Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Easter is Here and Gone

29 March 2005

I realize that it’s been some time since my last update. I’ve been negotiating a new contract and thinking about coming back to Camp Victory in some type of metamorphosis of sorts. Checking into a better job at a better salary staying with the same company. Just waiting to see about whether the break between contracts that I’ve requested is approved. My sister kind of read my mind. She mentioned that I must be in deep thought about something because I have been unusually quiet… no or fewer emails, fewer calls, etc. Nothing carved in stone yet. I could just as easily come home too. I’m being kind of non-committal at this point. I do miss home more than I’ve admitted to.

I must say that I was horrified the other morning (Good Friday Morning, mind you) when I went into the bathroom trailer to find that the walls had been scowered clean of all graffiti. I say horrified because someone had only last week written on one of the stall walls that this wall belongs up on e-Bay. What a serious loss of collected thoughts from the men and women (well maybe not so many women in the men’s facilities) to include short calendars (countdown calendars counting down the days till one departs), derogatory remarks between competing units, expressions and frustrations of life here. At times, I will admit is gets a bit filthy, but the underlying theme here is that all throughout the existence of mankind, graffiti has always existed in some form and has always represented an outlet for expression of thought and feelings.

Besides, where else can you find so many comical misspellings of words in addition to their poor attempts at correcting said misspellings and such. (i.e. An arrow pointing down into the porta pottie with the words above, “2004 Ballet Box”. The subsequent drawing of a ballerina below with the corrected spelling of “Balot” and finally the correct spelling of Ballot. Come on folks, you have to find some humor in that!)

Today, one of my days off, I was in the PX and ran into one of the Antion guys that we work with every so often. Standing in front of the magazine rack, he and I couldn’t help but notice that we have really been missing all the reports and sitings of those extraterrestrial encounters that you all seem to have back home in the States. Blazed across the National Enquirer (or some similar upstanding literary classical newspaper) headlines is “Farmer Shoots Two-Headed Alien in Front Yard.” I’m sure that the farmer would have had additional shots of the “Bat Boy” circling around overhead after the shooting if his digital camera batteries wouldn’t have run low! But wait, there’s more. Further down the front page we are informed that a “Cannibal Opens Fast Food Restaurant!” Well, duh! We all knew that Wendy’s is now serving “Ladyfinger Sandwiches” with Chili.

Hot news here at Camp Victory. Liberty (formerly Victory North) is getting a Popeye’s Chicken Trailer right next to the Burger King! Whoo-hoo, we’re really getting uptown boys! On Victory South, we now have a Pizza Hut trailer, a Subway trailer and just this last week, a Green Beans Coffee trailer. Where the heck is Jeraldo to report on all this? This place is actually becoming civilized. Imagine, coffee and sidewalks! OMG, They have yuppified Camp Victory.

They have also opened up a dry cleaning place, so I could actually have starched shirts if I really missed the smell of starch in my shirts and feel of starch in my shorts…so to speak, of course. Not to mention a Hair Salon too. Tiffany went over there last week to get a few new little accents in her beautiful, thick auburn, shoulder-length hair. When they took the foil off, it was a bit more streaked than she anticipated and now she’s blonde! I guess they didn’t tell her it was an off-campus trailer of the Baghdad Beauty School. I thought it looked nice, but she is still trying to deal with being a blonde. Maybe I need to send her that collection of blonde jokes Michael sent me so that she is aware of what people’s new expectations are of her as an up-and-coming-blonde.

Well, time for dinner. I will leave you with one little tidbit of “Serious Sh**house Rhetoric” that I did manage to save in my notebook back from 27 Dec 2004. While I don’t necessarily agree with the opinions expressed, I was personally struck by the passion of the author’s thoughts and words.

To all my Brothers in Arms:

Upon your return home,
Carefully evaluate our government.
Our elected officials have sat idle
On 6 figure salaries,
While badass soldiers by the thousands
Complained of strange illnesses.
Our gov (government) denied their claim.
Ask yourself: Is my VA hospital
That which is fit for the .5% of our
Population whom can truly call
Themselves warriors?
Our army is *slowly* trying to change
For the better.
God bless soldiers who speak out
On the bullsh**!
In our lifetime, U.S.A. will go through
Another revolution (peacefully, “Hopefully”),
Hope to see you there!

Never fail to hold your leadership to account.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Dweeb in the Black Rubber Boots

15 March 2005

With all of the rain and now the mud around here, you can't help but to wear your ugly black boots over your shoes, especially now. If you don't you will have wet feet with mud up to your knees.

My new roommate and I were talking the other night and he was laughing about his first impressions when he was moving into the trailer. Upon his moving in, he happened to notice my ugly rubber boots sitting by the door and thought to himself, "What the heck kind of dweeb am I moving in with?"

