they are known by the acronym IOM didn't help either.  We have so many different company acronyms around here its confusing.  My first year hear I chose to not work outside of my fitness job because I wanted the flexibility to be home for my kids, raise my youngest until he was ready for school and because I really wanted to have fun and do everything I could do here.

Now that I finished my degree, have pretty much done everything there is to do and feel more comfortable with either kids home alone or kids in school/day care for part of the day, I feel the time is just right.  Still, full time is not what I want.  The job was posted in our local Gazette and one of the requirements was that the applicant must speak Spanish fluently.  Then I heard my dads voice in my head saying "it's important to know more than one language, you never know when it will come in handy."  Well look at that, it did and he was right.  I applied, interviewed, and was hired, even after I told them I had scheduled vacations and days off coming up... this is sweet!!

I am now in training, working four hours a day, five days a week.  A few evenings a month and on-call once or twice a month over the weekend.  That's never difficult since I can't really go very far.  The pay is great and the hours are VERY flexible.  I really could not have asked for a better way to use my degree (Social Studies/Humanities) and my experience working with people.  I have always had the desire to work in an environment where I can truly make a difference in the lives of others,  not because some paper or statistics says it, but because I can see it with my own eyes.

Improving lives and making changes, one person at a time. That's what really matters.

Other than my new job, I am still teaching at 6am four days a week, train the teachers once a week, and volunteer at the Assisted Living Community once a week.  The kids have four weeks left before school is out. Emily will get a job, hopefully in the Marketing department for the base, Natalie will truly LOVE going to the youth center Summer Camp, and Jonathan will continue to split his time between friends and the Child Development Center (CDC) part time.

Michael is finally Dive Certified and we went on our first dive together with another group.  It was so much fun.  Best way to spend the second half of mother's day.  Can't wait to do it again.

The mango tree decided to overproduce all it's fruit in one full swing.  I can't even attempt to count how many mangos I have peeled and frozen, cooked, drank, eaten and given away, yet my yard sits littered with a full spectrum of not quite ripe to fully eaten mangos.  It's a little overwhelming and sad that I can't give these away because everyone has too many.  On the bright side, it's really great to be eating mangos that I get to pick from the tree.  They are the sweetest, juiciest, best mangos I've had since I was 7 years old.

Next week my friend Mary is coming to visit for a few days...very excited to have company again!!

Aside from all we have going on, all is well.  Hope you are all doing well.

Until next time!


Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fun days in Guantanamo Bay

It is officially Mango season in the Caribbean. Yay for us. I happen to be one of few fortunate GiTMO residents with a huge Mango tree in my back yard and it is loaded with this delicious, silky, sweet, juicy fruit. I am in a battle right now with the Banana Rats and the birds. The Banana Rats apparently love the fruit, ripe or not. Those darn things are just nasty, messy, and rude. The other day I left a few Mangos on a table outside, overnight, and they chewed threw every mango, peed and pooped and left a mess. Seriously, if you're going to eat my food, take it all and don't leave a mess for me to clean up. UGH... nasty.
The birds, well, I can't fight them. They have wings. They wait for the Mangos to ripen on the tree, then they begin to feast on them until the mango falls to the ground. Everyday I find at least 3-5 Mangos with deep holes in them, partially eaten. However, I can easily bring in the same number of Mangos ready to eat, so I guess you can say we're sharing. The tree has plenty, no worries. I'm just excited I can eat fruit fresh from my back yard. No pesticides, no preservatives, just like I did as a child growing in the Dominican Republic.

The rope swing. I had one as a kid and truly had forgotten how fun it was to just swing around, look at the sky, the tree holding me up, the birds above me (and hope they didn't poop on my head) and feel the breeze hug me like a blanket. We have one here and usually the kids go out and with a running start they go for a ride on this old rope. On this day, I just could not resist. I didn't do the running start thing because I would just hurt myself in many places. It was warm out but I have to tell you... the few minutes I was on the swing were really reminiscent of fun, childhood days.

Day at the Bay. What a fun day this was. MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation) put together a super day for all the families. There was a reptile show, free T-shirts, free food and drinks.
They corded off a swim area, set up life guards in several areas (we don't usually have life guards at the beach), set the kids up with kayaks, canoes, paddle boats, some favorites like the banana boat and the iceberg (seen below). We also had life vests, beach balls, beach toys, and water shooting toys available for all the kids.

Jonathan above was happy floating around with his little life vest, playing with other kids his age.
This is Nat climbing the iceberg. The kid would stay on that thing all day if I didn't call her in to drink water and eat something. It's amazing how many times she'll climb that thing.

