Sunday, December 6, 2009
A lot has happened since last time we talked and I'm afraid this little blog project has fallen by the wayside. I also noticed how the quantity progressively decreases per month. Maybe I'm reaching my tipping point of marginal blog utility. Maybe it's because I got promoted (ka ching!), since it's also brought on a few extra responsibilities.
Ok, so remember Halloween here? Now let's talk about Thanksgiving! There was a giant Turkey sculpture made of butter bigger than me!!! There was a life-size crocodile made of pineapple, (obviously crocodiles are another Thanksgiving mascott (picture coming soon)), there were some plaster pilgrims, a butter steamboat, letters spelling "Happy Thanksgiving" made of ice, and so much other ridiculousness I almost lost my appetite. Who seriously thinks, "hey maybe we should build a giant butter turkey and butter steamboat for the troops in Iraq!" Ridiculous.
Somebody made some kind of "See you in Hell" statement about something and somebody else quipped, "Wait, aren't we already here?" Another incident occured when somebody said, "Did you hear the news that so-and-so died?" somebody else answered, "No way! when are they expected to arrive?" Many people consider this place to be hell. You're in the desert, you work long hours, you're far away from family, friends, and what's most familiar. I often imagine hell as something right out of one of Salvador Dali's paintings. Everything is bizarre and surreal; ridiculousness is paramount. The Thanksgiving butter ridiculousness drove it home. So just when I was thinking I was in the worst place conceivable, something happened that transformed my life...
Ok sidebar! So if you ask me what my three favorite dishes are, my answer might vary depending on the day, season, where I'm living, or even just my mood. However there are three things which I consistently love more than anything else. I can get tired of them like anything else, but these three things are independent definitions of excellence in edible form:
3. Vegemite toast--world's richest source of vitamin B!
2. Deep-dish Chicago Pizza-- I'll let you know where it's legit.
Now let me talk about smores for a little bit. First of all, I have never lost a smore eating competition in my life. I have gotten opponents sick and after the match is clearly over, I will still continue to devour them because they are so good. Eating the perfectly toasted smore is the closest to heaven I have ever felt. It's such a simple concept yet it takes years to perfect-- it's truly the fruit of paradise. I bet the fruit in the Garden of Eden tasted like a smore. You know how people are like, "man, if only Eve didn't eat the fruit bad stuff would never happen!" But imagine if you were Eve and the perfectly roasted smore was the fruit the serpent offered. By now you should have the idea.
The only problem with smores is that a crucial ingredient is the bonfire. Trust me, I've tried the microwave, the oven, even a candle and you absolutely have to have a bonfire. Sadly, not everyone can just produce a bonfire whenever they want which makes smores difficult to come by-- especially here in Iraq. Fortunately a little bakery down in Chattanooga Tennessee (I've been there!), The Chattanooga Bakery, invented the next best thing to smores (drumroll): The Chocolate Moonpie. Now please don't get confused! The Moonpie isn't a substitute for smores, it's just the next best thing. Moonpies don't require bonfires! Moonpies come in many flavors and can be microwaved for 5 seconds! Sometimes I even like a Moonpie MORE than a smore! Moonpies are so delicious sometimes I think they should be called Heavenpies, or Paradisepies. I have a tradition of always asking for them for Christmas because I can never get enough... or can I?
Back to Hell. Ok so we're all sitting at our desks working away at our work feeling sorry for ourselves when all of sudden one of the Captains comes through the door carrying two huge brown boxes. He puts them down and asks for some help because there are more in the truck outside. A bunch of people get up and we bring in like a dozen or so of these enormous brown boxes. Ok so he opens one box and guess what's inside! Yep, stacks of boxes of MOONPIES! Each brown box had dozens of boxes FULL of moonpies!!! I am a moonpie fanatic and I've even been to the Chattanooga Bakery but I have never seen so many moonpies in my entire life. We could have emptied them into an empty pool and SWAM in them!!! (of course that would be a ridiculous waste).
