October 08, 2005

Dan's Ride Home (a.k.a. Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey)

DAN_BAD_TRIP.jpg
Well, well, well. I finally made it back to Kuwait after my vacation in the States. I had a great time home, but I've gotta say the ride back was crazy. It took me about three days to finally make it to Kuwait International Airport. In my usual fashion, I have documented the fun for all to see.

The Blue line represents my originally intended path. The Green line is, uh, what happened...

Basically, I forgot which day I was supposed to fly, and had to catch some random hops to get back. My flight from Cincinnati to Frankfurt was late by about 45 minutes, so I missed my connection and had to stay in Germany for a day.

On the plus side, I got to meet up with my friends Dan and Zoe (and their newborn Liam), who live in Kaiserslautern.

IMG_5543.jpg
Here are a few photos from "K-Town." This is where I last visited when I went to Germany back in February.

IMG_5542.jpg
The Stiftsplatz, and the old city church. My friends live just down the street. We went out to dinner and I drove back to Frankfurt to sleep at the hotel.

IMG_5548.jpg
The next day, I flew from Frankfurt to Athens (via Thessaloniki). At the airport in Athens, I didn't have enough time to check out the town, so I took this lame picture of the airport.

While I was waiting for my flight, I met an Afghan guy who lives in Sweden now. He said he left Afghanistan in 1992, and now he owns a small restaurant close to Denmark. He's just trying to make a living like everybody else. I said if I'm ever in Scandinavia, I'll stop by. You never know.

IMG_5560.jpg
Flying over Saudi Arabia, on my way to...Dubai?

Here's why I love Lufthansa. For those who don't know, Lufthansa (no, not Luftwaffe!) is a German airline, serving most major destinations worldwide. I love their service, and I think I'm going to stick with them if I can help it. I flew on Delta (which made me miss my flight...and they didn't care to fix it for me), and I flew on Olympic Airlines through Greece, and they really screwed me on this one.

As I sat down on my Olympic Airlines flight to Kuwait, they informed me that "our destination is Dubai, not Kuwait," despite the fact that my ticket said "Kuwait."

I had to fly to Dubai (adding 2 more hours to the trip), hang out for an hour and then catch a return flight to Athens...via Kuwait...at which point I could get off (2 hours later). So...some 5 or 6 hours later, I made it home.

By that point, it was 03:45 AM. At least my bag didn't get lost. hehe. Not funny. But I'm glad it's over now.

Back to the picture, you can see the imaginary line where the city runs along the coast, to the sea. This picture doesn't look half as nice as the real thing, but you get the idea. When the sand kicks up, the lights glow like lava oozing through cracks in the earth. Eeerie.

Oh, and Ramadan started a couple days ago, so Happy Ramadan everybody! haha. I'm sorry. Hey, lighten up.

In other news...

I am packing up now, as I have accepted a new position with my company, and will soon be off to Baghdad to work near the Embassy. I can't really get into specifics (for obvious security reasons), but I will not be working with the US Military anymore. I am looking forward to a change, mainly new challenges. I had a great time doing my thing, but I assure you there is more to come.

This new job will have some pretty interesting stuff to write about, and I will still be traveling all over Iraq.

I'll keep ya'll posted...

Posted by Dan at 06:07 PM | Comments (1)

October 11, 2005

Frequent Flyer Club

//UNCLASSIFIED//

This is just a quick update. I flew up to Baghdad International Airport yesterday, and made it to the Green Zone (International Zone - IZ).

I am just not having any luck with planes. In Kuwait, my flight was delayed because of a fuel leak in the right wing. The crew fixed it, but something broke mid-flight and they had to emergency land. After about a couple hours, they found another plane which we loaded on. However, it never got off the ground (something about broken hydraulics).

Plane #3 finally got me up to Baghdad. Sheesh, this past week was not a good week for flying.

Mom...Dad...don't freak out. I know my company normally has a policy of no travel on the ground, but there is a service that you can take from the airport to the IZ over Route Irish. Trust me, it was a judgement call, and I have never felt safer.

Route Irish is now thought of as the most dangerous highway in the world. It connects the airport with the downtown region of Baghdad, now being used as the Green Zone. This highway is frequently the target of IEDs and VBIEDs (Basically bombs and car bombs), as well as small arms fire.

