Friday, December 28, 2007

Land mines

Last night on the way home from work I encountered a detour. I went the wrong way and ended up right next to some A10s. So I turned around a followed my way back. It turns ut that the detour was outside the wire. So I went on the detour which is in a mine field. It was pretty wierd to be driving in a mine field. The field was cleared supposedly, but they always find mines after heavy rains so it was unnerving a bit.

Well that is about all the excitement for the last few days. I got my footlocker finally so now I have my Itunes library, my wide angle lenses and my knife. I couldn't carry it with me so I had to mail it. You would think that if you are going to a combat zone they would at least let you check a knife. Speaking of that, how do those chefs travel around with all those knives and I can't bring 1 little knife? BS.



Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

Well today was a pretty shitty Christmas Eve. We had what is called a “Safety Stand-Down Day”. A better term would be “Listen to a Bunch of Stupid Crap and call it a half-day Day”.

So we got done with that and then we got to eat. It was pretty good. The Indians prepared some curries and some really spicy okra. We had lamb and turkey and beef. I don’t eat that much normally but I really pigged out.

I got to leave work early today and I do not have to be back until 2pm tomorrow. I might as well work, cause this place is so boring that there isn’t anything else to do.

I am trying to find a job in Dubai. I have had enough of this place. I would not have come here if I knew how shitty it really was.

Anyway, I hope everyone has a good Christmas tomorrow. I will be thinking about you guys and I miss you. I will try to make a few calls too.

Merry Christmas!


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Stalkers get old

Sorry guys, I had to turn on the comment moderation due to some really stupid posts by a particular person.

Normally it isn't a big deal, I can just delete them, but I cannot log onto my blog at work and I have to carry my computer to a hot spot, just to delete stupid comments.

First time, haha, 20th time, get a life.

Sorry for the change.


Finally getting down to business

I think my body has finally recovered from the shift from chilling on the couch drinking beer to working 12.5 hour days. I have to say I very much enjoyed doing absolutely nothing for 4 months, but it is much better to be working. I actually have a decent job to do here and although it is not where I will ultimately end up, I am trying to make the best of it.

I still cannot take my eyes off the runway. I am so close to the runway that you really can feel each plane taking off. I don’t think, as a pilot, one could ever NOT look as they takeoff. Today 2 A10Cs took off right over my head as I was driving around the North end of the runway. I stopped and got out hoping to get some wake turbulence. I didn’t feel any.

This place is pretty boring but tonight we finally got a mortar barrage. Most of the rounds were outgoing but it is still fun to listen to them launch. Hopefully they pounded some Taliban.

Well, it absolutely does not feel like Christmas here. The 82nd had some dudes from the band playing holiday music at the DFAC today, but it just isn’t really the same. I guess I miss being around the family after all. Oh well, they usually put on a decent feast for the holidays and I will buy myself some good presents and have them mailed to me. I might start with getting rid of this POS Alienware.

Well the mortars or whatever have stopped now. Was a pretty good exchange I think. Hopefully they missed all of the good guys and we got some of the bastards.

Well anyway, I need to run. (to bed)


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Getting settled in, sort of.

Today was very wet, rainy, and cold. It even started snowing a bit. It is the first time I have seen snow in about 5 years. Hopefully it will be another 5 before I see it again, but there is little chance in that.

Work is getting sorted out now. I am starting to get the hang of things. They sort of threw me into a hornets’ nest with this housing thing. I am trying to work with the military to move 288 civilians into 18 tents. It is worse than trying to herd cats.

I still do not have a place to live other than the dungeon. I actually managed to get the corner suite, complete with privacy blanket and 2 wall lockers. It wouldn’t be so bad if 2 of the guys in my room didn't sound like dying dinosaurs when they snore. I wonder if a pickaxe to the head would shut them up?

My internet is still too slow to try to upload pictures. I have some great shots of the snow capped peaks in the distance. It is still really cool to watch the jets takeoff with full afterburner and their contrast with the gray skies and mountains.

I have about 80 people that work for me. 20 Indians and 60 Afghanis. I thought I would need to learn Pashtu or Dari, but in reality Hindi would serve me better in this position. I am working with one of my guys named Bala to learn some phrases. Most of them use English more than Hindi or whatever dialect. I am surprised at how many of the Indians that work here are from Goa. I didn’t think there were that many people from there, but I have about 9 guys from there.