Well, not until the torrential downpours over the last week, did he find out that I'm really not a dweeb...okay, not completely a dweeb. He came tooling home the other night and his shoes got sucked off his feet in the mud a couple of times and were unrecognizable as blue leather basketball shoes! Don't even ask about the socks! Him having been at ISG Camp Slayer across the highway, they live in a paved world over there. A world without mud. He never had the need for the black boots that we so liberally break out whenever a little sprinkle of rain comes into our lives here at Victory!

If I never mentioned it, Camp Victory and the lakes at Camp Slayer are or used to be maintained via a series of sluices from the river Tigris and some of the surrounding swamps or lakes. When the Americans took over these sites, they pretty much filled in and destroyed much of the complex irrigation system that fed the lakes, groves of date palms and other vegitation on the bases.

After work on Saturday night at about 8pm, I'm walking home all cocky and proud of my dry feet inspite of the rain, lakes and mud around me. In the dark, I noticed that KBR was pumping water from Dodge North into the sluice ditches in an effort to drain the trailer areas. As I got close to Dodge South, they seemed to be doing the same. Unbeknownst to me, they had also dredged out a section of pathway adjacent to the sluice that until tonight had been a walking path. Next thing I know, I'm waist-deep in a muddy 4 foot by 4 foot hole in the ground with water up to my butt!

The mud was soft and the water wasn't exactly bath-water, but I guess you could say I was surprised. KBR had not put any markers by this hole yet and so I must have been the first air-head to pass that spot and not see the hole. The whole episode almost reminded me of when I was little and we used to play in the swamps back home. You'd almost always find that unexpected sinkhole and end up waist deep in the brackish nasty swampwater. Or that time when we tried to float a wooden pallet with plywood on top (Venetian gondola style)across the deepest part of the swamp. Well, you get the picture. Boys and swamp water and creeks go together like eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in one hand with earthworms in the other hand.

To say I was mad was an understatement. I got back to the trailer and my roomy and neighbor Will were talking. I told them my story and I could see in Will's eyes that he wanted to break out and laugh out loud right there. But he didn't dare with the red in my eyes at the moment. As I took my boots and shoes off, I just poured the water out of them both. I was soaked to the bone in nasty brown water and smelled like the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

As we were talking, I got over it and was able to laugh about it pretty quickly. I told them that I just knew that I was either going to falling and rolling around in the mud or end up somehow succumbing to the elements in some way or form this week.

At least I had Sunday off. I managed to snake my way by bike through the trailer park and find a dry trail to the roads and ended up going over to Slayer to wash clothes. The only part of the ride that was dangerous was at the viaduct under the highway between Slayer and Victory. Whenever we get gulley-washers, it takes some time for the water levels to drain off. Not that a car can't get through it. You just don't want to be riding a bike without fenders through the mud and water. You get that famous reverse skunk-line up your back otherwise.

Surprisingly, the socks came clean and white again. With as brown as they were when I took them off the night before, I never would have thought they'd come clean again. I also ended up tossing my shoes in the wash too. They were looking kind of "tired" after their little dip in the swampwater.

Things have been drying up over the past few days. According to the ten-day forcast on weather.com, we have no rain predicted through next Saturday either. Things are starting to warm up here. The weather almost reminds me of Phoenix in the Spring.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Noah, Build the Ark!

11 March 2005

Holy Toledo! It has been raining here for about 2-1/2 days with little let-up. The rain has only paused here and there on occasion. I guess that the bright side of this is that we no longer have to worry about the mud anymore...cuz everything is flooded! There are few places where you aren't up to your ankles in water at some point in your travels around the base. Remember, we're in a desert here!

Getting to the chow hall is a trip. Someone ended up laying down a 2X4 ladder over one of the walkways to allow you to walk above the standing and increasingly deeper water. The entrance to the chow hall had to be moved because the normal entrance was under water too. The ceiling in the chow hall has been leaking like a sieve. They even have pans laid out all over to catch the rain leaking in. It reminds me of a song when I was little. Something about "oh no don't let the rain fall down, the roof's got a hole in it and I might drown."

One of my coworkers just got a call that he better go down to his tent and get his stuff together. I guess they have about six inches of water in the tent. The "highly extolled" (ha!) people at the Mayor's Cell who are supposed to be responsible for making sure things are properly maintained on the base, are busy in a finger-pointing game between them and KBR (our good and loyal buddies) over who or whether anyone will do anything to control the flooding and whether or how to relocate people into areas that aren't flooded. When he forced the issue with the mayor's cell, all the major there could do was stutter and sputter. They have no intentions of moving people out of the flooded tents and don't have a clue where to put them if the water gets any deeper. The answer must not have been in his career training guides. Clueless pinheads!