This is all to say I don't really know where I am. On the one hand I'm in hell with ridiculous things like butter Turkeys and rampant boredom, but on the other hand I have more moonpies on hand that I can eat in possibly my lifetime. Hell or Paradise, in any case there's no way this place can be earth. Is life this ridiculous back home? Maybe I just can't remember what home is like and I'm going crazy... very possible.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
I got to take a little trip last week to the zoo. Well actually the zoo itself has long been abandoned of animals so I guess it was more like a carnival or amusement park. Welcome to Camp Victory, Baghdad. I'm so used to the deserty north of Speicher that Victoy was like paradise. I had some meetings in this beautiful palace (photo not taken by me) and I could not get over how ridiculously massive and even beautiful it was. Here is also a picture of the interior (also not taken by me). The chandelier there is no joke the size of my CHU. You can also get a nice view from
those balconies there and wow if you look out the back off the balconies that overlook the lake you can see a bunch of other smaller island palaces scattered around the lake. Apparently that's where Saddam used to keep his closest cronies. Now I don't normally associate palaces with carnivals but there's a lot more to the trip than a palace.
So, we stepped off the helicopter and were immediately stunned by all the noises, lights, and people buzzing around. On our way to lodging there were women walking around everywhere! Many of them were civilian contractors so to see a ratio of about 3:1 male to female with many wearing civilian clothes, it almost seemed like we were back in the USA! See, we're used to more like a 50:1 ratio mostly wearing uniforms. The next morning, we walked over to what was basically a Starbucks, (called Green Beans), on the base and we passed by a circuss tent in which a band was rehearsing. They even had a banner and some posters outside advertising upcoming concerts. I wondered, "seriously, where am I?" After we got our mochas and frappes we passed by a massive pigeon roost. Sadly nobody was taking care of the pigeons so they left the roost to inhabit holes in nearby buildings. The roost just looked like a monument towering there for tourists to pass by and take pictures of. Ok so here's my favorite part; my interpreter and I were riding in the van to an Iraqi restaurant that he claimed was far better than anything I've had up north. The driver turned on the radio and here's roughly what we got:
Female radio host: "hey Hey HEY! It's Jihad Jordan here with the latest and greatest hits for YOU! Up next, and you will NOT want to miss this, I'm gonna tell you WHERE TO BE tomorrow night for OW OW! let's hear it! HALLOWEEEEN! That's right! BAGHDAD IS THE PLACE TO BE this year for Halloween and I'm gonna tell you where all the BEST PARTIES are gonna be and you do NOT want to miss out!"
I was really beginning to think I was dreaming all of this. Sadly we arrived at our destination before I could learn where all the hopping parties were going to be in Baghdad for Halloween, but I already had a lot on my plate for Halloween anyway and wouldn't be able to attend. I mean, it's not like I'm deployed to a combat zone or anything...
In other news, Naughty By Nature is coming tomorrow so we're not allowed to wear civilian clothes (I know, it doesn't make sense), so get down with O.P.P.-- yeah you know me!
Monday, October 19, 2009
I must apologize, I've been holding out on you for some time now. The secret most priceless perk of the military is AFN (Armed Forces Network). It has by far the most hilarious commercials in the world. The least of them is Super Bowl worthy. All of them are also very educational! For example, today during breaks for Jeopardy, a little computer-animated chameleon explained the importance of wearing a helmet while bicycling. Some dogs and cats taught me a little bit about how the Army JAG corps (lawyers) can help me out of a fix. Some babies with creepy adult voices talked about travel expenses, and an Air Force fellow danced for making the right decision, (to wear his reflector belt while going outside at night, obviously). Let's not even get into all the different unit ads trying to compete in being the baddest unit on AFN TV. There's a good amount of night vision, judo moves, and quick turning heads (to look like you're 'alert'). I guess the best way to describe them is that they're so bad that they're amazing. Anyway, I could probably set an entire blog aside completely devoted to an AFN commercial each day, but that would be a lot of work. I know there are a few on youtube so check them out; they'll change your life and maybe even save your life (if you're considering huffing, suicide, DUI, not locking your door at night, or not wearing your reflector belt). You absolutely have to see the Huffing one!
In other news, I think the Demon Wolves are pulling back a bit during this heat spell. We're over 100 degrees at daytime again! It makes sense that they're drawing down because they're already covered in fiery fur and I can see how hot fiery fur plus hot deserty sun may equal too much heat to handle. At least we've recovered some of our Class I supplies, (but not the Gatorade Nutrition shakes to my chagrin).
I've been pretty busy lately with trying to help get some interpreters US citizenship. It's been very educational to see how the whole process works, especially in terms of the conflict. I also really enjoy it. Oh! If you're single and you want to get married maybe you can help me out with the process! Heh kidding, not even sure if that's legal on my part.
