Well, sort of. I am sort of sewing sandbags together.
And stuffing them with empty water bottles...
A defense contractor chronicles her second tour in Iraq working for the Multi-National Corps. It is an account of daily life aboard one of the world's largest forward operating bases.
Our kill board today.
Boredom isn’t good for flies.
We open our office door during the (relatively) cool morning and evening hours. That means we are likely to have any number of guests, wanted and unwanted, poking their noses in. Mostly it’s just harmless “hellos” and “how ya doin’s” from neighboring trailer dwellers. But sometimes, it’s flies.
The flies drive us insane. Apparently, we are not the only ones afflicted by the little beasties, because the PX recently started stocking fly swatters. Now, each one of us has one in our little four-man trailer.
It started out innocently enough…a dead fly here, a dead fly there. But then it progressed. Soon, we were in full competition, with myself and Dan (the Danimator) going head-to-head. Now it is one of our best forms of entertainment.
When one of us would make a kill, the other would ask for proof. The body would have to be recovered and placed on the padded envelope covering the small trashcan in the corner by Dan’s desk. Fly corpses began piling up like tiny little horror film props. Pretty soon, we developed a sort of battle rhythm, and “No guts, no glory” became our mantra.
As soon as a fly is detected, swatters are taken up. The fiercest of competitors hold still and say a silent prayer that the minute, pesky flying enemy will land on their desk, or their computer, or their knee or arm. They are much easier to kill when they land on something. Eventually, the little bugger holds still for too long, and, THWACK! Shouts of joy ring out from the victorious warrior, while the other players demand, “No guts, no glory.”
If the body can’t be found, or if no trace of guts can be presented, no kill. Today, I eviscerated one and then accidentally smeared it into the fibers of our dusty carpet. Luckily, I had enough of his tiny little abdomen on the swatter to prove I’d made a kill.
We have a kill board, and as gross as it is, we won’t take it down. We’re oddly proud of it. We tape our flies to the wall with each kill, and lost or decimated deaths are annotated with a little drawing of a fly.
Dan was winning for a few days, but I caught back up today. He says it’s because he has more work to do, keeping him busy. I say he just isn’t trying. Yes, I will get up from my desk to invade another’s battle space, but I am a competitive little vixen, and I will get my fly. I will win. Oh, yes, I will win. No little 25-year-old civilian , cutie (that's you, Dan) is going to best this former Marine…MUWAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA……
Well, I have been a baaaad blogger. I blame Shane. ;) Why? Because, he loaned me his box set of Roswell, and I got hooked on it until I'd finished all three seasons. And then, he forced me to accompany him to the Hadji mart Saturday, where I ended up with another box set that he wouldn't shut his pie hole about and that he encouraged me to buy. He tricked me. I was weak, because I was missing my Roswell characters.
That's one of the things we do over here for fun, in case you were wondering: we feverishly watch as many bootleg DVD movies and TV shows as we can, often becoming slaves to our laptops/DVD players. On Saturdays, you will find us, the real bootleg junkies, meticulously picking through table after table of box sets, music videos, and movies at the Black Hawk. Hadji knows we are slaves to his bootlegs, so he charges us $3 per movie, even though the going rate out on the 'ville is less than a buck.
We don't even care that most of the copies we buy are of the poorest picture and sound quality possible, and that some won't play at all. My first copy of The Bourne Ultimatum actually showed an exit sign and several heads blocking the view, like Mystery Science Theatre 3000. I say "first copy," because I had to buy a new one (Copy 2 was immaculate) when the original quit working about 15 min before the final curtain. But that is the price we are willing to pay. It's a gamble, and we know it. "Damn the torpedoes!" as they say.
I wasn't going to watch TV this time, honest I wasn't. I was going to read. And study Spanish. But I read all my books, including those I ordered on Amazon, and after about 3000 pages of fine print, I decided to turn to my first love, my vice of last year: the dreaded FOB "crack" known as the DVD. Oh, and I can always learn Spanish later...
So, after scarfing down Roswell and about 35 various movies, I went back to the Black Hawk for some more TV shows. TV is easier, you see, because it doesn't require the commitment that a movie does. It doesn't need 2 hours; it just needs 30 min. Well, that is, unless you get sucked in. If that happens, Lord have mercy on your soul. You will find yourself up into the wee hours every night, sneaking episodes during every free moment you have during the day, and even, yes, that's right, even replacing your blog time with TV time. That's right, I said it. I have a problem, and admitting it is the first step to recovery.
