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 sound....like lots of water coming from somewhere. Jim went to the front door to check and oh...it 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!



Saturday, February 21, 2015

Travel Updates!


Well 1/4 of the Ripple family made it to Guantanamo Bay yesterday as planned! 

Admiral, independent as he is, isn't allowed on the plane alone and we all know Izzy is too scared to do anything (including go outside to potty) by herself, so it's not her. I got assigned doggie duty, and am now scheduled to leave March 3. The travel office somehow had trouble getting the dogs a spot on the plane, so we (dogs and I) got pushed back ten days. Huge bummer. I offered to have the dogs sit in our laps but they said NOPE! Who's the boss around here? Not me, apparently. Unfortunately, we did not find this out until the day before our planned travel to Jacksonville, so it was a bit of a shock which makes it even more irritating. But, such is military life.

Jim left for Jacksonville on Wednesday as planned and spent Thursday doing a little prep work like checking in at the airport and putting my car on a barge to float on down to GTMO. He told me about a sticker he saw at the shipping place that said "My car fell off the barge on the way to Guantanamo Bay" so that's comforting. All of our other household goods will also come through the same shipping port at some point. It's a little strange to think of almost every physical possession we own being ohhh I don't know...anywhere between San Diego and Cuba right now. Hoping I don't end up with that sticker...

Yesterday Jim arrived in Guantanamo Bay and I have heard from him a few times. He got to do some tours of the base and start the friendmaking at happy hour at the officers club, which sounds like a pretty happening spot. I'm going to save all the juicy travel details for when I actually do it, but it does sound like his trip went very smoothly. Hopefully we can soon say the same for me, but little ol' me with 2 big suitcases, 2 big dog crates, and 2 big dogs that do NOT want to go in any crates might end up looking a little more like a circus. 

Our drive from California to Georgia was....not the most fun. As soon as we left Southern California, we were greeted with MUCH colder temperatures than our little southern souls were prepared for. Our first gas station break made it clear that flip flops were a bad traveling footwear choice for me. It also was gloomy and drizzling if not full on raining the entire trip. We hadn't seen rain in literally months in San Diego, so you can imagine our annoyance. It was especially fun when we got a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, Texas. Seriously, there was nothing for miles. My darling husband unpacked the carefully Tetris-stacked trunk to get the the spare, leaving everything except the dogs and I on the side of the road in the rain until he got the tires switched out. God bless hard plastic suitcases. We made to a shed that was actually a "tire shop" and a nice man gave us a tire 2 sizes too small to get us back on the road. Once Jim calmed me down with a McFlurry, we decided to drive through the night and just get to his moms in Georgia. I really couldn't take another night at a sketchy dog friendly hotel. We made it around 4am and I've never been so happy to settle down somewhere for even just a couple of days!

The next couple of weeks were spent hopping around Georgia, then Florida, catching up with family and friends. It was really great to see everyone and Jim and I enjoyed being in our hometowns for a little while (although I am getting a little more than I bargained for with my two week addition to my PC time ��) Speaking of hometowns, our schedule change allows me to keep watching The Bachelor for two more weeks. Always a bright side!

So as of now, I am scheduled to be flying out of Jax March 3, and will be posting as soon as I can about our new little home...I am dying to see it! Jim sent me a few pictures of our new house and I've seen some of the island, but I know it will be very different to see with my own eyes. I'll probably wait to show off the new digs until I've had some time to put a little Ashley decor in place because you know...military housing. But don't you worry, I will share a banana rat picture as soon as I see my first one! (Banana rats are large, tree dwelling, cat sized, rat things that are apparently very common in GTMO. Yay!) other common critters include iguanas, and a very large toad Jim said lives in our driveway. The pups are going to have a blast! Until then, I am making the most of fast wifi and On Demand cable at Mom and Dads house and counting down the days until we all are reunited in our new home!

Next post will be from Cuba! 



Friday, December 19, 2014

¡Hola Amigos!

Surprise! The Ripple is back in effect! I had started feeling like I didn't have enough exciting things going on in Jim and I's life to create a blog that even our closest friends and family would enjoy reading. But things in the Ripple family are about to get a little more interesting. 


Recently we got news that we will be going on a new adventure...one that will probably become the biggest change I've experienced in my life so far...We are moving to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba!


