Saturday, October 30, 2010

Good-bye, October...

October has always been my favorite month of the year. It's the month the trees change from green to orange, yellow, red, and brown. It's the month when the first frost appears. It's the month that a myriad of changes take place, and it's the month of my birth.

I arrived back in Taji on October 1st, after having an absolutely perfect vacation back home. October 1st was also the last day for all of our fast food places to close. Yep, no more Subway, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Cinnabon, Popeye's, or even Green Beans coffee shop. All gone. Thanks for cutting the budget to Iraq.

We're all missing these outlets. No one ate there everyday, but it was nice to have an option to the DFAC, as well as some 'normalcy' in our little warzone.

Oh well, they're gone for good.

Two weeks later all of the Taji Bazaar shops closed. No more local merchandise (actually, most of it was made in Turkey) to buy. No more rugs, no more saris, no more hand-tailored suits...

So, we're down to only one place to eat, and all shopping is done at the PX. Taji has become kind of a boring place. At least I'm on the downhill side of my contract.

We did have some excitement lastnight - had a *BOOM* happen about 8:20p, with three smaller *booms* right afterwards. No idea what it was, but everyone came out from their rooms, and meandered to the bunkers.

Only the second 'attack' in seven months. Not bad. My friend, Rob, is up at Kirkuk, and they get shelled 3-4 times a WEEK! Guess we're lucky to be where we are.

But October is over, and the winter looms. Changes have happened, and I'm sure more are ahead. Nothing to do but enjoy the ride, and count the days (152 BTW).

Life is (still) good! :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010



It was SPECTACULAR, and all too short. I left Taji the morning of Sept. 6th, flying on a door-less Blackhawk helicopter down to Baghdad - about a 15 minute flight. Was in B-Town about four hours before catching a C-130 down to Kuwait. At the Ali Al Salem Airbase I had to turn in my passport for a Kuwaiti visa, then wait for it to be processed. I was there about 24 hours. The military was kind enough to then drop me off at the Kuwait City Airport - a madhouse of people in crisp, white robes, flowing head coverings, and women totally veiled in black. Like the cliche, people were being dropped off at the curb in Bentleys, Rolls, and Astons.

Processing at the airport was unlike any other place I'd been. When you first enter the terminal, that's when you get your bags x-ray'd, both carry-ons and checked bags. The lines are long, and I don't think the screeners are watching for much.

After that you have to find your way to your airline's ticket counter for check-in. Thankfully, there's a whole passel of men in blue uniforms and funny caps to assist you. My guy asked what airline I needed, and I told him, United. He then weaved his way around throngs of people, all the way back to the United desk. I checked-in without incident, and got rid of my checked bag.

From there you re-enter the main terminal so you can say good-bye to the extended family that came to see you off. After milling about there for a while you head to your gate - and through more security. Did I mention the throngs of people?

One funny thing about the airport - it's non-smoking...more/less. There are glass-walled 'smoke rooms' on every concourse, and usually filled with people. However, if there's no room, no problem - you just light-up wherever you are. No one's going to say boo to you. Sheiks wield that much authority.

I ate at the McDonald's there, just to get a taste of American food before I left (and because I knew I probably wouldn't like the food on the plane).

The flight boarded, and I was in heaven - I'd paid the extra $159 for a seat in United's Economy Plus area, where you get an extra 5" of legroom, AND no one was sitting in the two seats next to me! I popped a couple of Benadryl, and was off to sleep for the next 6 1/2 hours, making the 12 hour flight not very bad at all. :)

Connected through Washington-Dulles, then Chicago, and on into Springfield. Jan was there to pick me up, holding a bouquet of daisies. It was SO good to see her again. We kissed long and deep, and held each other like we'd never let go.

It was good to be home.

On the 11th we headed west for our own vacation - to the mountains of Oregon, for a week at a friend's cabin on the McKenzie River. What a great week that was. It started out by meeting friends Tim and Brittany in Portland. Tim worked for me down on the ice one season, and I immediately liked him. I'd heard alot about his newlywed wife, Brittany, so had to meet her. She was as adorable as I'd imagined.

We then headed south to Eugene, where we turned East, and drove for another hour. We found the cabin in the dark with no problem. The next morning we were treated to the sounds of the McKenzie River right out the front door. It didn't take long to establish a ritual of morning tea by the river. What a great way to start the day. :)

Our week was spent exploring and relaxing all over Central Oregon. We hiked a few trails, shopped in Sisters and Bend, enjoyed the snow-capped Cascade Mountains, paid a visit to the Pacific shore in Florence, visited the Ross store in Eugene, and relaxed to our hearts' content. It was a GOOD week!

Nine days passed way too quickly, and we had to head back to MO. We were very impressed with the Portland Airport (PDX). It was designed well, decorated great, had plenty of shopping inside, and even provided a pianist for entertainment.

What a cool town...but we had to leave.

The rest of my time off was spent with Jan and our daughter, Alli. We cooked out, we shopped, we drove around the countryside, and even went to Walmart. Life is good.

But the 28th rolled around, and I had to leave. Leaving isn't nearly as much fun as arriving, let me tell you. The flights back weren't as great, the sleep wasn't as good (only slept 10 hours in four nights), even pulling a 36 hour marathon at the last. By the time I arrived back in Taji I was totally spent and exhausted. Took a few days to get my body back to feeling halfway normal.

So, I'm back at work now, and already counting down the days till my contract ends (171 as of today). I find myself daydreaming about being with Jan in Oregon often. It was simply perfect.

Work calls...