The only problem is, I can't commit to any 12-step recovery programs until I finish watching the TV series I bought during that regrettable recent trip to the Black Hawk. Dave is a Lost junkie, but I had never seen a single episode, and that always made it impossible for us to watch it together at home. He has also been telling me about how much he loves the series called Rome, and how he watched the first two seasons during his deployment. Unable to choose between the two, I bought both.
At present, I am 100% obsessed, a slave to Lost. For the past few days, I have neglected everything I can think to neglect, just to be able to find out what in the HELL is on that ISLAND!!!! A plane falls out of the sky from 30,000 ft, and 49 survive??? And they are not alone on the "deserted" island? I must know what happens to them. I mean, what is that THING???
I just finished Season One, and it is all I can do to sit here and type, knowing full well that adventures, surprises, horror, romance, tenderness, discovery, and mystery abound within that shiny rainbow disc that is the wonderful world of DVD.
I promise to peel myself away for a few moments each day in order to tell you about the other things we have been doing for fun here. And I'll update you a little bit on incoming, and work, and homecoming. I've loads to tell you...
How cute is Haans???
Lock and load. Me, pretending to be tough, in Dave's gear.
A word about blogging:
To put out a blog that is worthy of reading, bloggers must assume a certain amount of personal risk. If you don't put a little bit of yourself out there, your blog will be too dry to read. By exposing a little bit about yourself and who you are, you leave yourself somewhat vulnerable to anyone who might be perusing the blogosphere.
I know that, by letting some of my opinions be known, I am inviting people to disagree with me. Great! That is a risk I am willing to take, and, in fact, that's what makes blogging great. I think that's what makes people interesting: that everyone is right coming from where he or she is coming from.
Recently, I have received more and more comments from people I don't know.
This reader shared similar experiences and offered encouragement:
Anonymous said...Hang in there. I hate rockets too! I was 50 yards away from the rocket attack on 7 Dec 06 and walked away only with bruises. I know exactly what you mean about people making fun of others who don their equipment, hit the deck, etc. SCREW 'EM! You'll have a chair when the music stops and some of them won't. I remember exactly your feeling of wanting to avoid open spaces, etc. I lived in DCN and I never enjoyed that feeling of being in the trailers when their was an attack (watching movies, just like you, it's amazing how everyone's CV experience is so similar!), I always felt much safer in my ofc, which was in one of the old palaces. Hang in there and come home soon! Thursday, October 11, 2007 9:53:00 AM
Nancy said...Hey, thanks for the wonderful comment. Yes, I think we all have similar experiences here... What really struck me was how odd it was that at one end of my neighborhood, there was a hubbub of activity while rescuers and medical personel tended to casualties coming into the TMC, while on the other side, not 300m away, people were buying lattes at the Green Bean. And nobody seemed to bat an eye after 10 minutes had passed after the booms. Again, thanks for the comment. I'll get my happy a$$ home as soon as I can! Cheers. Thursday, October 11, 2007 10:02:00 AM
This Blogger didn't like my blog at all [spelling and grammatical errors intentionally left as-is]:
Anonymous said...I see why you would want to write a blog to express what you feel and go through here on the VBC. However, you should be more aware of the info you post. You describe what you did in the after mass of it claiming that you knew more would not follow...HOW CAN YOU BE SO SURE?!!? Its almost like you taunt them. Be more aware what you place in these blogs soldiers have their lives on the line here. I see you too are a contractor well then you would know that these kind of blogs are not allowed. Being a Deputy Program Manager you should know that. You want to write and express feelings go to the Turkish shop and buy a journal. Peoples lives are on the line and people like you give them more opertunity to reach us. Stop thinking about giving people something to read and if you are only doing it for friends make it private. For everyones safty make adjustments
Saturday, October 13, 2007 2:20:00 AM
[Brackets indicate additions I made to my original comment, which is posted withing the blog about the incoming we received the other night.]
