Tuesday, May 30, 2006

So Long, Kuwait

27 May 2006

I’m writing this on the flight to keep myself occupied. I’m dead tired, but can’t really get comfortable enough to sleep any. I tried to nap before we had to meet at 2330, but it just didn’t work. We hijacked a Gator when the soldier driving was dropping duffels and baggage off at a tent nearby. Then the six of us walked over to the customs area and asked them where we could store our stuff. At least I didn’t have to drag all that stuff across the compound again.

Took a shower and then we walked up to the meeting place at 2300. Good thing we showed up early; they were starting at 2315, not 2300. Not the first time we’ve been given wrong times, huh? So we got separated and briefed about what we could and could not carry back on the flight. Believe it or not, you cannot bring any pornography with you back to the States. First off, this is rather hysterical because it is illegal as liquor in this Muslim country. So them telling us that we can’t take it back with us only means that it was mailed to people in theater.

They also let us know that pills (prescription or not) that are not in their original bottles (you know, like put into the daily cases like I do with my vitamins and bp stuff) will be tossed. Oh, yes, they will have you empty out all your suitcases and duffel bags. For crying out loud, most of the civilian’s duffels hadn’t been emptied out since it was issued to them. We just don’t have a whole lot of need for all the crap they load us down when they send us upstream.

The whole customs ordeal for the couple of hundred of us took about two hours, so by then it was about 0230 on Sunday. Once we were through customs, we were held in a holding area which we couldn’t leave. That was shorter than expected since our flight departure time was moved up to 0730. Soon we were in formation again and led to six waiting busses to take us off to KWI.

We had a stop enroute to use some nasty porta potties out in the middle of nowhere…probably to remind us how much we would miss them in the real world. Waited there for about an hour and reboarded the busses and got taken to the flight line. We boarded an Omni Air International DC10 that looks like it was pulled out of the Smithsonian or at least from that airplane mothball field in Tuscon, AZ just for us. We are talking about one vintage aircraft. Actually it is a pretty cushy flight with real Corinthian leather seats even in coach.

The one saving grace is that we aren’t crammed in like sardines. We probably have a seat between all of us, so we can stretch out some. We have two stops enroute; one at Bonn/Cologne Airport in Germany and then one at MacGuire AFB in New Jersey. We are dropping about half the soldiers on the flight there, I guess on R&R.

Our stop in Cologne wasn’t anything to celebrate. All they do is take you off the plane so that they can service it and fuel it. So we got put on busses and were bussed over to the terminal. “Ahhhh!” I hear your thinking, “time for some great German Koelsch bier while we wait, right?” Not quite so fast. We are on a military flight…no liquor. So we get led to a holding area in the terminal that is all restricted and blocked off from everything except a bathroom and some vendors selling $4 pop!

We were only there for a two hour break and then back on the plane again. I don’t think I’ve slept in about 30 hours at this point, but I have managed a couple of cat naps here and there. My back is killing me from all this sitting, but soon it will be over. We should be arriving at MacGuire in about three more hours, so I’ll write more about the trip in a bit.

Still Bored in Kuwait

26 May 2006

As expected, ITT Mental Midgets changed the meeting time on Friday morning to 0830 instead of 0900 as it had been posted and emailed everywhere. I guess they needed more time to convince us that they really aren’t the elephant man. The meeting was as anticlimactical as expected. Lots of words, distribution of our itineraries and if you wanted to, you could provide name, address, email and phone if you want to contacted in the near future about ITT opportunities. Bada-bing, bada-boom, meet at the big-top-tent at 2330 tomorrow (Saturday) night and we’ll be checking in for the Freedom Flight. Thirty-six hours to occupy my time with…what shall I do?

Existing here at Ali Al Salem is a lot like a baby’s life; eat, sleep, poop. Only difference is we can shop, drink Green Beans coffee, use the internet café and use the phone. But everything costs money. You end up bored with everything you start. You don’t really have a permanent location to call yours except a tent with 10 bunk beds. You always have that worry lurking in the back of your mind that your stuff might get ripped off. It just isn’t a comfortable existence when you’re at the LSA.

But, I got through the day. I ended up buying season one of Tour of Duty. That kept me out of trouble for the afternoon. Took care of some email stuff at the internet café at $5 per hour and bought a few odds and ends at the PX.

