MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYBODY!
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Thursday, December 22, 2005
I took this shot of myself and Secretary Rummy. It's possible he has a slight crush on me...
Rumsfield on surprise visit
22/12/2005 17:05 - (SA)
Baghdad - Defense secretary Donald H Rumsfeld flew unannounced to Iraq on Thursday to meet with American battlefield commanders and soldiers amid increasing signs the Bush administration is planning new troop cuts.
Flying to Baghdad from Afghanistan in an Air Force cargo plane, Rumsfeld was met at the airport here by General George Casey, the top United States commander in Iraq.
In an in-flight interview, Rumsfeld hinted that the US troop presence would soon be cut below the 138,000 number that has been the standard level for much of 2005. Rumsfeld referred to a plan to cancel the scheduled deployment of two Army brigades.
"Until it's announced, the government's decision hasn't been announced. Therefore it's not final," he cautioned.
Rumsfeld's surprise visit followed one over the weekend by vice-president Dick Cheney.
My dad was looking through the Boise paper and discovered this pic of Secretary Rumsfeld greeting the troops at Al Faw Palace. He's got a good eye, because he spied half of what could very well be MY HEAD! Take a look. I mean, I was there...taking pictures...
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
I am going to cheat here and steal from my friend Maureen's blog. She asked Pauline to write down her thoughts about the elections, and I cannot help but think her words should go here, too. With permission from all, I bring you Pauline's thoughts:
"Casting my vote was the second dream that came true, the first being the ousting of Saddam.
We hoped it would have been done in 1991, but between 1991 and the liberation of Iraq, Saddam was left to execute the worst of his evil on the society, the people, the land, the environment, not even the apple orchards in the north nor the palm trees, that counted in millions, and the natural marshes of the south survived his wrath.
I believed the end had come only when I witnessed the 3ID (3rd Infantry Division) crossing the Kuwaiti border into Iraq on CNN.
I was cheering them along, and thought it is finally happening, over 30 years in forced exile, I will have a chance to visit my homeland again. You see it is not just my birth place, it is the land of my ancestors, the Assyrians, who contributed so much to civilization (visit http://www.aina.org), both in ancient times and their second glory was spreading Christianity from Iraq all the way to China.
Watching the 3ID, I suddenly felt that an invisible prison door opened and my soul felt it was free at last. It was unusual because I was never conscious of it before, yet we, the Assyrians and all Iraqis in exile, over 4 million, lived the same way.
I thanked General Webster of the 3ID for all their contribution towards the liberation of Iraq, as I told him, they didn't just liberate the Iraqis inside Iraq, they liberated the Iraqis in exile, thousands like me, have finally been able to come back and visit their families after years of separation. And now, we all participated in shaping the future of Iraq by voting.
A heartfelt thanks to our troops and their families for all their effort and their sacrifice to spread freedom and democracy - freedom has a price; that is why I’m here now to be part of that effort."
Monday, December 12, 2005
Kristy and Barb and I took this opportunity to strike several poses for the camera. Well, ok, fine. Barbara was behaving herself and was innocently swept into the evils of my lens.
Because Sabah was the leader of this highly successful photographic mission, he has earned billing here in this blog, surrounded by the two girls on the team who are the least camera shy. Sabah, you devil!
Sunday, December 11, 2005
I was in bed, minding my own business, when I heard unusual gunfire (I say unusual because gunfire is usual here. It was just an odd hour and an odd cadence this time.) through my foamy earplugs. I took the foamy out of my right ear and sat up in bed, eyes open to aid my superhuman hearing powers (do you find you hear better with your eyes open, too?). Less than an hour earlier, I had heard three, three-round bursts from what must have been a .50 caliber machine gun, so I was already a bit wary. Rounds were going off around us like Jiffy Pop. My friend Kristy has been to Iraq before, as an Army officer, and I knew she would recognize the sound of hostile fire.
"Kristy," I said, in a gruff whisper. "Does that sound weird to you?" Her reply was yes.
I got out of bed in my running clothes (I sleep in whatever I plan to wear on my morning run, to save time) and stepped into my flip-flops, aiming through the darkness for the door to our hooch. Outside, a few people were stirring, startled out of bed much like myself. When I looked up, I could see red tracer rounds arching into the sky from all around. All 360 degrees of horizon was covered in tracers. (Tracers are special bullets that are white phosphorus-tipped or contain a powder in their base that burns very brightly during their flight. This enables the shooter to follow the bullets' trajectories. The shooter then, typically, "walks" his cone of fire onto the target by seeing where the tracer is going.)
"Holy crap," I thought as I coolly ambled over to a guy in flak jacket and kevlar (helmet). I asked what was going on, and he said he didn't know, but that whatever goes up must come down. OH YEAH! CRUD! So I went inside my hooch and woke up the others.