I love the Indians, but they are hard to joke with. They take everything so seriously! But they are definitely fun to be around. The Afghanis bring in some really tasty breakfast food which is basically a pita stuffed with potato chips and potatoes and some other stuff. It costs me 25 Afghanis, which is about 50 cents. Even the Afghani is doing well against the dollar.

When I went to Thailand the last time, I got 42 Baht to the dollar, now it is trading at like 30. What a joke. Someone needs to fix this crap. We need to implement coal to fuel technology and forget about all the rest of these freaks.

Anyway, it is late here. I will run.


Monday, December 17, 2007

In Afghanistan

I was starting to think it would never happen but it has. I am finally at Bagram Air Base near Kabul, Afghanistan. Now that I am here I am wishing I were elsewhere. Within 1 hour of arriving at the base I attended a military procession carrying the bodies of 2 fallen soldiers. It was a stark reminder that it aint all fun and games and that this is the real deal.

Well I do not have a lot of time to post tonight. I tried to publish my last post but the internet is too slow for me to upload my pictures. I will try to get them on ASAP.

I have my hooch. Actually it isn’t a hooch. It is more of an abandoned silo with a giant hole in the roof. It is nicknamed the dungeon and when I upload the pictures you will see why.

This place sucks so bad!!! You can certainly see that all the money went to Iraq and not to Afghanistan. This place is the stone ages. Also, I am smack in the middle of the largest mine field in Afghanistan. We drive 3 feet from marked minefields on the way to chow. Apparently when it rains, mines always surface inside the camp. Just freaking great.

The altitude is about 6000 feet. Similar to Denver. It hasn’t been that hard to acclimate. If anything it will make my trek to base camp easier. We are surrounded on all sides by gigantic snow capped mountains. It is truly a beautiful sight to watch the sun rise behind one set of mountains while simultaneously casting a morning glow on the other side behind you.

The whole place is surreal. They are constantly launching planes into the sky and you can watch as the jets take off with full afterburner. You can feel the ground shake. Today I watched 3 different jets take off after a UAV took off. It was cool!

I “got” to fly in on a C17. Talk about a massive aircraft! But leave it to the military to cram 100 men into a 1 man seat. They had us packed in like sardines with literally football fields to spare.

Anyway, it is late, I am sick and I am going to bed. More to follow when I can!


Bored at Al Salem Air Base

Ok, I started this blog stating that I would post as many pictures as possible so today I intend to try to catch up on some of the most recent shots.

First however an update on my status here and when I fly out. I have a meeting in 1 hour to do what is called “Roll Call” for the flight tonight. I have to be there, but I know I am not going to be on that flight. As it looks, I might end up being here for quite a while. Maybe more than a week. It would not be an understatement to say that I wish I was back at the hotel.

It is also easy for me to say this. It is times like this that make me really not miss being in the Army. There is no way I could go back after having done contract work. But it makes me all the more appreciative of the selfless service that the guys on Active Duty over here perform. My hat is off to these guys that have to spend a year on this base.

Ok the first picture I will show you is from CRC at Benning. This is me in front of one of those WWII looking signs with cities and distances marked on them. I think some of the distances are wrong, but it looks cool anyway.

This is the chow hall. The reason there are no military present is because they had to go early and go to the firing range. Normally it is packed with 400 or so people. (Not all at once)

A giant row of crappers. Self explanatory.

This is my POW style bunk at Benning. Luckily nobody on the top bunk.

This is what it looks like when you try to line up 200 civilians into 4 columns and march 400 meters. See also: Herding cats.

This is me with some Kurdish translators heading into Iraq to work with the military. Good dudes.

Here we have landed in Kuwait City. It is about 0230 and we are tired. We have 6 hours or so to kill before our ride picks us up.

Genius engineering. This is Kuwait’s newest soccer stadium. It has seating for 60,000 people and parking for 5,000.

This is actually a sad picture. The house in the background has about 20 rooms. They pack 20-25 Pinoys into each room head to foot, side by side, on the floor and then bus them all around Kuwait to work like slaves all day. They make slightly more than they would make doing the same things in the Philippines.

Cool looking housing across from my buddy’s apartment.

This is from the Iranian kabob shop that I stopped at. I have to say that it is somewhat unnerving to be in an Iranian shop in Kuwait surrounded by Arabs, but really unnecessarily so. You can see that most of them could care less about me.