We meet tonight at the big-top-tent for our departure briefing, customs searches and then board busses to go 1.5 hours over to the military side of KWI to board the chartered military plane. The first Freedom Flight I came over here on in Feb of 2004 was a Continental 777. We were packed to the gills. Don’t know how full this flight will be yet.

Hanging Out in Kuwait

26 May 2006

Well, here it is Friday already. Started out my outbound trek on an Embassy flight from BIAP to Ali Al Salem on Tuesday. We had a small delay after a mortar landed on the runway and repairs had to be made, but the plane had been delayed anyway and hadn’t landed yet, so that really didn’t slow down our departure. I must say that for my “last” C130 flight out of Baghdad, it was fortunately an uneventful flight. The weather was clear and hot, no sandstorms in sight and everything went as planned.

We arrived in Kuwait and KBR was there to meet and greet us and take me away to the Hilton on the waterfront. As long as they have openings, we can stay there. They put you up in the villas which have a living space, a kitchen, four baths, four bedrooms and you room with another person. Only hitch there is you never know when you’ll be woken up as your roomy may have a 2am flight out and is packing or moving out just as you’ve dropped off to sleep…or the opposite, where you don’t have a roomy when you fall asleep, but wake up to someone coming in. Still, the situation is far superior to the 18 men tents with bunk beds at Ali Al Salem.

I met up with Mike and Mary at the Hilton and we pal’d around together for the next few days. On Tuesday, we did dinner at the Blue Elephant, a great Thai place there at the Hilton. And yes, I did get my cup of Starbuck’s as there is also a Starbuck’s on the property along with a pizza place if you really must have a pizza in Kuwait.

Wednesday was our big day to hit the town. We got ourselves a taxi to take us to the souks and the rest is history. Yep, between the two shop-a-holics (Mary and me) we did some damage there! Mary found this interesting Turkish antique marriage helmet inlayed with some semiprecious stones, glass stones and some dangly type things hanging down from the top of the helmet. She also was taken by some interesting costume jewelry very typical of the Middle East. She is going to have this jewelry set which included a necklace, two dangly earrings and a thingy that is attached to the hair and drops down the woman’s forehead, mounted somehow in a shadow box once she gets home.

I found a picture from Ishfahan (Iran) like my chess/backgammon board about 2X1.5 in size with the drawing/hand painting and the inlayed frame. It will look perfect above my bed. Then when I’d gone into the next vendor, he had the matching 1.5 X .75 pictures that will look great flanking the bigger picture. Naturally, all this stuff will have to be shipped, so I had eyed a small 3X2.5 hand-woven wool carpet in brown, butterscotch and dark blue which I used to wrap up the bigger picture when I shipped it back home.

Comparing it in price to the similar sized ones I had bought in Qatar about two years ago, I’d say that these were probably a better deal. They actually were cheaper than the ones I’d bought back then, so I did get a good deal. I am thinking about putting that carpet up on the wall in my room too, so it won’t end up rolled up on a shelf in the basement in storage.

If you’ve never been to the souks, you really go there for the atmosphere and the deals. Although it kind of grossed Mary out, the meat market is kind of interesting there. Lots of hanging veal carcasses. And don’t forget the (don’t ask me why they do it) sheep’s heads complete with eyeballs minus the skin. I guess that it just gets skinned off when they skin the rest of the carcass so they just include the head in the meat display for ornamentation. The only other thing I might hazard a guess is to think that they have it sitting there is to see how fresh the kill is. Don’t the eyeballs get cloudy after the animal has been killed? Who knows, but I will admit that they do look a bit evil with their skinless face-meat and muscles all showing and their eyeballs all popped out, teeth with this massive overbite haunting you with that permanent evil grin staring at you from the meat counter.

Mary was also looking around the gold vendors to see if she could find some humongous gold hoop earrings. She half-heartedly looked for some gold bracelets for her Mom’s friend, but nothing seemed to catch her fancy. I did see one thing that interested me in the gold markets, but it was a set of gold mint coins. Not just any gold coins, mind you…these were official gold replicas of the Kuwaiti currency put out by the official mint of Kuwait. For the low, low price of 300KD (the Kuwait Dinar is at about $3.65 to 1KD which equals roughly around $950) I could own one 22K gold mint set. Think I’ll pass this time around. Besides, the price of gold is outrageous right now. Give it some time to come back down to earth.

