iraqistan

8/31/2005

As a Side Note

Filed under: — lana @ 11:22 pm

I have said, on more than one occasion, that a moderately trained chimp could probably do my job, as well as most of the jobs in the Army…

The proof is in the pudding, folks (don’t read too much into that comment… pudding and chimps is usually messy).

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9136200/

I’m gonna hurry up go find me a chimp and get it over to central issue, then spend the rest of the deployment at the pool…

8/30/2005

Priorities

Filed under: — lana @ 11:07 pm

It is good to know, among the hooplah, that there are still priorities established that make sense of our lives.

As we mill around getting mortared about twice on the average day, the Army and KBR decided that we were going to be spending too much time in our vests and crazy hats (our helmets, which I dubbed the crazy hat because the way I see it, if I’m going to put that thing on for any length of time, something crazy better happen). This led to what I can only imagine was an animated discussion of what that would do for our morale, and the logistical problems that could ensue should we have to remain in all of our gear for any time period long enough that it would become a significant inconvenience (note: it is rare that a mortar will actually hurt anybody around here, vest or no, so the entire procedure is really very entertaining to watch so long as you don’t have to partake in it yourself).

The answer that they came up with to save our forces in central Iraq: bigger porta-potties.

They replaced the standard outhouse-sized porta-potty with gargantuan huts of plastic and blue-watered luxury. They have mirrors inside, as well as sanitary no-wash cleanser dispensers inside each humble abode. They even removed the urinal bins from several and put little stickers on the front that distinguish between male and female. The urinals are interesting, anyway, because they look like space-pod eggs or something. One of the lieutenants was giving me a detailed description of how much more fun the cocoon-shaped urinals were, something about “more room to play around with,” at which point I told him that this was too much information for my poor enlisted personnel ears and ducked into someone’s office. They need more to do in the operations center.

You would think that the constitution finally being written would take priority around here, but no, gossip is about the new porta-potties. That shows priority, because really, the constitution makes little or no difference at this juncture. Now it just gives another excuse for the people to pick up their AK-47 rifles and shoot at each other, and sometimes at us, and run around crying about how the world is unfair and woe is me because my people didn’t vote so now they don’t have a say in the direction the country is going. It affects me remarkably little, because it doesn’t matter if they have a constitution or not for them to answer all of my questions with “Walla, ma’arif…” at which point my partner has to restrain me from pulling out my pistol (though admittedly it is becoming more of a race to see which one of us does it first rather than either of us actually stopping anyone).

Quite frankly, I would be surprised if most of the people we get to talk to even know anything about the constitution. According to them, they all go to and from work and go straight to sleep anyway and would never DREAM of going outside after curfew and they don’t even talk to their neighbors because oh it is dangerous out there but I don’t know WHO is dangerous because you see I am sleeping but they come in black opel cars with tinted windows and they all had AK-47s, beards, sandals, and dishdashas. Walla, ma’arif. In a country like that, who needs a constitution? They weren’t going to agree on it anyway. But these people barely know their own names, much less what a five-syllable word like “ratification” means. When they finally get to the real vote in December, and they have another 1,548,956 candidates running, we will see what happens, but half the people around here can’t read the constitution anyway because half of them can’t read, so around here it is business and explosives as usual.

I am putting in a vote, I decided, because at that point we will have been in the country for about ten months, which I think is long enough for me to have a say in what happens.

Plus, I should get a vote because I don’t shoot at people for no reason, or into the air at a wedding, or into the air at a funeral, or into the air when my friend is released from U.S. custody, or into the air when a baby is born, or into the air when the moon is three days from full, or any other reason.

Plus, I know what ratification means.

8/27/2005

Flashbacks

Filed under: — lana @ 11:49 pm

Still not enough time to catch up, but at least I haven’t been arrested for blogging. It’s a new Army, defending the free speech for all except oh wait… us. But still, it’s been a pretty fun existence of late. Fighting off the man, trying to dig as few holes as possible to fill back in (reference ex-PFC Wintergreen), running around trying not to do anything that will have me see the inside of scenic prisons anytime in the near future, and going on four-day-turned-ten-day passes which strongly benefit from the fun flight situation around here.

