Make your own free website on Tripod.com
Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
RSS Feed
View Profile
« November 2017 »
S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30
You are not logged in. Log in
Entries by Topic
All topics
Contracting Stuff
Daily Life
Gin&Tonics on the Tigris
Political Rant
Posts While on R&R  «
Scary Stuff
The People
The Places
The US Military
The Daily Iraqi Cheese Grader
November 25, 2005

Mood:  not sure
Topic: Posts While on R&R
This afternoon I will begin my long trip back to Iraq. Almost all the flights to the Middle East from Europe leave in the late afternoon, which means I won't get to Amman until the the weeeee hours of the morning. This means I will only get a few hours of sleep before departing Amman for Iraq.

When I first flew into Iraq, I was very worried about entering a war zone with very little sleep. Now, I don't really worry about it because I can easily sleep on the plane from Amman to Iraq. I no longer have any trouble sleeping onto the way to Iraq. I have tuned out most of my deep-seeded concerns about security to let myself live as normal a life as possible.

Posted by alohafromtim at 3:01 PM EST
Updated: November 26, 2005 7:10 AM EST
Post Comment | Permalink
November 24, 2005

Mood:  lucky
Topic: Posts While on R&R
Shortly before the war, roughly 84 percent of the UK citizens opposed the thought of going to war in Iraq. I am not sure what the current poll numbers say, but I can only guess that they are still fairly grim for Mr. Blair.

While walking the streets of London, I decided to take a stroll past Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Not surprisingly, I found a small make-shift collection of anti-war posters resting within the shadows of Parliament. Some were simple visual signs that suggested that the war was simply about oil, yet other signs took a tougher approach by directly blaming the British government to the deaths of coalition forces and average Iraqis.

After spending nearly 11 months in Iraq, I realized that the protest signs had little affect upon me even though I really want to talk about Iraq and what should be done next. It is clear that I have to leave Iraq very soon or else I will completely lose the ability to listen and debate with other Americans about this issue. Otherwise, how can I and everyone else living and working inside Iraq truly share what we have to say about Iraq in a meaningful way to help America to make the right decisions?

Posted by alohafromtim at 3:01 PM EST
Updated: November 25, 2005 4:22 AM EST
Post Comment | Permalink
November 23, 2005

Topic: Posts While on R&R
I can see how easy it is for people to forget about the war. I have watched some television while in London, and for the most part, it is rarely on the news. While newspapers do give some coverage to it, I find myself turning to online American newspapers and wire stories to keep up with what is happening in Iraq.

I have a feeling that it would be a little harder to forget about the war if I was visiting the States.

I wonder what type of coverage to war gets in the other countries of the coalition?

Posted by alohafromtim at 3:01 PM EST
Updated: November 23, 2005 4:24 AM EST
Post Comment | Permalink
November 22, 2005

Topic: Posts While on R&R
Walking through the streets of London, I truly enjoy the freedom of going wherever I want without having to worry about someone trying to kidnap me or something blowing up. I don't see any t-wall of concrete bunkers with "blast shelter" signs resting on top of them.

However, for the first time in a long time I actually had to worry about someone stealing my stuff. Petty theft just isn't a real concern to Americans living inside the Zone. The Iraqis who work for me are so worried about losing their jobs that they would probably quickly rat out anyone who tried to steal sometime from me, and the Americans on my compound realize how little of us have - they don't want to take one of the few possession that I have in Iraq.

Posted by alohafromtim at 3:01 PM EST
Post Comment | Permalink
November 21, 2005

Topic: Posts While on R&R
The military doesn't really respect contractors. They are second class citizens. At Camp Stryker, which is near the airport, the military doesn't even let contractors eat with the soldiers. They make contractors eat in a separate facility. The military relies so heavily on contractors that it doesn't know what to do with a government employee like me. Even though I don't want to be treated like a "second class" contractor, they still lump me in with them because they didn't make a rules for government civilians since they see so few of us outside of the Green Zone.

Posted by alohafromtim at 3:01 PM EST
Updated: November 21, 2005 4:15 AM EST
Post Comment | Permalink
November 20, 2005

Topic: Posts While on R&R
On my way out of Iraq onto my R&R in London, I met an old Iraqi coworker that recently moved to Jordan. When the "bad guys" threatened him about two months ago because they figured out that he worked for the Americans , he promptly moved to Jordan. He has found some part time work with the US embassy in Amman, but the Jordanian government doesn't like the US government hiring Iraqis when there are tons of smart, English-speaking Jordanians who would love to get a nice pay job with the US government. My old friend will likely lose his job by the end of the year.

My old coworker said that there were somewhere between 600,000 and 1 million Iraqis living in Jordan. Most are simply waiting out the war and will eventually go home. Even though most of them have money, most are treated like quasi-refugees. The Jordanians look down upon them, and every place that I visited with my friend, I had to go in first and be the first one to talk to make sure we received good service.

Posted by alohafromtim at 3:01 PM EST
Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
September 25, 2005

Topic: Posts While on R&R
I am on my way back to Iraq. Leaving the States was hard. As usual, my friends were out having fun while I went off to the airport. The only thing that made it somewhat bearable was the knowledge that I only have three more months left in Iraq.

As I write this entry, I am at the tail end of a 14 hour layover in Vienna. This town is perhaps one of the most laid back large cities that I have ever visited. It definitely stands out in sharp contrast with the type of life that most people live in Iraq.


Posted by alohafromtim at 12:26 PM EDT
Post Comment | View Comments (3) | Permalink
September 23, 2005

Topic: Posts While on R&R
I am going out to eat with a few friends tonight. If I tried to do the same thing in Iraq, I would only have two choices – either the restaurant inside the al Rasheed hotel or the Blue Star.

