Prior to taking the job here, we researched everything we could about gtmo. I read blogs, I looked through photos, I talked to everyone I knew who had been here before. I knew ahead of time that it would be hot, that it doesn't rain much, that the commissary can sometimes be out of staples. I knew there wouldn't be ample shopping opportunities, that I would have to give up my cell phone, that I would be confined to a very small piece of land. I knew the internet would be slower, that iguanas would replace squirrels, and that I could only drive 25 mph.
I had prepared myself mentally and tried to prepare my family as well. And I think I did a pretty good job. Weighing the pros and cons, we were all willing to give up some choices and luxuries in order to enjoy a slower pace of life and enjoy the close community. Shocked and surprised were not words that I used when I arrived.
There is, however, something that I didn't think about or prepare myself for. The fact is, aside from a few Cuban exiles and some longtime contractors, no one lives here forever. Everyone leaves. We lived in a military community for 12 years, so we are very used to the comings and goings that military life inevitably brings. But, there were also so many people who stayed. There was a core group that was never going to leave. We had several of the same neighbors for 7 years. We went to church with the same people for 12 years. Sure, some left, but not everyone.
Here, everyone leaves. Or, we will leave them behind. No one will be permanent neighbors for us. We will, at some point, have to say goodbye to every single person that we have met here. It is a stinky part about being here. And it's hard. On Monday, I had to say goodbye to my neighbor, Cindy, and her family. We became instant friends and I got to enjoy the blessing of her being my neighbor for almost a year. Next week, we will bid farewell to a couple of young men in our church who have become part of our family. Then just a few short weeks later, we will bid farewell to another young man who is also very dear to us.
Tears are shed often around here, but what I must remember is that tears mean we have made life-long friends and no matter where our travels take us in life, we will be able to cherish the time we had, and perhaps even see them again!