This a view at sunset of the Arabian Gulf taken from my balcony at the hotel.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

At the airbase in Kuwait

Well I am actually finally in the tents here at the airbase. Not too bad. 16 man tents, 8 bunk beds. I got the best one, way in the back, on the bottom. I unscrewed the light so if someone turns it on tonight the one over my head won’t come on.

They didn’t have any linens or anything so I had to go buy some. Cheap stuff that I can leave behind is all I got. Oh yeah, my watch broke. A great Seiko that I loved! Now I have to buy a new band for it. So I went to the PX and got a G-Shock. It actually isn’t that bad. Plus it has Indiglo which my Seiko didn’t have.

We literally have nothing to do here. You show up and have to turn your Passport in so they can get a Kuwaiti exit stamp in it. That process takes 24 hours. So you have a minimum of 1 day to kill doing nothing. After you get your passport back you have to go get manifested on the next flight to Bagram. For security reasons, and they have no clue when it will actually be, they can’t tell you when the flight will be. I can see their point about security. All they need is some knucklehead like me blogging the flight schedules of the US Air Force. I wouldn’t have put the times up if I had them because I know better, but some dumb ass might. So after you get manifested you just have to keep checking back in every few hours until you get the word to go to the staging area. The problem is that you might have to check back in every few hours for 5 days. All the while there is nothing to do.

So in anticipation of having weeks of nothing to do I bought some movies. Well they are Region 1 and my comp is set to Region 1, but I bought them at the PX here at the base. And even though they say Region 1 NTSC, they still don’t work on any of my players. I only have 2 changes left before I get locked out and stuck with whatever region I am in. So I am going to try to find some software that can convert Region 6 to Region 1. I am not sure they even make that, but I can try.

It is pretty nice to be back overseas. I was bored to tears in South Carolina. I feel like I am back at home. Just need a few explosions and whatnot and all will seem normal. This base is cool because you can watch the jets and stuff take off. They seem to sending out a lot of planes and there is the constant drone of engines from the tarmac.

I thought the base had wireless but it doesn’t. Well it does, but not where I can grab it. I get just enough signal to see that it is there, but it is too weak to use. I would have been happy as hell if I could have just sat on the net all the time. Instead I am going to the 24 hour internet café to upload my stuff and check email. I think it has been about 2 weeks now that I haven’t been able to check my Blackberry, and the twitching and convulsing is starting to subside. You never really know how dependant you are on the net till it is gone. I never intended to quit it cold turkey.

Well enough of this novel. As you can tell I have lots of time on my hands so I am just rambling. Here is some more rambling. People who snore. I hate them. Just like smokers can’t smoke in certain places, snorers shouldn’t be able to snore wherever the hell they want to. There should be a dedicated snoring area. Seriously. Snoring is more annoying than people that smack their lips while they gnaw on their food, mouths agape. Are you a human or a cow? It is just disgusting and rude.

Alright, that’s enough, I am really just rambling now. Just sitting here listening to people snore, trying not to freak out and smother them…


Checking out

Up to now the process of getting into Afghanistan has been pretty inconvenient followed by very relaxing but it is about to be painful.

The group of us from my company has been chilling in this nice Kuwaiti hotel awaiting some room at the Air Base. Fortunately it was full for a few days so we got to hang at this hotel. Well they “finally” got some room in the tents so we have to move back to the Air Base.

If you haven’t been on one of these non-permanent bases they are difficult to explain. I have pictures but I can’t post them right now. It is basically rows and rows of tents, each of which hold about 12 or so people on bunk beds. There are no TVs or wall lockers. So anytime you leave the tent, to eat, shower, etc… you have to worry about your gear getting swiped. The tents also do not have bathrooms. You have to walk a very long way in the dirt to get to the shower/toilet trailers. I will explain all that later. Suffice it to say, it sucks.

So I will be there for at least 24 hours but it could easily be up to 5 days or more. I am not sure, but I think, they have wireless internet for a fee. I am going to be very happy if they do. If not I will just be buying movies and lying on my bunk watching them. Hopefully they have electrical outlets in the tents otherwise I won’t even be doing that.

I could transfer the movies to my iPod, but I still have not figured out how to work PodMaxx yet. It looks like if I synch with my computer I am going to wipe out everything that is already on my iPod. I really hate iTunes.

Well it is now 0330 here and I have to finish packing my bags and trying to sort out some breakfast. We have to catch a bus at 0500. After that, who knows when I will reach civilization again.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Roaming Kuwait

Today was pretty cool I guess. I woke up late and then had a nice breakfast buffet at the hotel’s rooftop restaurant. Sat on the sunny side which looked great but had the sun beating down on me.

