Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

True to form, Guantanamo Bay gave us warm temperatures in the 80's to grace our Christmas Day celebrations and while I do enjoy cold weather and a crackling fire, I must admit that I'm enjoying the weather here as well.

We hosted a brunch at our house and enjoyed a meal of belgian waffles, omelets, oven-roasted potatoes, sausage, fresh fruit, carnitas, carne asada, San Diego burritos, juice, coffee and a Jamaican drink called Sorrel.

Just like our Thanksgiving meal, our Christmas meal found us blessed with many wonderful and interesting people.  When we first arrived here, we made friends with a teenage Jamaican boy.  He was here visiting his dad, who works here on the base.  Now his entire family was able to make the trip here  to be together as a family for Christmas.  Also joining us was a man named Manny.  His nickname is "Balancing Manny" and he has quite a unique talent for balancing objects on his head.  In fact, he has been on the Ellen DeGeneres show a number of times. Another claim to fame for him is that he ran the L.A. Marathon with a watermelon on his head the entire time.  He is in the reserves and was called up for duty here as a chef.  Manny has cooked for many Hollywood stars for years and today we were blessed with some of his cooking.  He made the carnitas, carne asada, San Diego burritos and several different salsas to go with it.
Here is a link to check him out: http://www.ellentv.com/2009/07/22/mannys-balancing-acts/
We ourselves have seen him balance and jog with a 5 gallon water cooler and a 6 ft. folding table on his head.
Our final guests were the George family.  They arrived on the island shortly after we did and we became instant friends.  We go to church with them and they have two teenagers who are friends with our teenagers so we are with them quite a bit.

We truly had a wonderful day and while we certainly miss family and friends, God has seen fit to add new people to our lives to enjoy and for that we are grateful.

Merry Christmas to everyone from Guantanamo Bay!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Shopping

Like most people during this time of year, I've been doing some Christmas shopping.  I've mentioned before that there is only one store here.  And while that is true, I did realize that there are other places to shop as well.  For fun, I decided to come up with a list of all the places to shop besides the exchange.

  • Craft fair - I think this might be held quarterly.  There have been two since I've been here.  I was absolutely amazed at the variety and quality of crafts being sold.  Jewelry, framed photography, hand drawn cards, hair bows, oil lamp bottles, beach-combing crafts of all sorts, and scented wax smell-good things were among some of the offerings.  My favorite thing was local honey!  Yes, someone here has bee hives and bottles the honey.  Fantastic!
  • Paintball Range - There is a store there that sells everything anyone would need to paintball.  My son got the whole set up as a Christmas gift from the grandparents and is ready to go!
  • Treasures and Trivia - this is our thrift store and it has fabulous yard-sale prices.  I found a Pampered Chef cookie sheet for $1.50!
  • Paperclips - the gtmo version of an office supply store.  I found several things that kids would like too like stationary, paint, backpacks, etc.
  • Radio GTMO - I don't think I've mentioned this before, but we have our own radio station here.  They sell t-shirts, bobble-heads, water bottles and some other items.  The t-shirts say, "Rockin' in Fidel's backyard"
  • Marine Hill - at the Marine's headquarter building, they sell t-shirts, coins and flags that have been flown over the Northeast Gate.  The t-shirts have the quote from A Few Good Men, "I eat breakfast 300 yards from 4000 Cubans who are trained to kill me" 
  • Dive Shop - perfect for the scuba diver, they sell everything necessary for diving but also have * tons of things that anyone who is headed to the beach would enjoy.  Goggles, fins, masks, knives, t-shirts, beach shoes, etc.
  • *Coming Soon* a bowling shop at the bowling alley
  • The Windjammer restaurant - they sell a couple of t-shirts and a really fun caricature-style map of gtmo
  • GTMO Family Connection - this is gtmo's facebook page and comes in handy for buying and selling.  I bought a fantastic Batman Lego set for Vincent from someone who accidentally ordered two!
  • Marina - besides bait, I actually haven't paid too close attention to what they sell, but I do think I remember sunglasses and some fishing stuff.
  • McDonald's - giftcards baby!  ok, so maybe this is a stretch, but hey =) And I don't actually even know if they sell giftcards...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


 Aside from those powdered-sugar-coated-packaged donuts and some Entemann's-style boxed ones at the Galley (which I don't think should count), we don't have any donuts on the island.  Yesterday though, the commissary got some glazed donuts in the bakery section.  Vic spotted them but didn't buy any!  What!?!?!?  He told me about it while I was shopping today and proceeded to tell me that they were all sold out.  Why oh why would he tell me that!?  I was broken-hearted for the kids knowing that they would have been so excited and that I would have been a hero if I had come home with a box.  But, lo and behold, as he and I scanned the shelves, there was ONE box left!  Yippee!  Straight into my cart it went.  I am a hero after all!!!

