Live and Learn

Filed under: — lana @ 2:18 pm

Well, at least there aren’t sandstorms.

I feel like I should qualify that statement with a “yet.”

Two weeks ago I departed Germany. The weather was in the high 50’s, and the word on the internet was the weather in North Carolina was in the 70’s. That and the prospect of seeing the man I am told by the marriage license is my husband combined to make me very excited to go home, even during the two-turned-seven hour layover in Newark airport for weather reasons. I would like to point out that it was sunny and beautiful when I landed in Newark, but I also noted that they never pointed out exactly what the weather reasons were. I suspect it was the pilots out playing tennis.

So I get to North Carolina and the weather immediately drops into the low 60’s. Still a little better, with the exception of one day where the weather reports actually informed me that the weather in Germany was ten degrees warmer than that in North Carolina. But I dealt with it. It wasn’t snowing, and I knew that when I returned to Europe that I may very well come back to a blanket of white, so I managed.

I decided before I left the area that I really ought pop in on my old unit, largely at the prompting of one of my former soldiers, whom I ran into while out having lunch with a friend of mine. He appeared much happier than I thought he would be to see me, since I was constantly making him do push-ups, but he was almost in tears when I told him I didn’t intend to come by the old company. So I obliged and made my way over there.

I was met with stories of all of the reasons that I left, tales of battalion telling the supervisors how to counsel their soldiers, a commander who decided a 20k ruck march is good for the soul once every week or two, and a former soldier who can’t seem to remember who he is or why he has a green suit on so he decides to just go back to bed in the morning instead of showing up for formation. However, they also enlightened me of some interesting changes that were afoot, including some restructuring that could actually lead to increased training, productivity, and good missions. I almost found myself regretting my departure, at least a little bit. It took another soldier showing me his blister from the ruck march that morning to snap me out of that one.

Then I regaled them with tales of the other side of the fence where I now sit. Their grandiose dreams of a better life were shattered as I told them of an oblivious structure, limited funding, general confusion, and the inability to procure a firing range slot for even one soldier. Sure, I can wear civilian clothes, I run an office, and I have a general say-so in day-to-day operations, but getting people trained for combat is a distant dream now.

I suppose I set about to see what life was really like “over there” on the other side of my job, and I found out an important truth in the doing:

The grass may well be greener on the other side… but that may just mean they use more potent manure.


Life is Rough… So Wear a Helmet

Filed under: — lana @ 11:34 am

So sometimes at work I don’t like to do my work. That makes me like just about everyone I know, which is fine with me. Today I was supposed to be making some matrix or another that apparently was tardy and as such I had failed to save the world because I got bored with Excel and opted to read the headlines instead.

The world will have to wait for saving, because now I am annoyed.

This really had nothing to do with the Army, though yesterday I got a comical laugh out of the 2.2% pay raise I will get this year, which means instead of peanuts I might get walnuts. Also funny in the news: the Army just spent somewhere in the multi-millions to pay an advertising genius to come up with the new Army slogan.

Wait for it….

Army Strong.

Terrible. You can’t even put that in a sentence. And it doesn’t rhyme like “Be all you can be (in the Army)” did, nor was it self-inflating like “Army of One” (which was also atrocious… what does it even mean?). But millions of dollars that was probably earmarked to be spent somewhere in the Middle East anyway got turned to advertising instead and now it is Army Strong. And they wonder why when they called me today and asked me to reenlist (for no bonus, I add) I laughed and asked if they were kidding.

Ah! But I digress! Today I was reading the news instead of saving the world and I instead read about someone else’s plan to save the world:

Do not allow children to play Tag. Or any contact sport when in recess, for that matter.

What, pray tell, is this, I ask the American populace whom I so fearlessly defend every day by completing Excel matricies? Apparently, parents have actually gotten to the point where they don’t want their children running around with other children unsupervised because “They might get hurt.” Right. And then the school board buys in because “They might get hurt… and sue.”

Okay. In Afghanistan, I broke my nose because my body armor slammed into my face. Should I have not worn the body armor? It may have saved my life once or twice, just like running may save the hearts and arteries of these small (and increasingly not-so-small) children. I had no mommy to cry to, only a Special Forces medic who laughed and laughed and when he couldn’t laugh anymore poured some water on my head and told me that I might want to find some ice for my face. I also found it rather amusing, particularly since this was not the first (or second… or third…) time my face had made intimate contact with something and my nose had been so terribly rude as to get in the way. I continued my convoy drills, after finding some choice words for the medic, and drove on. That, to me, is what life is about. Find out what hurts. Don’t do it again. Get a move on with your life.

