Sunday, September 30, 2012

Driving in GTMO

My oldest daughter got her learner's permit yesterday and drove for the first time.  Very exciting stuff!  This will be a great place for her to learn to drive since everything is safe and easy.  We don't even have a traffic light here.  Only stop signs.  And like I mentioned before, the top speed limit anywhere on base is 35 mph and mostly it is 25 mph.  The poor girl though when she gets back to the states is going to have to learn how to navigate freeways, traffic lights and round abouts.  

One of my favorite parts about the whole process of getting her permit is that it is free!  In FL, I think it was around $75 because she also had to take a 4 hour drug and alcohol course.  She could've gotten her permit on her 15th birthday in FL but we chose to wait and see about the job here before she got it.  When we realized that we were coming here for sure, we put the whole process on hold so as not to have to repeat courses and costs.  Now I'm very thankful that we just waited.  Also, in FL, it was mandatory to have a learner's permit for a whole year before being allowed to get a drivers license.  But here, she will still be able to get her license on her 16th birthday!

I can't wait until she has her license!  I'm going to teach her now how to do all my grocery shopping.  =)  

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Well Thought Through Plan?

Well it seem as though "a day or so" escaped me.  Here I sit, 4 days later and still haven't put up the pictures of our recent activities.  The pics are on Vic's iTouch and whenever I get some time to write, he isn't here with it.  So, I'll share briefly on another topic.  


Did I mention that 5 of our 6 children are playing soccer?  Until now, we've had a general rule that went something like: only 2 children at a time in a sport.  This was necessary for my sanity because Vic usually missed practices and only made it to a few games.  The life of a retail manager dictates working most Saturdays.  

Being in gtmo I realized that a) Vic would have off most Saturdays and b) the kids can ride their bikes to practice.  So, in my mind this meant that they could all do soccer without a) me having to be a taxi every day of the week and b) me having to navigate Saturday games by myself.  Both a and b translate to a much saner me.  Piece of cake!  I could even picture myself sipping a glass of tea and reading a book while they were all at practice...

I think I missed one important bit of information though.  Did any of you catch it?  Um, hello!  Game day!  Sure, I won't have to be by myself, but I didn't clearly think though the obvious implication that 5 kids playing = 4 games (thankfully two of them are on the same team) each and every Saturday!  Each age group has a time slot and then plays in order from youngest to oldest. This means that I will be at the soccer fields from 9am - 2pm every Saturday watching games.  Oh dear!  I'm not sure if there is enough sunscreen for my poor white skin.  Unlike my husband and children, who are naturally blessed with pigment, I tend to burn right around the 20 minutes mark.   

On the bright side, I suppose I just might learn the soccer rules really well.  

btw, Tori is extremely happy because her team color is light pink!  There were some not-so-happy boys and dads though.  Victor Jr. hasn't got his shirt yet, but I do know it is going to be lavender purple.  Oh my!  Can't wait for that reaction.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

I'm Still Here

Pardon the brief absence.  I promise that I haven't run out of things to write about.  Quite the opposite.  In fact, sometimes I feel like I have so much to say and I want to share so many details that I eventually give up because it makes my brain work too hard.  And other times I simply don't want to fight the slow internet.  I tend to blog in the evenings and that is precisely when the internet is at its slowest.

Our days have been filled with school, swimming lessons, soccer and regular day-to-day activities.  We aren't more busy here than we were in FL, but added to the regular busyness of a household of 8 is the fact that I'm still not quite unpacked so I've been spending my free time fine tuning the areas of the house that are a bit out of order.

I promise another post in the next day or so complete with some pictures of our recent activities. So far though, we are still singing the "It can't GTMO better than this" song.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Simple Pleasure

I am a water snob.  I like bottled water that is labeled purified or distilled.  The two major brands that fit that category are Dasani and Aquafina.  I don't like anything labeled drinking, spring or artesian.  And I can tell the difference.  Just ask my good friends and husband who once put me to a blind taste test.  Oh yes, I can spot an impostor!  I have been often posed the question, "What would you do if the only thing you had to drink was not your preferred water?"  Well, I do like life more than I like my brand of water, so I must say that I would always choose the water, even if it was sub-par.  Given the choice and resources though and I will take my purified or distilled water any day.

What does all this water talk have to go with gtmo?  Well, there are only two brands of bottled water sold at the (very limited) NEX and both are sadly spring and drinking.  Sigh... Yes, I can choke it down, and I do because as stated before, I do love life more than water, but it's not my preferred brand.

There is one other tidbit of info to know about me.  I dislike almost everything about McDonald's.  I say almost because over the past few years, they have come out with some acceptable items like oatmeal, smoothies, coffee drinks and salads.  But I will never choose McDonald's as my first choice when it comes to fast food.  In fact, it will always come last on my list of places to go.  But, here in gtmo, there are very few choices for fast food.  And, there is only one fast food place open for breakfast.  Turns out I needed a quick option for my kids the other day.  McDonald's would do the trick, especially since I myself wasn't going to eat.

