Wednesday, March 29, 2006

One of these fish is not like the other...

In one of my earliest blogs, I introduced you to a fish named "Brokeback", so-named because of his handicap, not his sexual preference. I have adopted him as a pet of sorts, and feeding him used to entertain me before I recently became bored with it. One of my friends here, an Iraqi American, long ago adopted different fishy as his favorite pet. Her name is Goldie, and my friend dutifully feeds her every day.

Goldie is the only goldfish-type fish in the lake, as far as we know, so she is easily spotted amongst the zillions of, well, doo-doo-brownish fish. It seems, by the way, that there has been a sudden explosion in the fish population begging near the palace entrance. They are breeding like rabbits, and they must double in size every week. I swear, some of them are so big they look like sharks. I would love to go for a swim, but I have to admit I am deathly afraid of the fish. I am fairly certain they would eat pretty much anything you throw to them, including Nachos, loaves of bread, toddlers, or the dismembered body parts of Saddam's enemies. I'm not taking my chances.

Today, I watched some soldiers playing fish football. This favorite lunchtime game involves tossing a roll or a large chunk of bread to the fish and rooting for them to keep the bread afloat for as long as possible while they push it across the surface in an attempt to wrap their sucking fish lips around it. The bigger and smoother the loaf, the better, because they can't bite it, and they push it until the water soaks it too much and it breaks the surface tension and is gobbled up in a matteer of nanoseconds. You can hear their fish lips making a very loud suck noise as they open and close their greedy mouths. With the increase in the fish population and the size of the fish, the game is becoming very rough. It looked like a feeding frenzy scene out of The Deep.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Yesterday was, like, one of the best days of my time here, sort of. Well, I might be exaggerating, sure, but it is one of hte best days in recent memory that I can actually tell you about. A while back, I asked the Philippino guys who perform maintenance around the tents if they could build me a pull-up bar. I added, of course, that I would pay them. Well, they are nice guys, and they like me, so they might have done it for free, but I wanted to pay them. Yesterday, they finished the job and installed my precious pull-up bar right in front of the entrance to Hooch 39 (the new Tent 27, since we had to move beceause of safety regulations). Now, I have my own fitness apparatus right where I can conveniently walk buy and knock out a few pull-ups every time I enter or exit the tent. I am soon to be a super-human pull-up machine. My goal is to be able to do 20 dead hangs by the time I leave here.

Are you wondering what the dangly things are? Those are rock rings, and using those as hand holds instead of gripping the bar increases the difficulty level exponentially. It's for developing a rock climber's grip!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Hello, all. So, Blogger is working again, and I have finally remembered to post something. Now you can get off my A$$, Mom. hahaha. Here are some groovy pics I have taken in the past weeks. I have two new blogs below this one, so don't forget to scroll down and look for something new.
What's left of one of the three date palms they pulled out of the ground here for no good reason...

Coming out of the "Slayer Tunnel." That's all I have to say about that.

Maureen and me with the comedy trio at Camp Victory. Even with Bob Hope gone, the USO still carries on, bringing comedy acts out to entertain deployed troops. These three were hilarious. L to R: Kathy Griffin, Michael McDonald, Karri Turner

Recently, the troops here at Camp Victory were treated to a hilarious comedy performance by Kathy Griffin (from TV's Suddenly Susan, Seinfeld, and Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-list), Karri Turner (J.A.G.), and Michael McDonald (Mad TV's "Stewie").

It was really fun to stand outside and laugh with the troops and these funny performers. They were great.

I really appreciated their willingness to come out and support the troops the way they know how: by entertaining. They certainly don't have to do it; they come out here because they want to support the efforts here in any way they can.

After the show, they set up a table in the gym and signed autographs for everybody who wanted one. Maureen and I stopped in and got autographs and a photo with the three funny people.