And if your child is so dumb that a game of tag might actually kill him/her/it, Darwin thanks you for proving his theory and begs that you don’t make any more. How much pampering (and suing) are we going to put up with these days? They are KIDS. They run around, they skin their knee, they fall off of things, they touch the stove, they do what kids (and my cat) do. And then they grow up and they know (sometimes) not to touch the stove and that flipping out of a moving car while wearing body armor that isn’t fully secured is a bad idea. Or you could keep on pampering them and they grow up with no discipline, no motivation, and keep on touching the stupid stove and flipping out of cars.

When I approached my parents after getting a (very expensive) college education and told them I was going to join the Army, their response was, “Okay…” and then my dad muttered something like “Oh well. She will learn.” And then just today I wished the reenlistment representative a great deal of luck with her job and happily hung up the phone. Why? Because I certainly did learn my lesson, and I thank those that didn’t try to talk me out of it.

It’s called “learning,” folks, and it is something that happens when you live. Just please don’t ask me to take a child who’s parents pulled him from playing Tag out to the weapons range… that isn’t a learning task I am about to get in the way of.


Taxpayer Dollars At Work

Filed under: — lana @ 11:34 am

Today I had to have my head examined. Oddly, they didn’t suggest this when I went to sign my enlistment contract, but that is not the point.

I stated to the doctor during my physical that in Afghanistan I had smashed my face on my own body armor plate. I did not go into detail in how that happened, as I didn’t want still another person laughing at my pain, but I let him know. I also told him that before the Army I had smashed my face on things a few… like five… times. However, since the incident in Afghanistan, I haven’t been able to breathe very well out of the left side of my nose and I have been getting massive headaches, probably the result of sinus pressure.

So he referred me downtown to a German radiologist to get my head examined.

The German doctor was quick, got me onto a machine, two minutes later got me off of the machine, told me to wait in the waiting room for the results. The only odd part was before I got on the machine they put me in a very small, about three foot by three foot room, told me to leave my valuables and my shoes in there, lock the door to the hallway, and then to wait in there while they prepped the machine, which was behind a door that had no handle on my side. Coming from a German, this sounded quite menacing, though it was obvious that compliance was expected… But I digress.

About fifteen minutes after the scan a different doctor called me into a room and pointed at some pictures which looked remarkably like blue and white pictures of the reproductive system of a cat, or so I have seen in my seventh grade biology book, and told me that it was my sinus cavity. What he said next astounded me:

“It appears from this that you may have broken your nose in the past, yes? This may have resulted in some sinus pressure.”

That was it. Billions of dollars invested in the Army, several hundred euro to get this scan and the diagnosis, and I get the exact same thing I said to the doctor to start the whole process.

Yep, that’s the American Tax Payer Dollar at work, folks.


Smarten Up

Filed under: — lana @ 12:59 pm

So I decided that a good way to kill time out in the land of the umlaut would be to sign myself up for the courses to complete a graduate certificate in terrorism studies. I started the cirriculum back in the original Stan, but never bothered to take the last three courses. This finds me anywhere from one week to one year from getting out of the military with a half completed cirriculum, so I figured no time like the present to get hopping on that.

Well I made this decision right before I left for Romania. Wandered into the education center, got all connected, and then wandered onto a plane to the eastern bloc.

I should have known better than to think everything would go smoothly from there. Was this or was this not a military operation?

First I get the email about “Wait what class was that?” Then it was “We haven’t received confirmation from the Army about tuition assistance.” Following that was “The class the Army offered to pay for wasn’t the same as the one on our system.” By the time they got it straightened out, classes started in three days and I had yet to order my books.

Enter next dilema, the postal system.

Some things, like your next installment of SeaLab 2021 DVDs, come with a quickness.

Other things, like socks, underwear, toothpaste, or, say, schoolbooks, seem to take somewhere between the remaining duration of your class and the eventual termination of life on earth.

So today, which is about two weeks into both courses, I realized that I mis-read one syllabus and have a paper due this weekend and another due the following weekend, all based on the readings, as well as an exam for the other class. I opened the exam and it is all based on the readings. In the books that have yet to arrive. Even if the postal gods shine upon me and the books arrive tomorrow or Friday, this makes for one long weekend.