We met our taxi driver at the prearranged time and place and asked him to take us over to the Marina Mall. I’ve been to the Shark Mall, but never to Marina, so it was a good field trip. Mary had to pick up her makeup from M.A.C. and picked up some clothes from Zara, also a UK based trendy shop that we don’t have in the States. I had the chance to pop into Next another UK based shop that I found I liked after my trips to London. Before you know it, it was time to leave.

Ended up having Wednesday night dinner at the restaurant at the Hilton. The food that we’ve had for breakfast was always good and I’d heard that the dinners were good too. While we waited for the restaurant to open, Mike got himself a haircut. Being the uncultured bum that I am, I didn’t realize until the barber started working on Mike, that his haircut included the full works. The barber gave him the full 30,000 mile work over! Next thing ya know, Mohamed is doing the facial wax, pulling the wax off (rrrrrip!), facial moisturizer, trimming the ear hairs, nose hairs (inside and on top), and don’t forget the old threading of the eyebrows. (I’m sure the guy would have “trimmed the yehti”(or is it yeti? Look *THAT* one up in your urban dictionary at urbandictionary.com) if you’d of asked him to!) along with the ever popular hand massager along the forehead, face and neck.

Now if you’ve never witnessed this threading thing, it is really quite entertaining in and of itself! Threading involves him wrapping one end of what looks like dental floss around one finger and putting the other end in his mouth. Then he gets up into your eyebrows and thins those bad-boys out. At first I was worried that old Mikey was going to end up with eyebrows like Joan Crawford, but lo and behold, he came out of it looking like a million bucks.

So after Mike steps out of the chair, Mary is egging me to get in the chair. Her real reason is that she really got off on watching that whole threading thing and wanted to witness it again! Although I just had a haircut right before leaving Iraq, it was a bit rough around the edges and could stand for a bit of a trimming out in some areas; so what the heck? I sat down in the chair and let Mohamed take it away. And I gotta say that the only thing that might have been nicer would have been a soaking in the bathtub…except for the waxing part, of course! The light waxing that he did, however, must be for the pores more than to remove hair because it was like my pores were opened right up.

I don’t know what scents they used in those products, but I’m thinking that with rose water being so popular, it must be rose water based. I could smell whatever it was on me even after a shower that night to get all the loose hairs out of my head after the hair trimming.

So after our hair experiences, we all headed to the restaurant for dinner. We sat out on the deck overlooking the Gulf and enjoyed the warm breezes off the water and the sound of the surf. The food was great too. As a final send-off from Iraq, I couldn’t have asked for any better day than this one. We just relaxed and enjoyed the whole day. Good people, good shopping, good food and good weather.

We finally ran into Roland that night too. He has been around, but quite the socialite with the ladies here. He has a Philipina girlfriend that works here in Kuwait, so he has been kept occupied. He popped in during dinner to say hi and have an iced tea with us. He agreed that since he had a car, he wouldn’t mind taking us up to the base at Arifjan so that we could mail off to the States, all the new possessions we acquired during the day.

Wednesday night, I was just relaxing in the room. My roommate had left the night before, and it was already 930pm, so I wasn’t sure if I would be seeing a roomy that night. Lo and behold, Jim pops in. As he was dragging his stuff in, he was just describing the scene we all know about rhino bus rides from the Embassy to BIAP, cancelled C130 flights and spending all night at BIAP with nothing but a hard chair to curl up in. He said he had gone 24 hours without sleep and was exhausted.

Although he was exhausted, he was still wound up and probably could have handled a good two fingers of single malt to help him relax after his harrowing experience. We ended up having a great chat for an hour or so before we both headed to sleep. I woke up Thursday morning and was careful not to wake him. Roland had a car and volunteered to take Mary, Mike and me up to Arifjan to mail out all the goodies we’d acquired at the souks the day before. We also wanted to check on the rendezvous time for the Friday morning meeting at Ali Al Salem, so we checked the boards at building 1465 for that.

I saw Jim again after lunch, but didn’t realize it was him till after I got back to the room later in the day and saw him crashed out again on the bed. By then I didn’t want to disturb him, so I didn’t even say goodbye. I should have left a message with my contacts and all, but you don’t always think about those things when you’re heading out the door. So Jim S from Milwaukee working for the DoF at IZ, if you get the message, drop a line or give a call sometime. I wouldn’t mind exchanging more of our experiences over in Iraq.