I can't talk about my ride for security reasons, but I had the full treatment. Talk about an armored vehicle! And I was escorted by two helicopter gunships and a slew of shooters on the ground. There were a few other people that needed to catch this ride over to the IZ so it wasn't just for me, because it really was extensive.

I got to the Embassy and slept for a few hours. Soon I will be moving to a nicer place. I've got my own room and shower, which is the most I've ever had in Iraq (believe me, I've had worse).

I really can't get into specifics of my new assignment, but I will be working with the UN, State Department, and many other folks trying to rebuild Iraq (literally and figuratively). There's a lot to do...this place is a mess. I will be here for roughly six months, and will get to travel around the country as before, but I am anxious to work with some new people on a different aspect of this war...rebuilding.

I'll try and update again soon, but you know how it goes...

//UNCLASSIFIED//

Posted by Dan at 12:12 AM | Comments (2)

October 15, 2005

Middle-Eastern Adventureland...

//UNCLASSIFIED//
IMG_5612.jpg
The Green Zone. It almost looks like some crazy new Disneyland attraction from up here. To the left are the famous crossed swords, at the southern entrance of Saddam's parade grounds. To the right is a reproduction of the Tower of Babel, and the UFO-looking thing next to it is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Doesn't it look like Disney's Space Mountain?

The grey coloring is the result of smog and sand, and a couple of car bombs and fires.

Anyhow...

I wanted to put out another update, especially on this particular date. Today was Iraq's referendum on the new Constitution. The good people of Iraq will decide a simple "Yes" or "No," paving the way for reform or total chaos. I honestly don't think that the outcome will be positive. Sorry to be so pessimistic, but the Sunnis want more power, and are willing to incite a civil war just for more control.

Around here, a curfew has been imposed: No walking around at night. This is obviously for good reason. There was a shootout just down the street for about 30 minutes, and another car bomb at the other side of the IZ.

IMG_5614.jpg
This random photo is of the swimming pool in Saddam's old Presidential Palace. The feeling is just unreal out here. Sometimes I think I'm in Las Vegas, at some new freaky resort, just hanging out.

I will update again in a few days. I actually have to get out of here now.

Cheers!

//UNCLASSIFIED//

Posted by Dan at 08:55 PM | Comments (2)

October 26, 2005

Jurassic Park

IMG_5666.jpg
Moonrise Over Baghdad. I must be going crazy, but I'm starting to see how beautiful the night is out here.

Well, the Iraqi Referendum has passed, and I can only guess that we will see a surge in violent activity starting...well...now. Yesterday was just another typical work day, and the loud booms sounded nothing more than the usual car bombs or mortars...a semi-muffled thud, far off in the distance.

But they turned out to be a complex attack involving three car bombs, the third being a concrete truck with about 1,000lbs of explosives. Their targets were the Palestine Hotel and Sheraton, just across the Tigris. We walked outside after the last boom (because it was a big one), and there was a fairly large mushroom cloud, just growing and spreading outward. Unreal.

But things are still the same on my side of the river. The Green Zone is the ultimate gated community, and security is tight. Saddam's Trial was just down the street. Even more unreal.

Anyhow, not a whole lot to report. I've been so busy with work, but things will get better. Here are a few random photos from the past week or so...

IMG_5672.jpg
These babies come from South Africa, and are about 1 1/2 times the size of an SUV. That Toyota next to it is already a large vehicle, but these "REVAs" are huge.

IMG_5639.jpg
A "light" sandstorm blanketed central Iraq last week, limiting most of everyone's time outdoors. You really don't want to breathe-in that stuff.

Dome of the Rock.jpg
This is one of several entryways into the Presidential Palace neighborhood here in Baghdad. The structure is a reference to the famous Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, an important historical site for Jews and Christians, but extremely significant to Muslims.

IMG_5647.jpg
As the sand storm cleared, the sky opened up and turned reddish-orange. The haze cleared by the next morning, and we were back to normal. Haha, normal.

In other news, I start my security training next week. I will soon learn how to shoot an M4 Assault Rifle, and learn evasive driving techniques such as E-Stops and J-Turns. Why would a computer geek have to learn this stuff? I really don't know. But I'm sure it'll be fun.

More to follow, but I want to share one last picture.

DSCN1680.jpg
I found where we keep the dinosaurs...hahaha.

Posted by Dan at 12:14 AM | Comments (2)