I just want to say thanks to them and to everybody who supports what the Coalition Forces are doing out here in Iraq. Cheers!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

LOOK! We got BEDS!!! Kristy and I found out that some of the guys' tents got actual, real beds in them, and since they didn't seem to be ready to put beds in the girls' tents any time soon, we took the initiative. We went into one of the boys' tents and stole two empty racks. Now we are sleeping in comfort! Check out the quilt on my bed. I got that as a gift from Emily, our Philipino friend who is responsible for cleaning the heads and showers. She got it as a gift from a friend, and she gave it to me when I gave her a cd/mp3/tape player. She is the sweetest thing. She had no idea I am a Texan, but the quilt happens to have a bronco, a Texas flag, a cactus, a cowboy hat, a yellow rose, and all things Texas on it. I am in love with it.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Whazzuuup?! This is my "hash" group. We are the Lost Lake Hash House Harriers, and we are a drinking club with a running problem. That's right, folks. We drink Near Beer (and Gatorade), and we run around at night blowing whistles and following a trail marked in flour. It's all fun and games until somebody twists an ankle in the dark, but we know the risks. Muwahahahahaaaaaa...
Last Sunday, I finally got up the gumption to go and rejoin my hash group for a run around Camp Slayer. I have been skipping out on the run for weeks and weeks, for no good reason other than it cuts into my "chat with Dave" time, and I have been labeled as a backslider as a result. Now I am fighting to polish my tarnished name, and my first attempt at kissing the group's collective butt was to bring my camera to our St. Patty's hash and take photos to share with everybody. I think it's working.
Hashing is like a cult, and the cult exists all around the world, wherever people are familiar with running and beer. Now, kids, I am NOT suggesting that drinking beer is a good idea. Nor am I suggesting that it is cool. I'm not even suggesting that RUNNING is a good idea, or that it is cool. All I'm suggesting is that if you're going to run, it is often much more fun in a group, and if that group happens to be drinking beer, then so be it.
FOR THE RECORD: My hash group does not actually drink beer. Nobody is allowed to drink aboard the U.S. base, because drinking is evil and wicked, and it is too dangerous to have alcohol in close proximity to weapons. So we drink near beer, and I imagine the only reason we bother with the wretched stuff is to uphold some semblance of hashing tradition for tradition's sake.
One of the other traditions we uphold is singing stupid songs and giving people stupid nicknames. Once you receive a hash nickname, you are stuck with it for eternity. It follows you to every hash group you join. Remember I said hashing is everywhere? Well, it is. Just about all military bases have a hash group, no matter where in the world the base is, unless the town in which the base is located has a club of its own. Hashers claim they are not really runners, and they say they do not run for "health." I have found it difficult to come to terms with that, and it's part of the reason for my backsliding. But I am learning to relax a bit, and I don't even mind now when they call me a "raceist" (one who runs in actual races for the purpose of actually competing and actually running fast, for fun).
I cannot share any of the stupid nicknames on this blog, because they are all very nasty. They are X-rated, in other words. This is another reason I became a backslider. The stupid songs we sing are very nasty, and the nicknames are all very nasty, and everything about the hash is altogether nasty. But I am, again, learning how to relax, and that stuff isn't bothering me as much now. I need the hash, because I am bored here in Iraq, and I need distractions other than work and working out. I need social activities, and the hash provides that. I love my fellow hashers, and I am thankful for the Lost Lake Hash House Harriers. I promise not to backslide again. I'm a hasher for life, and there's no better home hash than L2H3. On-On!!!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Not your typical dusty parking lot.

By order of the big boss back home, we each have a designated day off here on my team. My day is Saturday, so that’s the day I just kind of sleep in, lounge around, watch dvd’s, and chill.

This past Saturday, I went to the exchange with Shane—err—I mean, New Guy. I’ve been meaning to tell you all about the unusual parking lot demographics we have here on Camp Victory, and since I happened to have brought my camera and snapped some pics, this is a good opportunity to finally do that. You have to love a parking lot in which regular SUVs and cars park next to Hummers, 5-tons, and other armoured monstrosities.

The route to the PX was, as usual, quite dusty. With the sunny, beautiful, lovely weather comes a less-desired addition, and that is dust. The wind likes to kick up around here, and now that the rain has dried up, the cement-like earth it left behind is starting to crumble into loose sand…and sand blows. When it gets really windy for prolonged periods, we experience dust storms, and dust storms create thick, chalky, dusty air that coats our lungs and makes everybody feel congested. I’m just now getting over another “cold” that I am pretty sure was caused by the dust.

I bought some stuffed camels from one of the vendors and some lotion from the PX, and we headed back.

