Sunday, July 29, 2012

Transitions--leaving Guantanamo

Adios Guantanamo...nunca te olvidare!

The time to leave GTMO came so quick I don't even remember my last week on island...sort of.  We left July 21st and I'm still trying to gather my thoughts and feelings leading up to the ferry's last whistle.
Leaving that island is not as easy as moving from another base within the states.  In the states you get packed out and then you leave.  There's no lingering, no waiting, nothing... if anything you might spend a few days in a hotel waiting to leave one city for another.  If you forget to pack something, no big deal, throw it in the car and keep going, if you're over seas and forget to pack something you can mail it to yourself or just get rid of it.  If it doesn't fit in the luggage it's not coming with you.

Anyway, the last week required us to check out, attend hail and farewell, pay out bills, be entertained by friends,turn in work time sheets, go to lunch with friends, turn off the cable/phone, have wine at the Marina with friends, pick up school records, go out one more time with friends, medical records, fit in one more dive, check luggage and pets early, get boarding passes the day before, get pet health and travel records, go for a walk with friends, and finally leave... Whew!!! Exhausting right?

Leaving GTMO... this is how it went for me.

After a long walk on the Ridge Line with my friend Ashley and her mom Beth I went home, showered, changed, got the kids ready, finished cleaning up and packed up the leftover foods and anything that was not trash. My neighbor Mayin took that box home.... then the Ferry farewell; probably the hardest farewell ever experienced because everyone you care about or who cares about you is there to see you off and to jump in the water for you and that feels great. You feel loved beyond words.


It was a busy, emotionally exhausting, physically exhausting week, but so many memories were made in just one week.

This blog has been read by more people than I realized.  Towards the end of our tour I met many people who were reading the blog just to become familiar with Guantanamo and a few who started reading over a year ago and later made the decision to take that GTMO job because of what they read.  I am so glad that my photos and stories were helpful to so many.  I plan to leave it open as a source of reference for new families, but I know that a new GTMO family is moving to the island and I am so excited that she is ready and able to take "the torch" and continue educating, sharing, entertaining, with her blog about life in GTMO.

I know many people will think I'm making more out of this then there is, but know this, Life in Guantanamo Bay is not AT ALL like life anywhere else.  Life on the only gated community on communist soil, knowing that you have the Castro Family on the other side of the fence and some other residents living on the other side of some other fence, it's a bit daunting. But in everyday life you don't come across anyone from the other side of either fence. You're too busy running the kids to a game, the pool, the beach, the next dive, a party, wine nights, girls night at the pool or guys Poker night, running to the NEX, the movies, or running just because it's an MWR scheduled event.  You are busy... bring a calendar because you'll need it from day one.

Life in GTMO is different. Only those who have been there can truly get it and I'm glad I am one of the few.  I know live in the great state of Virginia where nothing is 5 minutes away, hubby can't come home for lunch, and I actually have to plan my day to include travel time. 

Take a few minutes to read from the beginning of this blog and then go and read Joy's blog GTMO Adventure as well, as she moves through the moving process and adjustment period.  I can still answer questions if you have them, please leave me a message, I will get back to you!

GTMO you gave me many long lasting friends who are more like family. Thank You to MWR for allowing me to torture military and civilians with my six AM boot camp workouts for the last two years; thank you to all the people who came if for no other reason than to support me and be in my class at such early hour; Thank YOU to IOM for giving me a job so flexible that allowed me to participate in my families activities but also gave me the opportunity to help with Migration and resettlement of people in need.  Thank YOU to all my friends... you are my GTMO family and I will never forget you!!


Monday, July 16, 2012

Save the GTMO cats…give them homes


Kitties have been saved!! Mittens is now with a new family and her brother (all were from the original litter)-- I know she'll be well cared for.  Thank You Christina and Caitlin.  Shadow made the trip to the US with us.  Thanks to everyone who offered to help us.


Hello again…. one more plea to get them temporary or permanent homes for these two precious kitties.  They are two years old.  One has a foster home for the next 6 month but they both need to be adopted….soon!

If you're coming to GTMO and want a pet we can put one of these two cuties on hold until you are settled. If you're aleady here and reading this blog, share this information with your friends and helps us find them homes.

Thank You!!

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Bay--she will be missed

We planned to go Kayaking and Paddleboarding today, another item to check off my bucket list before I leave on Saturday.  I know, Saturday July 21st is our day to close the Guantananmo Bay Chapter and begin a new one in the DC area.  This is surreal so I'm not going to talk about that right now.

