Last week I got an email alllll the way from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It was from a reader of this blog – a military contractor – who wanted to chat a little about taxes and saving money on IRAs and 401(k)s and other retirement-y type stuff. So naturally we hit it off instantly ;)
After a while, I started asking him about what it’s like to live in Cuba (he’s an American living over there for the next 2-3 years) and he hit me back with a ton of AWESOME perks over there. As well as a handful of not-so-fun things as well.
We’ll start with the awesomeness :) Mostly relating to money, of course:
- I get hardship pay. Even when my weekend consisted of a dawn hike, 3 scuba dives, paddle boarding, a dinner party, and 2 movies.
- I do not pay any taxes!!!
- Limited entertainment options, but they are free or cheap.
a. Movies – free (one a night, it is an outdoor theater)
b. Golf - free (including clubs, but a cart is $15.)
c. Gyms, pools, etc. – free, free, free
d. Renting a boat cost $35 – $75 a day (hourly also available)
e. Car wash – free!
- The Navy Exchange takes coupons within 6 months of expiration date
- The status symbol for cars is how junky they are and if they’re still running
- You can bike a lot (though it is hilly and hot)
- It is ridiculously safe. (We are guarded by the marines, you must pass a security clearance to get here, and unless you are on duty you cannot possess a gun)
- There is actually a community. With limited entertainment options, people are always having dinner parties and game nights.
- Most people get their housing/utilities paid for as part of their contract. (My company is giving me a supplement in a separate line up on my paycheck. However, it gets lumped in as total salary when they calculate 401(k).)
- Most people (including me) are renting out their houses back in the states. I am breaking even on that, but am building equity. If you do not have a house, you just eliminated your rent.
- It is a great place for families. Many come here so one of the parents can stay home with the kids, but day care is pretty cheap here. (If you have school age kids, you need to be a govt employee to go to the school for free. Govt employees must pay taxes though) I do not have kids so none of this applies to me.
- Did I mention it is a Caribbean island and I get hardship pay?!
But there are also some (big) cons:
- Incredibly slow internet. (Think 1995 without the sound effects. It takes 30 minutes to download 1 song from iTunes. You really have to want it.)
- There are no cell phones.
- The flight off island are on Saturdays and every other Tuesday only.
- There is no “off base.” (You cannot go to Cuba)
- There are only 5,000 people ever.
- The speed limit is 25 mph (15 in neighborhoods)
- It is really hard to shop. There is one store – the Navy Exchange. It is the size of a grocery store (before they got supersized). It has clothes, toys, garden, automotive, electronics and groceries. As a result, there is not much selection of anything. (This does make decision making easy. There is one choice.)
- If you want to get something shipped here, it will take 2 -4 weeks. If you’re lucky.
Pretty interesting stuff, right? You live in Cuba, but can’t GO to Cuba. There are no cell phones, but you can play a round of golf for free. And you get tons of hardship pay (and avoid taxes!) for living on a Caribbean island! Where do I sign up?? :)
Of course there’s a lot more to living there than just those selected bullet points, but it was quite the interesting email to read on a quiet and dreary morning over here. We’re always so stuck in our own heads and what’s going around US that it’s sometimes hard to imagine that people live so completely differently all across the world. Both for the good, and for the bad.
So hopefully you’ve enjoyed this break from reality for a bit and can appreciate (or want to move from??) your current place of residence :) I could tell you there’s NO amount of hardship pay I’d accept to live in some countries of this world of ours!!
I’ll leave you with one more nugget about working in Guantanamo Bay before I go. Probably something most of you were wondering the second you read today’s title – just like I did:
“Also, I have been here for over a year and have never seen a detainee. It is a separate secure part of the base that requires a separate clearance. Most people never go near it. I learn about what is going on with the detainees from CNN.”
If you’re reading this new friend, thanks SO MUCH for allowing me to share this with everyone today!!
[Photo by Official U.S. Navy Imagery]