Time Flies…

Filed under: — lana @ 11:34 pm

When you are watching Olsen twin movies.

The Haji Copy. Movies tend to come out in the ol’ combat zone faster than they do in the states, because clever business inspired third-world country entrepreneurs journey across the borders to various places such as Pakistan and Iran and Turkmenistan and the other Stans and they take their video camera. They film a movie with poor picture and sound, and GI buy. I just wish these guys wouldn’t sit behind people who have to keep getting drink refills and then have to go to the bathroom six times. Can’t they see others are trying to film? How rude.

Now then. So they usually don’t just come one movie to a disc, they are three or four, with some sort of theme. Sometimes it is all the Terminator movies, sometimes it is all Jim Carrey movies… sometimes it is some theme completely foreign to all but the locals. So my teammate got one where the only theme I can figure out is every movie has at least one hot chick in it. This includes an Olsen twin movie (I am reassured by several that they are almost legal). So we watched it. I was captivated by the predictability. Now my brain hurts.

Earlier today, however, I did get to ride on an old Russian helicopter, complete with Russian pilots. They didn’t speak any English, which is an adventure. But what was also an adventure was the fact that the helicopter has probably been in Afghanistan since the ol’ Ruskie invasion. The flight crew wandered onto the tarmac and proceded to get out one of the wooden ladders popular in this country and climb up to open some hatch on the roof, tinker around, poke at some stuff, close it up, and smile at us and give the thumbs up. Very trusting, we board. I am reassured by a major who points out that last time he was on this bird, they landed somewhere with snow (note: it never snows where I am here), the pilots gave the thumbs up, asked for a knife, climbed up, slapped some glue on the thing, smeared it around a bit, gave it five minutes, closed whatever it was they had opened, and got back in saying it was time to go.

But the ride was uneventful, as was our destination, where everyone we had flown up to see… was in the place we had just left. That happens because we don’t have means of communication. A favorite thing about this country is it’s communications system. There are two cell phone companies, but they can only sometimes call each other. They can’t call a land line, which can’t call cell phones either. The cell phones only work standing on one leg in a rainstorm when facing 217 degrees from the direction of the sun anyway, so it doesn’t matter that much, and they don’t work very far outside of the cities anyway, and by city I mean the three towns in the whole country which are bigger than four square miles… sorry, kilometers (I am in a foreign place with its foreign metric system).

We had barbeque for dinner this evening, and the local guys brought the tunes. nothing like cheeseburgers and an Arab dance party… two hours of the sitar later, I was more than pleased to go write my reports for the day. Little motivates you like the sitar. All in all, not a bad day.


The Mentality of Mortality

Filed under: — lana @ 1:40 pm

So I was sitting in the compound’s operations center last night, chatting with the person on night duty. He is on every night, so when I am not tired and bored I keep him company for a few hours.

Last night he put on Finding Nemo, which I had lent him to ease about an hour and a half of boredom. Now, I hate to ruin the movie, or the first five minutes thereof, but the wife fish dies. I have had fish before. They have about a three second attention span and they die, then you flush them to their watery grave. Not very traumatic. This guy, though, is a little more sensitive, and before I know it there is a conversation about death going on that I have become a willing partner to.

Something about being in the military makes people think about death a little more often than others. I suppose it might be attributed to carrying around a weapon all the time (sometimes two), wearing body armor, and occasionally getting shot at, but that is just a guess. Regardless, there are two kinds of people in the military: those who worry about death all of the time, such as this fine gentleman, and those who have a general feeling of apathy, such as myself.

While I suppose he was looking for statements like, “Don’t worry, you will live forever,” and “I am sure there is something better waiting for us,” he erred and asked my opinion. I was very kind about it, I thought, but couldn’t seem to make him feel more at ease. Something about, “If there is an afterlife, you’ll have a good time, and if there isn’t, you’re dead anyway so you will never know.” He didn’t seem encouraged by this, so after a bit I tried another route.

Being a huge nerd, I attempted what I call the “Five Billion” approach. This consists of passing along the information that the sunwill implode in five billion years, then subsequently explode and, being a class G star (did I mention that I am a huge nerd?) will expand to about the same diameter as that of the Earth’s orbit. This will then, in effect, engulf the Earth and all its inhabitants in the fiery doom that is interacting elements. So really, what does it matter if there is anything after you die or not?

For some reason, this didn’t seem to settle him at all. Very hard to encourage someone towards apathy. I try very hard in many potentially depressing situations to be apathetic (does that make sense?), and I suppose he was unwilling to put in the same kind of effort. Tragic.


