Friday, July 31, 2015

Things I Miss

Of course every time you move, there's things you miss. Your favorite restaurant, your favorite grocery store (shout out to Publix...we're coming back to the south for ya one day!), the cute corner coffee shop. The kinds of things we miss here are more like any other restaurant, any other grocery store, and any other coffee shops...because we have pretty much one of everything. (Note: we actually have a few "restaurants" but they are open at weird times and on weird days so we can go ahead and say that at any given time only one or maaayyybe two is open)

Here are a few things I'm missing right now:

1. Farmer's Markets and our CSA box. In Virginia, Jim and I started getting crop shares from a local farm and picked up a box of veggies and fruit every week. In San Diego, we lived so close to the North Park farmer's market that I could walk there with my (nerdy? Maybe...) rolling cooler and pick up our weekly veggies. How cute is that?! Here, I try to go to the commissary very often to make sure I catch the produce aisle when the barge comes in (twice a week usually) but you still never know what you're going to get and where it came from. It makes dinner planning a little less planable because they don't always have what I want, but I'm getting better about working with what I can get!

2. Internet. The Internet at our house is a joke. Sometimes during the day you can get something done, but in the evenings when everyone's at home, you can pretty much forget about it. It is super slow and cuts out fairly regularly. Sending pictures and downloading small things like a song takes forever and we can't watch videos, FaceTime, or stream things like Netflix at all. There are a few places where you can go to get faster internet like the library or the coffee shop. I save up any book downloading, bill paying, online shopping I couldn't complete, and go to the library once a week or so to get some things done. Or sometimes if you start something before bed, it will be done in the morning. I think we're doing alright getting used to it, but I can't decide if it's good because we spend less time sitting around on our iPads, or bad because we spend more time since it takes longer. Either way, annoying, but not the end of the world. 

3. Specialty cheese. Back to food again real quick...cheese other than Kraft style is a hot commodity around here. Obviously there's not any fancy, fresh cheeses here, but we get pretty excited when the commissary gets things like Brie, fontina, or mozzarella which leads to cheese hoarding. All food hoarding is pretty extreme here since you never know when you might see it again, but I think cheese hoarding may be the most intense. I may or may not have a very large selection of mediocre cheese in my fridge drawer at this moment with no plans except that they had it, therefore I needed it. 

So, everyone please visit the speciality cheese aisle and farmer's market and make a cheese/fruit plate (with wine) and spend some time on your super fast internet in honor of me this weekend. 

And so we end on a positive note: something I don't miss about the states:
Not being distracted by my phone all the time. Since we don't have cell service, my phone is just for wifi, which means I don't carry it with me anywhere and it stays at home. It's nice to be connected and get texts and emails on my phone, but it's also really nice to not have everyone on their phones all the time talking or texting everywhere I go. Now when we're out with friends or each other, nobody is on their phone and we can all just be together like one big happy phone-free family (except that all the doctors have pagers and work phones and Dr. Ripple happens to get paged sort of often) but still...

And because these posts are boring without a picture, here's Jim and me kayaking this week

Happy Weekend!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Beep beep, Jimmy got a Jeep

Exciting news in the Ripple household, ya'll...we are once again a two car family! 

Here's the deal with cars here: the military paid for us to ship one car. There is the option to ship another car, but we have to pay for it and it's a pain. Also to note, the max speed limit on base is 35 mph, but the majority of roads (both of them) are 25 mph. Also, there's no Pep Boys around the corner to buy parts or have things fixed, everything has to be ordered online and I wouldn't say we have any real qualified car maintenance workers. 

A lot of people buy and sell cars on the island. There is a market of "GTMO beaters" - old beater cars that people pass around. Since this isn't real Cuba with the embargo and all, there are new cars that people have shipped here. It's not like an episode of Cuban Chrome or anything, but there is definitely an increased number of old, ridiculously painted, barely running cars. Back to our story...

So we decided to sell a car. I had a Honda CR-V and Jim had a Chevy Camaro. One of these is a teeny tiny bit more practical. I will never forget the time Jim told me he couldn't pick up our CSA box of veggies from the farmers market because there wasn't room in his car. And the time he told me we could easily fit one or two car seats in the Camaro, so we wouldn't need to get rid of it for a long time as it was just fine as a family car. So this was obviously my chance to get rid of the ridiculously small, however very nice Camaro. (Love you, Jim) 

For the last few months, we've been sharing the CR-V. And by sharing I mean either Jim riding his bike to work or me dropping him off and picking him up from work so that I have the car for errands and things during the day. I bike some too, but my cute little bike basket just doesn't work for grocery shopping, pets to the vet, etc. It worked ok, but Jim wanted some freedom, and a Jeep. A friend Jim worked with was leaving the island soon and had a Jeep she was selling, so he was in luck. And now we are the very proud owners of a 15 year old red jeep! 

