Thebastidge: 01/01/2008 - 02/01/2008
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    Thursday, January 31, 2008

    Lagging no more

    I think my head is finally back in the right time zone. At least, I have been sleeping through the night as much as I ever do.

    It's wierd- it's almost as though I never left for vacation. A month away and very little has changed, almost exactly the same faces (not always the case in a place with as much turnover as here). I think I timed it just right accidentally betwween rotations to have largely the same people here when I got back.

    The one thing that changed is the huge amount of stress I dropped at home. I don't have anything spectacular to report about my leave, just that it was very good, very relaxing, and much needed. I caught up with a lot of friends and my immediate family, which was important, and even met a few cool people.

    Now I'm back, and good to go through the current end of contract (July). I'm not so sure about another year after this, it might be possible, but I won't know until May or June, perhaps even later, if the company will even maintain the contract, much less whether I will be offered another year and if I will accept it. I'm not too worried that I won't be offered employment if it is given, but nothing is certain in this world, and even less in this portion of it.

    My head is not entirely wrapped around another year in this place. The main difficulty I have with it is the feeling that a lot of things are passing me by in the "real world" while I am in a hamster wheel here. "Groundhog Day" has nothing on being stationed in Iraq.

    Although I did miss this place, in an odd and somewhat twisted fashion. You get really attached to people you bond with in a place and circumstances like this. Having about as many people happy to see me come back here as there were back home is gratifying. The first couple days back home were odd, being out of the troutine I had followed for months. then the last couple days had me antsy just to get the travel over with an dbe back at work. Not like I wanted to come back earlier, but knowing I had to, I just wanted to take the plunge and get it over with, all at the sdame time regretting having to leave at all, especially with the sweet last little bit of time I had to spend with people. A very conflicting experience.

    Saturday, January 26, 2008

    Me too

    Thanks, A6 Dude. I'd like to have a Martini with you too. Make mine very dirty.

    Friday, January 25, 2008

    Belated

    Ah, so here's the hellish story of my trip home:

    I left here and our PSD team took me to BIAP, as I was flyin' the commercial side, don’tcha know, when it came to my attention those fuckin' fuckers at Royal Jordanian had canceled all flights out of BIAP to Amman the day before and day of me flight.

    Now, some folks would have ye believe that it was on account of Ms Rice, flying into the airport and the area that caused all the hullabaloo, however, I find that to be a crock o' shite, as Iraqi Air and other were able to continue operatin' like. So lo and behold, I slept in a conex at BIAP that night, to be sure a very fine conex it were.

    The very next day, apprehendin' the possibility of travel, I rose lo before the very sun itself, at an hour no self-respectin' lover of fine whiskeys would ever voluntarily open an eyelid.

    Hied meself to the airport wi'out the benefit of so much as a bite tae eat, and proceeded to wait upon the benighted heathens to collect their wits and provide the promised services. Mind you, I'm a day late leaving at this point, and my connectin' flight is due to leave at 11 in the am from Amman to Chicago.

    Fortunately (or not) the flight from Jordan to Chicago is delayed by many hours, rescheduled for 4 pm. Eventually, the promised replacement aircraft from RJ arrives, and after no less than 6 half-arsed security checkpoints, includin' on the very tarmac itself before the airplane, we board and depart.

    We arrives at 2:30 in the pm, and undergo yet another security search before being allowed into the terminal at Amman.

    So, time passes and we still don't get to board the next flight. 16:00 comes and goes with an official announcement of delay until 17:30, which comes and goes wi'out further ado and wi'out any movement. Eventually, come 19:30 or so, we gets to boardin'.

    Aye and two full hours later, after innumerable unexplained delays, includin' waitin' upon a family that the pilot feels compelled to personally come back and greet (apparently the delay was a personal favour to friends of said pilot), we get in the air and collective sigh of relief is elicited from all of those not of the, shall we say, 'inshallah' persuasion.

    And a fine flight it is, to be sure, until a passenger nears me poses the question: "Are we supposed to be leakin' so much fuel, like?"

    With only slight alarm, the comely young lass in the flight attendant's uniform sprints to the cockpit and momentarily our pilot, brave and true, announces our return to Queen Alia International for a spot of repairs.

    Now as ye may or may not know, there's typically a pressure relief valve in wing tanks of airplane-like conveyances. It's quite nice when they function as designed, to relieve pressure and balance weight, and then SHUT again promptly when done.
    However, this perticaler specimen apparently was not in the mood fer it.
    And so after a scant 15 or 20 minutes of flight, we returned to circle the airport until enough fuel had burnt off to allow us to land again.

    Once safely upon the blessed earth, or at least upon the filthy disgusting and bleak sands of the Middle East, we're informed that it'll be a half hour repair. Merely an hour and 15 minutes later, we do indeed see movement: when they ask us to deplane.

    Promises of food entice us into a sheep-like mass huddled in a transit lounge, smoky and cramped, but alas, no food is forthcoming. So after an hour and a bit, I enquires about it, mild mannered-like.

    At with the eminent re-boarding of the aircraft, I'm put off. So another mere hour and 15 minutes goes by, and just as they start handing out juice boxes and water, our re-boarding is announced. Which with the typical efficiency I have come to expect from these year parts of the world, doesn't take much above an hour and a bit.

    So without further ado, we taxi the runway and take to the air, once again breaking the bonds of gravity, free as a bird on the wing. Er, except for the stench of large unwashed mammals and urine. Mind you, the whole time I'm sick enough to consider shootin' meself in the head rather than suffering worse than a poor, miserable dog.