To add to the best beach day in Cuba, our amazing service members gave us a mini air show. We had a fly over by a C-12 earlier (missed that shot) but he was kind enough to dip his wings and let us know he was watching. Later the search and rescue helicopter flew by close enough for me to get this shot. You have to understand, around here we don't have airplanes flying over our roofs or helicopters flying around. It's not something we see everyday, if ever, unless we go to the airport on the other side of the bay.

Finally the band. We have a band in town, not sure of the name (sorry) but they do tributes to Jimmy Buffet so what better than Jimmy Buffet music when you're sitting a the bay, seriously, they were great!
My kudos go out to MWR for coordinating such a great day for everyone. I know they had to work hard to put together the event and they should know, it was well received, the kids had a great time, the parents enjoyed everything without worrying about kids getting into trouble in the water, it was a really fun day in Guantanamo Bay! Thank YOU!!!

Photos by: Terie
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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Still like where I live

A little over a year ago I wondered around this base meeting up with friends, going to the pool, the beaches, collecting seaglass, kayaking, boating, welcoming newcomers and sadly saying goodbye to good friends. Whew! This could easily happen in one week. I thought coming here I would have more time to get crafty, read, and do nothing. NOT! No regrets, no regrets.  I like where I live.

Most people arrive here and are welcomed by their new neighbors, the spouses club, and a plethora of amazing people too happy to have coffee and share some of the wonderful things we can do here in Guantanamo Bay.  To this most newcomers respond with "everyone is so wonderful, so sweet, so giving" and "I just love it here and all the great people." We all say that when we arrive.

We are people, all with our own standards, morals, values and belief systems.  Eventually we begin to weed through the masses and we find those who are more like us.  It's natural to do so.  I am generally surrounded by positive, happy, energetic people.  I believe I attract this personality because that's who I am.  Now don't get me wrong.  I don't purposely go out separating people into groups, mine and theirs, I simply leave it up to the other person to decide if they can handle my energy and optimistic mentality.  Plus, I sometimes put my filters down and together with my friends we get into the unspeakable dirty talk... that usually generates a lot of laughter, exactly the result I want when I'm with my friends.

Fast forward a year.  My huge group of friends has shrunk, changed, and now we know more about each other (maybe that's why it shrunk.)  Oh well.  I am happy to be surrounded by this select group.  I am fortunate to have these women on my side.  I didn't pick them, they picked me and that makes me happy.  In a period of 4 months we accomplish what takes most in the civilian sector years to reach... close, personal friends who can be trusted, who will cry with you, laugh with you, and look super silly with you.

Truth be told, I have had a few moments of "I really want to leave now" revelations.  My hubby responds with ... well with nothing because we really don't have a choice.  We're here another 18 months so I have to make a choice between being miserable and being happy.  I chose the latter.

I hope I can continue to give my friends everything they continually give me: friendship, patience, laughter, happiness, hugs, time to vent, time to recover from fun night out :-) and so much more.

Yup.  I still like where I live.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Family in Guantanamo - Beach Days, Seaglass & Farewell

WOW what a week it has been! Exciting! Oh, wait, that was only three days? OK. It felt more like a week. We have done a lot in such a small place and now showing off the next 2 days before departure.  It's time to head to the beach, yet again, except this time we are going Seaglass hunting.

It's Monday and today we visit Glass Beach.  Some say that a bar was located on the bluff just above the waters.  Prior to environmental concerns the liquor and beer bottles were tossed over the edge.  These now wash up on the shorelines of Glass Beach.  One will never really know the true origin of a piece unless it has a distinct label, either way, they are pretty and fun to collect.

We enjoyed our time on the beach with several other friends.  The evening was complete with more settlers of Catan, Zumba and Tennis. Oh and I can't forget to mention the ride up JPJ (John Paul Jones) where we stood just under the wind turbines to watch the city lights, ours and the Cubans.

Tuesday we visited Girl Scout Beach. Another seaglass hunters dream beaches here in Cuba.  Like Glass Beach, this beach is littered with seaglass and other artifacts.  Here we found bigger pieces of coke bottle green and a few blues.  We spent two hours digging in the rocks before rushing back for our lunch date with the kids.

At home we did a quick changeover, picked up the kids from school and met Emily, Michelle and Giovanni for lunch at the Windjammer Restaurant.  The food wasn't bad.  My Cuban Sandwich was delicious. A quick trip to the library, drop off the kids at school and we're off to another sightseeing afternoon.

We stopped by the Golf Club and driving range which looks a little dry. We like to call it "challenging" because only the holes are green, everything in between is dry and rocky.  However, it's what we have and it gets used plenty.