On the way, we noticed black, billowing smoke coming from the direction of the airport, and someone confirmed later that BIAP was burning. I don't know the details, but I hope the terminal is ok.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

A closeup of the skin on Nancy's arm...or...what used to be a puddle on the ground in Iraq? Thirsty, anyone?

The weather here in Baghdad has been getting more and more beautiful every day. I told Dave, who is in San Diego, that we are having perfect SoCal weather here now. The day I told him that, he was heading out to the field for a week of SERE school, and his "perfect California weather" was cold and rainy. So, I corrected myself and said we were having perfect SUNNY California summer weather. It is wonderful now, but, oh, how I fear the impending heat from hell that we are certain to experience very soon.

The weather makes walking from place to place outside or running in the mornings and evenings very enjoyable. The cool air and the sunshine are energizing.

Here are some photos I took on my way from the Palace to the tents the other day.

The palace is situated in the middle of this lake, and this is the view to the west, just before I head out of the gates.

There are many obstacles along my path as I make my way to my tent, the first and most dangerous of which is this trio of guard geese. They let me by, this time.

As I continue my walk toward the tents, I have to be aware of giant, unannounced holes in the ground that could swallow me up and conceal my remains for decades.

I've discovered a new hazard along my route that has me a little bit concerned: the tree snatchers. There used to be three more palms here, but a gaggle of men in blue jumpsuits and reflective vests inexplicably removed those lovely palms the other day. I mean, who needs trees, anyway, right? Who needs shade? Who needs dates? Who needs the asthetics of a few green, bird-filled trees in this bleak, monotone desert environment?

Just before I arrive at the tent area, I have to cross a stretch that used to be flooded. The dried ground here is an indicator of things to come. It can be 140 degrees here in the summertime...but it's a dry heat...

Here, again, is an area that used to be under water. Remember the "lake" I showed you in an earlier blog? It is gone now...and all that's left is dusty rocks.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Dan (foreground) and New Guy (background) chillin' at the quad. We have Pizza Hut, Subway, and Green Bean Coffee. I've tried the coffee, but not the other two. On other parts of the base, we have Popeye's, Burger King, Cinnabon, Hardee's, and KFC. War zone? Well, I guess the occassional mortar reminds us of that, but not too often.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Doesn't the Arabic word for "Stop" look like two people in a canoe (carrying a baby)? haha. Jd returned from leave Tuesday, Sabah left for leave Thursday, and Babs returned today. We miss Sabah, but we're glad to see Jd and Babs. Welcome home, teammies!
Last week, or maybe the week before (I have lost track and didn't even know today was Saturday), the Goddess of Pain and Suffering (and Torture) put the Goddess of Speed and Agility through some lunges, and she did great. G.P.S. knew G.S.A. would be hurtin' bad for a while afterward, and she was. Lunges are hard on the buttocks.

So, a few days later, I was in the tent getting ready to go run with Maureen, and she cursed me for her pain (in a tender, loving, smart-alecky way). It was then that she became the Goddess of Sarcasm and Incredulity. It was pretty funny, but I reckon you probably had to be there.

So, we headed out toward Lost Lake, and by the time we got there, it started to sprinkle. It was at that moment that the Goddess of Pain (and Suffering) quickly became the Goddess of b*tching and moaning when a light rain threatened to dampen our spirits (and my hair). I have been too lazy for an entire week to bother blowdrying it, and the day I finally decided to suffer through the long and arduous task, it rained on me and caused my hair to wig out. Can you believe what a soft, precious girly-girl Iraq has forced me to become? It's ridiculous.

Anyway, I hope ya'll are having fun. I am.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Last month, I went to a conference here at the palace, and as I was walking in after a break, I bumped into somebody who looked familiar. He asked me if I went to the Naval Academy, and I said I did and asked if he was my classmate. Sure enough, Brian and I are both USNA, Class of 1995. That's pretty cool. More Navy folks are coming out here to relieve the Army guys and gals who have been here too long and too many times, so I expect to see a lot more people I know. Actually, as I was running with Maureen last week, we bumped into a guy who recognized me as one of his upperclassmen from the Boat School. Paul's his name.

Anyway, I just wanted to post a quick little blog. I've been running and working a lot, so that makes me lazy with the blogs.