Then again, maybe I'm being too rough on them. As of this afternoon, the mayor's cell is ankle-deep in water themselves. But you know what my Ma would say, don't ya? "Boo-hoo, I really feel for ya, but I just can't reach ya."

My supervisor was off yesterday and was watching water run along the breaks in the ceiling of his trailer and eventually fill up the light fixture above his head. Several people I've spoken with have had problems with water dripping off the roof and along the front of the trailer into the door. They get back and there is a giant puddle in the doorway inside the trailer. We are fortunate that our door only warps a bit when it rains out.

I must have looked pretty ridiculous this morning going to the shower in shorts and my topsiders tucked into my goloshes. As a kid, I used to fight wearing them. Until recently, it has been as if my Mom was behind me warning me to wear them. All fashion statements aside, you have to wear them if you don't want trenchfoot around here when it rains. That and the mud that builds up on your feet (if you aren't wearing the damned boots) is unbelievable. You end up with six inches of rock, sand and mud on your shoes. For the first time in 14 months, I actually dug out my Gortex jacket. It is a pretty nice jacket and dry too. Never really saw the need before now, but the rain just won't stop.

Any more rain and they will have to float us out of here down the Tigris to Basrah and the Arabian Gulf.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Boys Will Be Boys

10 March 2005

Have I been back a week already? Can't believe how quickly the time has gone by. I had no problems getting back to Victory, only problems adjusting to the day schedule. My problem seems to be that it is too dark at night to sleep! I've been a mids worker for so long, I've forgotten how to sleep when it's dark out.

Last night and yesterday were the first rockets I think I've heard in a month. A bunch of outgoing from the sounds and looks of things. Didn't see any plumes of smoke on the base, so it must be outgoing. Otherwise, it's been very quiet.

Back into routines yesterday, my day off. Took my laundry over on backpack to ISG by bike and did two small loads. Then over to the PX to pick up a few odds and ends. Then a nice one mile run. I'm trying to get back to running again, but don't want to go through too much pain doing it. Also tried to get my blood pressure medication refilled, but the docs were out in the afternoon. They want me to come back during sick call hours and wait for hours on end. I'll just go without. It isn't actually bringing my bp down any. Gotta go and get new medication when I get back home.

Then came the rain...again. I think we've had more rain than last year at this time. I keep hoping it will dry up and stay that way. Everything is still a slurry of mud this morning and it is still overcast. The temps have been in the mid to upper 70's and the humidity is around 95%. I'll have to go up on weather.com and see what the outlook is for the next week.

Got a new roommate when I got back. Actually, he had already started moving stuff in when I got back. He is a midnight worker, so we don't cross paths too often. Only on our days off. We get along alright. He isn't as much of a neat-nik as Scott was, but that's alright. Although, after the little incident that happened in one of the tents this week, maybe we will all have to be a bit neater. Let's just say that managment is now going to conduct health inspections on our living quarters to make sure that we aren't allowing ourselves to live in any slum-like conditions.

Something to do with a two week-old pizza under a cot and a collection of a few bottles of fermented bodily fluids. Well, that and the vermin. Around here, if you have people and food, you have rats and roaches. Part of it was laziness on the part of the individual in question, but the other part of it is the mud. Some people have an aversion to slogging around in mud up past their ankles in the middle of the night.

The laziness part is not throwing it out the next day. The whole idea is kind of disgusting, but not exactly on my top health concerns going on in Iraq (unless you tip it over near my bunk!) It isn't exactly rubbing alcohol, but it starts out biologically sterile. Then again, this whole experience is almost like a drunk fishing vacation without the drinking part, so maybe a bottle collection of fermented bodily fluids under the bed isn't that far out of the norm. Lighten up! There are more serious issues to get your undies in a bundle over (like your leave getting disapproved.) It's a guy thing. You know, boys will be boys.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

And For Our Next Illusion...

02 March 2005

We will attempt to squeeze a 350 lb man into a middle seat, 29E specifically of a 777. Can’t be done you might suggest. Ha! This is an illusion remember.

I just sat down in my comfy aisle seat at 29D in center section of this wonderful 777. Naturally, the arm rest is broken on my right. I folded it up and folded it back down and things looked to be back on track. Or do they now?

Next thing ya know, this 350 lb man and his wife are shoe-horning themselves into the next two seats from the opposite side (thank goodness). Just as he leans all his 350 lbs onto the armrest on my right to steady all of his 350 lbs before he tumbles into my lap, the armrest gives way again! (Now imagine my eyebrows touching my hairline in utter shock wondering if this man was going to be face-first in my lap!) Well, this is going to be interesting (I’m thinking to myself). Tried to reset the armrest as I did before, but it was trashed.