Back to how this has to do with water.  I go inside to place my order.  While I am standing waiting for them to call my number, I notice a large bucket of iced water bottles on the counter.  I stare blankly for a moment, then I do a double-take.  There, before my very eyes, is an entire tub of iced cold DASANI water bottles!  I could almost hear the angels singing.  Rushing back up to the register, I hurriedly pulled my money out and ordered a bottle.  I think the employee was a bit caught off guard by my enthusiasm for bottled water.

Cracking one open, I sipped slowly, savoring every swallow while waiting for my order.  There, at my least favorite place to eat, I enjoyed my most favorite water.  A simple pleasure indeed.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Beach in Pictures

Today we managed another trip to the beach.  Although we wanted to go to Kittery Beach, we ended up at Girl Scout Beach.  We had a fantastic time!  Vic bought snorkel gear for all of us to enjoy.  Very fun!  The kids took to it like it was old hat even though none of them have done it before.

 Most of the beaches that I've been to have these long stairs to navigate the cliffs to reach the bottom.  Notice how clear the water is?  And the pictures never quite do the color justice.  It's beautiful!
 I know it's hard to see in this small picture, but notice the many small rocks on the sand.  The sand is really more like millions of small pebbles and then scattered with larger pebbles and rocks.  It actually hurts a bit to walk on it!  Our next purchase will surely be water shoes for everyone.  We have decided that we were surely spoiled by the sugar white sand of Florida's Emerald Coast.  But, while those beaches were made for relaxing, these beaches are made for exploring!
 Tori collected all of these sea snails and put them into this small hole carved out of a large rock on the beach.  Actually, I don't think it's a rock, but rather a chunk of coral.  I told her, "Oh, I see you've put all the snails in this hole."  She looked at me quite puzzled and very seriously said, "No Mom, I didn't put ALL the snails in there."  Clearly I should've known that ALL the snails on the beach would never fit into that hole.  
 Snorkeling was a hit!  It was really neat to see all the rocks and fish in the water.   It was very peaceful although I must admit, it took me a little while to relax enough to do the snorkeling correctly.  I felt a tad bit claustrophobic.  Hopefully I'll be able to steadily get more comfortable with this because I would eventually like to learn scuba diving as well.  
 Here is Vincent showing me a piece of coral that he had collected.  This went on over and over.  He would find something grand and rush it over to me for a closer inspection.  He collected rocks, shells, sea glass, snails and coral.
 Tori is hands down the best "collector" of them all!  She will spend hours searching each nook and cranny for a snail or a piece of sea glass.  And she doesn't seem to tire of it at all.  
Another picture of the gorgeous water, looking down from the top of the cliff.  Beautiful!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Household Goods Arrived!

I began this post on Friday, but I've been so busy and tired that I failed to finish it and failed to update the blog for the last few days...

Today we received all of our HHG shipment!  Right now I'm typing this while sitting in my recliner and watching our t.v. complete with surround sound.  If anyone knows my husband, they would not be surprised to hear that that is what he chose to set up first.  Tonight I will look forward to sleeping in my bed.  So, I've slept in my bed for the last two nights and it was amazing!  Our bed is really comfortable.  I had forgotten how amazingly comfortable it was.  Ahhhh

Furiously working for the last three days, I have managed to get the house about 75% complete.  I even skipped church tonight to keep working.  Most of the kids went with Vic and I was able to have a couple of uninterrupted hours.  It sure feels good to get things in order!  Right now I'm enjoying the Broncos-Steelers (Go Broncos!) game and it feels like home sitting in my living room.  So far I have the kitchen, living room, master bedroom, upstairs storage, laundry room, dining room and all the bathrooms complete.  Jordan and Alana took care of their room.  I still have to work on the little girls, boys, office/school room, shed and outside storage.

I have to say again how much I am loving this house!  For me, it is much bigger than what we had before and I am enjoying not having to cram things into every square inch of each closet.  While I am still using my best organizing skills, I feel like I can be a bit more relaxed.  My goal while living here will be to not accumulate too many more belongings.  It certainly can be so easy to have more space and then just fill it up!  I'm happy to say that for the first time in 11 years, I don't have anything in the master bedroom except for OUR stuff!  At our last two homes, it was necessary to store extra items in my master closet and I even had all of our home schooling books lining one whole wall at our last house.  When I walk in my room now, it feels so peaceful and tranquil.  When I was a kid, my parents' room was off limits.  They even had a keyed lock on their door.  I have half a mind to implement the same policy.  OK, not really, but the thought did cross my mind.  :)

Tomorrow Vic has the day off so we are going to go to Kittery Beach since it is actually open.  It has been closed since we have been here and we hear that it is one of the nicer beaches to visit.  We plan on taking advantage while we can since we don't know when it might close again.  Perhaps I will work on more of the house tomorrow, but more likely than not, I will take a day off of house organizing.  Also, Vincent and Tori start swimming lessons tomorrow afternoon so our day sounds like it will be full of fun!

