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!