Ok that's all for now.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
I apologize for the delay. I had the coming soon notice to show my sister that I haven't quit the blog. The delay is due to a rapid influx of events in my otherwise dry and desolate experience here. I will only blog about two/three of them for now and probably the others later when I don't have much else to talk about.
1. Rain - It rained for the first time last week! It was awesome. I sat in bed and listened to it and the whole time I thought about going outside to see it but I never did. It was kind of a mixture of laziness and preserving the enjoyment that kept me inside. Next time I'll probably go outside and see it for myself. The following day was so refreshing and cool. It almost felt like home for a second.
2. Fire - The Dr. for the interpreters went to Paul Smith's College in the Adirondacks! We got along instantly because I'm very familiar with Paul Smith's as LaVida uses their canoe point and I've had a few adventures there. One thing led to another and we started talking about cigars somehow and then he gave me one he'd just ordered. It didn't have a band and he said it was from Drew Estate which supposedly has flavored humidors in which the cigars just sit and absorb the flavor. Anyway, I'm not much of a smoker, but it was the best cigar I've ever had. Take a look at them on cigarbid.com. You can get the good ones for cheap by ordering the rejects. They are the same quality except for some minor aesthetic deficiencies.
3. Firing - The highlite of my week thus far was firing an individual. I know most people dread firing someone unless if they hate them and I don't really hate anybody so I understand that this isn't normal. I will explain. One of the interpreters was not working out for his team. There was no place else to send him and he had to be replaced. I had no choice but to release him. As we were driving over to the office to finish off the paperwork I was able to ask him some questions. I could see that he was very upset about losing his job, but he was still open to conversation. The cool thing about it was that I could empathize with him pretty well and even without having experienced anything like him, I could see where he was coming from. I saw that he needed some positive reinforcement and that he didn't really understand why he had to go. This allowed me to provide him with some tips of how to do better next time and encourage him to not give up. He was very receptive to this and realized that I wasn't a bad guy. By the time he was leaving he was thanking me for all of my help! This was by far the most rewarding experience I've had here thus far. It's a wonder what a little care and kindness can do for a crappy situation. This is especially convenient because I've always wondered what I'm going to do with my life and now I think I could be good in human resources. It's at least something to look into.
There you are, some good length to make up for the delay.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Happy labor day. NOT! Haha, there's no Labor Day in Iraq. It was another 12-hour work day. Though, I suppose in a way it was still a celebrated holiday here, ableit unconventionally. In fact, it was probably one of my favorite days here so far. First, I woke up at 0630 to run, but I ended up going back to sleep until around 0930. When I got up and went outside to go to the shower CHU, I noticed it was not as hot as usual and although it was still blindingly bright, I also noticed a slightly dimmer tint. There were clouds! Yes, I saw my first clouds in Iraq today; it took two months. They were nice light wispy clouds as shown above. Second, I went to lunch and passed by a normal crappy looking lunch line with normal crappy cafeteria dry meat and stewy veggies. I didn't think much of it until suddenly I stumbled upon a carver! He was carving out massive slices of prime rib! It was not only the biggest prime rib I've ever eaten, but also the most delicious. I was very impressed. There was also a cake which said 'Happy Labor Day' and patriotic streamers strewn all over the ceiling. I think if I had seen the cake before the prime rib I would have been pissed, but since I saw it after the prime rib I thought it was a very happy labor day afterall!
The big mistake.
I posted the wrong address below and on facebook! I realized this after a facebook chat with a friend who was wondering why it was taking so long for a letter to arrive. I put that address up too early before I got my final address and never updated it! Agh, the blunder! the anguish! No worries though, I've still been getting some mail from Mom, the Army, and a few online orders. I'd love to get your letters and I'm sorry for the trouble. I know it takes me like a week to write a good letter and the thought of it never arriving makes such effort seem pointless. I updated the address below and the address on facebook. I'll put the correct address here again for good measure.
LSA 100, COB SPEICHER
Anyway, I hope you all had a terrific labor day, even if you didn't get prime rib.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
It is very boring in the desert. It's so boring that everything else is interesting. I think it's so boring that its boringness itself even is sort of interesting. Here are some small things that have made life a little more interesting. After all, it's all a matter of perspective, so here's a shot:
Here's for my sister, I woke up early in the morning to go to the bathroom. On the way back, some desert foxes came out and were playing as I walked by. They hardly noticed me until I was right near them. I've also seen small lizards, birds, and bats. That's about all the wildlife out here, except for maybe some kind of scrubby bush once in a while. Rumor has it there's a tree somewhere on this base.