Our last afternoon together we they spent playing ... you guessed it, Settlers of Catan.  After two exhausting games we walked with Honey to the Jerk House to pick up dinner.  I'm told the food is spicy but delicious.  I have burgers as my back up plan.  It was a nice walk and after the week we've had, it was well deserved.

Michael, Mom and Aunt Helen went to see "The Fighter" at the Lyceum, I stayed behind and fell asleep on the couch.  I must have been really tired....nah! That's me every night (with or without company :-)

At 0600 on Wednesday I dropped Helen and Toots off at Ferry Landing; the Fery was already there.  The flight, scheduled to leave at 0800 appeared to be on time.  While it was a long day for the travelers, they will have ample opportunities to rest once they're home.

I hope the experience was memorable.  I hope I captured all the highlights of what we did, at least enough to help us remember our week with Family in Guantanamo!  I loved it!

Anyone else ready for a vacation in Guantanamo Bay? See you soon!


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Family in Guantanamo - Brunch, Lighthouse, Sailing

It's Sunday and day four of this great adventure.  We have great plans for today and everything went smoothly, as if I had requested a perfect day from the weather goddess :-)

First we went to Sunday brunch at the Bayview.  This is a restaurant with a great view of the bay.  The brunch is not spectacular but it's not bad either.  We chose to sit outside and enjoy the weather, the nice breeze, and a little sunshine.  We know we shouldn't eat all we can eat but it's hard not to, especially in the dessert section.  We finished off the morning with delicious mimosas.

After brunch we picked up Michael and went to see the Lighthouse and the boats that were once used by Cubans defecting to the U.S.  It is unfortunate that these relics and even the lighthouse are in such poor conditions and with no money for repair or maintenance, it is unlikely they will be around much longer.

We finished the day with our friends Henry and Michelle sailing in the bay waiting for the sunset.  The wind was perfect for sailing, the food was delicious (empanadas, finger sandwiches, chocolate covered strawberries, and sangria) and the company could not have been better.

Thank You Michelle and Henry for a lovely afternoon.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Family in Guantanamo - Fitness, Fun, Tennis, ice cream

Saturday was designated as the exercise, fun, games, and ice cream day.  Today we broke up into groups.  Two of us went to the Aerobothon sponsored by MWR.  That is a 2.5 hour long event filled with different fitness classes.  I had to teach one of them so we chose to participate in my class and the Zumba class.  That was fun.

Michael took everyone else to see Natalie's basketball game.  They won.  Great job Jazz!  After our fitness challenges we took a lunch break and went to our little coffee shop and Tennis courts to play, eat ice cream, and read in the courtyard by the bay.  My girls are not confident players even though I'm paying a weekly fee to get them trained.  Makes me question whether I should continue the training.  Oh well, at least they are getting exercise. We all had a great time and the weather, once again, was perfect!

Later we went to the Navy Exchange to pick up dinner and breakfast items.  There I showed them the little friendship garden in front of the NEX.  It bloomed very pretty flowers, wish they were in my yard.  They also purchased some seaglass jewelry items from Mark's  kiosk.

Michael went fishing with his mom at the Admiral's dock while the rest of us prepared a fabulous dinner: Grilled BBQ chicken, oven-baked home fries, salad, and wine.   We finished the evening with a game of Settlers of Catan.

Another great day in Guantanamo Bay!
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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Family in Guantanamo - Windmill Beach

Today we gathered up our snorkeling gear, coolers filled with drinks and food, beach bags with towels and water sandles, called my girlfriends and invited them to join us on a trip across the bay to Chapman Beach. This would be an adventure because we would all have to get our vehicles on the Ferry at 9:30 am. Well that adventure didn't happen because the ferry was particularly full on this Friday Morning. No worries, there are plenty of beaches on this side of the bay. So we headed to Windmill Beach. A beautiful beach on the North East side of the island. The colors of the water range from deep blue to emerald green. This beach, like most others, comes equipped with cabanas, grills, showers and restrooms. Can't go wrong here.
After we settled the children and laid down the gear we headed for the water. It was just cool enough to make me want to jump right in. So clear you could see everything in it. Michael went searching for a place to throw the fishing line, I went looking for my snorkeling spot. It was a great afternoon. The kids played in and out of the water, some of us went in search for pretty fish under the water (to look at, not to eat) and then we just sat and relaxed, had lunch, and took in the sun.