If you're reading this from gtmo, no need to come knocking...the box is empty and a donut is happily in each of our tummies...and some of our tummies may even have two.  =)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Our First Visitors!

Grandma Carleen and Grandpa Ron arrived today!  It is so fantastic to have them here.  Since everyone  here is completely new to us and we are literally starting all of our relationships from ground zero, it is very comforting to have someone that we love so much and are familiar with.  Having them here also makes me long for others that I miss dearly.

During the next week, we plan on showing them our favorite things about the island and just enjoying time together as much as we can.  I'll try and post some of the activities that we do, but if you don't hear from me all week, you'll just know that we are too busy having fun!

I had a few pics to share, but they accidentally got deleted off the camera.  Oops!

Another fun thing about them arriving is that they brought two huge suitcases full items that we had requested that we can't really get here.  It surely was like an early Christmas!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Christmas Parade

Last weekend we enjoyed a Christmas Parade here.  All six of our kids rode on floats.  Victor and Celina were Joseph and Mary on one float and then the other four rode the Navy Exchange float.
Since all the kids rode floats, Vic and I told them we would collect candy for them.  I felt a little bit silly bending over and picking up treats off the ground and holding my bag open!

The best thing about it?  I didn't have to bundle up any kids with hats, gloves and jackets.  No blankets were necessary and I surely didn't have to pack any hot chocolate to warm cold hands either.  Everyone did get a thorough coating of bug spray though!

 Victor and Celina as Joseph and Mary

 The Parade was quite long!  So fun and so colorful!

The Navy Exchange Float

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Downside to LIfe in GTMO

I've been thinking for awhile that in order to be fair and give a balanced view of life in GTMO, I should write a post about the negatives of living here.  To be completely honest, I've had a hard time coming up with a list.  This is interesting, because depending on who you talk to, you may find a much longer list of negatives than I have to offer.  I simply love it here.  Yes, there are aspects that are different, or inconvenient, but nothing that makes me not want to be here.  For some people, the negatives make them want to get back to stateside living as soon as possible.  And I totally understand that sentiment and don't fault them for it at all.  It just simply isn't my experience.

I've found that generally, people who live here will fall into one of three categories:
1. Those who absolutely love it here and would stay for the rest of their lives or for at least a very long period of time.
2. Those who like it ok, but are content mainly because they know it will be temporary.
3. Those who hate it and can't wait to leave.

I think that I would fall somewhere in between category 1 and 2.  While I don't want to live here forever and not even for a really long time, I feel perfectly content and happy to live here for say, 4 or 5 years.  Of course, I've only been here for a little less than 4 months, so perhaps I will change my mind.  But right now I'm very content and happy.

Here are my couple of dislikes:

1. Mosquitos and No-see-ums - the mosquitos aren't as bad as the no-see-ums and both of them seem to come in waves.  I notice that particularly after it rains, there seems to be an abundance of the nasty little biting insects.  Bug spray has become a way of life here particularly if we are going to be out in the evenings.  Benadryl and Hydrocortisone cream have become a hot commodity in our household as we have gone through no less than 4 tubes since our arrival.

2. The Weather - since we moved from a hot climate in Florida, this isn't really an adjustment for us.  But because we didn't love the weather in Florida either, it isn't a plus for me either.  It is at least 80 degrees during the day year round and often times, it is closer to 90 degrees.  I do find it less humid than where we were in FL though.  The intensity of the sun is incredible.  90 degrees her doesn't feel like 90 degrees anywhere else I've been.  It actually hurts to stay in the sun for too long.  I am very fair-skinned so along with bug spray, sunscreen has been my close ally.

There are certainly other aspects of life here that are different or a little more inconvenient, but it isn't anything that makes my life less enjoyable.  I feel like the good outweighs the bad and I came here knowing that life wouldn't be like it is in the states.  I am trying to embrace the unique experience and enjoy it as much as I can!