I got free floss in Kuwait and made it a habit to floss every night. Some of you may know that I've never been a good flosser. Well, one thing this place has done for me is get me into the habit of a nightly floss before brushing (always floss before brushing). However, worst part of the week was when I ran out of floss! Fortunately, I found another free floss box in a goodie package; it was the last one. Anyway, I'm pretty proud of my new accomplishment, and my new supply.
Another sad thing happened this last week; they kicked me off my desk! I now kind of float around from desk to desk, but at least I have my stapler... Supposedly we're building a new 'workstation' for me so I can run some kind of program. Supposedly some guy will come and act like a private tutor for this program. More on that to follow.
Updates: Mail's back up, please contine sending letters. Someone stole our portal potties (btw, 'portal' is the correct term because it explains their transforming abilities and how they temporarily take you to another world, like mini rocket ships). We're out of Gatorade nutrition shakes until Friday.
That's all for now.
Friday, August 14, 2009
I apologize for the suspense as I missed last week's post by an entire week and I am proving to neglect one of the fundamental ingredients for a blog that I mentioned in my first post. However, nobody has complained so I will continue to blog.
First an update: I don't live with the crabby civillians anymore, now I live with a crabby Aviaton captain. All of us who know Aviation captains know that they're crabby, especially my brother knows. Haha, just kidding I hope she won't kill me she's one of the nicest people in the world! Anyway, he's not a bad roommate and we have a lot of space with just the two of us and he doesn't mind my bike staying inside the CHU (hehe sorry inside joke).
Next updates: I called my mom yesterday and it was great. She's a wonderful person full of motherly wisdom and care. Family really is a special unit, even more special than special forces.
The supply guy brought Gatorade Nutrition shakes in vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate.
Mail is down until further notice so if you sent me something I don't know when I'll get it and if I sent you something it might take longer.
I'm listening to Alison Krauss. I normally don't but right now her music is so soothing I just have to keep listening.
I got blamed for blowing up the coffee maker, then I proved that I didn't, but then I got blamed for blowing up the new one and blowing a fuse. I've given up preparing coffee for those ungrateful SOBs.
I got my two new interpreters last week and they are great fun to hang out with. They're both grumpy old guys. One of them is like 70+ yrs old or something but he's always talking about getting out there where the action is and how he would push his special forces team guys because they were too weak to keep up with him. He has so many cool war stories and he speaks so many languages I've been losing sleep just to listen to him.
That's all the updates I have for now.
(Photo of Younes Mahmoud Iraqi soccer team captain after winning Asia cup in 2007 not taken by me)
Iraqi soccer is my latest and greatest interest. Though never having played it, I've always been a big fan of soccer. After my European study saga in 2007 and getting to experience some great teams play, their passionate fans' fanatic antics, and being immersed in the Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona rivalry in Spain, I learned how incredibly divisive or unifying a football team can be. No matter your religion, race, class, gender, or age, you all unite in the little Cerveceria (local pub) to support your team. On the other hand, woe be he who walks into the Cerveceria wearing the enemy's jersey. That's what's so great about National teams. Though living in one of the most torn countries on the planet right now, optimistic Americans believe Iraqis have a lot to celebrate: Successful elections, US withdrawal from major cities, greater trust and reliance on Iraq's own security forces. Despite any legislative, political, military or even social justice gains that may or may not have occurred within the country, I think this was by far the single most glorious day in Iraq since the US arrived and has done more to unify the country than all of our combined military and economic efforts: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/30/world/middleeast/30iraq.html.
The second single most glorious day was just a month ago on 10 July when the Iraqi team was allowed to play at home: http://www.fifa.com/aboutfifa/developing/news/newsid=1088925.html#erbil+enjoys+homecoming
I'm proud of our efforts to bring stability and security to Iraq. I track our successes and setbacks every day and I sincerely believe that we are making a positive difference. However nothing gets me more excited about Iraq than hearing updates about the Iraqi soccer team.
On a much more depressing note, the guy at the clothing shop in our little Iraqi Bazaar is all out of Iraqi national soccer jerseys and he doesn't know when he'll get any more. I'm going to keep asking him every time I see him.
Thanks for reading, I hope you're well.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
There is so much to write about this time but so little time to write it! I have to be in the gym in eight minutes or else! You see there was this dust storm, and it was ridiculous. I wore huge goggles and covered my nose with my shirt whenever I ventured out into the mayhem.
