Wednesday, August 18, 2010

HOPE Volunteers Take a Break at Guantanamo

We came into sight of Cuba around sunrise. As green peaks rose over the horizon, people crowded the deck to catch the first glimpses of the infamous Guantanamo Bay military base.
As tempting as it was to bring out our cameras, we resisted. Pictures of the base are strictly verboten, even from offshore.

The first building that came into sight reminded me from a distance, ironically, perhaps, of a mosque. As we pulled further into the strait guarding the bay, I saw that it was a domed airport hangar. A large blue twin-engine plane flew directly over the Iwo Jima as we passed.

As we docked, I found it strange to see the ship surrounded by land in almost all directions. We’d been surrounded by the open expanse of the sea for so long. On the dock below, forklifts scurried in and out of the ship’s hold, restocking it with food and other supplies.

Guantanamo’s climate logically reminds me of south Florida, but the rocky terrain is completely different. Large many-fingered cactus trees grow on the crests of hills.

The fauna is also jarringly dissimilar. Two-foot-long iguanas lumber through the lawns on the base, as omnipresent as squirrels in a city park.

The team spent the day stocking up on the clothing items we discussed for Colombia. After dark we sampled the base’s Jamaican restaurant, the Jerk House. The food was excellent, very similar to good Suthun’ barbecue, but with more spices.

Today is also the last day for our Creole translators, Jenny, Dinah, and Vanessa. Their skills were invaluable in Haiti, and we wish them well in their future work with the Red Cross in Miami.

Story and photos by HOPE volunteer and PAO, Eric Campbell

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