Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I did some Coke today...

Oh, it was good. Just what I needed. I'd been craving it for days. Just that little bit...it took the edge right off. I see why people get addicted to this stuff - because it's...well...addictive.

Back home I never do Coke. I seldom do soft drinks of any kind. There's always healthier options: iced tea, ice water, fresh juice, maybe some wine. And when I do get the urge, desire, craving for something, it's Dr Pepper - something that's in abundance in the Midwest.

Coke has a special place in my heart. My sister has always loved the stuff, but it never did much for me...until I started traveling outside the United States. Coke is EVERYWHERE!

I remember my trip to China in 2006 - it was my first night there, and I was having dinner with my cousin and her friends at a hot pot restaurant. I was eating stuff that to this day I'm still unable to identify. For those of you that know me well, you know that's a pretty big thing. I'm not known as a culinary adventurer.

As the night went on, the desire to wash things down with something cool, tasty, and familiar was overwhelming. To my eventual detriment, they offered tall bottles of warm Coke. Well, at least it was familiar. I drank four of them.

Oh, I should have mentioned that up to that point I hadn't had a soft drink for about four years. It was just something I decided I could do without, so I did.

I won't recount how I spent most of the next day and a half in the bathroom, in my Chinese hotel room. I'll just say that my body didn't react well to the flood of sweet, carmel-colored liquid.

Later that same trip I learned something else - On the flight from Chengdu to Lhasa, Tibet, never drink carbonated beverages. I believe I had two cans of yes, Coke. We landed, and was at an elevation of 12,000 feet above sea level. Very high, no air. All those little carbonation bubbles just went crazy, and expanded all over the place.

There was a rush to the bathroom. Thankfully, a 'western style' toilet was available, instead of the more common 'squat toilet.' Never got the hang of those. I'll sit down anyday.

When I worked on the ice the one thing I always looked forward to when I got off was the first meal back in the 'real' world. It was always a Double Whopper Value Meal at Burger King, on Columbo Street, in Christchurch. It tasted like America. Of course, it was accompanied with Coca-Cola, and Coke tastes like Home.

Same thing traveling through Australia. Coke is king.

And now I'm in Iraq. Sure, they sell Dr Pepper in the PX, but I don't love soft drinks enough to keep any in my room. So, on my day-off I usually eat lunch at our Food Court. Doesn't matter which vendor I choose, they all offer Coke to go along with their meals.

So, I indulge.

I did some Coke today, and I'm feeling pretty good right now...

P.S. Okay, I bought ONE can of Dr Pepper to have later. It's in my freezer right now. I like it cold...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Were those fireworks?...

It was on a Saturday night, a week before the Fourth of July weekend. I had the TV on, and was catching-up on my e-mail. Right around 9:20p there was a large *BOOM!*, followed immediately by a smaller *boom*. Fireworks a week early? Naw...

I slipped my flip-flops on, and poked my head out my door. Everyone else was, too. Quietly, but quickly, people started making their way towards our local bunker (it's like 3-sided concrete culvert, about 6' square inside, and about 60' long).

Someone said it was a mortar. Seriously? A mortar? But Taji's a SAFE base. Who'd be shooting mortars at us?

The next few minutes were tense, and full of apprehension. We never really did go inside the bunker, but we were ready to.

You should have seen the Army mobilize. They were like ants running around everywhere, rifles blazing. They were doing their job.

After 20 minutes, or so, we got the word that all was clear, and we returned to our CHU's (compartmentalized housing units - trailers). No one slept well the rest of the night, and of course, it was the talk of the base the next day.

The full story came out a few days later - They weren't mortars, but RPG's. They had been fired from one or two Iraqis that had found an opening in one of our 'fortified' outside walls, and had snuck in. They were located almost immediately that same evening. They had in their possession additional weapons, bent on wreaking some havoc.

The things people do on a Saturday night.

Thankfully, no one was hurt, and no damage done. Still, it rattled some nerves.

It served as a much-needed wake-up call for all of us. Complacency isn't good on a military base...in a warzone.

So now vigilance is paramount. The Iraqis are still our friends.

Don't worry, I'm still safe. Please read the post below about our concrete friends, the T-Walls...


Other Taji news...

The food selections have taken a nosedive. The rotisserie chicken man is gone, as is the carving station for the turkey and pork loin. Thankfully, the fruit guy is still serving, but he has been absent a few meals, which has caused some distress.

It's still hot, dry, and dusty, but I won't keep kicking that horse.

Everyone in our office is in vacation mode. A few just returned, a couple return this week, and a number of us are taking off in September and October. For me, parole...I mean, vacation, is less than two months away. :)

I bought a new backpack and a new hat, but they're camouflage, and I can't find them.

All in all, everything's fine. I'm safe, I'm comfortable, and I have a job. That's pretty much like winning the trifecta.

I promise I'll *try* to do better at updating my blog. Next entry will be my first photographic assignment - 'Finding Green in the Desert.' Subsequent posts will be 'I'm Feeling Blue,' and 'I'm Seeing Red.' Might even do 'Don't Be Yella.'

Take care, Everyone. Write, post, send good thoughts.


The Ubiquitous T-Wall...

At every military base in Iraq, and I'd suspect, Afghanistan, you see giant monoliths called T-Walls. T-Walls provide two services: protect and contain. Which one it does is entirely dependent on which side of the wall you're on.

You've seen T-Walls too, everytime you drive through a construction zone. They're much shorter, and typically wider, and go by the moniker 'concrete barriers.' Their purpose is exactly the same - they protect the workers on the other side, and contain whatever mayhem traffic may cause in the thru lanes.

Are they protecting us from traffic in Iraq? Hardly. Their job is to protect us from most types of lobbed or rocketed munitions. Could be mortars, could be grenades, could be rocket powered grenades (RPG's). They're typically placed around the perimeter of most buildings, and around the pods that consist of the trailers we live in.

That being said, it's all a crap shoot as to whether you're on the protect or contain side.

As I look out the window of my room, I see an 8' high T-wall. Beyond the wall is a gravel road about 30' across. Good, I'm protected, right? Well, if an explosive happens to land in that roadway, yep, I'm protected, and the blast is contained. BUT, what if that same munition happens to land in that 4' space between my trailer and the T-Wall? *BOOM!* All of a sudden, I'm on the containment side, and anyone in the road would be protected.

Like I said, it's a crap shoot. Still, they do provide a sense of protection, that that goes a long way towards our peace of mind, even if they do block the view.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Today's official temperature was 122*, and that was in the SHADE! Ah yes, summer's here. :P

You have no idea what that kind of heat feels like. Closest thing would be to preheat your oven to about 500*, then open the door while standing right in front of it. It's searing.

And you know how people talk about windburn? Well, when the wind is blowing with this kind of heat, the wind does literally burn you. Unfortunately, not much getting around having to walk to work, walk to chow, walk to the gym. You just get used to it.

So, a couple of hot months ahead, then September, and VACATION. When I return the temps will have broke, and started the slide into Fall. Life is Good.

Sorry I haven't written in a while. I'll post more on my day-off. There was some excitement here a couple of weeks ago I want to tell you about.

Till then, stay cool!