I first started my blog (originally titled My European Memoirs) when I was studying abroad in Europe the summer before senior year of college. After a year-long hiatus, I started writing again with my first touring job right after college, changing the focus of the blog to tales of my travels as a touring actor. It now feels like my two blogs are combining as I’m now touring abroad! Life is so fun 🙂 Anyway, here I’ll attempt to document details of my summer beyond my usual social media posts, starting with week 1 – Guantanamo Bay!
One of the coolest things about going to GTMO was simply the fact that I was in Cuba. I mean, how many people have been to Cuba?! Because of that, though, the process of getting there was really interesting. We had to have special orders to get access to the naval base in Jacksonville, FL in order to fly from there to GTMO. We had to give our body weight plus carry-on weight to make sure the plane itself wasn’t overweight, which made me think we’d be on a tiny plane. However, I was shocked to find that the plane was fairly large, and we got to board via airplane steps on a runway, which always makes me feel like I’m doing something important. It was a short flight, so I was surprised when I was served a meal (the STRANGEST combination: chicken stir fry with rice, wheat roll, slice of cheddar cheese, butter, club crackers, potato salad, and a slice of cake LOL… can’t get over it).
Anyway, we landed on base then searched for our names on a sign. We didn’t see one, so we followed the crowd and boarded a bus to get to the ferry. After taking the ferry, turns out there had been someone waiting for us on the other side, so then we waited two hours for her to take the next ferry over. Oops. Luckily, someone else picked us up in the meantime and took us to the youth center.
The work week itself went really well. It was our first week as new tour partners, so it’s always a little interesting to navigate compromising how we both do things and finding a groove, but Josh is so easygoing, and we had no trouble at all. Our biggest surprise was only have 24 kids at the audition, so we had to get really creative about how to fill a full two hours of audition, when we actually cast the show in about 45 minutes.
We had our typical Monday on Saturday, but then had Sunday off to do whatever our hearts desired. I got up to go to church, walked to the chapel and realized my morning brain had gotten the service time wrong by an HOUR, so I ran some errands, went back to my room, and walked back to church an hour later. I’m glad they say you can come as you are because I was a disgusting, sweaty mess.
After that, I decided to go to one of the several beaches on base. Josh didn’t go because he was recovering from a sunburn from our beach day in Jacksonville, so I embarked on my solo adventure day. I took the bus (which is a literal school bus that runs for free every half hour!), and then had a bit of a walk from the stop to the beach. As I was walking, a kind stranger offered to give me a ride. Normally, I would not accept rides from strangers, but Josh gave me a heads up that it’s the culture on base. He was so friendly, and I even saw him later in the week, and he asked what time the show was – I don’t know if he actually went, but maybe!
The beach was so small that after a few minutes of laying out, my towel was completely underwater from the tide, and I had to sit up on a rock to read. There were so many gorgeous rocks, a beautiful blue sky, and lots of people snorkeling. With almost no waves, I was able to just float in the water and recover from the suffocating heat. It was such a wonderful afternoon of escape, especially since my phone is reduced to camera/iPod without wifi.
Speaking of, trying to find my way back to the bus stop proved somewhat difficult because I forgot to pay close attention when I was in the car earlier. It was so funny because with it being a military base, I kept feeling like I was walking somewhere I shouldn’t be because I was surrounded by several barbed wire fences and really severe-looking buildings. Sure enough, though, a different kind stranger gave me a ride to the bus stop, probably after wondering what the heck this random girl was doing walking around on base.
The rest of the week was mostly work-centered. We had to get creative with such a small cast, but a perk of a group that small was we were able to really build rapport with them. One of my favorite moments of the week was one cast member brought a bluetooth speaker, and it turned into a spontaneous dance party on the stage during one of our lunch breaks. Another favorite was my rehearsal with the youngest group, the chameleons. There were only three, so I was able to shower each one with so much attention, and I think they all took a little piece of my heart with them – so, so, so sweet! Ah!
The night before the show, we decided to go to karaoke. One thing that was really cool about GTMO, that I’m finding is different on other bases, is that we pretty much had access to everything and could walk around anywhere because going off base was not an option. It’s kind of weird to now be restricted on other bases. Anyway, after singing one song, Josh became a celebrity with a table of people in the navy (#Josh2020), and we all became friends! I learned that one of them was Pa Munch in Wiz of the West (the show I just finished touring) when he was in 4th grade. Such a small world!
Show day was a little nerve-wracking with it being my first performance, but after dress rehearsal, the kids seemed ready, so I felt ready! The show went so well! The only hiccup was the lights turned off in the middle of the first scene. I wasn’t sure if I should stop, but I decided to go with old, “the show must go on,” and if Josh, as the director stopped the show, then that was fine. The kids were amazing! They didn’t panic at all and just kept on talking. Soon enough, the lights were back on, and we didn’t miss a beat.
The next day we repeated the process of bus to ferry to bus to airport. We got there crazy early to make sure our 11 bags made it on the plane, so were left with an uncomfortable number of hours at the airport. Luckily, we discovered the kids’ playroom that happened to have some of our cast members. I can think of no better way to spend a few hours than drinking imaginary tea with precious littles.
And that’s a wrap on GTMO! I loved the iguanas. I loved the strong sense of community. I loved hearing Jamaican accents. I loved free buses. I loved being paid to experience all of this.
Stay tuned for tales from Italy!
P.S. I’ll edit this later and add it some pictures, but the wifi this week is dismal, so loading pictures is not happening.