In other news, I have to go get my head examined tomorrow. Really. Turns out all the dust and the body armor plate to the face in Afghanistan wasn’t all that good for the sinuses. Who knew, really…


Appointments Ahoy

Filed under: — lana @ 5:35 am

Two months after the initial appointment, I finally received an email the other day containing a piece of paper signed by two doctors that might be a glimpse of freedom on the horizon. It took about thirteen minutes to obtain the first signature, a month to obtain the second, and a further month to get the whole thing packaged up into an e-mail and sent to me. But complaints aside, the process is finally underway.

The first step is, oddly enough, another visit to a doctor. In anticipation of the paper acquisition I went to the clinic to complete the first portion of an Army physical prior to destroying my liver in Romania and Oktoberfest. Four hours later, someone had looked at my eyes, checked my hearing, and taken about half of the blood from my veins. Blind, deaf, and weak, I scheduled the second part for two and a half weeks later and stumbled off to my training exercise.

I sobered up at the doctor once again, who mentioned that they would probably permanently remove my toenail sometime in December, which gave me something else to look forward to this winter aside from just the fun and exciting effects of the cold on a frostbite injury, and he tapped my kidneys and liver and ignored my grunts of suffering as the Czech, Romanian, and German alcohol protested from deep within at being rudely disturbed when they were clearly trying to take a nap somewhere in my spleen. Then came the questions.

To summarize: Why is everything ever completely wrong with you?

Apparently, there are about a million and a half things wrong with me, and all of them need to be addressed before I can be fully evaluated for medical discharge. And so it begins, or rather continues. Another appointment with a clinic doctor. A referral downtown. Another perscription. A follow-up appointment to make sure the perscription is doing what it is supposed to. And that is just for starters.

My primary consolation through this is my cat, who after rescuing her from the kitty ghetto outside of town I subsequently took her to get spayed after the kitty-madame told me my cat had not let them sleep for the past two weeks because she was in heat. So the cat went to the vet, and the cat now has to wear a blue cone on her head to prevent premature removal of the stitches on her stomach for the next week and a half. So the two of us can wander around the house together, occasionally bumping into walls, both despondent at the amount of poking and prodding to which we are being subjected.

And so it begins… or rather, continues…



Filed under: — lana @ 7:53 am

The German call for drink, a fond Prost to Oktoberfest, a large, four-block square carnival focused around the basic hobby of Bavaria.

The beer tents opened at 0800. We arrived around 0900. We could not find a seat in any of the enourmous, 10,000 to 20,000 seat beer tents and ended up sitting outside at the tables of the Lowenbrau Haus, squeezing in beside Germans and Italians, all of whom had limited english skills and prefered to make fun of our butchered german. If you are not seated, you cannot be served, so we cared not whether we could communicate with our companions, as all was equal when we could raise our liters and prost to the good times. 17 percent proof beer served by peasant-dressed, busty women carrying 8 liters of beer at a time if not more, food served specifically to soak up some of the alcohol to allow for extended drinking, and a rare sunny day kept us busy for a few hours until we decided it was time to stumble around and see what other entertainment was for the offering.

What is particularly odd about Oktoberfest is the traditional entertainment is held inside the massive beer tents, and outside it is an overdone state fair: Carnie rides, overpriced games for small trinkets and poorly constructed stuffed animals, and snacks that could successfully clog your arteries in 6 seconds. My main question was whether or not it was poor planning to encourage people to wander out from a beer tent and onto a roller coaster that turned you upside-down more than six times, or a spinning ride that generated the same g-forces as the space shuttle. This logic did not, of course, hamper the Germans, nor did it hamper the large number of foreign nationalities taking part in the festivities. I opted not to find out if my body was built for such treatment, still feeling the effects of two weeks of drinking high quality but remarkably cheap beer in Romania.

Sobering up on a grassy knoll in front of the famed Lady Bavaria statue which overlooks the debauchery on the parade grounds, we watched an Italian stumble around in a circle, take his shirt off, put it back on again, take it off and throw it at his friends, stumble in another small circle, and then lay down in the middle of the street. He repeated the cycle several times as another group of Italians rated passing girls in peasant dresses, three Germans took a nap, four kilt-wearing Scotsmen changed into Oktoberfest 2006 commemorative tee-shirts, around 300,000 people milled about on the parade grounds, and the five Americans sat and took it all in while processing their one to three liters of hastily drank Lowenbrau.

Overall, something to do at least once in a lifetime. Though I may not make it back again, I must admit the Germans certainly know how to party. Prost!

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