All Good Things…

Filed under: — lana @ 2:52 pm

Before the end of the fairy tale:

So we were sitting in the office today chit-chatting with a few people on their way to another site out in our region, and they were telling us about interesting business things they have seen in their travels. I found one particularly enjoyable, of course. It seems they have been trying to put up a gate at the location they are going to. This is natural, since this is a combat zone, but I digress. So they are walking through town and they see a few gate makers. These people can bang almost anything out of steel. So they stop and ask them how much the gates are, if they can get the size they need, etc, and get satisfactory answers. However, they then get to the question of when they can be installed. The answer? “I don’t know.” Well, who does the installations? “I make the gates.” Okay, but who puts them in? “I don’t know.” Right. So how are they installed? “I don’t know.” Well for god’s sake, man, who does know? “I don’t know.” They gave up after the sixth gate maker did this to them. The guy can make the gates. The guy can stack them outside his gate-making shop. Tragically, there is not a single person in town who actually can install gates. Sweet irony. I think they learned the moral of the story and are going to get their gate from Pakistan. I particularly enjoyed this story because it reminded me of all the light bulbs with no sockets in the whole town that I saw up north…

Now then. The final full day of KBR&R. It started with me and TF going to get breakfast, our only real meal at what is supposed to be not only the best dining facility for military personnel in the middle east, but in the world. Breakfast was most tasty. We then went to be girls. Heaven forfend. We got full body massages, facials, manicures, and pedicures, all by some ladies who didn’t speak English very well. Feeling fresh, we went to get our Orange Juliuses and head for the pool… two hours after having started. Fantastic. On the way, we passed CB, CP, and JH on the way to watch a movie, whining something about how hot it was. It was only in the low 100’s, boys… such crybabies.

At the pool, I acquired a red floaty tube (I think that is the technical name for it) from a kid who was going to eat at Chili’s so he got me to watch it for him. Meanwhile, JB, SG, and TG started a game of frisbee. I have a thing about frisbees, particularly with a recently broken nose. However, eventually the kid came back for his red floaty tube, so I had to give it up and face the music… er… frisbee. TG taught me that swatting at it doesn’t accomplish much, and SG and JB had to save my life a few times because I am easily distracted so I wouldn’t pay attention from time to time and almost get hit, and the game progressed. While frisbee does sound an awful lot like PT, it really consisted of standing around in the pool, so I was okay with it.

Eventually, CP returned, having napped through the movie, and he, TM, and a few others joined in the game. Soon enough, we had the whole pool involved, whether by intention or by poor aim. We had “floating guy” who we had to yell at to “float faster” as he lazed around the pool laying on a kickboard, “tall guy” who had a huge wingspan, “lifeguard” who only made one successful catch and spent most of the time yelling at CP not to jump into the pool to catch the frisbee because there was no jumping, “headphones guy” who sat in the chair next to the lifeguard stand so he was in by default, “guy next to headphones guy” who was also included by default, “girl who blew me off on the bus” who was the girl who completely ignored TM as he tried in vain to pick her up on the bus the previous evening with such clever lines as “So… you want me to teach you the popcorn dance,” “birdkiller” who was girl who blew me off on the bus’s friend who accidentally swung at a divebombing bird, connected, and crippled it so CP had to put it out of its misery only accidently decaptiated it (think Lenny in of Mice and Men, only humanitarian instead of mentally challenged)… there were more… no one was safe. We got the hot tub involved. We got the staff involved. We even tried to get the construction workers working on the roof of the building next door involved. When we finally got out three hours later in a futile attempt to gain some of the water back to our extremities, SG was sunburned on his back right to the water-line, which was conveniently about 2/3 of the way down his back, and JB was burned on his shoulders. Even I called to make my reservation at the cancer ward before wandering into Chili’s for some cake, though I didn’t burn so much as bake…

The rest of the pool time was fairly lax, and we left so TF and I could go to finance and do a few other things, like laundry and maybe a nap (which, tragically, we never got). We ended up showering and changing and missing dinner, and then, naturally, headed to the bar. However, what took TF and I so long that we missed dinner was because I convinced her that it was time to wear the shirts we had bought on the first day… she said she couldn’t put her arms down all the way. I am from New Jersey. I know that there are solutions to this problem. I took out my knife and went to work. They just had to be Jersey’d up a little… I cut off the sleeves, the collars, and the hems, and they fit just fine. Well, fine for altered toddler shirts…

At the bar, the DJ was late, and so were the guys, so we sat with some of the girls from the evening before. We chatted and finally the guys showed up, though still no DJ. Then three of the guys who were with the girls who had tried doing the Hawaiian thing showed up… in villain outfits, complete with the white Saudi man-jams, the red and white checkered headdresses, the sandals, the sunglasses… they definitely won some points. We expanded the table to accomodate both groups.

The DJ turned up about an hour and a half late, much to our joy, and promptly puts on a country song, much to my personal dismay. However, CB and CP are a little country, and they got up to start a line dance. In a club that is normally hip hop. But they went at it full speed, CB having taken my hat, of course. Within 30 seconds, they had some of the most ghetto-fabulous people in the club trying to learn the dance and join in, plus one of our shiek-dressed friends. No matter the situation, KBR will find the party.

Once the song was over, CP and one of the more thuggish kids had a mini-dance-off, trying to outdo each other with the more silly dances of the past few decades. Then another random guy joins in and starts dancing, only it looks like he is jumping rope. CP and his new dancing buddy pick up on it and start pretending to turn ropes for double-dutch. For two songs, it was the number one priority on the dance floor to jump rope with these two, finally ending when one of our Hawaiian dressed friends jumps in and does a split, and CB gets in opposite her and does one too, only, much to our amusement, has a bit more trouble getting back up.

