July 03, 2004

Al Kut

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So here I am, now in Al Kut, just south-east of Baghdad. Al Kut is located on the Tigris River, in the Wasit Province. I made this map (isn't Photoshop cool?) and added a couple other cities that have made the news back home.

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This is a picture of our new equipment, and one of the Ukraine Forces' buildings in the background...

I am here, along with a team of three other contractors, to operate and maintain a new communications network for the Coalition Forces. In this case, our customer is the Ukraine Armed Forces. Yes, my job has definitely changed! I now essentially work for the Ukraine Army.

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For now, we have a HUMMVEE to get around post. Pretty cool, eh? Those things are fun off road!

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Me, trying to hot wire the damn thing...just kidding.

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Every day, EOD (Emergency Ordinance Disposal) destroys munitions and explosives. They do this several times a day, and at first you can't tell if you are under attack or what the hell is going on, but eventually you figure it out.

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This one looks like a small mushroom cloud...

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One of the guys took this picture. You can see a round just after it exploded.

It may seem great out here, and it might be cool that there's all this stuff happening around me, but living here is very different. I'm still trying to adjust to living in what's called a "Forward Operating Base." That means it is in harms way, and since it is planted in the middle of Iraq, it has to secure all borders. Supplies don't get out here as quickly as we would like, and food isn't the freshest, but you make do with what you've got (thanks Brian!).

Tomorrow is the 4th of July. I'm starting to see things a little differently now, and I think this Independance Day will have a new meaning to me...

Posted by Dan at 05:08 PM | Comments (4)

July 05, 2004

Happy 4th

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I hope everybody had a great 4th of July. Mine was definitely one to remember. Normally I would be in La Jolla (San Diego, CA) with my friends and family. My neighborhood always throws a parade in the morning. I would then head over to the cove with my friends for our annual barbeque.

This year was different. I am in Iraq, surrounded by people who are all in the same situation, and we're all trying to make the best of things and have a good time. Our Battalion threw a barbeque and invited the Polish and Ukrainian troops for some good food and good times.

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This is our boom box :)

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711th Signal Battalion, Officers vs Enlisted (Enlisted won).

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A couple Ukrainian friends, enjoying conversation. The Lieutenant on the left is a translator and speaks fluent English. The Lieutenant Colonel in the middle doesn't speak much English, but tries to talk to everybody he can. He says phrases like, "I am you, me, yes? Good!" It's hilarious!

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Our nighttime fireworks show was provided using signal flares, launched over the flight line. Not as cool as real fireworks, but still good.

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They quickly turned into a small brushfire, that soon spawned into several fires.

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The Polish and Ukrainian Fire Departments came to the rescue. Hey, we're giving them something to do out here!

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I may be smiling, but I had nothing to do with it this time!

I feel so lucky to have met so many great people on this journey. Now I am very excited because I get to learn about Ukraine, a country I really don't know anything about. For example, their flag is blue and gold (just like Sweden), because their first king was Swedish. I will post more cool information down the road...

Posted by Dan at 12:04 PM | Comments (4)

July 09, 2004

Home Sweet Home

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We have finally found a place to call home here, for the next month, until our living trailer arrives. In the meantime, this will do. Pretty impressive, eh? It has a great front porch!

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This is the inside...'Nuff said.

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This is our PX (Post Exchange), like a convenience store, only crammed into a semi-trailer. In local news, ours just ran out of deodorant, and I am definitely starting to notice the smell around here. I was lucky enough to buy the last stick of some Ukrainian deodorant when I got here...pray we get a new shipment in soon! :)

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This is our DFAC (Dining Facility). The food is not so good. Hey Bo, I no like-a da food! (inside joke)

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At least we have a DFAC. Some of the other bases don't even have this much.

And some sites don't even have an internet cafe, although ours is pretty slow. Me and the guys are going to buy our own satellite internet soon.

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We had a visitor last night. This guy was pretty little (only 2 or 3 inches total), but man, he could run!

So far, we've had visitors every night in our new room. I've found one or two new insects I've never seen before. Some are pretty creepy-looking.

Posted by Dan at 10:13 AM | Comments (6)

July 16, 2004

Things that go bump in the night...

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Sunset over Al Kut. Awwww, love is in the air...I mean, lots of creepy things flying around. Man, this place has a lot of nightlife!