After lunch, we also checked in with the travel people at KBR here in the Hilton to find out that they don’t have a bus going to Ali Al Salem as we first heard. We would have to take the bus to the airport and then catch another military bus to Ali Al Salem. With the bus schedules the way they were, that now meant that we’d leave the Hilton either at 3pm or at 7:30 pm depending on how late you wanted to fool around.

I took the 3pm and ended up at the tent at Ali Al Salem by around 10pm. Mary and Mike took the later busses and ended up at the LSA at about 1am. Mary decided that she needed another shopping fix before leaving. Actually, she went back up to the souks to buy more of those jewelry sets. I think that she is going to try her hand at making some shadow boxes and giving them away as gifts in the future.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Internet Cafe Update

27 May 2006

I'm sitting in the Internet Cafe and decided to let you all know that I've got a post together for this week (four pager!), but don't have the capability to post it yet. The Internet Cafe won't let me use my thumbdrive to upload. I'll post it on Sunday once I'm in the hotel back at Fort Bliss. All is going well in sunny Kuwait...just passing time as necessary till we board the Freedom Flight for El Paso.

See you soon,
Dave

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Hats Off to UAE

20 May 2006

Just kind of chilling out today on my day off. My day off started early at 5am. Got up to use the head and just as I fell back to sleep at about 0530, I got woken up by some kind of firefight over on the highway about a half mile away. So after I fell back to sleep, Eve came knocking at my door about 8am (what felt like only a few minutes from when I’d gotten woke up by the firefight) to let me know that she would be by in a bit to pick up my drawers…No! She wasn’t doing laundry for me; she is moving to Liberty (North Victory) for her new job with “the other guys.” I told her that I’d give her my two sets of plastic free standing four drawer sets since I’m all set to leave here.

Since AAFES is squeezing more money out of their vendors at the bazaar, the price of these drawers (when you can find them now) has shot way up to about $25 from the $13 I originally paid for them. Maybe that says something about the supply and demand as well as the economy here.

We’ve been seeing/hearing a lot more firefighting going on around here lately. Last week we had two car bombs go off about five seconds apart from one another at the checkpoint on the highway. Raymond was packing things up and had the door ajar and said that the impact from the explosions being as close as they were, pulled open the door partially. Then there was a firefight afterward.

Yesterday, the “Big Voice” (imagine Radar from MASH over the speaker but on a much bigger scale) came up to announce that we should remain inside of a hardened facility until an all clear was announced because of incoming rounds of ammunition from yet another firefight on the highway. About an hour later, the all clear was given. One of the sergeants found himself a souvenir from the firefight on the side of our building…over a half mile from the firefight.

The weather has been warm. We hit our first 110F last week but the past couple of days have been around 100F. Not too uncomfortable unless you’re in an office where Fluor Daniels (base services) doesn’t want to permanently fix the air conditioning! We’ve been going back and forth with them. You open a work order for the broken a/c and they ignore it until you call them three or four more times. They’ve rebuilt our compressors about two or three times but the two a/c’s work when they want and just shut down when they’re tired.

I received an email from one of my good friends at home containing an article about Dubai and subtitled with some garbage about what the price of American oil is paying for. I’m going to post my response and a couple of links because I think that these kinds of negative remarks about the UAE are very counterproductive to maintaining an important relationship with a country that is actually one of many of our best friends in the Middle East.

“…First off, it ain't American oil money at work! That is about the furthest from the truth. Dubai has become a convenient, profitable and successful crossroads for the shipping industry and everything passing through the Middle East to include even stuff going to and from India. They have developed into one of the most liberal of Arabic states and have been seriously working to develop themselves as a tourist destination something along the lines of the Middle East Las Vegas. Many of the small Middle Eastern nations (like UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain in particular and even little Djibouti) have been working hard to find a niche in shipping, banking, commerce and the like BECAUSE they don't have the oil and natural gas reserves to last very long or anywhere near as long as Iran, Iraq and Saudi.

People I work with here, in Kuwait and in Qatar oftentimes will take a quick leave to Dubai for three day weekends as it is the perfect place to unwind from our lives here. The one guy I work with here just got back from there and did the indoor mall ski slope and said it was great. He also did the dune buggy trip into the desert. I'm told that it is currently quite the destination for Brits and Aussies. So there is more to Dubai than all the crap you read going on in the States. Too bad that Americans only see the world through red, white and blue colored glasses! If they'd get out a bit more, they'd see that there is more to the world than our borders, our values and our oil needs.

