June 03, 2004

Facilities

IMG_1492.jpg (Last night's moonrise, taken over the tops of our tents)

A few of you have been asking about the more routine things I do here. How do you do your laundry? How do you eat? Do you have to kill your food? Calm down people, wouldn't you rather see more pictures of Camel Spiders? No? Ok, well here's some shots of our facilities.
IMG_1484.jpg Here's the DFAC (Dining Facility). Yup, we eat here. This DFAC was built inside a warehouse, and is one of the largest dining halls in the military. You can barely see that there are just as many seats on the other side of the flags. My guess is you can sit a couple thousand in here.  I eat here usually three times a day. Sometimes, I just have a protein shake or eat at one of the mini shops, like Subway.
IMG_1485.jpg Well, naturally, after eating you need to find one of these. This is the latrine. In the Navy and Marine Corps, it's simply called the head. But now that I work for the Army, it's the latrine. The latrine is made from a modified cargo container (connex box), and even has air conditioning built in. The military uses connex boxes for everything...it's just easier to ship stuff in connex boxes. When I get to my site in Iraq, I will be living in a connex that has been fitted with a bed and living quarters. IMG_1486.jpg Inside are several toilets on the left, and a trough on the other side. Here you can also see the sink. These are actually very decent. Believe me, it's a million times better than a porto-john!

IMG_1488.jpg The whole thing reminds me of using an airplane lavatory, only it comes with reading material built in to the walls! You can always find something amusing to read in here. As scummy as it may look, it's very clean and doesn't smell or anything. Some of the other sites may not have it so good. I don't know what things will be like when I go up North so I'll wait and see. For now, I'm enjoying the toilets with running water.
IMG_1493.jpg This is the shower facility (I really didn't want to take a picture inside, for fear of looking like a complete weirdo). People back home were asking if you have to shower with a bunch of dudes and worry about "dropping the bar of soap" or something. No, it's private, fortunately.

The tent portion is for changing and shaving, etc. And you can see another connex box in the back, attached to the tent. That's the showers. There are eight or so shower stalls, with their own curtain and shower controls, so it's pretty decent. We have cold and hot running water, though it's more like hot and really-hot water. You have to wear sandals or you could get nasty bacteria on your feet.

IMG_1494.jpg This is where I get my laundry done. Like the showers and latrines, these facilities are available all over the base. Use of the washers and dryers is free, and it's usually never too crowded.

Well, wasn't that exciting?
Posted by Dan at 09:54 AM | Comments (7)

June 06, 2004

Chicken





IMG_1511.jpg Friday was a lazy day. I slept in, watched my new George Carlin and Richard Pryor DVDs (hehe), and worked out at the gym. Saturday, I went to Fahaheel with Jeff and a couple folks from camp.

I stopped at Sagir Jewelry to pick up my cartouche (I'll post a picture later). A cartouche is a little neckpiece with your name on it. You can get your name in English on one side and Arabic on the other, or you can get it with Hieroglyphics. I chose to have my first name on one side, and my last name on the other, both in English (I already have a silver cartouche with my name in Arabic). The necklace and cartouche I bought are made from 18k White Gold, which can be very expensive. Some places use cheap metals to turn Yellow Gold into White Gold, but my necklace is 3/4 pure Yellow Gold, and 1/4 Platinum. The reason for mentioning this is because there is no platinum in this part of the world, so you have import it.
IMG_1514.jpg We had dinner on the fifth floor of a building in town, and crammed into the tiniest elevator I've ever seen. It was like something out of Willy Wonka. You can barely fit 5 people into one of these elevators, and to make things funnier, this Pakistani fellow got in with us and tried to sell us jewelry! IMG_1515.jpg We ate at a Chinese/Indian restaurant, overlooking Fahaheel and the Persian Gulf. I love Indian food, so I was always a happy camper. The food in the picture is Chicken Tikka, Chicken Curry, Flat Bread, and Pulao Rice (yellow rice). Good stuff!!!!

Afterwards, I had Turkish Coffee, in a small cup just like espresso. I think I'm still shaky from it a whole day later. The drink was strong and thick, and reminded me of mud paste, but I wanted to try it anyway.

We left the restaurant and, sure enough, the Pakistani guy was sitting out front waiting for us! Tenacious little guy, huh? Actually, it paid off for him because I went into his shop.
IMG_1522.jpg We went back to the Bazaar to look around. I also stopped at the sheesha bar to have another smoke. Don't worry mom, it won't become a habit.
IMG_1523.jpg We then stopped at Ajial Mall, where I'm sorry to say I only took a picture of the arcade. Typical me, huh?

