Saturday, February 23, 2008

HR to KWI

24 February 2008

Finally made it to Kuwait. There were plenty of flights posted, but when it came right down to it, maintenance issues kept the birds in Kuwait at least a few hours longer than anticipated. At least they were there (one did turn around and return to the nest in Kuwait) where all the parts are available. My primary worry was making it to Kuwait earlier enough so that there would be time to process my passport. Used to be it only took 8-12 hours to process, but now it is every bit of 24 hours.

Since I handed in my passport at 1930, I am hoping it comes back about that time...although the guy behind the counter is saying come back at 2100. If the bus for the airport leaves at 2130, that might be pulling things a bit close. But, for $50, I could always take a cab from Ali As Salem. We'll just have to wait and see.

I arrived completely washed-out. I only napped last night for two hours since I've been on mids and slept the whole day before. So with all the waiting at BIAP and by the time the plane lands and we're bussed over and process and drop off IBA (vest and helmet for storage...cuz I ain't draggin that crap around the world!) and catch a bite, I was hardly standing by the time 8pm rolled around.

I met up with one of my coworkers, Kevin. He left the day before me from BIAP. We did dinner and then he picked up his passport for departure back to the States last night. He was mentioning that they had a rather solemn flight. Their departure was delayed by about an hour for a special passenger. The folks at BIAP first asked all the group that was flying if they had reservations about flying with HR. Working over here, that is always a possibility on flights back to Kuwait. Of course no one spoke up. After all, how could you? As sad as it sounds, it should be considered an honor, given the circumstances.

Because of their special passenger, Kev said that instead of flying to the military end of the airport, they flew to the International side first. Then they had a military ceremony for the passenger's de-planing and transfer to another flight going Stateside. After the ceremony was completed, the pilots fired the engines up and took the C130 in a circle around the airport from the international airport and landed on the military side of the house to drop off the remaining passengers on the flight.

In case you aren't familiar with their special HR passenger, their passenger rode in the back cargo space of the C130 in constant view of the passengers...draped in the Stars and Stripes. HR stands for Human Remains. Godspeed and God Bless that soldier for his or her sacrifice.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Another Fun-filled Day in the Sandbox

19 February 2008

When I got into work yesterday, I'd seen an article about it on yahoo news and thought I'd better send at least a little something out to let everyone know everything is alright.

Compliments of our wonderful neighbor (indirectly, of course) Uncle Ahmadinejad, we had 16 incoming assorted mortars and rockets Monday afternoon. They hit over about a 15 in period. I wasn't too worried though because my trailer is now surrounded by 12 foot concrete barriers they finished putting in last week. But I'm surprised the "big voice" isn't horse after all that! In case you aren't familiar with what I'm talking about, the big voice is the alarm that screams "Incoming, Incoming, Incoming!"

It just kept screaming, over and over and over like some broken record, "Incoming, Incoming, Incoming". That and the booms finally woke me out of my ever-so-restful sleep cuz the walls were breathing from the impacts. It's been awhile since we've had so many at once falling out of the sky.

Not that I was worried, cuz I rolled over and went back to sleep after the noise was over. Didn't even walk outside to look for smoke! My sister says I've been here too long if I could roll over and go back to sleep and not even check outside for smoke. But what's the worry? At this point, if you're alive to hear the booms, everything is okay. It's the one you don't hear that gets you and then it's all done but the cremation pyre...well, that and facing St Peter. When your number's called, you can't exactly hit the snooze button for those five more minutes!

21 February 2008

We had quite a sandstorm here yesterday that finally seems to have let up some. It started out like fog and just kind of hung around for 36 hours or so. The skies are bright blue this morning and planes are flying again after the sand in the air cleared last night. Now I'm hoping it hasn't set back the schedule of people leaving too much to impact my hopeful departure for vacation.

Can you tell I'm anxious to leave for vacation? With lots of luck, I'm leaving on Saturday for Kuwait and then have to give the Kuwaiti's 3 dinar for the pleasure of hanging out there till the passport is processed. After my 3 dinar goes into the Emir's pocket and my passport is stamped in, then I can leave for Berlin on an 0200 flight Monday morning.

Of course, now that I'm reading more about Berlin, three days won't be enough, but at least it will be a chance to see the city since I've never been there before. But I'm certainly planning what I'll see in the three short days I'll be there. I had my down winter jacket, a hat and gloves shipped from home since the weather is still winter there. Only to look this morning on weather.com and find that in the 10 day forecast, it is supposed to be 60F the day I arrive and in the upper 50's the other days.

