Four months in Iraq

Lots of Stuff, Haven’t written in For-ever!!

April 20th, 2009

My apologies to all for taking so long to  post a new blog and new pictures, I know you all have been on the edge of your seat.  Still working the picture thing.  Let me catch you up on what’s been going on in my life lately. 

Last month I flew to another base for a few days.  It took 6 attempts to get out and about 24 hours in four days waiting at the passenger terminal.  The trip went well, I took a couple of academic tests and got to visit with some of the 123rd members who were down there.

I ran in my first 5K race!  I was very proud of myself for finishing, and not too ashamed of my time, which was a little over 29 min.  Plus I got a free t-shirt, and well, anything is worth doing if there’s a free t-shirt involved.

I saw a band called Hollowell (http://www.myspace.com/hollowell).  They were a lot of fun and played some of their own music and some covers as well.  I always like to support bands that come over.

We had a cook-out for Easter Dinner. I, along with countless people to help me, organized a cook-out, an Easter Egg-hunt, and a cornhole tournament.  We had 14 teams signed up to play cornhole!  Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate and cornhole was canceled.  Still, I think a good time was had by all.

We have had a lot of crazy weather, the lowest the temperature has been is 23 and the highest is about 85, but that’s not even the crazy part.  The sandstorms are absolutely insane!  Most of the time the wind starts to pick up and gets stronger and stronger and the air gets dustier and dustier until the air is completely filled and the whole outside takes on an orange-ish glow.  Then, typically, it rains after a big sandstorm, and it literally rains mud.  I thought the first couple were kind of cool, it’s a new weather phenomenon that I had never experienced and I’m a fan of most storms.  Since then, though they are a pain in the neck.  You can’t walk outside without being completely covered in dirt, it gets in your mouth and eyes and nose.  We are only allowed one 3 minute shower per day, so it sucks.  We did, however, have a REALLY cool sandstorm on Saturday.  It was like something out of a movie.  There was a tidal wave of sand that we could see off in the distance and we watched it get closer and closer until we were forced to take shelter.  When I get the pictures loaded you’ll all see how crazy it was.

The other exciting part about Saturday, was that The Charlie Daniels Band www.charliedaniels.com came.  They played some really good music and gave out autographed pictures of the band.  Also, I got my picture taken with the man himself!  Once again, stand-by for pictures…

The last thing I wanted to talk about is the new Turkish restaurant, Katar Restaurant, that opened on base.  It is wonderful!  Maybe it’s just the idea of being waited on, and having real plates and silverware (at the chow hall it’s plastic on Styrofoam, blech!), plus…wait for it…indoor plumbing!  So far it’s the only building on base that I know of that has it.  Not only do they have an indoor bathroom, but it’s actually a nice bathroom with pedestal bowl sinks, etc.  Oh, and the food is fantastic!  Donor kebabs, Tava, it’s all delicious.  The place has been open for 19 days, and I’ve been there 4 times already, once by myself!

Thanks to everyone for their continued well wishes.  It won’t be long now!

Birthday in Iraq

March 7th, 2009

Not exactly the ideal place to celebrate your birthday… but, it’s better than 10 years ago when I was in Basic Training.  The morning didn’t start out great, I had to have a conversation with my boss about stuff back at Blue Ash, but it was all up hill from there.  Thankfully, although I didn’t plan it this way, Friday afternoons are my off day.  Also, Fridays are my “eat-anything-I-want day.”  I’m very careful with my portions and calorie intake, etc the rest of the week, so I reward myself on Friday by eating whatever I want.  In the morning I snacked on some delicious Buskin bakery cookies that my aunt sent, and then hardly ate any lunch.  I got off work and went to the on base beauty parlor and got a manicure and a massage.  It was wonderful to be pampered.  After that I went to the MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation) tent to play on the computer.  There are several sites I can’t get to from work, including MySpace and Facebook.  I then met a few friends at the Pizza Hut on base and we took it back to one of the tents where some friends work.  When I arrived they had a cake set out and candles lit and everyone sang “Happy Birthday!”  I was so touched, I almost cried.  So we ate pizza, drank some Non-Alcoholic Beer and had birthday cake.  My friend Kelly and I went back to my CHU and watched “13 Going on 30.”  All-in-all, not too bad for a birthday in the middle of a war zone. 

Thanks to everyone for their birthday wishes and warm thoughts today.  I felt the love! :)

Comedy, Disappointment, and Valentine’s Day

February 14th, 2009

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!  It certainly doesn’t feel like it over here, although I may try and have a piece of cake or some chocolate today, it’s not the same.

Last week we had a Comedy Central group come in and do some stand-up for us.  It was hysterical!  Scott Kennedy http://www.comicscott.com/ has been to Iraq 26 times in two years.  I was really surprised at how blue the comedy was.  There were two other comics with him, unfortunately, I cannot remember their names now, but they were all great.  It was nice to have a break from the normal routine.

There was also a rock concert scheduled.  The band Filter www.officialfilter.com/ canceled their outdoor concert.  The official reason was “inclimate weather,” although the day the show was scheduled, it was a clear, nice day.  Although I only know a few songs by Filter, I was really looking forward to the show, a lot of us were.  So we were pretty bummed, oh well.  They’ll be other events.

That’s all for now, Groundhog Day continues…

A little taste of Home

January 31st, 2009

Yesterday I had the afternoon off.  I went to the coffee shop and got a strawberry-banana smoothie and then got a half hour massage at the beauty parlor on base.  After that, I went to the Dining Facility and got a bowl of cheese to go.  I came back and warmed up a can of Skyline chili-spaghetti and ate a three-way.  It was nice to relax and enjoy a little taste of home.