We then start a conga line, CP in the lead with my hat on. Around the bar twice, then back to line up on the dance floor, where we all take off our shirts… revealing the “my mom/sister/aunt/brother/uncle/etc…” shirts we all wore underneath. It was a hit, and the party continued.

Around 2300 (that’s 11pm… stay with me here), we grabbed our things and walked out, heading for the pool. Loud and obnoxious, we tried to behave on the bus and got over there without incident. We then got in the hot tub, though a few of the more roasted friends couldn’t hop in, so we got into the pool. CP suggests water polo, TG secures a volleyball, and it is game on. We have added “the inmate” to my team, some guy who was wearing a prison-style shirt that had something like “imprisoned at operation enduring freedom” or something like that, JH to the other team, and JH’s friend to my team, supplementing our group. I had to block JH, which gave me about a foot handicap so he kept standing in the deep end. More PT than I have done in awhile…

My team won, I even blocked a shot or two, and we were kicked out at 2350 by the irritated lifeguards. Some of us walked back, some took the bus, but those of us who walked (like real soldiers… er… food service workers…) made it in good time. I showered and stopped by the guys’ room to put lotion on JB and SG, and then went back to get about an hour of sleep before manifest call at 0400 the next morning.

At 0315 we woke, secured our belongings, and walked to the building where manifest was supposed to be. Tanya’s bodyguard, the guy who found her wallet, was helping with linen turn-in (aww… what a hero), and we stood around being obnoxious and reminding those calling names not to call ranks… can’t have the KBR cover story blown. We get on the bus, CP and I argue about the validity of country music while the rest nap, arrive at the airfield, and do what the army does best: sit around and wait. Our plane was having some sort of issue, so we were moved planes. And moved planes. And switched flight crews. And moved planes. Our 0730 flight eventually turned out to be 1700, finally sending us back to our home away from home, sweet eastern Afghanistan, at 2300. Midnight chow was had by most, and we sat and told everyone else how much KBR&R Qatar 2004 had served up the fun.

The next night, they sat in a bunker during a rocket attack.

And they continued their deployment happily ever after.

Phew. Now that that is done, I can get back to writing decent-length entries about meaningless trivia and events that fill my life with such excitement and joy… or some such…


Dancin’ Like You’ve Never Danced Before

Filed under: — lana @ 11:49 pm

Where did we leave off… ah yes. Amidst completing my (several days late) mid-terms for my online courses (false motivation is key, as those in the Army can sure understand), I grew weary of typing and left as TF and I were going to the bar for the evening’s incidents…

So we arrive and the guys had gotten a table in… cue scary music… the light part of the bar. As bar conneseurs (spelled horribly wrong. Been awhile since French class) know, that is a death knell for an evening of fun. However, our target was there… the girl from the pool… JH. She reconfirmed the plan set two days prior, and we waited for our rabbit: CP. He finally arrived about half an hour later, but we had to get him to take the bait, which consisted of walking up to her and giving a cheesy line such as “You look like you’ve been training up for the Miss Hawaiian Tropic contest” or some such. He, naturally, didn’t find it funny, because it wasn’t unless you were in on the whole thing…

Finally, after a few beers, TM convinced him to do it, and escorted him (as cameraman). CP sat down next to her and didn’t even get the line out, using something like “So I hear you work here” or something that would normally denote mission failure, but she stood up, yelled (over the music and across the bar), “100 dollars?!” and kind of tapped him on the shoulder. Not quite a slap, but good enough for us. His reaction? Look at her, look around, look at me, point, and yell, “I’ve been set up! I’m going to kill you!” But it was all talk, and we all survived the evening to tell about it later.

Note, mind you, that there were other interesting things in the bar that evening. About 11 people from a group we had flown in with had shown up with the girls in skirts and with leis and flowers in their hair and the guys all had on Hawaiian shirts and leis. I asked one of the girls what it was about, and she answered that they had felt compelled to do this in order to keep up with the wild and wacky KBR group. Friends were made, beers were shared, the games continued.

And the evening was not yet over. SG, CB, TM, and CP stated, with authority, that it was time for a dance-off. This was an interesting statement because at the time, no one was dancing. So the group migrates, taking the Hawaiian group with us for the ride. According to SP, who had been sitting off to the side while we stood and moved, the entire half the bar had noticed us moving towards the dance floor and they all moved with us… seems we had a bit of a reputation. I can’t understand why.