Hope I didn't sound too snotty! :) Living abroad really opens your mind and eyes so that you recognize American bent news-babble when you see it.”

http://www.departures.com/tr/tr_0506_dubai.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/holiday/destinations/dubai_bigkids_best/

On this subject, I’d like to make a remark about our having defeated the opportunity for the UAE to administer the ports in the US. First off, having a UAE company administer and operate our ports with the US Government overseeing the company is not that bad of an idea. After the successes and profitability that the UAE has had with their own shipping industry in the Middle East, they may actually have some new ideas that could be of use to us.

Let’s just suppose that maybe the UAE port deal was turned down because of certain “connections” in the lobbying industry worrying about having to learn how to pay-off a new group of people to continue smuggling operations at these ports. Let’s not delude ourselves too much that smuggling isn’t a huge operation in the US (with all kinds of heads looking the other way for the correct amount of money.) And lobbying by any other name is still “buying off” whomever to get what you want. Wake up and smell the coffee…lobbyists are basically corporate mafia used by big business to get their way with Congress at your expense…but dressed in better and more expensive suits (right Mr. Abramoff?)…in Fedora’s, mind you. Did you know that hats were back in?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Ixnay on the Arpetcay, Versteh? Okay!

17 May 2006

So it’s Wednesday and my last Wednesday here. I had the day off, so I ran around like a madman doing my normal Wednesday routine; sleep in a couple of extra hours, shower, pick-up laundry at KBR, drop off laundry at KBR, stop into the shop to check email and go to lunch with whoever is available and willing. After that, the afternoon is my oyster.

After my initial sweeping of the empty side of the room last night, this morning I picked through a bunch of stuff Raymond left behind. Ended up bagging it up to take to work; you know, things like canned air, extra disks, screen cleaner, tape…stuff like that that can be used at the office. He also left behind a few Bibles and religious books. He told me that he couldn’t throw them out…so he leaves them for me to throw out, right? No, I bagged them up too and will give them to our military Chaplin from the 72nd. He will find a good home for them.

This afternoon, I set my sights on going to the Big PX at Liberty and stopping by the Bazaar for any last-minute things that struck my fancy…mainly an inlayed chess/backgammon set. I’ve already made and shipped a few of my purchases of wood inlay stuff which was made in Syria and never bought a backgammon set, but have always thought about one…so today was the day.

I didn’t even make it into the bazaar because I found what I wanted at the Turkish vendor outside the PX. I found a beautiful chess board on the outside of the box and a backgammon board on the inside. The inlay consisted of metal and wood shapes inlayed around hand painted scenes on both sides. It also comes with matching backgammon pieces and some hand carved chess pieces all of which were made in Tabriz, Iran. I bought that along with a couple of matching boxes for future gifts (Christmas is only 222 days away, ya know!)

And as long as I’m confessing things here…yes, I did succumb to those devilish Turkish carpet guys last week and bought me that phenomenal traditional Tabriz fish-scale, handmade, silk and wool on silk, 10 X 7 that kept me awake for seven nights until I finally answered the call to buy it! Let me also confess that it is probably the most spectacular carpet in my collection. Did I mention that it has the Iranian flag with the family name (in Persian, of course) on both ends of the silk?

Let me step up to the soapbox for just a moment only to say that deep inside, I don’t want to patronize these vendors selling these particular goods since it ultimately is funding a society which we will soon, at a minimum be part of a UN embargo against, but more seriously and quite possibly cause us to be pulled into another military action if they keep up the crap they are doing up north with the Iraqi Kurds and their not-so-secretive funding of Shiite and rebel issues and rebellion down south in Basrah. I’m stepping down now from that soapbox, okay?

(Now for the self-justification of such a purchase…) This carpet really has the finest workmanship, the perfect blend of colors and all the added detail that I have never been able to find in the others that I’ve purchased except maybe that Nain (pronounded Nah een’), I bought last year also made in Iran. But what really convinced me that it had to be bought was…(did I mention that he discounted it 21%?)… remembering my trip back home last summer.

During my six week sabbatical back home last April and May, I decided to slum into Geneva, Illinois (you know, the place where they filmed that Tom Hanks bomb, “Road to Perdition”) In case you’re not familiar with the place, Geneva is a nice little turn of the century town with that friendly hometown feel, but has that little chip on its shoulder which makes it just a bit of a snooty place if I must say so myself. How do I know this little tidbit of rumor, you ask? Well, one time when I walked down the streets there during a rainstorm, the people were just keeling over in the streets by the tens! You see, they have their noses soooo high in the air, it’s like turkeys at the Hoka turkey farm back home in nearby Waterman. They end up drowning in the rain cuz their noses are all up in the air. Biff and Muffy must have left all their umbrellas at the golf course that day! Alright, so I made some of that up…but the turkey farm in Waterman is one of the best. Nothing like fresh turkeys for Thanksgiving. But…I digress.

