November 1, 2015
Our day off…
It’s Sunday and we met John from MWR in the lobby of the BOQ at 9:45am to get a ride over to Radio GTMO, where we met John, the radio DJ. In the front lobby of the station, they have shelves full of T-shirts, sweatshirts, sweatpants, coozies, mugs, and Fidel bobbleheads. On the front of the shirts, it reads, “Radio GTMO.” On the back, it reads, “Rockin’ in Fidel’s Backyard.” All of the proceeds from the sales of these items go to help different organizations on the base; it’s a non-profit. I purchased souvenirs.
The radio show was fun to do. John just asked us questions and we answered. It makes me think of how fun it might be to host a radio show. I look forward to getting the recording.
After recording our stuff, we got to tour the studio. We saw where they file all of the CDs of top 40’s songs (yes, they stay on top of the newest music), the equipment where they control the TV stations received on base, and the storage room where they house the 3rd largest collection of old vinyl records (dating back to the 60’s) of all military bases. An old album of the Beatles that was found amongst them now sits in a museum.
Next up was a short tour of the base. Our guide showed us what was left of Camp X-Ray, where the first group of 20 people who were believed to be in connection to the 9/11 attacks was detained. They reopened the camp on January 11, 2002 for these 20 people until Camp Delta was finished. The detainees were transferred and Camp X-Ray was closed on April 29, 2002. Detainees were most definitely tortured, some to death, at Camp X-Ray. Seeing it reminded me a little bit of seeing Dachau in Germany; there is an eerie energy there. It is now over-grown with weeds that creep between the fences that run between the guard posts. No one ever escaped Camp XRay.
We got close to the gate to Cuba, but it’s never good to get too close. Military personnel line the fence on both sides, just as a precaution. Cuba’s weaponry is behind the times and would never compete with the U.S.’s, and we don’t have a reason to fight the Cubans, yet there is still some disagreement over the land, etc. Since Cuba and the US have been improving relations, the US has removed all of their land mines on GTMO’s side of the fence. However, Cuba supposedly didn’t make a map of where they buried theirs and a month ago, a cow blew up. It’s just good to be careful.
We were not allowed to go see the current detainment center; they don’t call it a prison because no one in there has been sentenced. They are just being detained, awaiting their trials. I have more information on this topic, but I am choosing not to put it in this blog. I will say only this: detainees are treated well. Guards have the worst living quarters on the base, because of the laws regarding “prisoners of war” and their keepers.
Following the little tour, we had brunch and got to sit in the officers’ club bar. There are certain places on base that only officers are allowed to occupy. We got the royal treatment for sure. Here, we got a personal account of what happened the night before a mysterious death happened on base earlier this year. Again, I am going to keep what I heard to myself, but you can read about it here:
Following brunch, we all put our swimsuits on and slathered up on sunscreen, preparing for a tour of the bay. When we arrived at the marina at our scheduled time, we discovered that the captain of our boat got the time’s mixed up and was not willing to come back down. As we weighed our options, our guide told the clerk that we had a boat for free if anyone came along interested in captaining it for “the four comedians.” To our luck, three people, army personnel as it turned out, were just arriving to get a boat. They were willing to drive us around and save money on renting a boat. Everybody won! It was a beautiful day. We toured around, saw people fishing, and even jumped in the water for a bit. Captain Matt pointed out the border fence and once again we were told, “We shouldn’t get too close. You never know.” Interesting. Like a child…I wanted to know…what could happen?
With a cooler full of beer, the comedians enjoyed our first day off in the sun. Once we stopped to jump in the water and float in our life vests, with beer-filled coozies, I was in one of my favorite states of being. Until… someone yelled, “You guys should swim back to the boat, there are jellyfish in the water!” I yelled back, “If I swim directly back to the boat, will I be swimming right through them?” My response was a shrug. I swam back, slowly and deliberately. As I swam, I noticed a dull stinging feeling in multiple places on the left side of my body. I knew I was being stung by jellyfish, but just kept swimming. What else could I do? I matter-of-factly hollered to the people on the boat, “I think I’m getting stung.” There was no panic in my voice. It was more like: I’m not sure what’s going to happen next, so just warning you, if I have a reaction hopefully you’ll know what to do. The pain wasn’t bad. It just felt like bee stings. The boys offered to urinate on me; I politely decided to let the pain ride itself out. After all, I already had a swollen foot and a few beers in me. The pain went away rather quickly and within a couple hours, the red marks were gone, too. And now I can say I was stung my jellyfish in Guantanamo Bay!
The day ended with dinner at The Jerk House and cosmic bowling. Granny bowling for me. The funny thing about the bowling alley: most people weren’t there to bowl. There are only certain places where a person can connect to Wi-Fi on GTMO; one of them is the Bowling Alley! People lined the hallways, the tables, anywhere they could find space to connect to the outside world. Crazy.
It was a good day. Off to Curacao tomorrow and another “day off.”
Every day, I strive to…
Be the light I wish to see in the world.