As he gets settled into the middle seat, I start noticing the collapsed and limp armrest pushing into my thigh. It really is quite an imaginative idea of those Brits at BA to make self-sizing, self-accommodating economy seating for those pesky narrow middle seats! If you’ll just join me in my further amazement, I’ve never seen a person ooze into the next seat over until now.

But honestly, he was a very nice man. He was almost apologetic for trying to shoe-horn himself into this tiny middle seat. It was almost like watching a 6’7” basketball player trying to squeeze into an elementary school size desk. Just that it isn’t so comical when you know that you have to be the person on the other side whose got an armrest imbedded into your thigh – and even when you move more to your left, ever so little so you’re not thigh to thigh with the man on your right and the ooze just keeps on flowing! Not to say that I was seated next to the Blob or anything like that, it’s just a case of being dumbfounded as to how to handle this situation and being on a full flight with nowhere else to move.

Well, we all made it to Kuwait in one piece. Shirley was at the airport to meet me. She was dropping off Tony from the T3 cell for his vacation. We were waiting for another guy to show up, but by 945am, we gave up. His flight had been delayed, but no sight of him anywhere. Once we got back to Bldg 18, he had left a message that he was there already.

I quickly mailed off some stuff that I didn’t want to drag back to Baghdad only to mail it from there, then went over and manifested myself for the next flight to Baghdad. There were three flights that evening and the roll call was at 2pm. This is probably the quickest turn-around that I’ve had since coming to “theater”. Picked up my flak vest and Kevlar helmet, took a quick shower and I was off to the roll call. With temps in the low 30’s and snow when I left Europe, these temps in the upper 70’s have just been making me sweat like a pig since my arrival. I needed a shower for everyone else’s sake more than mine!

Next thing you know, we’re on a bus to Ali Al Salem and on a C130 to Baghdad. Very, very uneventful flight AND a smooth as silk landing. Nothing as dramatic as our departure. Since my arrival was after dark, normally our supervisors don’t allow the vehicles out after dark, so I was able to thumb a ride with some other support contractors here. That was really nice of the CACI people to help me out.

It’s nice to be back “home” again. But only for another five weeks. Soon I’ll be doing the Big Bag Drag back to the old U.S. of A. I guess I’m ready to leave the “big sandbox” as Pete called it today in our IM. Maybe I’ll miss it. Maybe I’ll want to come back. But for now, I need to go home for at least few months. I need a bunch of home-time. I need long, hot baths in the tub, Saturday night with the Sunday paper, reruns of MASH, walks with the dog, waking up in my own bed.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Seems Like It's Over Before It Started

01 March 2005

Or so it feels. I can’t believe that nine days flew by so fast. I went down to the desk this morning and asked if I could get a late checkout. They could extend the checkout by one hour, but then I would have to pay 20 pounds per hour after that. It was worth it though. At least I would have the chance to keep the luggage somewhere safe and could clean up before I left.

I decided to have a nice cheeseburger at TGIF’s before going back to Baghdad. I needed some dead cow in my stomach. I normally am not a huge beef fan. I love a great steak every so often, but I tend to lean toward consuming fish and chicken, so the steak at Hal’s on Saturday and then this burger were my max limit of dead cow inching its way through my system for the week! The fries were even hot. I won’t touch fries if they’re cold and the grease is solid. Although, I didn’t get the mayo with these fries like I did at the airport at Frankfurt before I came to London. Boy I just can’t help myself when I’m in Germany with Pommes and mayo. The German mayo just has a different taste to it.

Naturally, it started raining in the afternoon. That was when I decided I was going to take a taxi to the airport. The Tubes will get you there (a lot cheaper at about 12 pounds versus 55 pounds), but I’d have to first walk with suitcase and computer on shoulder to either Westminster Station or to Piccadilly Circus, then drag everything all up and down stairs. Go over to any of the stations on the Piccadilly Line like Earl’s Court if I got on at Westminster. Up and down more stairs with suitcases, then over to one of the other stations just outside of Heathrow on the same platform for the continuing journey into Heathrow.

I am tired and just want to get there already, so I requested the concierge to find me a taxi that took Amex. I wanted to keep some cash in pocket through the trip, just in case. Good to go. Just walked around for the time I had and finally decided to go back to the hotel room. I was just ready to get on with it and start the trip back. At least I slept in.

Got to the airport at around 430pm which was about five hours early for lack of anything better to do. They weren’t ready for me and my baggage yet, so the nice lady behind the counter recommended a nice restaurant downstairs where I should get my last beers before going back to Kuwait! I just can’t believe it’s all done so quickly. But then again, I’ve only got another six weeks to go and I’ll be back home now.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?