The plan was to go kayaking, instead the trip was cancelled because of Thunderstom Conditions 2 which dictates that non motorized vehicles cannot be in the bay.  We were dissapointed but as you know, I like to take every challenge and go with it because everything happens for a reason.  We pondered what to do for a few minutes then decided to take out a boat.  I have a license and the price is fairly inexpensive.

So we rented a pontoon and off we went. At first it was just socializing and watching the kids enjoy the breeze, the water, I was impressed at how happy they were being on a boat.  Then we spotted a few fins in the water… I've been waiting for ever to see them.  We spotted a family of dolphins.  We stayed in the same area for a while until we saw them again.  The were swimming around us for a while.  I could not get a picture but believe me, they were so happy and we were so excited to see them.  It was like a little gift to me because everyone told me about them but I never saw them.

Then we saw the Pelican diving for food.  Another spectacular show. Here they are resting after dinner.  Such a treat.

The bay will be missed by us all.  I could not take enough pictures of everything we saw. As you can see here, there are good reasons to feel sad about leaving such an amazing place.

I know this blog has been a source of comfort for many moving to Guantanamo.  I will leave it open for future residents and will continue to write back if you leave a message with any questions.  I have so many pictures to share but it will be easier to do in the world of High Speed internet.

Ask away and take care!

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

4th of July in GTMO - it's an all day celebration

Independence Day 2012 started with a Kayaking and Paddleboarding adventure.  The weather was just perfect for the upcoming activities the day had to offer.  Next to walking the Ridgeline, Paddleboarding or Kayaking early in the morning is probably the most therapeutic activity GTMO has to offer.  Once on the water you can stay close to your friends or venture off a little on your own.  You can't help but go deep in thought and reflect on your life and maybe even dream a little.

After the most relaxing hour on the water I had 20 minutes to get ready for a really rare event; the citizenship ceremony held on this very day.  That was really great to witness.  When I became a citizen of the United States there were probably 100 people doing the same, it was in San Diego and there was nothing special about the day, except that I became a citizen of course.  On this day my friend Val was naturalized by someone from the U.S. who traveled from Jamaica to perform the ceremony for a Mexican in Cuba. Pretty amazing and so glad I was a part of her special day.

Rest? No way! we're just getting started.  Windmill Beach here we come! Many families gathered on one of our best beaches and were greeted with pretty fantastic waves.  Amazing for little people to play in and for grown ups to ride the boogie boards.  It was fun, relaxing, entertaining.  It was a great afternoon.

We had a couple of hours to recover from the beach before heading to the celebrations at the Bayview and Tiki Bar.  The parking lot was blocked off for the children's events... face painting, games, balloons, shaved ice, mosquitoes -- of course they were out but it's OK, no one here travels without bug repellent or as we like to call it, GTMO Perfume - tropical is my favorite scent.

The adults without kids had their fun as well.  They were sitting in the Patio of the Tiki Bar and Bayview enjoying live music from Anberlin.  Good music, good energy, refreshing drinks.  The evening ended with the most amazing music and fireworks combination.

MWR GTMO did a fantastic job putting on a show we will never forget.  We did not attend the two previous years' events because we made other plans.  I recommend planning your parties early and attending this event instead.  We all had a great time and the kids were in bed by 10 pm and slept in until 9 am the next day, that's a treat in my book!!

Hope you had a great 4th of July as well.  I am personally thankful for all this great nation has given me and my family!

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Orders, pack out, done!

I mentioned I would be back to talk about what is like to leave this base.  Well, it's bitter sweet.  It's hard as heck to know you're leaving such a great family behind. I don't mean MY family, I mean the family I chose just by living here and being a part of this great community.  Now, I'm not saying that there were never any negatives, annoying, or down right sad..... ahem, angry moments. We can't all get along.  While this place IS and always will be an unforgettable experience and far from the real world, some things do remain the same  -- people. We are humans interacting with a million personalities and NO, not everyone gets along BUT we are tolerant and smart, we make it work.