In the photo above, you can see a Kuwaiti in traditional dress playing air hockey. Right next to him were some local Kuwaitis dressed in Armani and Calvin Klein t-shirts, looking like typical Americans. It's pretty cool to see that both dress styles are accepted here. In other Middle Eastern countries, their social behavior is much more restricted.

Side Note: I wanted to respond to a few comments. I think it's awesome that so many people have emailed me or said something on the site. I just wanted to add my thoughts. I may be having a great time out here, but I can't say that others are enjoying it. I bet that most people living at Camp Arifjan have it pretty good (that's where I live right now), but it's not fair to compare my experience to someone else's out here. I am a civilian. I get to travel off post and explore Kuwait, and most personnel are not allowed.

And I bet most people are not enjoying their stay in Iraq right now. I guess I'll know soon, when I get up there...


Posted by Dan at 12:51 PM | Comments (3)

June 08, 2004

íHace calor!

A quick post today. It was 140F yesterday, the hottest weather I've ever been in! That was the recorded temperature in direct sunlight. The temperature in the shade was 123F, and last night, it was a cool 103F outside. Nice and cozy, eh?

And we always forget to adjust the air conditioning in our tent for nighttime, so it's always 65F inside...a big temperature drop! No wonder I'm getting sick right now. My body is going WTF?!

As I post this, the planet Venus is crossing in front of the sun. This has never been witnessed by anyone currently alive, since the last time was 1882. I'm sure most of y'all have read about this in the paper...

Posted by Dan at 10:21 AM | Comments (3)

June 15, 2004

Quick Update...

Sorry for the lack of posts. I started my SAT-COM training this week (Satellite Communications). Last weekend I went to a waterslide park in Kuwait City, and I will try and get some pics up soon.

I will be going into Iraq very shortly, but I can't tell just yet. I will post the day before I go, as it may be a while before I can post again.

More to come...

Posted by Dan at 05:59 PM | Comments (5)

June 19, 2004

Change of plans...

I leave in just a few hours. I have to get up at 04:00 and meet up with the group so we can caravan to an air base. From there, it's a C-130 flight up to Baghdad (yippee). After a week of stay there, I will make my way to my final site...but things are always changing out here. I am hoping I won't get stuck in Baghdad for too long, but have a feeling I will.

The timing couldn't have been better, eh? Visiting Baghdad right before the June 30th deadline. I know I'll be fine. It's just uncomfortable not knowing what's going to happen next.

Posted by Dan at 11:07 PM | Comments (5)

June 21, 2004

Camp Victory

Well, I am now at Camp Victory, Baghdad. The flight up here yesterday was pretty cool. I took a C-130 flight from Kuwait up to Baghdad International Airport (or what's left of it).

We had several mortars this morning (including two that flew right over my tent). Pretty nuts up here. Nobody was hurt, but I don't know if there is any damage to anything yet.

There are some real differences between Kuwait and Iraq. One, Iraq isn't as hot (temperature-wise). Two, there are trees and vegetation everywhere, mainly thanks to the Tigris river nearby. This is one very old part of our world (Babylon is just an hour away).

Of course, the other difference is the threat condition is much higher here. I still feel safe, although those mortars were pretty crazy.

I'm going to try and post as often as I can, since I won't know when I'll be able to do so. If you don't hear from me, don't worry, it's probably because I won't have access to the internet...nothing otherwise.

I'll try and get some pictures up here soon. I still haven't finished up with all the Kuwait pics. For example, last weekend I went paintballing.

Posted by Dan at 05:01 PM | Comments (6)

June 22, 2004

Who's Your Baghdaddy?

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(Older picture: getting ready to leave Arifjan, Kuwait, and head into Iraq)

Here's some pictures from the flight over...
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View from inside the C-130...
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A view from inside the cabin. In the background you can see an airman in flak armor, sitting in a swing seat, looking out the window. There is also a guy on the right (out of view). Their main job is to watch for incoming missiles or RPGs.

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Now flying into Iraq. C-130s are decent sized planes, and can maneuver very well for something so large. I wasn't allowed to take a picture of the outside of a C-130, but you can find a photo online somewhere. Close to landing, we banked so hard I was stuck in my seat, like a damn rollercoaster!

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So this is my second day at Camp Victory. Victory is about a 15 minute drive to downtown Baghdad, and I just realized that my tent is right on the damn base perimeter! Fun stuff, eh? No wonder I always hear weird things at night.

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This is my new tent...just like the last one. Only difference is a small wall of sandbags to protect against mortar blasts. Speaking of which, there were several mortars again this morning, but none came close.