Since I had my adventurin’ hat on, I start the dance-off with an out-of-rhythm running man. CP takes the hat and starts the lawn mower or something equally awful. CB is next, doing something else horrible, and TM takes the hat from him to stay in the game. After that, hell breaks loose. The hat is passed from head to head to head, from people we know to people we might know to people we might have seen around to people we have never seen before. The circle contains the person with the hat, dancing. There was breakdancing, someone in the never seen before category did the worm (I thought it was a seizure…), and TM brought back the popcorn dance for a second round, effectively making him the most popular guy in the bar for a bit. I eventually recovered my hat, but the dance party continued. At some point, the DJ gave us a shout-out, calling over the music that the party was dedicated to the party from KBR, getting a resounding cheer from the crowd. If KBR ever does make it to Qatar, they better bring the party with them… they can’t ruin the reputation we made for them. Set them up for success, we did…

We closed down the bar that evening, ending with a latin dance that had me butcher the salsa (i think i took it for a week in college, but the memory is dim) with JB, though he allowed some guy who knew what he was doing to cut in. By the end of the song, though, TF was annoyed with her clumsy partner (she knows how to salsa), so she decided to swap, ditching me with some guy who had been hitting on me and JH half the evening. JB and SG just watched and laughed as I threatened them, begged them, pleaded with them to save me… SG made a few half-hearted efforts but never made it. Awful… finally, it ended and I was released from my eternal hell so we could walk back to the barracks… only pausing briefly when ambushed by CP from a ditch which made TG jump several feet (poor guy… shell shock… the serving line is a rough place sometimes…).

Another success! The next day would see relaxing and a final night of fun… stay tuned…


Just Call me Indy *and* Sail Away

Filed under: — lana @ 11:25 am

So running around for a few days has led to some fun, leading to another push-off for the adventures on the Persian Gulf. Yesterday, however, is particularly noteworthy, since the most entertaining thing the previous day was listening to a discussion of body fluids had between my various teammates. While always entertaining, not that intriguing.

Yesterday, however, was another early day. Out and about by 0500 (for you non-military types, thats 5am…), we loaded up some trucks and made a procession out to a place where there are… well, now were… a significant amount of various weapons and ammunition. It was time for the demo team to play…

Now, there were enough things to blow up that we had a few hours to kill waiting around for the big kaboom. So, adventurer that I am (and fueled by my never-ending quest for Nazi and/or pirate gold), I went hunting around the citadel compound where they were loading weapons. Two friends and I thought it would be fun to walk the perimeter wall… on top… of a mud wall… about 25 feet up from the dry moat on the other side, with about a two and a half foot mini-wall along that side that we could hold onto, when it wasn’t crumbled away. So we walked, occasionally having to climb down and then back up if the wall was significantly demolished that we couldn’t cross. we went all over the place, into and out of sunken pits in the wall and caves, attacked by what we deemed killer bees, saw a daytime owl (rabies!), one friend accidentally found his way into what was the receptacle for what was apparently once a bathroom… no nazi gold, but now I know that the place has been marked, and I can move on in my quest…

Then we blew stuff up. I got to push the button. Big kaboom! Scared a lot of goats… It was one of the biggest explosions we have had so far… Finally we get to do fun things.

So now, to get another day of the Qatar adventure on the charts. Woke up that morning with a sore throat and congestion, which is always fun, and probably caused by too much entertainment. We had intentions of getting some PT at the pool, but only swam two laps before giving up. Actually, I watched TF swim the laps. I figured that was close. Then we got some Orange Juliuses and went to meet the person who was taking six of us off post.

We get dropped off at the Sheraton Hotel in Qatar, which looks like a big pyramid and is one of the nicest hotels I have ever seen, particularly in the Middle East. Though granted, it is the only one I have seen in the Middle East, but I digress… So we wander amongst people dressed like Indiana Jones villains (ah ha! the quest continues!) in white Saudi man-jams and black or red and white checkered headdress, and exchange money for Qatari Riyals at 3.62 Riyals to the dollar (though by the time we leave, it is up to 3.57… watch out, America! They are catching up!) and attempt to secure a locker from the Chinese native working in Qatar catering to Americans. It was just as painful as it sounds. We secure a locker and move back to the lobby for a cab to the mall.

We are asked to move off the red carpet in the foyer as we wait. Why? Ah ha! It seems our villain friends are bodyguards for the president of Gambia. I have no idea where Gambia is. But still, we made our way to the mall and had pizza, something we hadn’t had in quite some time. The mall had its own adventures among its five floors (to include an ice skating rink and a bowling alley), but we didn’t stay very long, heading back to the beach.

In the Persian Gulf, I was stung by a jellyfish (I’ll get you next time, nemesis…) and went off to tan instead. Played some volleyball (okay, I lie, I think I only hit it twice or so… too much running), drank peach iced tea, and enjoyed myself until about 1500 (3pm, for those not paying attention). We then tracked down Basil, the friendly man formerly from Syria that now boats around the Persian Gulf in the vicinity of Qatar taking tourists like us parasailing. TF wasn’t going to join us, but I commented that she would probably not have another chance to parasail on the Persian Gulf, and she caved like a mud hut in rainy season. For 30 American dollars we boarded the boat, lifejackets are for crybabies and those in a country with safety regulations, and off we went.