So I find myself in this nice little carpet store in Geneva and I’m looking at carpets. Then I’m looking at the prices on these rugs and there isn’t a one in the bunch under $3000 on the 10 X 7’s. Now after being here in Iraq, Qatar and in the souks of Kuwait, I’m looking at these hanging pieces of crap and thinking, something just ain’t right here. The colors are off, the patterns are similar but somehow not right, they all look machine-woven, man-made materials some with wool (not a stitch of silk in the bunch) and they just don’t have the detail that I’m used to seeing on the Orientals that I’ve seen here in the Middle East. Well, as I start talking to the salesman, he finally clears up my confusion…all these hanging pieces of garbage are from India and China!

After seeing the prices on these things back home, and the lack of workmanship, and quality, I resolved that I won’t settle for anything less than the real thing and what I have access to here. Since I’m not planning on coming back here in the near-near future, my mind was made up…And so now you have the whole confession. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! Oh, and remember…ixnay on the arpetcay! Better to explain once it arrives home in the mail.

Where Are My Nutter Butters?

16 May 2006

Well, the time has come to say goodbye to more friends here. Three of my coworkers left today. Two are leaving for good for the States and one is leaving to come back with a new job and a new employer. But I promised myself that I wouldn’t bad-mouth management for any of their transgressions which have directly or indirectly led to this soon-to-be mass exodus.

If you remember my mentioning it, Raymond and I both lost our roommates here in beautiful Dodge North (Mortar Alley) when the group they worked with pulled back to Kuwait. We both only had 100 or so days and so I suggested that we room together since it’s always better to room with someone you know than take the luck of the draw and end up with someone who is a bona fide butt hole…even if it IS only for 90 days. Something along the lines of, “better the butt hole you know than the butt hole you don’t know.”

Not that I’m suggesting that Raymond is or ever was a butt hole! He may be guilty of not being quite the housekeeper that I am, but he has always been very friendly and a genuinely nice guy and great roomy. Hmmmm. maybe that makes me the butt hole in this picture! So I moved in with him (staying in K-row, one up and one over) right before I headed off for vacation. And I must say that (at least for me and hopefully for him) it was great to room with him. You’d think that it would be difficult to room and work with a person, but we got along great on and off shift.

It’s kind of sad to see him go. Eve took them all to the airport and there was Raymond in the back seat with the window of the truck down, a big old crap-eatin grin and him with his head out the window and tongue hanging out as if he were a dog not knowing that he is really going to the vet but loves the ride in the car anyway…(I’m sure that if he had a tail that it would have been wagging wildly)…oblivious to the nightmare we all ultimately face at the airport. Baghdad to Ali Al Salem over to KWI and then to good old Fort Bliss. In this case, I'll have to disagree with that saying about how it's all about the journey and not the arrival at the location.

Besides, soon I too, will be that dog in the back seat enroute to the airport. I still have things to finish up before I leave. But tonight I'm getting used to no roomy, an empty bed and an empty room. It was really strange getting back from work tonight and not seeing Raymond crashed out in his bed. Tuesday’s were his day off and he’s been on a Star Trek kick the past few weeks. I decided to give his side a sweeping. Let me tell you, those weren’t Tribbles left under the bed and I'm not even going to acknowledge the black mold crawling up the wall! It's not growling at me yet and I'm not homesteading, so it ain't my problem.

After I showered I decided to listen to a bit of music to relax. I opened the fridge to get something to drink and pull out the last of my Nutter Butters from yesterday…But they were gone! See Raymond…I do miss you. Who is going to eat my Nutter Butters now that you’re gone, you dog!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Melancholy

10 May 2006

Kind of melancholy lately with the thoughts of leaving and all. I've nearly wanted to sign a contract a few times here out of fear. I know that makes no sense to you out there. You'd think I'd have more fear being over here than coming home, but my fear is that of going home to no job. You get kind of used to that direct deposit filling your account every two weeks. The thought of that not happening for awhile till I've obtained a new job tends to leave me unnerved. I still have a mortgage and utilities and (ack!) gasoline to buy to get around. Still have a dog to keep healthy. Still have to think about what to do until I find that ever-illusive next position.