Oh well, not like I was going to make a trip to the Kit Kat Club (http://www.kitkatclub.de)(think the likes of Liza in Cabaret) walking down the street in my ass-less chaps and chest harness (don't laugh...it could happen!) for their fetish night full of partying...But alas my dreams of partying down a the Kit Kat Club are already dashed since it is only open on Fridays and Saturdays. Making a trip to Berlin in the middle of the week is a complete buzz-kill if you're thinking of a trip to Berlin for the clubbing at all the trendy places!

I guess I'll just have to settle for the more ordinary style of sight-seeing. I am strongly thinking of the Pergamon Museum to see the elaborate Middle Eastern collection which includes temples and such like Ishtar - the Great Gate of Babylon among other wonders. I'm also hoping to see the Reichstag, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (just down the street from where I'm staying at the Swissotel), the Brandenberg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie among other places high on my list.

I wanted to do the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen and also would love to see Sanssouci in Charlottenburg as well as Spandau, but there are only so many hours in a day. I was afraid that three days would only be a tease, but at least I'll get a taste of Berlin that will hopefully leave me wanting to come back again soon.

But honestly, it is all about some fresh Weissbier, unbelievable German cuisine and the chance to refamiliarize that thick tongue of mine with the German language. The good German beer always has a way of breaking down the barriers and helping me remember my German. I'm sure I'll somehow get by with my Ami-dialected Deutsch.

More later once I'm enroute. Gotta go to bed right now. I'm about spent and needing some sleep. These 72 and 84 hour work-weeks are killing me lately. What I wouldn't give for two extra hours of sleep! Soonly...

NIU DeKalb

16 February 2008

I've been busy in thought and working on a blog about this whole NIU thing in my head. As you may or may not know, NIU is in my "backyard" at home. I did some undergrad there and it is my graduate alma mater. So this hits way too close to home. Thank you everyone for the email and such over the past couple of days. And you think it is so dangerous here compared to home...at least with mortars landing in my backyard here (although just as random) fewer people have been killed per event. Wondering if Iraq isn't safer after all... We have more people with weapons exposed, mind you) and fewer incidents of shootings! Go figure.

Maybe the solution is to give instructors and teachers loaded firearms and the permission to use them liberally! Tenure and promotions based on the number of total rounds spent per semester! I'm just imagining one of my marketing profs ( a little petite thing about 5' 2" who is also a marthoner ) with a 357 Magnum strapped to her leg?! Or just for "emphasis," one of my other marketing profs firing off a round into the ceiling to emphasize "Marketing is everything and everything is marketing, damn it!"

But honestly, I'm wondering if the press doesn't glorify this all by even printing the names and personal details of these wanna-be famous mass killers. The focus which should be on those wronged has become so much overshadowed by the potential promised infamy of the killer. I can't help but to wonder if mass murder movies like Friday 13th or Freddy along with video games don't promote this type of acting-out of thoughts as being acceptable. In the end, doesn't this cheapen the value and sanctity of human life? How can we teach current and future generations to embrace all the sanctity, beauty and fragility of life when all these other outside influences glorify and promote the taking of life? The more theatrical the better.

Maybe I'm just an "old soul," but I've never taken any pleasure in watching movies with the purposeful theme of killing. It is too difficult for me to justify watching for entertainment the taking of life in the depths of my head. Maybe having grown up with two sets of great-Grandparents helped me to appreciate and celebrate life...not rally around the creative depiction of snuffing out something so precious as life. I don't know. But these problems are rooted at a societal level. Unless you can alter the current mind-set of what is just, right, humane and news-worthy, there is no hope that this will or ever can change for the better. How can we change the mindset of our population when the press gleefully glorifies the horrors of violent killing and rejoices and considers it "news" when people are senselessly murdered in ANY situation.

Take for example something as mundane as Brittany being sprung from the loony bin. Remember the helicopter shots of the paparazzi swarming the car she is in like flies on shit? Every time the car moved, the flies flew away only to land on and swarm again on the car (poop) once it stopped moving. Is this actually "news?" Men killing their 8 and 9 month nearly full-term pregnant girlfriends! Not just one, but two in the news in a one month period. And now a meat cleaver killer in NY! How can we ever expect our future generations to treasure every breath, appreciate and nurture the feelings of ourselves and others, or even marvel at the beauty of nature and actually celebrate life when it is the killing of life and destruction of civilized things that are considered the new deities of our self-described, news-informed, educated, lawful "civilization?" This plastered all over the screens in our home everyday reassuring people that if you want to be famous, this is how to do it.