However, I did get to have some flashbacks to ‘Nam the other day. You wouldn’t think I would be wandering among the thickets of… Iraq, but oh boy, was I ever. The grass in the farms here can grow higher than the Samoans who have labeled themselves my bodyguard service, so when we split our convoy last week so we could look for a mortar launch site and my partner and I were trying to link up, of course it was him who got to take the road to the point and me who got to cut through the jungle-like and thorn-ridden growth that permeates central Iraq. So as we tried to find them by the bird whistles of my interpreter and me occasionally getting on the radio and telling them to cut out that $%&*# racket, I checked the reeds for haji, reminiscing about Da’Nang before the Tet offensive. I asked my Samoan friend if we were going to have to get airlifted back out, just like back in Saigon, and he looked at me as though I had finally lost it. So I get on the radio and tell my partner I can’t locate them, could they shake a tree or something. Luckily, they were standing next to the tallest tree in the area, and all you could see among the grass and weeds and assorted shrubbery was a tall, thin tree rustling. So eventually, we foraged through and felt we had made enough of an accomplishment for the day that we only half-listened to the strange cow-herder with a shovel (I didn’t ask, because I didn’t want to know, why a cow-herder had a shovel). It’s a good thing we only half-listened anyway, because we would say things like “So, what is your name?” and he would answer “Six.” “How many people herd cows around here?” “Blue.”

I gave up pretty quickly.

We took the road back to our truck. I was still picking burrs out of my clothes for a day and a half.

8/7/2005

Mysterious Happenings in the Laundry

Filed under: — lana @ 12:28 pm

This country seems to be some sort of vortex.

First of all, there is the wonder that is KBR, otherwise known as the Halliburton fun that is Kellogg, Brown, and Root, which has the total monopoly on all of the general care out here, having taken most of the jobs that soldiers do as free labor and given it to various nationals of various countries for a small sum, which we don’t complain about as it leaves us free to go and save the world, or something like that. Anyway, I turned in some socks a few weeks back. All of them were black socks. Three pairs, making six socks total for those a little slow in the mathematics department, all brand new black wool-blend socks. I received back six socks, black. Every single sock was different from all of the others. Either size, material, shape, texture, coloring, age (one seemed to have a hole in the worn toe area), something wasn’t quite right about EACH sock.

Now, how does that happen? I mean, how many different types of black sock are there? And why, really, are they mixing and non-matching in my laundry? I don’t really complain, given that I make up my laundry slip as I go along most of the time, checking off items that aren’t in my bag in the hopes that maybe something fun will show up one of these days, and I have even started writing in items on the slip… I asked if I can go and complain that my pink chicken suit didn’t come back in the laundry, and my superiors said no, and that if my pink chicken suit needed washing, we were going to have issues as it was. I told them it was for missions only. I think that was the third time they kicked me out of the office that day, which they cover up by asking me, “Don’t you have somewhere to be?” and I usually try to give them as blank of a look as possible as I wander out. Keeps expectations nice and low.

Anyway, the second mystery: Where do all of the pants of the small kids in this country go? I think below the age of about four, pants are not required nor expected. However, since the age of two seems to deem that children are left to their own devices since their mom is usually busy with the one year old and one month old at that point, they just run around the countryside with no pants. Usually, in sweatshirts that go to their waist. This results in funny pictures because the Samoans are huge and standing next to some tiny kid which you can only photograph from the waist up, so I have a zillion pictures of huge Samoan guys from the mid-calf up. But where do the pants go? Don’t these things come as full outfits? Who declared that pants were an okay thing to say goodbye to? did they use the pants to half-clothe another kid? Maybe if these people would stop having a gajillion children…

Speaking of which, I met a guy the other day with 22 brothers. 22, and that is just brothers, not including sisters, of which I think there are around ten. One father, three mothers. Everyone lives together. In a mud hut on a farm somewhere. What is scary about that is this means when one child dies (usually, around here, by blowing himself up or otherwise untimely death), they just have a funeral for a few days and move on. With 32 siblings, I would have trouble keeping their names straight… there are days when my mom used to mix me up with my sister, and would correct herself by calling me by the dog’s name, and we only had two kids and two dogs in the family.

As such, I have started calling everyone in this country “Rover” and gotten on with saving the world… though apparently I need to start saving my socks…

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