I was with TF, TM, JB, SG, and TG. I went last, and Basil took me over a sunken ship, though i saw no shine of sunken pirate treasure, which was something of a disappointment. However, I know the location, so someday I will be back for a closer look. I also was light enough to swing forward and Superman, and to avoid getting dunked in the water (Basil’s favorite pasttime), and generally had a good time.

After parasailing, we took quick showers and Basil drove us (I can hear all the mothers of the world, to include my own, clucking their tongues and commenting that I shouldn’t be taking rides from strangers… but he had just had us on his boat for about two hours with no life jackets… and occasionally no one at the wheel, though sometimes one of us would step up to pretend like we knew what we were doing… so really, he wasn’t a stranger anymore, right?) to a “good Irish resteraunt.” Otherwise known as Bennigan’s. In Qatar. We wandered off to find something a little less… American. We met another stranger who gave us some recommendations and offered a ride, but that would have been the second ride from the stranger, so someone remembered what we learned when we were six and we declined and took cabs.

On our cab ride, with TF in the front and me and SG in the back, we passed a resteraunt named the Fakher El Din. Mispronounce it and understand why TF was eager to get me and SG out of the car before we caused an international incident.

We ended up eating at something un-American: the Great Wall Chinese Resteraunt. Go figure. Good times, then back to the hotel (SG and I still commenting that we would have rather eaten at the Fakher), get our lift back to the base, check in, clean up, head to the bar.

And that, since this has been long enough, is where today’s episode ends…

Next time: 100 dollars? Dance-off!


Still More

Filed under: — lana @ 12:04 pm

Yesterday was entertaining. It is always fun to walk around in a minefield following a guy who’s idea of a joke is, “Don’t step on the grey ones. By the way, did I mention that I am color-blind?” But we still have all of our limbs, and I saw some pretty neat looking things out there. Walked all over rockets and tank munitions and stuff. Then we got to watch several tons of muntions get destroyed, which was a big Ka-Boom, and we were about 1.5 kilometers away or something. Huge fireball, big old smoke mushroom cloud, and the impact and sound wave were awesome… good thing myself and a guy we work with had been standing on a mud tower about 15 feet up… we figure that the tower has been standing maybe since Alexander the Great, though you couldn’t tell because in this country they still make everything out of mud, and we were having a lovely time destroying history by poking at the wall and watching it tumble. Then he would go to the middle of the floor we were standing on and jump up and down, because the way it made the whole tower shake made his teammate queasy… I spent most of my time ripping off large chunks of the tower and calling out, “Take that, history!” as I dropped them over the side. The end result, though was that I could see over the wall without standing on my toes, which for me was an improvement…

But to continue with the R&R debacle… our first day there saw TF losing her wallet, which was found by some random guy also on our trip who gave it to TM. This guy then seemed to pop up almost everywhere with random advice, so we deemed him TF’s bodyguard. We ditched out on a mandatory briefing (in ones and twos… didn’t want to look suspicious) and went to the pool for several hours, CP wearing his sexy blue shorts. Funny, people were staring at him. I can’t imagine why… there was also a rather attractive girl there, JQ, who was not with our group but who the guys were drooling over for the better part of the afternoon.

The day was filled with fun little antecdotes, but the real party didn’t start until TF and I were getting ready to go to the bar for the evening and saw JQ in the bathroom… we almost left it alone, but couldn’t help it. We went up to her and explained, without mincing words, that our friends thought she was hot so we were going to use her to mess with them a bit. I then came up with a plan: we would get CP to walk up to her at the bar, say something dumb, and she would yell “100 dollars?!” and slap him. Refer to the previous tale… after a bit of convincing, she agreed.

She did not turn up at the bar that evening… tragically. However, that did not stop us, and the highlight of the evening in addition to performing 80’s dances that no one has seen or wanted to see in years, TM invented the popcorn dance, since he was wandering back to the table with a bowl of popcorn and stopped to dance, but without putting down the bowl, and instead using it as a prop to eat, toss it at people, and get his groove on without missing a beat. While several people around us thought he is nuts, they were actually correct… we played a rousing drinking game (since I had packed cards in one of my pockets… I should have been a boy scout!), TF bought a “do-rag” (that’s one of those stocking caps used to put waves in hair, as far as I know) which we all tried on, and had a few dances with strangers. Then, it was off to to the pool (1000 safety briefings of “don’t drink and swim” flashing through my head), though by this time we were well known in the bar. Low-key was not anywhere near our vocabulary… As we got on the bus for the pool, a guy getting off stopped us and said, “where are you going? you guys are the life of the party!” But the fun bus was rolling… next stop: the pool.

TF and I sat this one out, but the guys happily dropped pants and dove in. The lifeguards seemed a bit upset… we just figured it was because we arrived about 20 minutes before they were set to get off shift. We were only there for about 15 minutes when they got bored anyway, so we set to walk back. But the guys, having not brought swimsuits, didn’t want to get their pants wet, so they just picked them up and we all set off… some were wearing socks, some in their boots… none in pants… about two blocks back, the bus stops near us and the doors pop open. Not a scheduled bus stop… I suppose that a group of about 8 walking at almost midnight, 6 of whom are dripping wet and pantsless, does paint a negative picture for the base… who knew… good thing, looking back, because we would have passed the military police station about a block further down, had we continued on that route…

There was, of course, much more to the day, but to tell it all would take forever. Next time, on R&R: 6 of us make it off base. Who will come back alive and well? Stay tuned!