This was big news to us, particularly because we just moved to San Diego about 6 months ago. As my fellow military spouses, girlfriends, etc. will agree - being in the Navy means we are pretty much up for anything, anytime! We found out just a few weeks ago, so this is all still pretty new and every morning I wake up and think "OMG I'M MOVING TO CUBA!" but after a lot of research and chatting with others who have lived there, Jim and I are really excited about this move. I had and still have a million questions, as do my family and friends, so I knew trying to keep up this blog would be a great way to share our adventure and keep ya'll updated. As of right now, we are planning to leave California in late January, drive back east for one last visit with everyone, and hop on a plane in February.


I know there will be some things that will be tough about all of this, but the most important things are taken care of- I get to go with Jim AND the dogs will be joining us too! This will be a fun way to stay connected and also have a journal-ish thing to look back on later.


A quick overview of what it's looking like life will be like there:
  • We will be living on the military base...and staying on the military base. We are not allowed to leave to any other part of Cuba. I am positive that this new Cuba news announced this week was due to the fact that the President heard that the Ripple's are headed there, but we'll see what that actually ends up meaning for us later. We will be very safe, and Jim will be the doctor for other military families that are on the base.
  • It is a Caribbean Island. The beaches are beautiful. There are tons of opportunities for diving, snorkeling, boating, kayaking, SUPing*, etc. Jim and I love the water and really can't complain too much about that.
  • We will live much more simply. No cell service, limited cable, crappy internet. A good reality check for me. It will really suck sometimes, but I'm sure it'll be a great experience. I'm mainly worried about a serious case of FOMO* after realizing that all my ongoing group texts with friends will go on without me.
  • MWR (Morale, Welfare & Recreation) looks like they have a great set-up there with a lot of things to do going on all the time. One of the most common things I've seen in my research is that if you are bored in Guantanamo Bay, it's your own fault. The families there are all in the same boat, everyone's been the new kid at some point, so they are all friendly and inviting.
  • One grocery store: the commissary. One other store: an Exchange. I'm working on being really nice so everyone wants to send me care packages of stuff I can't get there :) It's a good thing I've had years of online shopping experience. I knew it would pay off one day.
I can't wait to update on what things are like there and our move, arrival of household goods, car, and all of the other things that come along with moving. Thanks to all of my friends and family for being so supportive with this. It helps so much. I really thought some people were going to have a hard time with it and almost everyone said the same thing: "If I had to choose any friends I knew to do this-move to Cuba and be totally ok there, it would be you and Jim". I take that as a huge compliment (and hope you're all right!)




Since I know Grandmother will be reading this :)
*SUP - Stand up paddleboarding - you stand on a big board sort of similar to a surfboard and paddle around. It's fun, Jim and I have done it here.
*FOMO - Fear of missing out - a real problem with my generation







Saturday, July 27, 2013

Maycation!

Summertime is here! Ok, I know it's been here for a little bit but I wanted to back up to show some pictures of how Jim and I kicked off summer 2013! We celebrated our first anniversary May 18 and went Punta Cana, Dominican Republic as a little second annual honeymoon! Our sweet friends Natalie & Paul have been before, so they were able to recommend a wonderful all inclusive resort so I didn't have to spend the few months before reading every review for every hotel to see which one would have the best food & drinks (obviously the most important part). We stayed at the Hard Rock Punta Cana and would definitely go back again!

The week right before our vacation was Jim's Dad's wedding, so it worked out for us to drive to Georgia so the pups could stay with their grandparents and we could fly out of Atlanta. We had a great time at the wedding, although we wished we could have stayed longer!

In typical Ashley fashion, I realized that I forgot my camera once we were just too far away from the house for it to make sense to go back and get it...so iPhone pictures is was! Really Jim and I both aren't too into pictures anyway so it didn't matter too much. I'd rather enjoy myself there without posing for 100 of the same picture in front of different restaurants/pools/exotic animals anyway. Here's a few of the highlights, and I apologize for the crazy phone camera eyes in most of the pictures :)

Jim and I with nephew Luke at the wedding


View from our room - so pretty!
 
Looking like lobsters at dinner
 

Jim and the massage huts that were part of the spa- I'd like one in my backyard please!
 










Such a great vacation! And how exciting that we made it through the first year!