I don't know that drugs are killing our society as quickly as the press putting on a pedestal, heinous criminal behavior and video games promoting the elimination of pseudo humans who are keeping us from our "prize". I know...I've gone off the deep end, haven't I? So many sad thoughts going through my head. Granted I didn't know anyone shot or killed at NIU yesterday. But still it is horrific and it has happened so close to my home. Unimaginable for me. My Alma mater. Where I once had classes. My neighborhood. My neighbors. Too close. Not like I live in some rough neighborhood in the inner-city of Chicago. This is De Kalb. The most exciting (and wholesome) thing happening is supposed to be Cornfest every August. The whole county is a sleepy little, neighborly place to just..."be."

In a military action like Iraq, you expect death and unthinkable human violence. And while I've been here, I've continually thought about and imagined the safety and security of "home." You know, ruby slippers, click your heels, "no place like home" and all that happy horseshit. What if that's just not true? What if "safe" and "United States" don't belong in the same sentence? What if Dorothy decided NOT to go back to Kansas? What if the Wizard convinced her to hang out for awhile in Oz?

"Stay in Oz, Dorothy!!! Kick back and chill, girlfriend. Bask a little while in your glory! For crying out loud, baby, you just killed the Wicked Witch of the West. It doesn't get any better than this!"

See, there we go again...glorifying killing. The WWW didn't get off with a month in jail and three years of parole. She didn't do any community service...she was KILLED. Maybe death at the hands of others is just an ingrained thing in our society...more than we'd like to admit.

Well, what started out as just thinking about a blog write-up has about written itself. I know I'll visit the campus while I'm home on leave. I get home back on 28Feb. Until then, my thoughts and prayers are with NIU.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Fabio and George Clooney in My Sister's Kitchen!

Warning: most of the following situation was a figment of my sick, demented and very bored imagination! I need a vacation...


My sister sent her husband out this week to buy a new dishwasher since their old one bought the farm. I tried to convince her to get the Fischer-Pykal with the dual drawers that operate independently. We bought that one when we replaced old Bertha (our old GE dishwasher that was contractor crap) and the Fischer-Pykal is fantastic, the only way to go. But she is looking for something more functional and less pricey.

I asked her what she was going to name it. "What?!" she asked. Well, in our family we name cars, why wouldn't you name your dishwasher?

I told her to tell her husband that she is going to name their new dishwasher Fabio. When he asks you why, you can tell him, "That way I will always have a stud in the kitchen when I need one!"

And you know her friend Rose will appreciate that, unless of course Rose's husband Scott is installing and "adjusting" Fabio for her. Yikes! Talk about things that make you say, hmmmm.

My next email to my sister Deb is asking if Fabio is all installed, adjusted and ready to rock 'n roll? "Not yet. But I still have reservations about calling my dishwasher Fabio. It's just kind of weird."

Oh, come on, no sense of humor whatsoever! With hair like his, I should think he would be the king of "a quick wash and rinse!" What better name can you possibly come up with???? Besides, you certainly don't want to call a dishwasher George Clooney. All he does is just get drunk and give you lip...Just ask Fabio.

You did hear about when Clooney was all sloppy drunk in a restaurant, made a major fool of himself and insulted a bunch of models because some photographers were snapping pics? Old Boy and his ego got all tweaked at the photographers for taking pictures (he thought) of him...only to find out that the photographers were for Fabio and the models doing some Benefit! Ooops!

Fabio had to set old drunk Georgie in his place that night! So now you understand why the only thing in the kitchen worth naming George Clooney might be the garbage disposal since it somewhat resembles that situation. You know...lots of noise, spitting and spewing of half chewed-up food and obscenities at you until Fabio steps in and cleans things up!!!!!

Now when you buy that nice fancy Viking oven, the only name appropriate for a Viking oven would be(no brainer, of course) Emeril! BAM!!!!! (I really kill me sometimes)

But what the heck does one name a microwave then???? Somehow, Old Sparky just doesn't seem fitting. That was the name of her last microwave (may it rest in peace) that her house-sitter fried with the aluminum foil her last trip out of town! Doh!

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