Dear Anonymous,If you are going to lambaste me in my own blog, I think you should at least put your first name, so I'll know how to address you. I appreciate your desire to uphold OPSEC. I strive to do the same with every blog I write. I think you misunderstood my "I knew there wouldn't be anymore." You've probably been here, based on the info I can gleen from your comment, so you should know that once several fall and then they stop falling, it is unlikely that more will immediately fall. [Obviously there will be more attacks. I'm not an idiot. I just didn't think there would be any more booms in that volley...and I was right...there weren't. I wasn't sure. I was making an assumption. What I am sure of is the fact that making an assumption in my head about whether or not there would be more incoming and then arriving at the shelter too late didn't endanger a single person, including myself...because that assumption occurred in my head while I was putting on my flak and kevlar and heading to the shelter. I wouldn't have headed to the shelter DURING the barrage, by the way, so my assumption that no more were coming was relevant. Did you don your gear? Did you go to the shelter? Just curious. I don't know if I saw you there. And I apologize for not reading your comment more carefully. You are obviously still here as a contractor. My bad.] That's all I meant. I was saying that the incoming came in, and I got my happy ass to the shelter, even though it was highly likely that I was too late. [And do you honestly think I was "taunting" them? Try to place your emotions aside for a second and read it again, from a sane and sober mindset. And anyway, I'm pretty sure the hard-charging soldiers and Marines out there are taunting them enough (get some!); I doubt I need to.]
I want to know which portions of my blog you think give the enemy info that endangers any of us. I was a Marine. I am a patriotic American. [My husband is a Special Forces guy in-country right now.] Please don't accuse me of being anything less than someone who is trying to keep my readers filled in as much as possible. If you don't like it, then, with all due respect, don't read my blog. Or turn me in to the security manager. [If you are really concerned that I am endangering lives, then you should actually do something about it. Turn me in and let them decide. I hope you don't feel taunted.] I am highly cognizant of the type of info I put out there, not just in words, but in pictures. So thanks for your concern, but I'm going to continue as I have been. Do you seriously think I care less about everybody's safety than you do? Please reconsider your accusation, and have a nice day. [Better yet, come visit me and let's talk about my blog over a latte. BTW, I realize and appreciate that you are just trying to protect the troops and the friendly forces here; I just think you're picking on the wrong blog. Peace.]
Saturday, October 13, 2007 2:32:00 AM
And this is the sort of comment, like the first one listed above, that convinces me that I am doing the right thing and should continue to blog as usual. I got this one last night, and it made me very happy. Unfortunately, I got that negative one this morning, and it made me very sad. But now I am happy again, after re-reading Deb's comment.:
Anonymous said...Nancy-I just gotta tell you thanks for all of your blogging...my hubby is over there too and it helps to keep us back in the US updated on all the "happenings" and to see what life is really like for you all...Don't ever think your stuff is unappreciated...couldn't be farther from the truth! Keep your head down and stay safe! Thanks much! ~Deb Friday, October 12, 2007 2:33:00 PM
Deb, that's the sweetest comment. Thank you. I really appreciate the encouragement, and I thank you for reading. I promise to keep blogging for you.I hope your husband comes home to you soon, safe and sound! All my best, Nancy
Friday, October 12, 2007 2:48:00 PM
Oh, and here's a brand new one:
I am tired of the bombs, regardless if they are bigger or smaller of the others that have been sent off prior or the ones that may be sent out later. My future husband is over in that piece of crap hole and I just wish that we could actually turn the tables around and bomb them for once and let our guys come home. Ugghh... Let some of us wives, girlfriends, mothers, or sisters go over there and I bet we could take care of it pretty quick. Sorry to rant but I want my man home in one piece and not injured at all.
Saturday, October 13, 2007 4:49:00 AM
Michele,We're tired of them, too, and I want your man home in one piece, happy, healthy, and unscathed. These rockets really suck (thanks, Iran).I TOTALLY agree with you about sending the American women over here to duke it out. The bad guys wouldn't know WHAT to do with us. Haha. And my Iraqi friends agree the women could pull off some wonderful distraction maneuvers.Listen, I know your scared for your fiance. Hang in there. ;) And thanks for stopping by my blog. Feel free to rant here anytime. All my best, Nancy
Saturday, October 13, 2007 5:03:00 AM
Now I am afraid of what comments this "comment" posting will receive...