    So on a diet largely consisting of DayQuil and NyQuil gel caps, and very little food (aye, missed breakfast AND lunch, and dinner wasn't forthcoming the whole time waitin' fer the plane) I'm near to hallucinatin', fever dreams every time I doze the slightest touch, and sinuses so dry from anti-histamines as to be a step from a nosebleed the whole time.

    But hallucinations be damned, I do remember and know that the following events actually happened.

    The family the pilot held the plane for includes an elderly gentleman, who I would charitably judge to be half-dead at best. This gentleman spends his time largely engaged in coughing up what would appear, from the sounds thwacking into the bottom of his airsick bag, to be large chunks of lung tissue.

    I mean, sure and all I'm coughing to beat the band meself, but the shear wetness of the sounds coming from next to me would turn yer stomache, I guarantee. As time progresses, the stench gets worse, the coughing gets worse, and I'm also treated to the sight of his shirt bein' rolled up to receive insulin (apparently) shots in the roll of fat around his waist.

    Now, I'm in and out of consciousness from fatigue, viral infection, over the counter meds, and fever, but I swear to you this next bit happened as I recount it.
    I wake from a fitful doze, groggily turning my head this way and that to loosen the stiff muscles, when what am I confronted with? The (half) dead guy's wife has his cock out of his pants, pissing him into a bottle. Even as I think, "That did NOT just happen", I'm unavoidably scarred by the sight I simply cannot scrub from me brainpan. I did my best to keep my eyes and nose closed for the rest of the flight.

    Eventually, sometime seemingly about fortnight later, we arrives in Chicago. The one bright spot of the trip was breezing through customs in Chi-town in the military line.

    Merely hours and hours too late for my connecting flight, which was at 8:50 in the previous pm, I find myself at 2:30 am trying to talk the counter lady into getting me the hell home ASAP.

    But the lady at the counter tells me there are none, zip, zero flights going to Portland from Chicago until 8:30 am, a full 6 hours from now.

    “Ah fuck,” sez I.

    However, makin' the best of things, and askin' for a room comp, I sez, let's make it a bit later so I can at least get some sleep. Shouldna hae bothered. For no flights are available until 8:50 PM! A full 24 hours from the flight I was originally scheduled to take.

    Eventually I sleep. I wake up in the mid-afternoon and take a leisurely lunch and trip back to O'Hare, check in early, and get on my flight- the last person to get a ticket it would seem as I'm stuck in the very last row on the aircraft, in the center seat, in the row that doesna recline at all, with the overhead bins off limits to passengers as they're full of emergency equipment.

    "Ah Fuck again!" snarls I aloud. "I can't get any fucking breaks on this trip."

    A passing steward takes pity on me, kindly pretending not hear my unfortunate profanity, and stows my overnight bag far for'ard of my seat. Then my next bit of luck manifests (mind you, not "good" luck.)

    A single mom with 7 month-old baby takes the window seat and a corpulent gentleman takes the aisle. As we all know, I'm no wee mite meself, so it's immediately a tight fit, and the wee babe is not only grouchy and bored, but teething as well.

    The nice young lass wi' the wee babe is at her wit's end during the flight, and it falls to your humble narrator to undertake to entertain the wee bairn. Still miserable, I end up bouncing her, and talking to her (tho my voice is near gone) as my voice seems to be the only thing capable of distracting her from her own misery.

    Finally, after enough cosseting and coddling, and eventually even singing a Korean lullaby dimly remembered, I induce the baby to finally sleep, which gives her poor mommy some respite as well as the rest of us.
    Fortunately, this flight, leaving from O'Hare was only an hour and a half late arriving, not bad for Chicago. My sister and her boys are waiting for me, unfortunately for that extra time as well. But I have only my carry-on, so we head home quickly and easily.

    Only to encounter on the way home, about to take an exit from the freeway, a dark sedan, spun about backwards-like square in the middle of the exit ramp we are seconds from being committed to. At 12:30 in the am, after days of travel, I manage to spot it just before my sister, (driving) does, and we swerve back onto the shoulder of the highway and stop. Sis calls 911 whilst I jump out to check the vehicle.

    Which turns out to have a deployed airbag and nothing else in the driver's seat. Some drunken arsehole has crashed into the divider, spun about backwards into the exit, and then abandoned the fucking car right where on-coming traffic is most likely to hit it. The front of it is smashed all to hell, so no lights show, and I only glimpsed a slight outline because of the tail lights reflecting from the guard rail behind the bulk of the car.

    We bust out some flares and I stand with a chemlight waving off traffic until the cops arrive- we weren't the first to report, merely the first to stop, and mere minutes later were on our way, not having actually seen the accident and therefore essentially useless as witnesses.

    About ten minutes later, I arrive home and crash into a deep coma for the next 12 hours or so. Thus ends the saga of my trip home, and the moral of the story is left as an exercise for the reader. Fortunately, my vacation got much better from there.

    Thursday, January 24, 2008

    Back in Baghdad

    Made it back in this morning. More to come.

    Sunday, January 20, 2008

    Back to work

    Heading back to Iraq this morning. See you soon.

    Wednesday, January 09, 2008

    At home

    Ah, it's been great being home, and thanks to those who noticed. :)

    I made it home in time for Christmas, no problems, but I was dreadfully sick for the first few days. Spent New Year's Eve at Kell's, had a great time, very laid back, no drama, lots of good-looking women. Everything one could ask for, really.

    I'll be heading back to Iraq on the 20th. I haven't been online much here at home- too busy enjoying life and friends at home.

    The family's doing well, and I've gotten to spend a good amount of time with them. Not looking forward to going back, even though in an odd way I almost miss it. It's like a sore tooth that you can't help prodding with your tongue. You get strangely used to it, can't really say you like it, but it's more or less normal and then when it's gone it feels strange.