Izzy and Jim are both very excited as you can see. I like it too, it's nice for carting around scuba tanks and things, and when you want a little wind in your hair. 

In other news, this week I celebrated a birthday! I had a great day. Some friends and I had lunch out and got pedicures and Jim cooked dinner at home because our "nice" restaurant is only open weekends. I also had a super fun cocktail tasting party over the weekend. Lots of friends came over and everyone brought a fun drink to try. I tried to take a picture of our cute tasting set-up, but the lighting and cinder block walls didn't do it justice, so here is a picture of me about to blow out allllllll those candles. 

Hope you all had a great week! 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Meet Mango

Surprise! Jim brought me home a little bundle of joy! He was on a walk on one of the trails around here with Brad and Ann Marie when they heard this little guy in some tall grass all alone. Jim brought him home, and as soon as I realized it was a cat and not some other strange animal Jim had picked up, I was in love! I may even love Jim a little more since he has tried to tell me for years that he doesn't like cats and now he brought one home!

We were looking for a good gtmo name for him, and while it wasn't Jim's top pick, Mango started to stick. There are a lot of mango trees around here, and thanks to some sweet friends and neighbors who have trees, we have been getting lots of great mangoes and I'm becoming a tiny bit obsessed.

Mango moved in with us just over two weeks ago now, and he is adjusting well. The first few days he was so scared and shy we weren't even sure if he could walk. He quickly proved to us that not only can he walk, but he could also jump out of his temporary Rubbermaid box home. Now he is constantly underfoot and climbing up things. Jim still tries to act like he's not a big fan, but I think they're getting along ok...

 Izzy and Admiral are not the most thrilled to be adding a pet, but they are doing well. Big bro Addy seems old-man annoyed with him sometimes, but for the most part just doesn't pay any attention. Izzy wasn't sure what to do at first, but they have been playing together (read: fighting over toys) lately, which is SO cute! I think we should just get Izzy kittens to play with instead of her usual ball.
Our first vet visit went great, and little baby Mango was only 14 oz. They think he was about 4 weeks when we found him. He lets us know when he's hungry with super adorable screams, so he is plumping up quickly will be fully ready to play with the big dogs in no time!

We go back to the vet tomorrow, where I'm sure we'll find out he has gained 5 lbs. with all the food he's been eating. Check out this pot belly!
He's already become so much more playful and feisty, I can't wait to see what he's like when he gets a little older. Jim can't wait till he's through the kitten bites phase. It's really not helping my "aren't you glad we got a cat!" argument. Ok, I hear you...enough with the cat talk, a real update is coming soon. I'm on my way to becoming a crazy cat lady now.  

Monday, June 29, 2015

life lately

Last week we had our first family members take the plunge into uncharted territory and visit GTMO! The winners are... Jim's dad and Ann Marie! They braved the one (sometimes sketchy) commercial airline that flies here, jumped through all the government hoops to get on base, and made it here without a hitch!  It's so hard to describe what visiting here is like. In a way, there's not much to do. I mean, we definitely are not making lists of all the new restaurants and recommendations we want to try. But in it's own way, GTMO has plenty to do, especially if you like semi-outdoorsy things. Luckily, they do, but Jim and I still spent most of the time leading up to their visit preparing them for the lack attractions and maybe more importantly, lack of internet. Don't come here thinking you'll work on vacay, folks! Better to undersell it and have then be surprised in a good way when they get here, right?  We all had a really great time visiting and showing them around.

We took a little trip to the Northeast Gate, which separates the base from the rest of  Cuba. A good little photo op, and we learned some little stories about the things that have happened there.
Northeast Gate

Jim & his Dad at Girl Scout Beach
Most of the rest of our trip was on the water - lots of boating, fishing, and some snorkeling attempts, although the visibility was terrible so we're pretty sure they don't believe us that the snorkeling is usually great here. We also showed off our (one) nice(ish) restaurant and went to Mongolian night, went to some of our favorite scenic overlook spots, and did some shopping - at our ultra fancy combined department store and grocery store.