I was finally able to get in touch with my buddy who lives here. Unfortunately he is flying out of Kuwait tomorrow so we just got to hang out today. He sent his driver to pick me up and then we went to his job. He works for a large company here.

After a few hours and a decent lunch of chicken kabobs, we went to his apartment. He pays only 1000/month but the place is massive. He also has a new Suburban and it only costs him 4$ to fill up his tank. Yes “4”$$$ to fill the entire tank!

Anyway, I rode with him to the airport this evening and then his driver brought me back. His driver is Iranian so we stopped at an Iranian place for beef kabobs on the way home. It was pretty funny because all his friends thought I looked like a Serb. Don’t ask me how they made that leap, but 2 guys asked me if I was from Serbia.

I have a ton of cool pictures, but I do not have my cable to hook to the computer. I will try to get them on here sometime.

Anyway, I am fixing to grab a light, late dinner and then go smoke some more shisha.


Sunday, December 09, 2007

Finally made it to Kuwait!

What a grueling trip that was, not so much because of the flight but the sheer number of hours spent traveling. We got to the Atlanta airport at noon on Friday and departed for Kuwait. We stopped in Newark for a while then we stayed in Geneva for a while, then we flew to Doha, then we flew to Kuwait, then we finally got into Kuwait at 0220 Sunday morning. We had to wait 6 hours for the shuttle to Ali al Saleem airbase then when we got there an hour later we had to get our passports stamped. That took 8 more hours and then we had to drive back to Kuwait airport and catch the hotel shuttle to the hotel. SO I am finally here and settled at around 6 PM Sunday. So the better part of 3 days to get from Atlanta to the hotel. I am pooped. And to make matters that much worse, Kuwait doesn’t even have any alcohol so I can’t even have a small nightcap.

You actually can get booze but will get into a big bind if you get caught with it. I did have dinner and then walked around the streets to settle down a bit. I found a really cool Shisha bar called After 8. So I am now fixing to charge my iPod and start a movie and get to sleep.

The weather here is great, nice and cool which is a big change from you normally experience. 140 is not that uncommon in the summer. So anyway more to follow.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Heading to Afghanistan now

Heading over to Afghanistan

I did not have internet at all while I was at Fort Benning so I could not update anything.

The bottom line is that I am done with that and have left Fort Benning and I am now in Atlanta. I fly out tomorrow to Kuwait and will be there for a few days, maybe more, before heading to AStan.

I have to keep this brief because I have tons of emails to catch up on. Everything is good. I will start the regular posts when I get to Bagram.


Days of Glory

CRC Day 1.

It is days like this that make me wonder why the hell I do what I do. Seriously, it is exactly this sort of day that makes one question why in the heck anyone would want to go thru this. I have tons of pictures to post but guess what? My Alienware is screwing up and I can’t upload them because the media card reader isn’t working, but that is a much longer story than any of you want to hear. Suffice it to say that I am having headaches right now. Anyway, I haven’t slept 8 hours in the last 3 days because of my wisdom teeth and I am starting to go nuts. If I don’t pack a fattie soon I will explode. Addictions are a bitch.

Well I am trying to figure out how to mobile blog using my Blackberry and Blogspot but not having much luck. It would be easier if I could get online on my computer.

Well today was hell. I was reintroduced to the inefficiencies the Army has to offer. For example, take 300 people, tell them to line up and then tell them to divide up and then tell them they divided up wrong. Uh, OK. Sorry. Then wait till everyone divides up correctly and then combine everyone into one. I know that doesn’t make any sense right now but if you need me to, I can clarify.

Anyway. The whole day was a complete waste. I know a guy that has some connections with CRC and I will relay the futility of Day 1 to him. Not in a bitchy manner like this, but in a realistic manner with an offer of a solution.

I can see that I am making no sense to anyone that hasn’t been here so I am going to stop. The bottom line is, I have no internet, a 4 man room with 2 double bunks and a snoring roommate, communal showers, 2 less teeth, no sleep, and really am just a bitchy mess. I know I sound like a whiner but the fact is, I love this shit. You couldn’t buy this if you wanted to. Have met some cool ass people and am really looking forward to getting on that plane Sunday. “J” will recall CRC at Bliss, this is worse, but it is more collegiate and rugged. Way to go “consolidation”! Tax payer dollars beware!!!