Friday, October 13, 2006

Well, I'm back. I'm in El Paso, Texas, and I've been here since the 9th, just sitting in my hotel room going out of my mind while awaiting final processing. We have to do this reverse-CRC/SRP thing (CRC is Conus Reconcilliation Center, I think, and I have no clue what SRP is). I turned all my gear in on the 10th, and all I was missing were my chem/bio overboots. I thought we didn't have to turn those in, so I gave them to Sabah during the muddy/rainy season in Baghdad. No biggie, as they were only $15. Well worth it to keep Sabah's little footsies dry. Of course, the boots were the cause of the two massive open flesh wounds on his shins, but that's another story.

Apparently, they are processing 4000 or so soldiers through medical for deployment, so our schedule was effected as we were placed on the far-back burner. So I've been twiddling my thumbs for a few days waiting for my chance to out process through medical. Again, no biggie, because I get paid until I get home, but MAN, am I bored. I am concerned for my psychological well being. Being this bored and alone after experiencing such the opposite for the past year in Iraq is really tough. I don't think I'm adjusting well. And the thing is, even when I finish here, I will have to go to Mexico and sit on my ass, alone, for another week ++. Dang. Dave is training in Memphis, so I won't see him until about the 29th. Waaaaaaaaa.

Well, today I checked out of the hotel and arrived on base at the appointed 0600 muster time, only to be informed that there was a huge mistake and show time isn't until 1100. I made my flight arrangements for 1500, so I hope I make my flight. The Army is so good at screwing up schedules. They are even better at it than the Marine Corps. Good thing I am so well-versed in hurry-up-and-wait. So, here I sit at Starbucks waiting for the hours to tick by. I need a nap. Just 3 hours 'til the new show time...woohooo!

Later I'll tell you about the hike I did yesterday morning.

Monday, October 09, 2006

FINALLY! It took me about 40 tries to get my shoes to catch on this wire above the Camp Victory MWR gym parking lot. Scroll below to see my successive attempts...
Guess what!?

Well, I got to Kuwait, and I took the free embassy bus to the Hilton, where some smart people had registered online for free rooms in these really swank villas on the beach. I was not one of those smart people, because I failed to plan ahead and ask the right questions. SO, I was going to book a regular room and pay for it, but the cheapest room turned out to be $250+ per night. I pitched a private fit while they kindly found me a cheaper hotel and arranged a free ride there for me. By the time I arrived at the new place, I was already sick of Ramadan and decided to leave the country as soon as possible. I got online at the new hotel before checking in, changed my flight plans to depart 24 hrs earlier, hopped into a cab, and went directly to the airport to catch my 0125 flight to Frankfurt. I am, a whole day early. And thank God, because I did NOT want to spend another 24 hours and several hundred dollars to waste time in Kuwait during Ramadan, where even so much as drinking water during daylight hours could land you in jail. No thanks!

I am waiting for my flight to Houston here in Germany, and I'm on a T.Mobile Hotspot. Man, I hate paying for wireless. I hope it is all free one day...

Here are my last pics from Baghdad. I decided to throw my "famous" purple Pumas over the only wire I know of, which is in the parking lot at the Camp Victory gym. Anybody who knows me who sees them hanging will know they're mine. Nobody else has purple running shoes. These poor beauties were worn out and full of holes by the time I retired them, and it is fitting to leave them here as a lasting memorial to my Baghdad running days. This shoe-on-a-wire tradition is big on every USMC installation I've been on, but I've never seen them hanging here in Iraq. Perhaps this will reinstate the tradition aboard this installation. One can only hope.

Cheers from Germany. See you in the motherland...Texas!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Posing with my newest shwag: a t-shirt and flag from this morning's Baghdad Ten-Miler. This race is the Baghdad edition of the Army 10-Miler, which will take place in Washington, D.C. the same day (which is actually, like, tomorrow, but it is 8 October). Our weather was perfect; I was actually cold this morning. I hear it is raining in D.C.

My Last Blog from Iraq

Well, today marks the end of an era for me, so to speak. As I type this, I feel a little strange. I am not sad, I am not ecstatic; I merely am. I just can't believe I'm leaving, finally, for good, and I can't believe I'm actually going to miss Baghdad.

I've carved out a nice little life for myself here, and I think of Camp Victory and Camp Liberty as my community. I know the people, and they know me. It's like moving out of the neighborhood you grew up in. It's inevitable, and it's good progress, but it has sad edges to it.