We had just had an exercise the day prior to this (or that day, even, maybe) that required everybody going to the dining facility or venturing anywhere outdoors to don flak and kevar, so three of my teammates' gear was still at the Palace where they'd stowed it. I put mine on and went back outside to gawk at the tracers and try to figure out what we should do. I mean, it kind of sounded like we might be under attack, and not one of us was armed.
My friend Maureen and I stood near the tents outside and chatted with a couple of neighbors who acted like they knew what was going on while Kristy called her friend at another base to ask if he knew anything. We were standing there listening to the bravado of a brave knight on a white horse when Kristy came out and said, "I was right!" Right about what?
Before I could ask what she was smirking at, a voice came over the camp loudspeaker. "Attention in the compound, attention in the compound. Camp Victory Base is NOT under attack. I say again, Camp Victory Base is NOT under attack. What you are witnessing is celebratory gunfire from Iraq's victory in soccer. All personnel are directed to stay indoors under cover for the next several hours." IDIOTS!!!! Hahaha. (Nervous laughter.)
The white knight disappeared swiftly into the darkness with his tail between his legs while Boy Wonder (does his mother know he's playing contractor in Iraq?) started ripping off his flak jacket. "Um, those rounds could still come down on your head," I said. His lid went back on in a hurry. "Well, I guess that's it," I said. "Um, yeah, maybe we could meet again sometime...when..it's not, like, the middle of the night," said Boy Wonder. (How sweet!) "Yeah, catch you later!" I yelled as I ducked back into the tent. "Catch you later." I guess the sight of a woman in flak, kevlar, and running shorts just does it for some guys!
[Check out Maureen's rendition of this story here: Mr. Authoritative. You should visit Maureen's Blog as often as you visit mine! She's hilarious, and she kicks a$$. She was enlisted in the Air Force before becoming an officer in the Coast Guard and retiring from service. She and I both met wonderful "Daves" on Match.com. Haha. She married hers. No joke; her husband and my boyfriend are both named Dave, and they are awesome! We joke about making a commercial where we say, "We met our Daves on Match.com. You could meet your Dave, too!"]
And here's what really happened:
Soccer Win Sparks Celebratory Fusillade in Baghdad
By Jim GaramoneAmerican Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Dec. 11, 2005 – The sky over this city lit up with "celebratory gunfire" as Iraq beat Syria in a soccer match Dec. 10.As time ran out in Iraq's 4-3 victory, many Baghdad citizens ran outside and fired weapons in the air.
"It's typical," an Air Force colonel who was caught outside during the beginning of the celebration said. "This is what happened when Iraq had the success in the Olympics last year. And Eid al Fitr (the celebration of the end of Ramadan) sounds like the Tet Offensive."
An Iraqi linguist at the Ministry of Defense said he believes the match had political overtones. "The Iraqis were pleased we won because Syria is sheltering the 'Saddamists' and helping the terrorists," he said.
When the gunfire broke out, most Americans had no clue why it was happening. Tracer rounds stitched the sky interspersed with actual fireworks. After several minutes, rumor control informed folks that it was "just" celebratory gunfire and not a terrorist attack in the city.
But what goes up must come down. The embassy warning system activated: "Rounds are impacting the embassy grounds. Take cover. Take cover."
The rounds actually falling on the compound sounded like fat drops of rain. "When it first started I thought it was rain," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Scott Graham. "I was in my trailer, and I wondered how it could rain without a cloud in the sky."
Coalition personnel stood under overhangs just as people take cover from a particularly bad thunderstorm. They stood and waited for the rain of bullets to stop. "I know it's a gun culture here, but somebody could get killed," Marine Maj. Timothy Keefe, who watched the "fireworks" from the back entrance to the embassy, said.
The celebratory gunfire lasted approximately 45 minutes. Coalition officials said there were no American casualties.
Bop batta bah, bahtta bah bah bah bahhhhhhhhh!!!
General Casey said let there be light, and there was light!
As we like to joke over here on our team: "Saddam Hussein would roll over in his grave if he knew a Christmas tree was in his palace." Yes, yes. We know he isn't dead. But somebody made that slip once, and it has sort of stuck. An inside joke that I maybe shouldn'ta let out.
I told my Dave there's a menorah in the palace, next to the Christmas tree, and he said he absolutely has to see it. Here you go!
Happy Holidays...Catch you later. Oh, and go ahead and send my my presents now, so as to beat the Christmas rush. Hahahahahaa....
Thursday, December 08, 2005
For aspiring photographers this could be your big break! A panel of Backcountry.com employees, who have nothing to do with photo editing will select the winners.