In the Beginning

Filed under: — lana @ 3:03 pm

Okay, there has to be a censored edition of the Qatar adventure somewhere, I suppose… I certainly can’t put the entire thing on here… not only would it incriminate innocent parties, but it is also way too long. Progressively, I will put up some of the highlights… How kind, I know…

Characters first. There were 10 of us on the trip. Myself, one of my teammates (JH… and those aren’t even initials… oooh… I’m so good at my job…), JB, CB, TM, TF, TG, SG, SP and CP. The names have been left out to protect the guilty. We will also introduce people like 6.4, the Bodyguard, and various others, though those names have been left out because no one ever bothered to learn them…

The first day began with myself and TF driving around the base before we left in an effort to find TM. Apparently, he never walks anywhere (sounds familiar… keep all comments from the peanut gallery out of this, please), and since he did not show up at his office or our headquarters and was not in his tent, TF began to panic, being his team leader. So she did what every mother claims to have done in her life: she went to the hospital to see if he had been taken into the emergency room. It seems that sometime in recent weeks he had passed out in the shower, to be revived by a medic who happened to be in there at the same time. How awkward… but wonderful fodder for relentless teasing. He was not there, so we stopped back at the office before heading over to the police compound. Luckily, he was there, so we could pile in and go up to headquarters to meet up with the rest and journey out to the airstrip.

In all of this, I acquired his man-card, something that his team came up with one day. The card is essentially a credit-card sized piece of paper on which it says that the cardholder has proven his manhood, but that it can be taken from him in the event that he does something a little… girly. Well, he left it out, so I took it… you don’t just leave things like that out. This will later begin the absurdities that we became known for in a foreign country.

We get on the airplane and the only crucial piece (in two days time) was the telling of a story by CP about how he was at some point in the past slapped by a girl in the middle of an establishment while she yelled “100 dollars?!” loud enough for the entire place to hear. The story is his to tell, but the imagination is probably not too far from the truth.

The important key to the then bus ride is the introduction of 6.4. There were five of us sitting across the back of the bus between the airfield and the base where R&R is held. We were all chatting happily when we hear a kid about three or four rows in front of us talking, loudly, about his favorite topic: himself. Doing the job we do, we were all inclined to listen in. He had tattoos down his arm, which he kept rolling up the sleeve of his super-tight black under-armor shirt to expose (ooh. cool me down… please…), and was telling stories about what a tough guy he was. At some point, he is talking about taking a breathalyzer and blowing a 6.4. This is too much for those of in the back… I have no idea where the Army draws the line, but they certainly have the idiot market cornered. We confirm with each other that we indeed heard 6.4, and hence he picks up the name. The poor kid has no idea what he is in store for…

We had several briefings upon arrival (of course… this IS the military) and were released to go to the Oasis, a bar at which we are allowed three drinks a night. After several months, even I will drink beer (lager, actually), and three is plenty… A quick trip to the PX for myself and TF, and we meet the guys in the bar. Now, the guys all wear beards, so we stick out in a military function. People asked if we were special forces, if we were even military, and all kinds of other guesses. JB finally gets tired of it and jokes around, saying we work for KBR, the company that does food service and other operational tasks on military installations. Amused, we backed the story, though few believed it. Hence, KBR&R Qatar was born.

TM still has to get his man-card back, though it took him a good few hours to notice its disappearance. TF and CB decide that he should go onto the dance floor (which was empty) and bark like a dog for it. Silly, but then, so are we. He is determined, and walks out there and yips like a chihuahua on speed. We are all amused, clap for him, and I give back his card. CB wants to show him how it is really done, and so he gets on the table on all fours and barks like a german shephard. There is no-holds barred anymore, and enough with us being low-key… the game of tasking has begun. Over the course of the evening, there will be breakdancing, interesting pictures taken, a staff sergeant riding a private first class like a horse, and all kinds of nonsense.

My task was to approach 6.4, who we saw sitting across the bar. I was to wander up to him and (Dad, you have to stop reading now) say, “I hear you blew a 6.4. That’s hot. Wanna see what I can blow?” and make my exit. Not too difficult, and I had only had one beer. I negotiate a route scouted by TM and stand behind him, get his attention, and get to “That’s Hot.” before he counterattacks and rolls up his sleeve of the same super-tight underarmor shirt. It is all I can do to keep a straight face as he tells me the story. He gets to 6.4 and I can’t handle it anymore… I tell him that’s hot and make good my exit… I am given a passing grade by my compatriots, who did not provide any back-up even when he pulled the sleeve-roll…