After spending the afternoon relaxing, we played some board games and headed for the Galley. I so prayed they would have a good menu. They usually have something worth eating and saying it was worth the $4.25 we had to pay. Not tonight. Not even good dessert. Ugh... I felt a little embarrassed but decided to just say "It's GTMO" my least favorite thing to say to anyone but it's the truth. Sometimes you really just don't know what you're going to get. Oh Well. On the bright side, my cooking will always be phenomenal :-)
We went to the movies after dinner to see Rango. Was really no impressed by this movie. Not sure why it's number one in the states. It was slow moving, a lot of adult humor, and the snake was too scary for children. It was just OK.
All in all, it was another great day in Guantanamo Bay!
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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Family in Guantanamo - Kayaking

On their second day in Guantanamo Bay we went Kayaking in the bay.  The water was perfect for this little adventure.  At the Marina we met a few other friends who were also visiting.  Kayaking here is super easy and really inexpensive.  We rented 4 double Kayaks for 8 people and 1 single. We traveled through a mangrove tunnel, down a little canal and back.  Along the way we spotted several bright red star fish.  Beautiful creatures on the bay floor feasting on grass and other organisms I'm sure.  Cost of this mini adventure $10.00.

After kayaking we took them on a driving tour of the base.  It really doesn't take long but we took our time and went up JPJ, the tallest peak and home to our wind turbines.  It was nice to be able to see as far as one can see.  The Atlantic Ocean looks impressive from this point.

We later went out for lunch at the Cuban Club.  Food was delicious and eating outdoors was nice.  Kind of reminds me of home, Dominican Republic.  We met up with my friend Michelle and her little man Giovanni.

We spent some time just lounging and digesting before taking our dog Honey to Ferry Landing Beach.  She can chase that ball in and out of the water like a pro.  A trip to the beach wouldn't be complete without a small collection sea glass and sea shells.

We finished off the day with dinner and then off to a wine tasting party with friends.  That was a lot of fun.  I love the people I've me here.  Seems we can get together without much notice and without drama we can have a great time.  I will miss this when I'm gone.

I feel like we did just about everything there is to do all in one day but no, there's more.  This was only day one.  I believe everyone had a great time, maybe asking for a little down time.... hmmm, I don't know about that.

On to another great day... good night!!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Family in Guantanamo - The arrival

We are so excited to finally have some relatives in town --- Yay!!! So to detail what it takes to get here, from anywhere and if you are not military dependent or accompanied by a retired military person.

First we have to settle on dates and make sure that the one (1) airline has available seats on their flights.  Air Sunshine is a chartered service that travels from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Naval Base Guantanamo several days a week.  One flight in, one flight out...if you miss it there is no other flight until the next day.  The ticket costs $550 round trip. There are no discounts, off peak season, military specials, nothing... it's a flat fee.  Don't  complain about it.  It is what it is.  

Once we secure the flight we have to fill out a form requesting permission to bring guests on board the base.  That process is painless and as long as the host/sponsor and guests have a clean record you will have an approval in less then 5 days.  Send that form along with a copy of the ticket receipts to the guests.  They will need to pay their way to Fort Lauderdale and need to be there at least 2 hours prior to departure.  For many that means flying in the night before, staying in a hotel and all that comes along with spending one night in a different city just to catch a flight out the next day.  My family didn't have to do that but they did have to get up at 5 am, fly from DC to FL and then wait a few hours to get on their flight to GTMO.

Airplane is small and moves slower then your average Jet but they arrived at 6:00 pm.  Once in Cuba they go through several layers of security, which I thought was strange since they are already here.  Anyway, just when they think they're done we tell them we need to get on a crowded, hot bus to go catch a Ferry to cross the bay.  It's lie Planes, Trains and Automobiles... one big comedy after another.  Thankfully they have a good sense of humor and are seasoned travelers.  They just flow with it.  I think they were really happy we were there to pick them up.  Someone told them they'd miss the Ferry.  Not sure why people feel the need to scare others who are new.

Coming in late is so deceiving.  They can't see any landmarks or the water and so we just drive home and eat a very late dinner.  

We are going to hit the ground running.  If the flight wasn't late we would have gone to the movies on the first night to see True Grit in an outdoor theater but it didn't happen. 

I hope to detail all we do here so no one forgets.  Busy days ahead! Stay Tuned!  There really is a lot to do here in Guantanamo Bay!


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Another beautiful Sunday afternoon

As much as I sometimes crave a little cold air outside, less biting bugs, and maybe even a little snow, there is so much more to be missed from days like today.  I have been here a year and two months and last year at this time I was still in awe of the view from just about any point on this corner of the island.  We have a splendid view of the bay and often we see sail boats, fishing boats, pontoons and other non-motorized water vehicles go by.  It reminds me of being on vacation, particularly on Sundays when everything seems to be quiet and calm.