I am really happy that I got to do a final road race here before departing. I realized last night that the 8th is the Baghdad edition of the Army 10-Miler (an annual event in Washington D.C.), and I decided I had to run it. I think that everybody is known for something, and what I am known for here is running. I cannot describe how happy I am to have been able to squeak in one last hurrah here by running this race. It was an AWESOME event, and the T-shirt kicks butt. I was fully unprepared for a 10 miler, so my goal was to just run it and not actually race. I've only been running three miles about every other morning or so lately. I basically just ran my regular 3-mile pace and added 7 miles to the distance. Haha. I finished in 72 minutes, 22 seconds, and that was good enough for third place female, overall (7:17 average mile). Not great, but not too shabby, either! The coolest part is, the top 5 male and female finishers got these awesome Iraqi flags embroidered with the race name, the date, and our place. Not a bad departing gift at all, if I do say so myself.

I said goodbye to all the race regulars, and they agreed it was a pretty cool send-off. I was sad to bid some dear friends goodbye, too, but I think I'll see them again. Everybody wants to visit San Diego, so at least I have that going for me. Right, Ami? Right, Paul?

Well, it's about that time. I have to go throw my "famous" purple running shoes over a telephone wire before I depart, so I guess I'd better head out. I'll blog soon from Kuwait.

Peace out, Baghdad. I hope you get your $h!+ together real soon.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

I'm leaving tomorrow, and I have decided to make my penultimate posting from Baghdad a photo of something that I will really miss about this place. I will miss all of the clever little ways that people discover to make this place a little bit more like home, a little bit more tolerable, or a little bit more personalized. I just took this photo today, but I've been meaning to for a couple of months now. Somebody made the effort to find grass and bushes to plant so that he or she can have a little patch of a yard. I mean, that's real grass!!! And look at the darling pink flamingo. I give this person major kudos, and I also send a hearty "thank you" for brightening my day each time I see this teensie clump of yard. I love it, and I will miss this type of "can do" spirit. I love the way unique situations can bring out the creativity and the humanity in people. God bless America!
I'll try to post before my flight tomorrow. If I don't make it, I'll post from Kuwait! Peace out, folks.
One of the loose ends I tied up in recent days is to make good on a promise to post a picture of The Barn. Well, Here it is, GMB. Not much to look at, really, but they have the cheapest and best gear, especially SIM cards and phones.
Read the sign, and then guess which day I chose to go take my photo...

I always thought this sign was curious. Since 1969? Huh.

Friday, October 06, 2006

I have been spending this week tying up loose ends in preparation for my departure. I have my flight to Kuwait confirmed for Sunday, and I’m pretty excited about it. It’s going to be strange leaving this place where I’ve established a somewhat peculiar existence with a somewhat eclectic group of friends. The past year has been interesting, and I’ve forged good friendships. I have to wonder, though, how many of my Iraq friends I will still be in touch with four years, 12 months, or even a few weeks from now. Life’s funny that way. I do hope I can keep in contact with, or at least cross paths with, these great people again someday, in the real world.

I have spent the last few days packing and frequenting the post office, and I am just about ready to depart. I just gave away my mountain bike, shoes, pedals, and helmet, and I feel surprisingly indifferent about it. I don’t think I’ll even miss it. Anyway, even though it’s a high-end bike by Baghdad standards, it doesn’t hold a candle to the two babies waiting for me at home. My bikes miss me at least as much as I miss them, I think.

This week has been filled with logistics chores. Gear inventory, vehicle turn in, gear inventory… This whole gear accountability thing is pretty intense, especially with items scattered all over Iraq. And to make it worse, this idiot US Army Major has some sort of a grudge against me (maybe because I am female and she hates women, or maybe because she just hates contractors?) and has been totally unhelpful. It’s a long story, but we have managed to get tons of stuff accomplished in spite of her, and she said, in a meeting with MY BOSS, that the difficulties we experienced with turning in broken gear is “Nancy’s fault, because she didn’t tell the supply guy that it is contractor gear and not on an Army property book.” Funny, but the first sentence out of my mouth, after telling him who I work for and where, was that I have “contractor-acquired, government-owned” gear that is broken and needs to be turned in, but that I am having trouble finding someone to take it because it’s NOT ON A GOVERNMENT PROPERTY BOOK. If I weren’t so averse to conflict, I would go tell her to stick it. When I heard she had bad-mouthed me again (this wasn’t the first time) for something completely fabricated, I dropped some profanities that I am seriously not proud of. I want to tell her she was wrong to do that, but it seems so petty. Dangit.

Thank you for allowing me to vent. Now I am finished. I just wonder what in the heck I did to offend her, because she has been a snot to me since the first moment I met her. I find that a lot of women here really dislike other women (and they especially hate civilian women). I don’t think the major knows that she and I are peers. There’s a staff sergeant here whom I smile at and greet every time I see her, and she has not once even so much as nodded, murmured, or otherwise acknowledged my presence. I almost feel sorry for mean people. They must be very unhappy.

Anyway, but OH have I digressed. Most of the people here are awesome, and that is why part of me is sad to leave. This is an experience unlike any other, and it has been such a privilege to have had the opportunity to come to Iraq and work with a lot of awesome folks to try to do something good over here. What an adventure.