A Change of Pace

Good Morning, Guantanamo. I say this to myself as I peek outside the blinds of my new home, as the darkened skies to the west slowly ache into grey. The bay is a black smear behind the hills, invisible in the dark, but the breeze from it smells salty. Pairs of headlights meander in the distance, following the dark roads to work or the gym.

The dogs next to me rustle, whining softly to be let outside. I strap on my tevas, wincing as they squeak too loudly over the vinyl floor. As I open the back door, small anoles scurry out of the way, spasming from the rapid motion as they seek cover from the dogs. It’s humid but not too warm. So I find my reflector belt (even here, far away from the war zones, they make us wear reflector belts in the dark), strap it around my waist, and wrap the walking harnesses around the dogs.

And I walk. I walk around the small loop of our new neighborhood, duplexes and triplexes mixed with single family homes, fronted by palm trees and white picket fences, as orange tendrils of morning sun crawl over the ridge, as the clouds brighten, and redden, and yellow.

Soon the flowers lining the fences lose their grey and pop into crimson and ochre and lily. The sky turns periwinkle, the whispy tropical clouds a grey lilac. They’ll be bright white soon enough. For now, the soft sky feels welcoming, embracing me as firmly as the humidity and the heat. There is a menace behind the heat, behind the sun. Before you realize it, it becomes uncomfortable, the sun piercing into your eyes if you were dumb enough to leave your sunglasses in the car, forcing a squint that makes your crow’s feet ache from the effort.

But that will all come later today. For now, the dogs and I are walking through our neighborhood, enjoying the newness of the place. This has been a big season of change in my life: I moved to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be with my husband after he got a job here. I am officially categorized as a dependent, which is a new social stature for my ego to adjust to.

It is certainly an adventure, at any rate, in a place that is very different from what you would expect from the contentious politics of the detention center. It’s morning so I’m hungry, naturally, and it turns out the food situation here is not at all what I expected.

Gitmo is a very short flight away from Jamaica, and as a result there are Jamaican workers here, mostly doing clerical and food service work. And it’s that last bit that piques my interest to no end: it means that there is a jerk house with a metal bin billowing delicious meat smoke out the back, and they serve jerk chicken and beans and rice and corn that tastes like it was boiled in chicken stock (which is, believe me, far more delicious than it sounds).

I never expected that. Then again, six months ago I never expected to be walking my dogs through a Cuban sunrise while Ford pickup trucks rumble down the street. Life is full of surprises.

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