Aside from the mosquitos that can give you Malaria, and the sand flies that carry Leishmaniasis, there are lots of other interesting creatures that live out here, and they've probably got something you don't want either.

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I found this guy jumping around outside the work trailer a few nights ago.

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And this lizard was snooping around in our house last night. He got away before I could get a better picture.

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This is our neighborhood stray dog. Her name is Lady. She sleeps outside, in between the buildings, and comes around every now and then for food and water.

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And this is our new pet Camel Spider. We caught him two nights ago, and got a cage from our neighbor. Thing is, the cage came with another camel spider, so now they're roommates.

I'm sure I'll run into some other new creatures down the road. I haven't even been here a month.

Okay, so I haven't been able to update the site for a couple days. The connection out here is pretty flaky, and the server back home sucks. I'll try and get better at updating.

And in other news, I finally got my hands on a copy of Fahrenheit 9/11, and I recommend everyone see it, even if they don't agree with all of it.

I'll have to post a little more about politics on here, since I have been fortunate to see some things out here that lend an arguement to both sides of this war. I don't have an answer to what is going on out here, and I do know that some Iraqis are very thankful we are here...while others are not. I do know that Muslims from other countries are coming into Iraq and killing anybody that gets in their way, and they need to be stopped.

But I also know that our current administration has its own agenda, and that needs to be considered as well. This war on terror is just as important as our own personal war against corrupt governments, and we need to fight them both.

I would now like to mention that I am neither Democrat nor Republican, but I do agree with what they originally stood for. Its just that they both whine and argue too much.

Ok, ok, you didn't come here to read me whine either. I'm done for now...

Posted by Dan at 01:32 PM | Comments (4)

July 23, 2004

Odds and Ends

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Last night's sunset, walking home from work...

I thought I would post a couple pictures I took while doing whatever it is I do on a daily basis out here. I simply found these photos interesting in some way.

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A Hungarian Patrol Vehicle. We don't permanently support the Hungarian Armed Forces out here, but they stopped by last week. Note their bulletproof armor!

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View from the inside of our HUMMVEE.

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This scorpion was checking out our front porch last night. You can't tell in the photo, but he is about the size of a dime. Very small! I have no idea if he is poisonous, but I'm not about to go find out the hard way.

In other news, our PX (General Store) was just upgraded from a trailer to a real building. Now we have more room to browse, but still no deodorant to buy. Good thing I haven't run out yet.

I walk around the aisles of this new PX and think about grocery stores back home...how they are always fully stocked. It is just amazing to have so much food in the States. If the only way that VONS got their food was by trucks that had to drive several hundred miles, across blown-up bridges, constantly surrounded by rocket-wielding insurgents, supplies would be more difficult to come by. Some of the trailers that come through on supply convoys have had their whole back-end blown off.

Also, our pet camel spider, Jake, ate his two roommates. He's getting pretty big, and starting to freak me out.

In other-other news...

I hope to travel to Babylon soon, only 2 hours away by convoy. There is a lot to see there, and the city has an amazing past. I've recently learned how historically significant Babylon is.

The old city of Babylon has been captured by several figures throughout history, including Nebuchadnezzar II (who built the Hanging Gardens for his wife) and Alexander the Great (of the Greek, Hellenic Empire).

They also have a better PX! :)

Posted by Dan at 07:28 PM | Comments (4)

July 27, 2004

Improvements

Macs kick ass
So I've decided to start improving the site, by adding a couple new sections to the menu, and designing a new logo. I haven't finished the Iraq Information section, but it should be up within the next week.

The other languages in the logo are Ukrainian and Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). It says "Daniel in the Desert." I chose Modern Standard Arabic instead of Iraqi because it is a more universal language. MSA was created because all the countries out here had a need for a...modern...standard...form of Arabic, so they could communicate with each other. Hence...Modern Standard Arabic.

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Speaking of improvements, our DFAC (Dining Facility) just got a concrete treatment, fifteen feet high. These walls are pretty common all over Iraq and Kuwait. They help stop shrapnel, before it becomes part of your lunch.

In local news, another team came in yesterday. These guys are assigned to a remote site near the Iran border, called The Fort. There may not be a reason for them to go, as the site is supposed to shut down soon. For their sake, I hope it closes. They would have nothing to do all day, except think about the fact that their site doesn't even have a security perimeter.

Posted by Dan at 11:52 AM | Comments (3)