Glass from the car; the hole's in the background.
A pink flower near the crosswalk on my walk home.
Sunday night, Melissa, Dan and I decided to drive over to Camp Stryker to see Bret Michaels of Poison perform. Admittedly, the main reason we went was to witness what we suspected would be a full-on train wreck. None of us knew a lot about Bret Michaels (no slam against him; we just aren’t very savvy), so we figured he was probably some old has-been who couldn’t find any gigs better than the Iraq Tour 2007. I guess we just didn’t expect a good solo guy who used to sing for a #1 American metal band to bother to come and play for us.
Well, I have to publicly apologize, from the depths (the very cockles, actually) of my heart, to Mr. Bret Michaels. I am adding him to my list of honored celebrities who are great Americans and worthy of praise and patronage. Not only did he put on a thoroughly kick-ass concert, but he stayed afterward (for, like, well over an hour) to sign all of the ridiculous items soldiers thrust at him, and to take picture after picture with cammie-clad fans. I, for one, was NOT cammie-clad, and yet he made it a point to get a good photo with me—and he even complimented my “kick-ass” KISS t-shirt. Thanks, Bret! I am so sorry I mentally dissed you pre-performance.
We had an awesome time rocking out with the Camp Stryker crowd. They looked and sounded awesome. Bret’s solo band is very, very good, and they were sweet and accommodating to signature/photo-hungry fans, too. They played all the hits, plus some new ones, and they even played some KISS. I guess Bret’s guitarist is a huge fan, because he sang, “I wanna rock and roll all night, and party every day.” It was awesome, especially since I was in my KISS shirt. After the concert, I was minding my own business, and some soldiers tapped me on the shoulder and directed my attention to the guitarist, who was trying to compliment me on the shirt. Haha.
We all had a total blast at the concert, and I was still sort of in awe of how cool those guys were the next morning when I went to work. Bret signed a copy of my orders, which I intend to put in a protective sleeve as soon as I can find one. J
Thanks again for coming all the way out to Iraq to rock the Coalition Forces! We love you for that.
A portion of "Every Rose."
Melissa and Bret Michaels.
A movie from yesterday. Those are bats flying by.
Today, no more smokey.
A Ditto Machine!!! I love the nostalgic smell, and I want my kids to know the smell, too.
Anybody my age (34) or older should remember the lovely Ditto machine and its yummy purple copies. Remember when the teacher would come back from the teachers’ office with a stack of quizzes or worksheets, fresh off the copier? She’d hand them out, and if we were lucky, they would still feel cold and wet. We would all immediately hold them to our noses and inhale, deeply, before the spirit duplicator fluid dried and the stink dissipated (we didn’t know what it was; we just loved the way it stunk). I sat near the front of the row so I’d get to sniff the whole stack. DEEE-LICIOUS!!! There was no smell better than that. It could almost make even pop quizzes seem enjoyable.
It breaks my heart that people as old as my coworker, Dan, 25, never experienced the wonder of the Ditto Machine. So, I want one. They are hard to find, but they do, in fact, still exist. We had one in the math building at USNA as late as 1995. I wonder if it is still there….
[Photo by Staff Sergeant Lorie Jewel, MNF-I Command Group Photojournalist]
Today was a good day. I had been tossing around the idea of running the Camp Victory satellite version of the Army 10 Miler, but I was nervous because I hadn't trained for it at all. Last year, I ran the same race on the very last day of my yearlong tour here. I got third place, showered, and hopped onto a plane headed home. That was one year ago today.
Receiving my award from Brigadier General Joseph Anderson, Chief of Staff, Multinational Corps-Iraq. This guy is a stud. A 1981 USMA grad, infantryman, warrior, master parachutist, Ranger, Pathfinder, Air Assault, and owner of Panamanian, Brazilian, German, and Thai Jump wings. He is an avid runner, and I reckon he ran at least 10 miles zipping around the course to yell for the runners. Very cool, and very motivating. Check out the bio: www.mnci.centcom.mil/leaders/Biography-Anderson.pdf.
[Photo by Staff Sergeant Lorie Jewel, MNF-I Command Group Photojournalist]
This year's prize: a plaque. Look back at Oct 7, 2006, and you'll see last year's prize: an Iraqi flag with embroidery on it.