Souq and other stuff

January 24th, 2009

Today I went to something called a Souq (pronounced s-oo-k).  It’s supposed to be a kind of market place where the Local Nationals (LNs) come to sell their stuff.  We walked over there right after lunch and I was expecting to see a flea market type of atmosphere, but, disappointingly, it was more like a yard sale.  There wasn’t really anything that interested me.  There were some scarves, a little bit of cheap-looking jewelry and some dirty rugs.  Hopefully the next one, they have them about once a month, will be better because it will, hopefully, be a little warmer.  On the way back from the Souq we stopped in an Iraqi store on base, where I bought a couple of T-shirts and a large oriental rug that they are shipping back for me.  I was able to haggle my way down from $800 to $200, but have no idea how much it is really worth.  It’s pretty though, and I think it will look nice in our family room.  That’s all for now.

Moving day…

January 16th, 2009

Well I finally moved yesterday and the night before.  My old CHU was a bit smaller; length-wise I could have stuck out both arms and touched the sides.  It was about 20ft long.  I took pictures of the old one and my new one.  I just haven’t loaded them yet.  The pictures I took were after I cleaned it though. :)  It was a total mess after living out of my bags for a week.  Not that my new one won’t be a mess soon enough, but I was able to get things relatively straightened up.  I even made my bed this morning.  Yes, I am feeling alright!  It’s just that it’s such a small area and if I don’t stay some what organized, I’ll never find anything or remember anything.  As soon as I figure out how, I’ll post the pictures.

A Word about the facilities

January 12th, 2009

The restroom situation isn’t horrible, but it’s not great.  On our “Pad” (our living facilities) there are two seperate trailers, one for the showers and one for the latrines.  All of the water is “non-potable” which means you can’t drink it or even brush your teeth with it.  Everywhere you go there are bottles of water for these purposes.

The problem with the latrines is that it gets very dark out here at night and the walk to the chews from my CHU is about 150 yards past some very scary bunkers.  I have not yet slept through the night without having to get up and put my shoes on and coat on and run through very rough gravel to the bathroom.  I think I might be drinking too much liquids.

The showers aren’t bad.  The water pressure is good, but the biggest problem is about once a minute or more you get a blast of scalding hot water.  We’ve started to pick up on the signals (the water heaters click) in order to avoid it, but I still manage to get scalded at least once a shower.

The most interesting restroom facilities are the port-a-potties out at our site.  The have lights and radios in them, but other than that they look (and smell) like regular old pot-a-potties.  Despite the fact that they are musical, I try to avoid them whenever possible. :)

Settling in…

January 10th, 2009

I arrived at the base on Wednesday afternoon completely exhausted and jet-lagged.  It is now Saturday evening and I’m almost recovered.  It was a pretty tough trip getting here, mentally and physically.  We left Monday morning from Blue Ash, and there has been nothing but “hurry up and wait” since then.

We flew out of Springfield around 4 p.m. on Monday and I checked into a hotel near Hartford, Ct.  I had a lot of trouble sleeping and finally drifted off after midnight.  The next morning we had to report to the lobby by 5:30.  Little did I know that this would be the last time I slept for a couple days.  We flew from CT to Germany for a half hour layover.  It was a nine hour flight and I could not get comfortable enough to sleep.  After our fuel stop, we continued for another 5 hours to Al Udeid in Qatar.  We landed around 9 a.m. local time and had a lot of in-processing to do.  By the time we checked into our tents it was nearing 2 p.m. and we were all exhausted and starving.  We ate lunch in the chow hall, however we had a meeting scheduled for 10 p.m. so sleep was not in the cards.

At the meeting, we were told that we had a flight scheduled for the following day, but did not know yet what time.  We finally went to bed, and full of adrenaline and in such a strange environment it took me forever to fall asleep again.  At 1:45 a.m. we were awakened and told that we had ten minutes to get all the girls ready to go.  Our flight was scheduled for 5:30 and we had close to 4 hours of out-processing to go through and might not make it.

To make a long story short (a little late for that) we arrived here in Iraq Wednesday afternoon after another four and a half hour flight on which I passed out of sheer exhaustion for the last 20 minutes.  I was completely exhausted and after a quick lunch and “bag drag” to my CHU (pronounced Chewy/my trailor) I slept for the next few hours.  I woke up around 11 p.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I watched a movie.  On Thursday morning we had to be to work at 6:45 a.m.

Needless to say, I’ve been pretty tired, but things are definately improving.  We work 12 hour days, 7 days a week, so it may take a little more time to completely adjust.

The base is nicer than I expected.  There are some trees and a little bit of grass and lots of birds and animals, including some ferrel donkeys!  I haven’t seen any yet, but a friend of mine has.  The sun rises and sunsets are beautiful and it’s a full moon tonight and it’s magnificent.  It’s still pretty chilly here, between 30 and 55 most days.  One of the best parts about the base is the food!  The chw hall is enormous, and I couldn’t begin to list all of the options that you have, including Mongolian BBQ, a baked potato bar, an international pasta bar, a short order cook, a great salad bar and several different entrees to choose from.  It’s all really good.

I’m staying busy, and not having too bad of a time.  No boredom yet!

Hello world!

November 10th, 2008

This is my first post.  I am leaving in less than two months and need to get a handle on the whole blogging thing before I go.