The evening was capped when 7 of the guys went over to the PX and bought shirts that read “My mom/sister/brother/uncle/aunt is over there” with an arrow pointing to a map of the middle east, all in absurdly bright colors, and all at least one or two sizes too small. They send in TG to the bar to get myself and TF, and we go outside to where they are all sitting at a bench wearing these tiny shirts. They are getting stared at, of course… I said it was because they looked so manly. In addition, CP had bought blue running shorts… that were extremely short and electric blue. Combined with his bright yellow shirt, it was the perfect outfit. We had now earned ourselves a reputation for doing absurd things… just wait until the upcoming nights…

That is only the beginning… all of that (and more) in about three short hours… there was parasailing, rides from strangers, a dance-off, a popcorn dance, an adventure with a lost wallet, a water polo game… we commanded that base for the full duration of the trip… Driving the fun bus isn’t easy, but someone’s got to do it…


Wirey Fun

Filed under: — lana @ 5:44 pm

There is just no way that I can get the entire R&R trip into one entry. I have been trying to document the entire trip in my journal and have already written more pages than I had for the entire first two months. International incidents all over the place… it is amazing that we didn’t get arrested. I will make every attempt in the next few days to get some of the highlights from the trip up, at least those that can be told in a public forum… wouldn’t want to get in trouble after the fact if we avoided it while doing it…

The whole thing began even before the initial trip. If we can refer back a few months, we will remember that I am the clumsy idiot who not only bled all over her pistol but also broke her nose on her own plate carrier. Well, folks, let me tell you a little bit about constantina wire. This cute replacement to barbed wire lines many fences now, being a roll that is harder to circumvent than straight barbed wire and covered with little razors spaced a few inches apart that are remarkably sharp. These little additions don the top of most walls in a military compound, even those in the interior. I bet we can all see where this is going now, can’t we…

Now, there is rain out east, since it is more mountainous. This results in decent sized puddles in the rocks that cover what passes for roads and walking surfaces. By decent sized, I mean that I could swim in some of these on a warm day, if I weren’t afraid of diseases that even going to Germany wouldn’t help (though not to say I haven’t thought of it, of course). Indeed, there was one such puddle on the side of the female bathroom that most people walk around, since there were several cars parked on the other side.

The night I arrived in this location, I saw some constantina wire hanging down from the wall near the bathroom. I commented to the girl I was walking with (duh, all girls go to the bathroom in pairs…) that we should watch out, because someone could walk into that. Nothing more than that.

The next night, the night before we left for R&R, I was walking with a different girl. It had rained a little bit recently, and the puddle had expanded. She was wearing sneakers, so we veered a little more to the left than the previous night. As I looked down to ensure we wouldn’t step into the puddle, I forgot about the constantina wire hanging about five feet from the ground. Right into it. Four equally spaced little razor cuts on the ol’ forehead. You could have gotten a pretty good estimate on the exact size and spacing of the razors if you looked at my head. My hair got caught, which was another adventure. As I laughed about it, the girl I was walking with was panicking. Something about “Oh my god you just walked right into constantina wire!” Something about tetnus and how I could have lost an eye or something. I just said if I had lost an eye, I could get an eyepatch like a pirate… lovely how I take my own personal health and safety so lightly.

Speaking of pirates, fast-forward a couple of days to after we have returned. I have still more to add onto my master plan for the rest of my life, which changes almost hourly. One of my best friends, who did not go on the trip with us, had cruised up from his location (I say cruised, but their roads are just as much fun to drive on as ours, and ours give my ribs bruises every time) to pick up one of the trip people. About two days ago, while I was waiting on a flight out and he was waiting on goodness knows what to drive back, we were sitting in our headquarters surfing the internet because we had nothing better to do. He starts looking up places to go and live for cheap. Between me, him, and one of the guys from the trip who is on my buddy’s team, we found not only pieces of property right on the Amazon for 3000 dollars, and shanties in the tropics for 6406 dollars (good, round numbers), but whole islands for the price of a small house in New Jersey. I said I was going to buy one of the 3000 dollar properties and build my own shanty, and he said he was going to buy one on the other side of the river. I said good, because then I would have something to throw rocks at. Then we nixed that idea and started looking at more populated areas in the Carribean so we could open up a bar/resteraunt shaped like a pirate ship. Mostly, we would employ locals for pennies on the dollar and sit around drinking margaritas, but I am going to have an eyepatch made out of the burkha material so I can see through it and have a parrot on my shoulder if I intend to live anywhere tropical. I just have to switch the eyepatch every thirty minutes to maintain an even tan… So our new plan is to work for one of the contracting companies to make big dollars when we get out, then move to the tropics and set this up. That combined with our idea to get a speedboat and take people on parasailing tours that we got when we went in the gulf… we will be making good Non-American dollars! But that parasailing story, among others, is still to come… drunken and sober debauchery alike… good times had by all. We will leave it for now by saying that our group of ten drove the fun bus, and by the end of it we had half the compound on board…


It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

Filed under: — lana @ 6:25 pm

Anyway, how is it that you go to a country halfway around the world to run into people that you know? Amazing. So we were in another country. Then the Army Gameboard said “Flight cancelled. Go back one space.” So we backtracked one stop (we made several on our way to our northern neighbor) to catch a flight out of a different place in Afghanistan. Amazing how the Army works…