Here are a few lessons I learned about how to react when you are in a dust storm:
10. Make sure you have clean filters on your AC.
9. Do not do your laundry during a dust storm.
8. Do not get diarhea and run out to a portal potty that has been baking all day in the 120 degree f. dust storm and spend 20 minutes working up a sweat in there and thinking you couldn't be more miserable to open the door and receive a massive GUST of DUST to the FACE!
7. Keep an air duster on your desk for your computer.
6. Don't leave your opened yoghurt in direct fire of the AC vent.
5. Do not take your camera outside to take pictures of the dust storm.
4. Tragically, it's time to shave off your dustache. Don't worry it'll be back soon!
3. Do not panic, (or get too excited), when you see the bright orange sky because it's not a dream that you're on mars, it's just a dust storm.
2. Just because your eyes hurt and you can only see three feet in front of you still keep them open in order to avoid obstacles lying on the ground covered in dust.
1. If your bathroom is in another building, do not take a shower during a dust storm.
I hope this helps for next time a dust storm comes your way.
(Photo of a compound very similar looking to mine with a similar looking dust storm rolling in not taken by me-- my dust storm had more orange)
Now for the long awaited Bradley Beer Tracker:
This is even a bit old, I probably owe them over 100 by now.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Last night was Iraqi BBQ night!!! It was a blast! The Iraqis who live in our compound made us all sorts of delicious Iraqi dishes to try. I ate soooo much that I felt like I was going to explode. Then when I did squats later in the evening, I felt as if I would squat the Iraqi food right out of me! We had some tasty flat bread, chicken, beef, and goat. There was a variety of vegetable dishes too, and rice with a yummy vegetable sauce. After we had eaten our fill x2, they served us some delicious tea that was so sweet it went down like syrup. My favorite was the orange drink which was served in a can but had real orange pieces in it. It was DELISH.
(Photo of goat by Iraqi election poster not taken by me)
One of the Iraqis had a football (soccer) jersey on and I decided that I'm going to try to get an Iraqi National team jersey. Let me know if you want one and I'll see what kind of deal I can swing.
Things are getting exciting here. I was finally able to finagle a pistol and a sweet old worn brown leather holster to carry it in. My mustache is finally beginning to fill in and people no longer ask me if I'm trying to grow one because they can now see without a doubt that it is there. The combination of my sweet holster, pistol, mustache, and my uniform being without rank and patches, makes me feel like I really know my way around in the Army. I think I can fool people that I'm not a 2LT now, except when I do something naive and stupid. Next post I'll put up the "bradley beer tracker." It's an excel sheet that tracks how many beers I owe the captains for making rookie mistakes.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
I finally made it to my new home! I had a nice flight from Ft. Campbell, to somewhere in Germany, to Kuwait. I wasn't supposed to stop at Kuwait but we ended up there anyway and got stranded there for a few days due to dust storms. It wasn't bad; I got lots of sleep and ate some McDonalds. The best part about Kuwait was that in the middle of nowhere in the dusty desert there was a Hip Hop Urban Clothing Shop. Unfortunately I didn't make it inside since I would only dare to leave my air conditioned tent at night after it had closed. I like to leave at least one cool thing incomplete when I leave a new place so that I'll have a good reason to come back. So, hiphop urban shop is the stop for next time I drop by kuwait, yo.
My new place is cool except for there are civillians living in my CHU! (Combat Housing Unit, aka Crappy House for Us; it's a little trailer unit with AC). Here's kind of how it went:
I get my key and go to my CHU, open the door and:
Me (upon noticing that the CHU is already inhabited): Hello?
Civillian: Who are you?
(we exchange introductions)
Me: This is the CHU they assigned me to
Civillian: Weall, that's weard cause we'ave been here for... well since... well forever!
Me: woh! so I guess you're pretty much settled in then.
Civillian: yeah, you can have that bunk there (points to crappy cot-like bunk in cramped little corner). But we're pretty cool here. See that microwave? That's mine, I bought it. But you can use it I guess.
So that's my cool generous neighbor in a nutshell. They actually aren't too bad, but I'm not sure how I'm going to get my locker or mini-table from them since they've used them to create little forts for themselves inside the open CHU.
Ok, post is long I have one last thing... Address!!!
Please write and send gifts to:
LSA 100, COB SPEICHER
Also, send me your address and I'll mail YOU!!!