Saturday, May 16, 2009
We are now officially at the mid-point of Mustache May. Watching facial hair grow is just another of the many ways we pass the time here, although I have already been told by those closest to me that I should leave it here in the desert.
Like I said, we have a lot of time on our hands when we're back in Balad. Other than following up on the jobs we've visited which includes completing project statements of work, estimates, and drawings, and then looking ahead to the next round of trips (we often split up and go to two or three different sites) we are free to go about our days almost as if we were back home. For me, this means going to the gym once or twice a day hitting the weights and the treadmill, eating three meals at the chow hall, putting in 8 or so hours in the office and then either reading, watching movies, or sending out emails and phone calls in the evenings. Like I said, if it wasn't for the monotony of it, and the fact that I can't leave, it really wouldn't be so bad.
There are actually some great perks. Last night we watched "Star Trek" on this huge Iraqi-turned coalition theater. The thing that strikes me most about this theater isn't the fact that we're using it... Having been here for a month now, I'm used to the fact that we've converted all kinds of different facilities into our offices, and recreation centers. It's not even the fact that they sell Subway and popcorn right there in the theater. The funniest thing about this theater is that it slopes up. Maybe this is less strange than I think, but I can't think of any theater back home where you walk up from the back to the front with the screen higher than the rear seats. In some ways it makes sense. You really do have to kick back and watch, because if you didn't you wouldn't be able to see! Not strange? I will need proof of one such theater in the states before I accept that.
Anyways, they show one or two flicks a day there and most of the time new movies are only about a week old by the time they reach us. Best off, they're free! Earlier in the week I watched "X-Men" and the week before that I saw "Watchmen." Sitting there in the theater, you could almost forget where you are, (Iraq, remember). They help you with that by playing the National Anthem before each movie starts with a video montage of "Shock and Awe," a bit overplayed and outdated at this point if you ask me, and then they show a screen that says "Thanks for choosing our movie theater!" You're welcome... I thought about going elsewhere, but that slope up really makes the experience worth every penny.
On a typical night I sleep anywhere from 7 to 8 hours. I made the observation to my friend that this makes the length of a deployment seem a lot less formidable. Think about it. If you're sleeping a third of every day, it means you spend 1 of your 3 months, 2 of your 6 months, or 4 of your 12 month deployment in bed! I'm not saying everyone gets to sleep that long every night, (or for that matter in a bed every night). That certainly is a luxury I appreciate, but thinking this way about the trip does take a bit of the never-ending-feeling out of it.
Speaking of sleeping arrangements... Our rooms are not huge, but aren't much smaller than the typical dorm room either. The two of us have our own beds (mine was bunked but I kept hitting my head on the underside of the upper bunk so I took it down). We also have our own dressers and night stands. Luckily for us, whoever had our room before us left us some nice parting gifts. I'm guessing he was in a hurry to leave because when we arrived there was a mini-fridge and a small tv already in there. As far as tv goes, there are 11 different channels to choose from. They have a few sports channels, news channels, game shows, sitcoms, a movie channel, a military channel, you know, really basic stuff. There aren't commercials, per se, because the military has worked out some sort of rerun arrangement I guess and all the programs are delayed. Even still about half as often as you'd get normal breaks back in the states they'll pull away for a military news break or message to wash your hands, keep operational info safe, not drink and drive, and the like.
Did I mention we have a huge pool? However, with it already beginning to hit over 100 consistently, and it only being mid-May, I'm not sure I'll be able to be out in the sun very long without burning instantly, so maybe the pool is a bad idea. Oh well. It's chow time now anyway. Tonight's my favorite... It's steak and shrimp night. The fact that I can eat steak and shrimp (they have lobster and crab too) in Iraq is both amazing logistically, and slightly disturbing when you stop to consider the cost. They do take care of us the best they can out here though, and I hope that shows.