OK so I'm moving from GTMO. I'm ready. Mentally and spiritually ready. WHY if I loved it here so much, am I so ready?  Well I have a few reasons -- #1 my college kids.  Moving means I get to be closer to them.  Need I say more?  OK, #2 Being a military family means moving every 2-3 years so we mentally prepare ourselves at least six months prior to the move so that we're... well, ready.  Finally, #3 because I think it's important to go back to the real world once in a while. You might wonder why I separate GTMO from "the real world" and I don't blame you.  It's because here you:

- leave your house doors unlocked
- leave the keys in the car
- go diving, go to work, go home and eat what you caught diving all in one day- cost $0.00
- no need to search for cheaper or better store, there's one store - easy as pie
- trust to our kids to play on the playground, walk the dog, visit a friend and go to the pool  and know they WILL return - truly a village
- get to know the bar tenders after only one visit (because they work different jobs and you'll run into them often)
- don't pay a dime to see a movie - yes we get good movies here
- are more likely to get prizes in your age category during sporting events
- run out of certain food items, i.e. eggs, 2% milk, ice-cream, etc.
- have one gas station, one dry cleaners, one movie theatre, one library, one Marina, it's pretty simple... just one to choose from.

So we have orders, finally.  We called/emailed information to Personal Property and PSD. Contacted the ONE moving company and got our dates for pre inspection, pack out, date of departure, home inspection..etc.. it was overwhelming. I remembered I had to take it one day at  a time not think of this as a bulk thing.  It doesn't all happen at once.  We're done with the inspection, pre inspection and now in the middle of the pack out.  Today they packed the entire house.  Honestly, I'm surprised to see how fast they worked.  Tomorrow the 18 wheeler pulls up--- well actually squeezes it's way around the circle to the front of our house where they will load it up and take it away.  We will live here for at least 6 weeks with what most people call "flintstone" furniture - it's loaner furniture everyone gets when the first arrive and when their household goods are taken away.

I'm exhausted and finally realizing that I a really leaving, so I'm a little sad because there are many great people I will miss... OK different post.  Here's a pictorial of my house during prep and during pack out...

Until next time, good night!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Good Morning GTMO

This is what I get to see at 7 am. One can hardly complain but some do and call this a terrible place to live. I assure you, if you can appreciate nature, the easy pace, warm and friendly people you will think otherwise.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Two Cats need a NEW GTMO home

Good Day soon-to-be GTMO Families,

We are preparing to move in a couple of months and would like to find a home or homes for the two kittens we've been boarding.  They are 3 years old born and raised in GTMO.  Their names are Mittens and Shadow.

They will be up to date on all shots and will come with all they need to get you started for at least two months- tags, litter box, litter, food and food bowls...etc.

They are great at keeping critters at bay (the occasional roach or mice), they love to play with lights, shadows, feathers, string, and anything that crinkles, like plastic bags.

We have to rent our next home and it is extremely difficult to find a rental just in general but one that accepts pets, particularly cats, impossible.  I took them in to keep them from going on death row in hopes someone would want to keep them while on island.  I contacted the vet and her hands are tied...if they don't find a home...well, you know what can happen :-(

Email me and let me know if you're interested in a visit, more pictures, and/or adoption or fostering while on island.

Thank You.  

~ Terie

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Smar Fair, Talent show, Prom, Graduation, moving -- never a dull moment in GTMO

We have been BUSY here in GTMOland!

First, the SMART fair. FUN. This is an event where students display their best visual and performance talent.  So many kids with so many great ideas.  For example, the 2nd grade class was tasked with reusing items front he trash to make something useful, bottles were turned into flower pots or pencil holders, egg cartons were turned into jewelry boxes and bead holders; other kids presented their creations with paint, clay, rocks, shells, beads and more.  It was entertaining and educational.  I left there with my favorite message in mind... "Unless..." (think Dr. Seuss' The Lorax).  My daughter Emm displayed a few of her art pieces, seen below.  So talented.... My next house will be decked with her artwork.

The Prom was next.  The event of the year for the class of 2012, all 9 of them.  OK so it's a small class but a great group of kids.  They have worked hard, they can't hide in a crowd of hundreds, they really have to put forth best effort, best attitude, best behavior because everyone knows who they are.  On the bright side, everyone knows who they are and everyone does what they can to help them and support them.  This year the prom was held at the Admiral's house.  How many kids can say that?  Well just nine kids can say that.  The event was amazing.  They were taken on boat rides from the Admiral's dock, returned to find great food and a beautiful cake, then the coronation of king, queen, princesses and courts. For our family this was the best part because our little Emm was the prom queen.  That is a once in a lifetime honor.

The talent show.... wow another fun filled event.  The show was great, better then I expected. These kids are so brave to get up on that stage and perform anything, it was great.