The benefit, though, is that I get to hang out with people who aren’t on my team, people who I haven’t seen in a few months. And lo and behold, as I was wandering around aimlessly today (I’ve been doing that a lot the past few days. R&R rocks!), I ran into a friend of mine from Basic. How interesting… I also ran into someone who was out west but left several weeks ago in an effort to get back to the states. Apparently, he hasn’t left yet, because he yelled something snotty regarding my non-republicanism (remarkably few of us non-republicans in the Army) out the window of a passing vehicle… then pulling over to come and chat, the jerk…

But I have gotten to go around with people who I haven’t been seeing 20 hours out of every day for the past few months. It’s pretty crazy how annoying people get after a few weeks, and then you have to deal with them in both work and social environment. So I have been avoiding my teammate like the plague…

And another thing, because apparently today I have the attention span of one of my cats and can’t focus on one topic for more than 30 seconds (I better get to the point before… oooh… shiney…), every time I get on one of these planes out here I think about how upset some people back home would get to have to ride on one of them… you can see all the inner workings, you face to the center instead of forward so you feel all the movements all the more, its loud all the time… I know for one my sister would have to be so medicated to get on a C-130 we would have to carry her (and her stuffed Pluto she takes on flights… how cute… for a 25 year old… then again, two teddy bears are adventuring with me, so I’m not one to talk). I think it’s fun… like a roller coaster at a few thousand feet…

Okay, shiny things are calling my name… time to go find fun things to do…



Filed under: — lana @ 12:41 pm

Well, I suppose I shouldn’t complain. Forced R&R (rest and relaxation for you non-military types) was ordered for our entire company, so I am off in another country for a bit. Actually, because of where we are, I am in another country on my way to still another country. Not a whole lot of direct transportation around here. Then again, I was in Kandahar for a short bit (down south. I love it when you have to go south to go north), and saw Kandahar International Airport. Fascinating. It’s close to Pakistan, and everything here will fly to Iran, but I didn’t see Continental or USAir or any other recognizable flights… Bummer.

On the way up north, however, I got to sit in the cockpit of the plane. Awesome. I felt like I was six because the loadmaster was like, “You want to go sit up front?” and I was like “Hell, yeah!” and wandered off up the ladder. So we went up into the cockpit and I talked to the engineer, the pilot, and the co-pilot for pretty much the whole trip (making one ask, “who’s flying this thing?”). I discovered something very important: it isn’t just a rumor, the Air Force IS treated a lot better than we are. Even the engineer, who is enlisted, is treated better. A whole world of career opportunities flashed before my eyes, and my pipe dreams of a quest for Nazi gold has found reality in the travels of the Air Force… I see transfer paperwork in my future…

And so as we flew over Afghanistan, looking down on all the miserable peons (insert evil laugh here), I realized that the country is a lot more scenic than it appears from ground level. The mud huts glisten in the sun, the massive herds of goats-mixed-with-sheep-mixed-with-donkeys litter the hilltops, and the processed air of the plane’s cooling system replaces that odd stench of people who have been washing (sometimes) their entire life in the same river that they use as a bathroom… I suppose if I never had to set foot on the ground, this really wouldn’t be a horrible place to live…


Doo Doo Doo

Filed under: — lana @ 7:44 am

That’s the sound I make while twiddling my thumbs, which has become a habit as of late. A little dull, of course, but not without a few interesting things.

Of course, it’s been about a week and a half, since we went on a mission and then arrived back only to discover that lo and behold, the internet was down… again. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. In a country where the majority of people bathe in sewer water (sewers being an open channel running immediately alongside the road, by the by), the internet should be expected to be down all the time. This may go back to the lightbulb phenomenon…

An interesting thing I saw this week: the ice cream man. Really. I can’t make this stuff up. One of the three-wheeled wagons that you think may be pedaled, but actually has a small motor, and on the back is a compartment complete with pictures of rocket-pops. I said to stop the car because I wanted a rocket pop. My teammate said no, something about “places we need to go.” I wanted a rocket pop… I promised I would buy him one of those clown faces with the gumdrop nose (and if they didn’t have clowns, the dinosaur with the gumdrop eyeball), but he told me to shut up. Rude. The rocket pop would probably have been weird anyway… probably black, red, and green instead of red, white, and blue, and what flavor would black be? In this country, you don’t want to ask that question…

About the wagons you see around here. I have now, on repeated occasions, seen people pushing wagonloads of wood. Nothing out of the ordinary. However, sometimes the space between slats in the wagon bottom are larger than the wood on the cart. The people, however, continue to lay the wood in the same way, and so every two steps or so have to bend over to get whatever wood has just dropped. Keep in mind, they push these carts in the middle of the street. So as you are following along behind them, in an effort not to stall, you might honk. Then, if you get a response at all, it is an evil stare… even the donkey following behind him with a bale of some sort of twig-like stuff larger than the donkey is will glare at you…

An interesting place, to be sure. Eager to go home? Getting there…

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