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posted 6.7.11
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The Banana Rat Hunt in GTMO

By Natalie Stovall

So if you haven’t noticed… we had a blast in Guantanamo Bay. It’s amazing how just one weekend can provide so many memories. Isn’t it wonderful when life presents itself that way to us? Whether it’s family, friends… extraordinary or truly ordinary circumstances… that fill our memories with a whole treasure chest to draw from for the rest of our lives!

One of the best parts of our trip came after our Beach Day… and even well after dinner that evening. We had heard OVER and OVER about the infamous Banana Rat in GTMO. People went on and on about how annoying they are… how you can’t take two steps without seeing 50, and yet somehow we had all escaped seeing just 1.

This was not acceptable.

We wanted to see the banana rats!!! So began the “banana rat hunt”. (Don’t worry…. we mean “hunt” as in locating) As we learned more about them, James and I agreed they were WAAAAY cuter than we had originally imagined. I was imaging a giant possum-sized rat. But they are a little cuddlier looking than a rat (which doesn’t take much…) Here’s a photo I found on google:

So that’s what we were out to find. Our MWR friends found it hilarious how badly we wanted to see them since they see them all the time, and they are considered a nuisance. At the outdoor movie theater at GTMO – the banana rats will come right up to you and take the popcorn out of your lap! They know people will have food… The banana rats have been more excited about Pirates of the Caribbean than the humans are!

We HAD to see these things. They come out more at night, so our chances were pretty good. They drove the bus up to Windmill Hill which has a great view. But alas…. we saw no banana rats. We were searching with all our might… and cell phone lights…. but it only yielded more crabs. No banana rats.

As we were standing up on Windmill Hill, one of our guides mentioned that we were being watched. And from more than one place… and most likely through the scope of a rifle. In a place like Guantanamo Bay there is more security at any given time than well… more than I pretend to understand or be able to explain! He was explaining how if we left the top of the hill and just started traipsing out into the jungle, we would very swiftly be met with resistance. So since there were no banana rats… we packed up the bus and headed back down the hill. But right as we were leaving, Tamika and I both saw out the left side of the bus, a SOLDIER APPEAR OUT OF NOWHERE. We screamed! It shocked us!!! Where the heck did he come from? I mean, we were at the top of a hill, completely isolated from anything else, and POOF! As if by some form of military awesome-dude magic, he appeared. THAT WAS AWESOME AND FRIGHTENING ALL AT THE SAME TIME! Joc about had a heart attack. He kept saying “But where did he come from? There was no one there!”

He most likely saw the lights and commotion and just wanted to make sure we were behaving.

So after our R.L. Stine Goosebumps moment, we headed back down the hill for more banana rat hunting. And we FINALLY started to see them!!! We were all huddled around each other, trying to see out the front window of the bus. And we’d cheer and gasp every time we spotted one. Karen said she wished she had a video camera mounted at the front of the bus to watch our faces. :)

So then we saw an open clearing with about 5 or 6 of em at once. Joc yelled “Stop the BUS!!! Let me out!!!” And just as SOON as he ran out of the bus to chase them, he was in a FULL sprint running BACK onto the bus screaming. He had seen a shadow that he THOUGHT were the rats. (He hadn’t actually spotted any yet) When he saw the REAL rats, they were MUCH bigger than he expected. Even though they were running away from him, he was running just as fast in the opposite direction. (And every time he told this story to someone, the size of the rats got bigger…. and bigger…)

We laughed and laughed the whole way back to our rooms. The banana rat hunt was WAY more successful than we had imagined.

I <3 GTMO

Peace. Love. Fiddle.
~natalie