Coming soon, graduation.  Emm is graduating June 8th.  How I feel about her leaving will be in another post.  Suffice it to say that I am excited for her, happy that she's happy about going to college and looking forward to starting a new chapter with only 2 kids in the house.

Finally, the big move, yet again.  That's right, we are moving from GTMO.  I'm going to miss this place and this will also be in a new post. GTMO is such a unique place, it's not reality, by far. But it's unique, special and right now, hot, hot, hot!

I will have to post the list of questions I usually get  and my outgoing messages from orders, to pack-out, to the final farewell.  Ugh.. not looking forward to any of that but I am looking forward to other adventures.

Until next time,

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Guantanamo Saves a Manatee- Amazing rescue story!

Some stories just have to be shared.... this is one I love! I wish I had been there to take more pictures.

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (NNS) -- An orphaned baby manatee was rescued by Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, (NS GTMO) personnel at the installation's marina, May 3.

The 3-day-old, 77-pound manatee is a West Indian endangered species found sporadically throughout Florida, the Greater Antilles, Central America, and South America.

Army Capt. Miriam Lovell, the officer-in-charge of GTMO's Veterinary Treatment Facility, along with Army Staff Sgt. Jamie Jackson and Army Sgt. Jody Gaudrault, both veterinarian technicians, immediately went to the Morale, Welfare and Recreation's marina when they received a phone call from the Port Operations department about the manatee.

"Manatees usually don't go into the marina, so we went down there to try and find its mom," said Jackson.

Tim Baugh, of MWR Outdoor Recreation, ensured that a boom was placed in the area where the manatee was located and that boaters were notified of the animal's presence. Tiana Armstrong, of Red Cross Disaster and Mississippi Animal Response Team, also worked with the team to ensure that the environment was undisturbed in the hopes that its mother would return.

Masters-at-Arms 2nd Class Travis Rader and Masters-at-Arms 3rd Class Sara Tusa were called to assist with the rescue efforts. Rader and Tusa, both with the Naval Station Security department, are in training to become the installation's game wardens.

The Naval Station's Natural Resources Manager Jose Montalvo was also on scene to assist with the rescue. As the rescue went on, the team decided to name the manatee "Manny."

Jackson and the others entered the water to put the manatee on a stretcher and into a boat. They then went near pier 33, where it was reported that an adult manatee was sighted.

"We went out and a manatee was seen, but we didn't know if it was the mom or not. When we released the baby manatee in the same area, the adult manatee swam away and did not try to connect with the baby at all," said Gaudrault.

Returning with Manny to the Marina, the team searched for the manatee's mother, while coordination by others was ongoing.

Lt. Cmdr. Scott Armstrong, Air Operations officer, NS GTMO was contacted by Lovell to discuss different courses of actions that could be taken to transport the animal.

"After collecting input from her and manatee experts stateside, I presented these to Cmdr. David Hughes at Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (N32) and Mr. Jene Nissen of Fleet Forces Command Environmental Services," said Armstrong. "Shortly thereafter, I was contacted by Dr. Frank Stone from the Chief of Naval Operation's Energy and Environmental Readiness Division (N45) who spearheaded the coordination at the Federal level with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS)."

After several unsuccessful attempts to find the calf's mother, it was decided that the weakening manatee had to be transported from the Naval Station to preserve its life.

"During the day Dr. Stone and I agreed the best course of action was to transport the manatee on the Station C-12, due to the time critical nature of the problem, as well as the specialized care and monitoring required to protect the manatee wherever it was," he said. "Members of the Manatee Rescue department of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services in Jacksonville, Fla. coordinated with facilities in Florida and Puerto Rico including the Manatee Conservation Center in Bayamón Puerto Rico. Dr. Antonio A. Mignucci-Giannoni of the Center secured agreements and authority from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to request we transfer the manatee to their care for the purpose of saving its life."

Before putting the manatee on the aircraft, they had to ensure that the transport would be done safely.

"Naval Aircrewman 1st Class Samuel Arias and I constructed a "Manatee Playpen" by strapping down a foam pad to protect the manatee's body underneath, over which we secured a waterproof tarp to prevent any water intrusion to the aircraft," Armstrong said. "On top of that we put in an inflatable "Kiddie Pool" lined with wet towels which we covered 'Manny' with, and secured a small bucket of water to keep him moist."