Dad & Ann Marie on the ferry
It was so nice to have family here for a little bit and to show them around our new little home. After having people visit us in San Diego, I feel like we're letting people down with a trip here, but I think they still had a good time! Who's our next visitor?!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Month Three Progress Report

 In May I took a solo trip home to Panama City to see a sweet friend get married! Unfortunately, my love of not carrying anything means I didn't have my phone or camera to take pictures of the beautiful wedding, so you'll just have to trust me-it was perfect! It was a nice trip home and definitely a little strange to be back in the states and all of the things that were so normal to me a few months ago - fast internet, Target, driving >35 mph.  Once I remembered how to blow dry and straighten my hair, I was ready to go, and I did a little shopping, a little Chick-fil-A eating, and a lot of visiting with friends and family. I also go to take a little trip to check out wedding venues and try on dresses with my best friend and bride-to-be, Erica and catch up with our friend, Natalie.
It was a lovely ten days in the states, but I couldn't wait to get back to Guantanamo. I missed Jim and the pups. I missed my routine, and call me crazy, but I missed the little base-town (??) that has quickly become home.

With these glowing expressions, how could I not?!
Happy Memorial Day, ya'll
 Really though, we are so happy here in GTMO and I'm pretty sure I'm getting obnoxious with how much I say it. There are definitely people here who don't love it, and I get why, but personally, I can't come up with much to complain about. Everything is just easy. Not a lot of pressure, not a lot of options. I have some mixed feelings about not working, but honestly, I think what bothers me the most about it is what I think other people are thinking about it (did you get all that?) The truth is though, I am perfectly happy to spend my time doing things that I believe positively impact our life, even if not financially.

I am enjoying my days instead of rushing through them.

I'm not scrambling to make something for dinner after work like I did when I was full time. I enjoy planning and cooking meals, taking my time and spending an hour or two in the kitchen with my music and a glass of wine.

I'm not trying to convince myself to work out when I really don't want to anymore - because I actually want to. I look forward to my exercise classes here and the group of women I see there. That thing they always say in magazines about not wanting to skip when you know everyone will wonder where you are? It's true. Except now I don't want to skip because I like it and I feel better. Jim and I both are in better shape than we've been in in years, and that's always a good feeling.

I know this won't last forever, and there will be harder jobs, hopefully kids, just more "stuff" in our future, so we are trying to soak up this time and make it great. And one day, I'll look back on this blog and miss our days here. Until then, we'll be hanging out in the Caribbean in this place that I thought was going to be so awful.

Here's what the Ripples have been up to lately:

We attended a Memorial Day service at the cemetery

Had a Memorial Day BBQ at the beach with friends

 Where one of us was thrilled to get leftover hot dogs...

And somebody was a 60lb. lap dog...

We had a successful dive for lobster...


 And lots of fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, boating, and floating with friends


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

"Spring" in GTMO

It's been a fun last few weeks for us here in our new city/country! Jim and I are settled in, the house is feeling like home, and is mildly decorated too, which helps a lot. Considering we have cinder block walls, the picture hanging was a bit more of a production, but I'll take some pictures of the house and give more details on that another time.

I'm going to go all the way back to Easter, because we have cute pictures from then. Jim and I went to a sunrise service at one of the beaches and it was really nice. A little later, we met with some friends for brunch at the Bayview. The Bayview is our "nice" restaurant, and it really is a fun spot with indoor and outdoor seating, right on the water. Sunday brunch is a buffet, but is actually pretty good and since it was Easter, things got real fancy with a lamb station AND a ham station AND a crepe station added on. Woop woop!

Easter Jimmy

Easter Iggy

The Color Me GTMO 5k was the next weekend and it was really nice and well organized. Jim and I ran a Color Run in Richmond a few years ago and were comparing the two. The one in Richmond was like $75, so crowded, and there was ONE food truck at the finish line party. It was completely ridiculous. This one was $10, and they had free burgers and dogs and drinks at the end and a good little set up with music and a bar. I have to say, I'm really impressed with MWR and all of the things set up for us here.

