I know it has been a while since my last post, but I have been busy settling into a new routine of commuting from Baltimore to Tampa. I have also been busy documenting what I believe is a credible argument that a travel warning should be issued for my new home. From The State Department’s website…
Travel warnings are issued when long-term, protracted conditions that make a country dangerous or unstable lead the State Department to recommend that Americans avoid or consider the risk of travel to that country.
Well what if that country is your own?? Initially I was excited to learn that we would be spending 2 years in Tampa, Florida — a perfect local for a domestic assignment. A place where my husband could advance his career as the foreign policy advisor to Admiral McRaven at SOCOM, while I continue mine at WorkSpaces in Baltimore. I HAD been looking forward to commuting on the weekends, and after spending 3 years in Tijuana, Mexico with a travel warning issued the entire time we were there, I falsly assumed we would be safe here. While I can’t really argue that Tampa is politically unstable (except for maybe the plethora of Romney supporters which itself is a case for civil unrest), I can earnestly say that there are dangerous conditions.
I will start with hurricanes. Tampa has issued warnings every year. I do not know the statistics of how many have made landfall, but I do know that people have “hurricane survival kits” and escape routes mapped out. I usually trust my Google maps AP to get me out of a traffic bind, but I recently upgraded my iphone, so I now I have to worry that ICE (in case of emergency) — Apple mapping inaccuracy will drive me straight into the bay!
Tampa is also touted as having 350 days of sunshine a year. This is the same city that has 300 days of thunderstorms. Not that I am keeping a log or anything, but it should be noted that in the few weeks that I have been commuting to Tampa — it has only failed to thunderstorm on one of those days. Lightening capital of the world?? Three people were struck within 24 hours of my arrival. I am terrified every time I venture out to walk Diplo-dog. Tampa is also know as the “critter & pest” capital.
That brings me to disease carrying mosquitos. Mosquitos LOVE standing water, and there is a boatload of it everywhere since it pours every afternoon — especially on the sinking end of South Tampa. If only the alligators lived on a diet of these pesky creatures. I will be spending 2 years covered in the chemical DEET which itself is a carcinogen.
Alligators you say?? Yes – these lovely creatures can be found in almost every canal, lake and well just any body of water deep enough to swim in. Like I said — there is a lot of water here. The week I arrived there was a news story, featured on CNN, of a 60 year old man that jumped on the back of an alligator to rescue his dog from the gator’s toothy grasp. It should be noted that this heroic act took place in the backyard of this man who was outside GARDENING, right next to the mall I visited for the 1st time. It will never feel safe walking the dog.
Gardening it seem may be the biggest hazard of all because of the SNAKES! Sure, there are plenty of non-threatening black garden variety (and I mean plenty) but this countriy’s most venomous reptile, the Eastern Coral Snake, reside here. This little 2-foot, colorful beauty is apparently far more poisonous than an 8-foot rattlesnake (which live here as well) Oh Joy! There are in fact 5 species of toxic monsters right outside my back door. There are also Banana Spiders the size of your hand, disease carrying rats, bats and raccoons everywhere.
I voiced my concerns to both the Admiral’s and General’s wives who I lunched with last week. These lovely ladies clearly wanted to make sure that I felt welcome and safe, so they attempted to reassure me while I rattled off my fears. Unfortunately, the Admiral’s wife pointed out that the greatest threat has yet to come. Panicked I asked, “what can that be?” The answer — the influx of the elderly “snowbirds” that take to the streets en masse soon. Between poor visibility from the storms, their aging eyesight and confusing one-way streets – I will have to guard against becoming road kill!!
As I have demonstrated – there are dangers lurking everywhere in Tampa that can pose physical harm or imminent danger to the health or well being of a person assigned here. While for the moment we are lucky enough not to have civil unrest or other criteria as noted by the Department of State Regulations required to warrant danger pay, I believe an argument I have made.