The manatee was placed on the Naval Station's C-12 and with Gaudrault by its side, transported on a two-hour flight to Isla Grande Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The manatee was then taken to the Manatee Conservation Center located at Interamerican University in Bayamón.

Nine members of the Center met the aircraft and immediately provided electrolytes to the slightly dehydrated calf. The caregivers named the calf "Guamá," in honor to a Taino Chief of the eastern province of Cuba, which is recognized as a figure of historic importance for Cuba.

The center reported back that the calf is doing well and that it is adjusting comfortably to its new environs.

It is expected that it will take approximately two years before the manatee can be transported back to Cuba and released with a satellite transmitter, according to Montalvo.

Saving the manatee's life was the right thing to do, Armstrong said.

"The Chief of Naval Operations instruction 5090.1C has several passages exhorting Commanding Officers to not jeopardize the continued existence, protect, or not endanger species," he said. "It is Navy policy to comply with applicable laws for the protection and management of wildlife resources and directs the Navy to consult with National Fish and Wildlife Services with any actions they may take regarding endangered species."

According to Armstrong, coordination among Naval Station personnel and outside agencies helped to save the manatee's life.

"GTMO's strength is its pool of talent and inherent flexibility from the diverse missions we are called upon daily to execute, all of which we marshaled to a successful end," said Armstrong. "Where coordination between the highest levels of government was required, oft lamented inertia was nowhere to be seen, and the inherent drive to get the right things done for the right reasons shone particularly brightly."

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spring is here, yet everything remains the same

One of the great details about GTMO is the climate. You either love it or hate it. It's warm during the winter months, sometimes hitting the 90s mid day and warmer in the summer months. I'd like to say we have a tropical climate but to call it tropical we'd have to experience rain once in a while. It has been at least five months since the last true rainfall. It is so dry that Public Works has suspended the few lawn watering days we had to no watering at all. The crazy thing is that if you look at the distant mountain range that surrounds us you can see the rain and the clouds building up, it just doesn't quite make it to this side.

March 21st was the first day of spring and it rained for about three seconds. Everything remains the same. It's windy but the temp is pretty steady year round, changing throughout the day. On the bright side, no rain means no mosquitoes and I'm ok with that for a while. It's nice to sit outside and enjoy a nice afternoon without the use of mosquitoe repellant.

At night there's a comforting breeze that sometimes forces me to wear a light jacket...feels great. In the early morning hours we have perfect running, walking, biking weather or sit out back with your coffee weather. Here you won't find the changing seasons, instead a very predictable climate which you quickly learn to embrace.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What happens in GTMO.....

What goes on here in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba? 

Well, we have fun, that's what.  

Believe it or not, I have been to more concerts and have met more entertainers since living in GTMO than I have my entire life.  Well, I was sort of sheltered growing up so the numbers aren't necessarily high.  

ANY--WAY.... what I'm saying is that our MWR department, that's Morale, Welfare, and Recreation continues to impress me with their selection of entertainers and events for the entire family.

We have 2 outdoor movie theaters here and yes, we do get current movies.  They don't always arrive when they first come out but it's OK because we do not pay to see the movies or the live entertainment.  It's one of those benefits we appreciate.  Don't get me wrong, the events aren't free, just free to the community.

This coming weekend we will be wowed by rhythm EXTREME.  I've been looking forward to seeing this show.  I think it's going to be a lot of fun.

Styled after the worldwide theatrical success "Stomp," Rhythm Extreme takes the popular appeal of percussion performances one step further to create a truly innovative theatrical event.

Just a few weeks ago "Something Distant" was here, again, ushering the runners of the Rock and Roll half marathon to the finish line.  Then we had a Polynesian event with amazing dancers and good food.  I have seen comedians like Chelsea Handler, acrobats such as those in Cirque Odyssey, and so many others.

Every week, just about, there's some type of entertainment going on here and when all else fails we have the movies or girl's night at the Marina, can't beat that!

Coming to GTMO? Want to know more about our MWR sponsored activities? Click here and keep up with us.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Blue Monday-Windmill Beach

Smiling Sally always inspires me to find the beauty in the blues. I often find myself picking out the different shades of blue in the Caribbean waters. This is Windmill Beach located in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The time of day and weather conditions will dictate the colors we see.  At times the clarity is such that you could almost see the bottom of the ocean. It is one of my favorite and most peaceful spots on the island.

Enjoy my blue waters and visit other displays of blue by visiting Smilingsally's Blue Monday!