Jim also has run for a relay team in a sprint triathlon and an Olympic triathlon since we got here. They placed 3rd in the sprint, and 4th in the Olympic, and I cheered them on :)

Climate Update: Really there are 2 seasons here, summer and summerer. Right now we are transitioning into summerer, with temps in the high 80s/low 90s during the day. When I first got here 2 short months ago, it was a chilly 75 in the evenings, but those days are officially gone for a while. It is also really dry, and until this week, we'd only had a light sprinkle since I got here. A few nights ago, shortly after we fell asleep (aka the half-awake, everything-is-weird, groggy state) Jim and I were stirring because of this crazy noise coming from outside. Seriously, we both were like "WHAT IS THAT?!?" It was the weirdest lots of water coming from somewhere. Jim went to the front door to check and was raining. In our defense, it was REALLY raining. And we came from San Diego, where it also never REALLY rains. But still funny and we survived. It was over by morning, which I guess is the norm around here, and we were left with the oh so glorious humidity for the next day. Luckily, I had planned a very early morning run, and my Florida girl days paid off dealing with the 90% humidity while trying to exercise outside.

Izzy and Admiral are adjusting well, too. Our neighborhood isn't named Iguana Terrace for nothing...we have a steady stream of mini dinosaurs that hang out in our yard. Izzy loves watching them out the window and whining wanting to go out and play all the time.
Addy prefers the smaller lizards in the backyard that he (thinks he) has a better chance of catching. The iguanas are quick, so we haven't had any real incidents, yet.
Next week I am heading home for a friend's wedding, so I'll be back in the land of phones, internet, stores, and restaurants. I'm off to make my "to-do" list of things to eat, buy, and TV shows to binge watch on Netflix!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

We're here, we're here!

It's taken me a little longer than expected to sit down and get a post done, mainly because Jim and I have kept super busy - but more on that later! Today marks 3 weeks that the dogs and I have been in Guantanamo Bay, and a little longer for Jim. We are absolutely loving it! There is so much to say about this place that there's no way I could get it all said at once, but over the course of our time here, I'll do my best to keep our stateside friends and family in the loop of what we're up to.

When Jim first arrived, and I was back in Florida, I kept asking a zillion times, "but what is it LIKE there?!" As you could imagine, I was not thrilled with Jim's answers of "it's just really....different...but good different, I don't know....I can't really describe it", etc. Now that I'm in the position of trying to describe it to people, I totally get it though (so sorry for being annoying about it, Jimmy!) Here is my best effort for a quick description:
It's a little like a small town, a little like being on a non-touristy island vacation, a little like being on any other military base (same tan buildings and all). It's beachy, desert-y, hilly, super sunny, and breezy. It all makes sense now, right? I am obviously a genius of descriptors.

On to our recent activities, which I can probably put into words more efficiently. One of the first things on our list was to get our captain's licenses, which enables us to rent boats from the MWR marina. The process consists of a written test, a little boat ride orientation to see where we can and can't go, and a driving test, where we had to park a pontoon boat. As expected, Jim passed with flying colors. The docking didn't go quite as smoothly for me. My Jamaican teacher friend tried his best to explain the process to me, but I would compare it to trying to parallel park a double decker bus. In the end he let me get my license but said he was very glad that Jim would be with me to do the docking. Get captain's license? CHECK!

We (Jim) put our (his) skills to the test on Saturday, and went out with some friends for the day. We did some snorkeling, the boys did some fishing (unsuccessfully...we will have to work on that too), and we explored a couple beaches. I have some pictures, but they are on a real camera, not an iPhone so if you're lucky you'll see them next year. Just kidding, I'll shoot for next month.

Which leads me to the next topic: phones. We have a home phone with long distance, so we can call the states easily. We still don't know how much it is for a call from the states to us, so we haven't been giving out our number. I've heard anywhere from like 25 cents/min to $4/min. For us it's much cheaper... 12 cents/min I think? So we'll do the calling for now. The problem with that is we are gone all the time. We're used to having phones with us literally every second of every day and it was a little strange to leave the house with no cell phone but I got the hang of it real quick. Pretty much all I need when I leave the house is sunglasses, which is great because I hate to carry things. Nobody locks anything, so no keys necessary. We do have Internet at home now, so we can iMessage when we're home. I feel like it's a perfect mix of feeling connected. I can text or call when I want to get in touch with someone, but don't have the distraction of a phone when I'm outside, at the gym, or doing any other activities.

The Internet at our house is slow, but fine. It's a little quicker during the day when people are at work,  so that's the best Amazon shopping time. There are a few wifi spots on base where you can go too, and that's best if I'm trying to download something like a book on my kindle or songs on the phone. Not lightening fast, but it is nice to grab a coffee or giant milkshake and sit outside for the couple of minutes it takes. That may be my best option for uploading pictures on here, too so I may edit later and add some since I'm at home now :)

We are getting used to everything being slower paced and both of us and the dogs are really enjoying it. Hope all is well with our friends and family and you are all enjoying your week!