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This is one of Saddam's many palaces here. The whole thing is surrounded by a man-made lake, and it looks like there are other houses nearby, probably for his closest cabinet members.

It's pretty difficult to get pictures online here, so I may not get any more for a while.

I went to the pool today, also one of Saddam's. The pool is large, and moon-shaped, with a diving board at one end. I'll try and get a picture of that too.

Posted by Dan at 04:02 PM | Comments (8)

June 25, 2004

Photos

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This is a poor photo of a bat flying at night.

As expected, my transportation out of here has been delayed for an unknown ammount of time. In the meanwhile, I figured I should enjoy whatever there is up here. So my friends and I found the local pools.

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This is the "moon-shaped" pool I mentioned in an earlier post. It reminds me of something I would've seen at the Wild Animal Park, back in San Diego.
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This is the Aussie pool. Located across the pond is where the Australians seem to kick it, so we thought it would be fun to check out their hangouts.

The pool has a great view of Saddam's Palace (well, one of his palaces)...
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I saw these reliefs carved into one of the buildings...
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Part of this area was a zoo (more like a game park). This was a bat sanctuary, before the pigeons took over. Saddam also had an alligator pit, no longer in use.

On a personal note here, the food is really starting to suck! I'd rather eat MREs than what they've got at the chow hall. Speaking of eating, mosquitos are starting to take their toll on me, so it's time to break out the bug repellant.

We've had mortar attacks every day that I've been here, and a loud explosion early this morning. Also there's a fire to the north, dropping black ashes on the ground. It feels really weird to be up here, right in the middle of Iraq, the farthest away from home I've ever been.

That's it for today. I'll post more cool stuff as it unfolds...

Posted by Dan at 05:27 PM | Comments (5)

June 26, 2004

Saddam's Palaces

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Today I went to Camp Slayer, to see more of Saddam's empire. I was fortunate to meet up with another friend from Camp Doha, and we drove over to the other base to check out the sites. The photo above is supposedly where Saddam kept his harem. I'll leave it at that.

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Similar to Camp Victory's palaces, this is one of several sites overlooking a large artificial lake, and this photo is of another Presidential Palace. As you can see, it took substantial damage when we bombed the property, and we are now in the process of restoring it.

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This is a fireplace in one of the buildings on the property. Saddam built many guest houses for his closest friends, located at various points around the lakes, and furnished them with, uh, interesting luxuries.

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This is some mystery network cable that Jeff found...Where the hell does it go?

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This is what everyone here is affectionately calling the Flinstones House. Supposedly, this was built as a playground for children. Here are some photos in and around...
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We went back to Camp Victory after lunch. This is another one of Saddam's Presidential Palaces, on the other side of Victory I hadn't been to yet. It also received a whupin'.

Yep, we got more mortars today...probably the most I've heard all week. Something like a dozen or more incoming, and it's crazy because nobody seems to notice them anymore! It's just business as usual.

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Speaking of mortars, some of you might want to see what our bunkers look like. To be honest, I don't really use them. Nobody does!

Well, it looks like our prayers have been answered, and we are leaving tomorrow. Again, it may be a while before I post anything, but who knows?

More to come...

Posted by Dan at 04:12 PM | Comments (7)

June 30, 2004

Blackhawk to Al Kut

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Our Blackhawk, coming in for a landing to pick us up.

I have finally arrived at my jobsite, Al Kut Camp Delta. We left Camp Victory in Baghdad just as things were really starting to get crazy. My friend emailed me, saying his C-130 took six hits in the tail, and the plane before him was the one with the civilian casualty I'm sure you've read in the news by now. I'm glad to have gotten out of there, although I had a good time catching up with some coworkers I met when I stayed at Camp Doha.

Below are some photos from the flight out of BIAP (Baghdad International Airport), to Al Kut Camp Delta.
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Note the M-60s on the side...pretty badass!

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Flying out of Baghdad International Airport. The signs "Saddam International Airport" were torn down and the site is being rennovated for commercial use eventually.

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Flying over the countryside...

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As you can see, Iraq is not a harsh desert like one would imagine in this part of the world, although western Iraq is much drier. This is due to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that flow down the central part of the country.

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We landed in Al Kut, and the Army dropped us off right on the flight line. We now had to hook up with our new battalion and find our living quarters.

Al Kut is controlled by the Ukraine Armed Forces, along with Poland and Romania. Things are very different here, and the quality of life is not as good as with the US Army. I have a lot of adjusting to make, and I have to take it one day at a time. I'm just glad that I made the most of my time in Kuwait.

I'll get some pictures of Al Kut up soon...

Posted by Dan at 02:08 PM | Comments (7)