I like to take Honey, our Lab, for a walk early in the morning when the air is somewhat cool.  Midday I like to sit outside and enjoy the breeze, reflect on what I've accomplished and what awaits in the following weeks. It's just nice to really take the time to just BE.  I for one admit I have given up that time and I miss it, a lot.  I decided to take back my ME time.  Because we're only here on this base for a short while and I want our time to be memorable.

Soon our family will be visiting and we can't wait.  As most people do here when the family is in town, there are plans to go everywhere...the beaches, the pool, the restaurants, the night life (what little there is), walks, hikes, and of course time to just BE.

Can't wait... ten days and counting!!

Until next time, go BE who you want to be and enjoy everything you are and have.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

A quiet afternoon

I know, I know, it's been a long time since I updated. I really love to write about everything and anything and most times I have great ideas in my head that I want to share but those usually come at the wrong time, like in the shower or while I'me driving or grocery shopping. Hardly the right time or place jot things down as I used to.

Today is a quiet afternoon in Guantanamo. After a busy morning at church, cleaning up at home and contemplating what to make for dinner, everyone decided to just chill. Jonathan is watching TV and Natalie is on the computer (I know, the horrors of electronics.) Emily is out boating with a friend and Michael is somewhere between working on yet another gorgeous Jewelry Box and cutting the weeds out front. I am taking advantage of the recent drop in temperature.

Just a few hours ago we had 95 degree temps with humidity about the same and suddenly it became cloudy, a cool breeze swept through the bay and the temperature now reads 85 degrees. It's not as cloudy but the humidity is much lower.

I'm sitting out back facing the bay, my mango tree and all the little mangoes growing on it, my dog Honey just hanging out and my treats, Sangria, Cheese, Triscuits and Pepper Jelly. I truly feel like I'm at a vacation house just taking it easy. Love, Love, Love days like these.

So what's happening in Guantanamo Bay? I guess a lot of little things. There's hardly ever a weekend when we don't have an event to attend, mandatory or not. Sometimes we have farewell parties, others just fun birthday celebrations. We celebrate kids and adults birthdays or accomplishments; we get together for a reason or just because. When we're not busy running to a sporting event, either to participate or as a spectator; we're running, just because someone thinks running 10 miles at 6:30 am is fun. I've been fortunate enough to run with some really amazing women several times and each time they add a mile or two... we're up to ten!

This month I am busy helping to plan the Seabee Ball and the CEC Birthday, all of which is happening March 5th. I do enjoy planning these events but with limited resources it can be quite the challenge. We have been fortunate, my friend Michelle and I. Hasbro donated 20 Tonka trucks to help with decorations. The Seabees are building old fashioned tool boxes which we are filling up with toy tools and everyone in the community is helping simply by participating in our fundraising events. We expect to have a full house at the Ball, we all ordered our dresses or found something to where on island; tickets and seats have been reserved and in a few more weeks the party will go on as planned. I can't wait!

Tomorrow we will go sailing with some friends. It's a valentines day celebration on a sail boat which will cost us nothing. Again, vacation or real life? Not sure. Hopefully the bay wont be closed due to weather concerns.

Boating, Kayaking and Sailing is really not that difficult to do here. Getting the captain's license is easy and quick, renting a boat easier, costs=priceless. Actually, it's about $10-14 per hour plus gas. Really inexpensive.

This year I decided to cut back on how many classes I teach, so I'm down to 4 regular classes and a few others that come up when a sub is needed. On the other hand, I'm training quite a few people on the side and I'm training myself, working on me on my own time. I plan to do more diving, hopefully soon with Michael once he gets certified and more outdoor fun stuff. Sometimes we get stuck in the daily activities of everyday life and we forget to have fun. This place may be secluded and limited in resources but the beaches are practically private, the wather is always perfect for water activities and then there are days like today, cool, quiet and enjoyable.

It is like this everywhere and with everyone, we get comfortable where we are and with our busy lives and forget to look outside our windows and just enjoy life. The life around us without having to travel anywhere or spend any money. I know, it's easy for me to say, look where I live but I believe I said the same thing when I went for a cold brisk walk through a snowy park and when went for a run in the rain.

Really looking forward to our family visit in March, can't wait!!!!

Until next time,

Saturday, January 8, 2011


I probably said this before and I'm going to say it again, Guantanamo Bay is a busy little place. I can't seem to get back into my writing, reading and relaxing routine but I am working on it.

I have a lot of updating to do here, from Thansgiving with the Latino Community, the thousand plus- mile trip with the kids, Christmas and New Years so I better get busy. I like to update with pictures so I'll be back. Please stay tuned!