Not to mention the fact that I've been here so long that I'm leaving behind a lot of aquaintences and friends, some of which I've known since my arrival in Iraq in Feb of 2004. People ask if I'm coming back, or tell me that I'll be back after a few months, but I've learned never to say never to anything anymore. You never know what surprises life has in store for you. There's way too much rattling around in my head right now with only another two weeks till I get out of here. So melancholy is probably the best description of how I feel right now.

The weather has been interesting lately. We've had rain at least once a week around here. The goverment has been leasing out airplanes to crop dust the date palms so with all the rain, they should have one bumper crop of dates. Last night I was up till midnight listening to music. Got up to go to the john and ended up staying outside for another 45 minutes just watching the lightening storm and thunder of an impending storm. The lightening was beautiful to watch.

On Sunday, we had quite a sandstorm come in. I'd never actually saw one come in like that before. Usally, you just step outside and bam! it was sandy/dirty fog outside or it was night when it came in. This time, I got a call from one of our sites out in Taji about 40km away who warned us. "Hey, you guys have a sandstorm coming your way that just hit us."

Sure enough, I step outside and this thing is coming our way. I looks like rolls of clouds moving low to the ground, kind of like the Blob or maybe like the rolling clouds in the Ten Commandments. Next thing you know, the wind picks up, starts blowing dirt around and air is amber/orange colored. You don't want to stay out in this stuff because you'll have inches of dirt in your ears and eyes and will feel the dirt in your scalp in no time flat. The main part of the sandstorm passed in about 15 minutes, but visibilty was probably only 500 feet for the next few hours.

I've got one more trunk to pack up and send off. It's hard to believe that when I leave this time, it is probably for good...or until I come back to see the ruins at Babylon and Nimrud up at Mosul as a tourist once I'm retired.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Send A Brick

01 May 2006

Now I'm not one that's normally an activist, but I'm really somewhat disturbed at this whole protest going on back home by immigrants to convince us that they should be given citizenship or else they'll not work here anymore...today only. What???!!! That's like the kids telling the parents they won't do chores for one day if they don't get more chocolate covered sugar-bombs (sorry, I'm a big Calvin and Hobbes nut).

Maybe they've forgotten that 1) many of those "not working" today are here illegally, 2) they are not voting members of our society, 3) those that are illegal came into the country without documentation and fan the flames of the whole stolen identity issue when they require false documentation to obtain jobs...illegally, 4) these illegals end up indirectly being on drag on our social services such as schools, hospitals, social programs paid for generously by the legal, law-abiding citizens( you know, those born here and naturalized) of this country.

If you want to be here, do it through the legal process. All they have done now is to force a line to be drawn in the sand. Now "we the people" are going to be required to respond. I personally never minded living among a very mixed neighborhood of legals and illegals in Aurora, Illinois (City of Lights and of (schwing!!) Wayne's World!) The city has a certain mix and flare that I never had the opportunity to experience in my "white bread" upbringing. Aurora was a great place to live for the eight years I lived there. And actually, I have always felt that everyone should speak at least one other language other than their native tongue.

I'm not opposed to immigration or our blended culture. We are or all were immigrants to this country at some point in time. But you're not going to convince me you need to be here by theatening me and telling me "do it...or else!" What I am opposed to is this issue being forced onto us as a "do it...or else" issue. We owe you what???? for what???? Oh, that's right. We owe you citzenship for sneeking into our country illegally, illegally taking jobs, not paying into the system or paying into the system on a stolen Social Security number or you won't work for a day to show me how much I need you. All you've done is show us why we require more border patrol and more police officers to round you up at your rally today.

You want to be a citizen? Join our military and come to sunny Iraq. I served my country proudly, you can too. If you want to come here, JFK said it right when he said, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

I heard about this site at http://www.send-a-brick.com The object is to send a message to your congresspeople and such in the form of a brick to start "the wall". Probably will damned near need a wall the size of the Great Wall of China to make any dent in stemming the flow, but how else do you send a message that can be heard. And sending flowers to Springfield isn't exactly going to get any message across, is it now? Do I feel that this is a realistic solution? No, but obviously this issue is a much hotter issue than has been previously been addressed.

The most difficult part was finding my state reps which were found (where else, but) at http://www.illinois.gov/government

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