Updated to add:

I almost forgot to mention that our shipment took just shy of a month to arrive!  Our pack-out was completed on August 10th and then delivered to us here on September 7th.  Not bad at all!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Safety First

"I eat breakfast 300 yards from 4000 Cubans, who are trained to kill me..."

Recognize that movie quote?  If you said Colonel Jessup from A Few Good Men, you would be correct. But, life here is really not like that at all.  At least not for those of us who live in base housing and work regular jobs.  I wouldn't want to discount the danger to the Marines here who do protect the fence line, but most of us never even get to see it.  It is simply not a part of our daily lives.

One of the things that I love about base life here is that it is safe.  And I'm not just talking about crime.  I'm talking about daily life.

Some examples:

  • The speed limit is 25 mph on the main streets, 15 mph in the residential sections and 5 mph if drivers see troops running in formation.  I think there is one road that I've seen that goes out to a beach where the speed limit is 30 mph
  • There are chain link fences that separate housing from the water.  Since there is so much water here, and most of the housing is relatively near water, the fences are very helpful.  I know it eases my mind.
  • Anytime that we see a pedestrian about to cross the road, it is expected that all vehicles will stop. No matter what.  And the vehicles do stop.  Every time.
  • Helmets must be worn at all times when riding a bicycle, skateboard or roller blades.  No questions.
  • 10 year olds may swim at the pool without a parent, but they must first demonstrate the ability to swim 25 yards.  There are always at least two lifeguards on duty at the pool and I think that I usually see three.
  • Tropical Storm Isaac was a perfect example of the safety measures employed on the base.  We were in our homes and everything secured about 24 hours before the storm.  I imagine if everyone in the states took storms this seriously, less life and property would be lost.
  • All of the construction sites that I have seen are entirely enclosed by chain link fences.  Then the work vehicles drive into the fence and close it before working.  Our neighborhood is currently under construction, so I have especially appreciated this.  I even went and spoke to the workers on the first day that we were here to make them aware of the presence of my children.  They assured me that they watch very carefully and that they are only allowed to drive 5 mph when they see children.
  • Beaches are closed at the first sign of bad weather.  The beaches remained closed for three days after TS Isaac.
  • I'm not entirely sure if this is a regulation or not, but everyone who runs, walks or bikes at night wears reflective gear.  
  • All of the playgrounds have that nice spongy padding under them to cushion falls.  There are also canopies to shade the equipment.  I consider that to be a safety issue because on more than one occasion, I've had a child get burned by a hot slide. 
With little children, I certainly appreciate the extra safety measures.  And for my older children, it is so nice to be able to let them jump on their bikes and head to the pool, the post office, the NEX or the library without a second thought.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Our Suburban Arrived!

Today we got our Suburban off the barge!  It was shipped from New Orleans on 7/27, so that was just about 5 weeks.  I'm so thankful to have it back.  It's a nice feeling to feel one step closer to being settled.  According to the barge manifest, our household goods were also aboard, so I'm hopeful that we will be getting a call very soon to schedule the delivery of our stuff.  Perhaps even by the end of this week!  We'll see.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

It can't "GTMO" better than this

***"It can't 'GTMO' better than this" is one of many sayings here in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba***

I know I've been absent for a few days.  It's not for lack of things to write about, that's for sure!  Each day we are learning new things, discovering new places, finding new activities.  We have been settling in very nicely.  There is so much that I like about living here and to be honest, I haven't found much that I don't like.  At least not yet.  Or at least not anything that I don't like so much that I don't want to be here.  No doubt some things will come up, but I think I had prepared myself mentally for life to be different.  For the internet to be slower.  For the store shelves to be hit or miss.

 I love the slow pace of life.  If you are at all familiar with the phrase "island time", that would be an accurate way to describe life here.  Very few activities start precisely on time.  Thinking about the military and their reputation for punctuality, I didn't quite expect that on a military base.  But no matter, we are still showing up when events are scheduled and then finding ourselves with ample opportunity to take in the newness, meet new people and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere.  In addition to a slower pace, everything is so close by that it literally takes me no more than 5 minutes to get anywhere.  And that includes loading all the kids in the van.  Yesterday I needed some items at the commissary and I was there and back again in a record 17 minutes!  Fabulous!

Activities are also quite plentiful here.  Yesterday some of the kids participated in a 50 meter swim off at the Windjammer pool.  What fun that was!  After the races, MWR (stands for Morale Welfare Recreation) provided lunch for everyone for free.  This week I plan on signing various children up for swimming lessons, soccer and art lessons.  The other nice part of the activities is that many of them are free and then the rest seem to be quite a bit less expensive than the states.  Swimming lessons, for example are only $30 for a two-week session.  I remember it being more than double that amount for lessons in our town.

So, right now the tune I'm singing is, "It can't GTMO (pronounced get 'mo) better than this".  Hopefully, I'll still be singing the tune for a long time!