1st Place -$1000 to spend on Backcountry.com, published photo in our newsletter, fame and fortune
2nd Place -$500 to spend on Backcountry.com and knowing you didn’t take 1st.
3rd Place -$250 to spend on Backcountry.com
Most creative -$250 to spend on Backcountry.com
The intern’s favorite -$250 to spend on Backcountry.com (well, the intern has to contribute somehow, right?)
And that's all she wrote. I am so dang lucky!
Have a good one.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
I had a pretty cool adventure the other day. I'm going to Italy soon to visit my boyfriend, so I had to arrange travel out of Baghdad Airport. We have two choices for flying out of here. The first is to hop a military airlift out of Baghdad to Kuwait, and then hop mil air or civilian air out of Kuwait. Sounds simple enough, really, but it is anything but--especially during the holidays. Military have priority, and it is space available, so it's easy to get stuck in Baghdad, or Kuwait, or both, for several days on both ends of the trip. The other option we have is to purchase a flight on Iraqi air out of Baghdad, fly to Dubai, U.A.E., and then fly to the desired destination. I decided to pretend that Iraqi Air's maintenance and training schedule is on par with that of the U.S., and I opted for Option B.
I purchased my roundtrip ticket from Dubai to Pisa quite a while back, but I had been waiting for help from one of our Iraqi advisors to secure my Iraqi Air ticket. The trouble with that process is that you have to go to their office in downtown Baghdad, or to their offices at the airport, and pay for the ticket in cash (about $400 U.S.). One side of Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) is military, and the other side, though very restricted and quite secure, is civilian. I had to visit the civilian side.
Leaving Camp Liberty to venture to BIAP.
It was a little disconcerting just because we (my Iraqi-American friend) and I had to drive off of the base to get there. We left the haven of Camp Victory and Camp Liberty and drove down what was once a very busy main freeway toward the airport. There were very few cars on the road, and the outside wall was laced with concertina wire and had a guard shack with a couple of .50 calibre machine guns sticking out of it spaced every couple hundred meters along the wall. It was actually pretty cool...but very eerie. (One end of the road is controlled by the Coalition, and the other is controlled by Iraqi Army.)
The sun began to set as we made out way through Camp Liberty to Camp Victory.
Monday, December 05, 2005
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Saturday, December 03, 2005
Friday, December 02, 2005
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Today's blog is designed to give you insight into how we live here in Iraq. New arrivals whose military or civilian companies don't have trailer space available have to bide their time in Tent City until a trailer becomes available. That "until a trailer becomes available" part of the deal could be a month or four. One of the ladies in my hooch has been there four months!
Each tent has cots for 10 women, so there could be anywhere from one to 10 women in each tent at any given time. At present, we have seven, but our old max was nine, if you don't count the day and a half that we had 10. Now, though, we are seven, and five of us are working for the same company.
Everybody likes to complain about the tents, but they really aren't that bad. I mean, they are dry, climate controlled (for the most part), and fairly clean, and nobody's shootin' at us, so I'm happy. The only crappy part is the distance between our tent and the toilets/showers, but I'm getting used to stopping the liquid intake well before bedtime and visiting the head before bed. It just really sucks when the need arises in the middle of a cold and/or muddy night. Just this morning, I was trying soooo hard to hold it for a final hour before my alarm was set to go off...but I didn't make it. It was a bummer, because I never did fall back asleep again. I hate losing precious sleep!
The issue of privacy isn't that big of a deal, except that I am unable to use the microphone and speakers when I chat with my sweetie each night. I don't want to disturb the neighbors. Oh, also, until she moved out, the tent was abuzz with rumors about one of the women secretly peeing in a bucket in the corner of the tent at night and emptying it in the sink in the morning. The same lady, reportedly, had a penchant for viewing pornos on her laptop at night. Haha. I have no evidence, but I do have second-hand testimony.
So, here's my home. I hope you enjoy the pics. Until next time, see ya, wouldn't wanna be ya.
That's my hooch, in the foreground, and way, way in the back, invisible behind that third tent, is the toilet. It is exactly 93 paces between my door and the door to the head.
(LEFT) This is my rack. It's pretty cozy, and I just recently moved to a corner cot, so it's good. I lock my valuables in my footlocker and my duffel bag during the day, but crime isn't a problem, as far as we know. Hanging on the laundry line there to the right is my new toy: rock rings. They're for building upper body strength. (RIGHT) This is the entrance to Hooch 27. When it's muddy, the entryway is full of mucky shoes.
Finally, this is the view to the left of my tent. Those guard towers are still standing from Saddam's reign, and I think someone actually lives in this one. Beyond that are the trailers where one of my company's teams works. They are the trailer monkeys, and we are the palace monkeys. Heehee.