The Blue Star is located in a small tent on an American contractor's compound. It has simple plastic chairs and tables both inside and outside the tent. The outdoor lighting is a little weak, and the indoor light is reminiscent of a downstairs basement. Thankfully, the food is tasty and cheep. All the main courses cost $6 and most appetizers cost around $2. I am a big fan of the lasagna and "Mexican," but most people choose the Arabic food. Many people finish their meal with a little shisha.

Posted by alohafromtim at 9:11 AM EDT
Post Comment | View Comments (5) | Permalink
September 22, 2005

Topic: Posts While on R&R
When I left for Iraq, I only took two checked bags. The bags were stuffed full of clothes, toiletries, and my body armor. Everything else that I own went into long-term storage.

While on my R&R, I move around with one of those two bags, which is largely filled with clothes. Because I only have one bag, I only have enough clothes to go a few days between laundering.

I often half-jokingly tell my friends that the bag I use during my R&R contains about 1/3 of my belongings to help give them a sense of how little I took to Iraq. It is not too far from the truth.

Posted by alohafromtim at 7:43 AM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
September 20, 2005

Mood:  celebratory
Topic: Posts While on R&R
Gas in Hawai'i is insanely expensive. The price of unleaded gasoline is about $3.60 per gallon. I am not sure how much gas costs in Iraq. I know it is fairly expensive, but the real problem is that most Iraqis can't even find enough gasoline to fill their car on a regular basis. It has gotten so bad that the Iraqi government has decided to limit the number of people driving in Baghdad. If an Iraqi has an even license plate, they can only drive on even days. If they have an odd license plate, they can only drive on odd days.

Posted by alohafromtim at 3:01 PM EDT
Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink

Topic: Posts While on R&R
Visiting friends while outside Iraq has been a little difficult. Everyone wants to see me, but I just don't have enough time to meet them. I really get the sense that seeing me is a big deal for them. When they watch the news, they see things blowing up and realize that I am in the center of that mess; they also want to know what I have to say about Iraq. Because bad stuff happens almost every day in Iraq, I have grown somewhat hardened to all of it. Living in the semi-safe Green Zone only makes it worse. There are some days that I totally forget where I am.

Posted by alohafromtim at 12:01 AM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
September 19, 2005

Topic: Posts While on R&R
One of my friends in Hawai'i had a party last night. It was nice to talk to people at the party who were not focusing all their time and energy on Iraq. The conversations seemed normal and focused on everyday life. Conversations at parties in Iraq almost always focus on the nuts and bolts of executing Bush's vision for Iraq. For example, I remember sitting a small party in Iraq listening to a Welshman, who worked as an intelligence officer for the British Embassy, scolding a guy from Northern Ireland, who worked for a mercenary company, for not attending the regular intelligence briefings offered at the U.S. Embassy. The Welshman conceded that the Americans didn't have that much to offer, but he also stressed that getting reliable information in Iraq is difficult and sometimes even tiny bits of info can keep someone alive.

Posted by alohafromtim at 1:27 PM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
September 16, 2005

Topic: Posts While on R&R
A few days ago, I was here . . .



And now, I am here . . .



Obviously, being in Hawai'i is much nicer than being in Iraq. I am going to try to visit one of the most remote parts of Kaua'i tomorrow. Assuming that the weather holds, I will go on a two day, 22 mile hike along the Na Pali Coast.

Posted by alohafromtim at 5:29 AM EDT
Updated: September 16, 2005 5:31 AM EDT
Post Comment | View Comments (3) | Permalink
September 14, 2005

Topic: Posts While on R&R
While looking at Google Earth the other day in an attempt to get some idea of what surrounds my compound, I found what looks like a car bomb or improvised explosive devices(IED) that exploded on a major road heading west out of Baghdad.

Posted by alohafromtim at 1:35 PM EDT
Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
September 13, 2005

Topic: Posts While on R&R
I made it out of Iraq! To get out, I had to take a military C-130 flight out of the country. This type of flight is generally called a "MilAir" (Military Air) flight by people inside Iraq.

I arrived at the spartan military passenger terminal (PAX terminal) roughly two hours before the flight left. I checked in at the appropriate desk by showing copies of my government travel orders, military identification badge, and country clearance form authorizing me to travel to Jordan. Surprisingly, no one asked to see my passport or visa.

After checking in at the departure desk, I sat inside a large pavilion until the State Department official responsible for organizing the flight called everyone together to "palletize" our baggage. This process involved stacking everyone's luggage on a large, flat 10' by 10' piece of sheet metal. A civilian working at the airport then reorganized all of the items so they were densely stacked together and ultimately lashed together so they wouldn’t slide off the pallet during the flight.

I sat inside a large, white tent to kill time, waiting for the boarding call. When the boarding call came, I quickly grabbed my body armor and dashed off to the flight line. I stood under a large tarp near the runway for perhaps five minutes before someone escorted everyone to the plane. We walked slowly in a single file line, and everyone walked without talking or even looking at each other. We simply focused on the C-130’s large propellers, which were already swirling in anticipation of the flight.

When we approached the plane, we were reminded not a take any photos. Supposedly, the military doesn’t want the bad guys seeing anything within a secured area, but I have always felt that the military makes rules like this because it hates when civilians like me get excited about the thought of "playing" inside military equipment.

The airmen inside the plane asked all of us to enter the plane from the rear. From the minute I entered through the rear cargo door, I knew that the next two hours would not be an enjoyable experience. All the passengers were directed onto little cargo net bench seats that offered very little comfort. The inside of cabin proudly reveled the inside mechanics (wires, panels, compressors, etc) and likely scared those people who prefer not to be reminded of how the miracle of flight depends on simple little mechanical devices. The sound of the engines also roared so loudly that I had to use little foam earplugs to help protect my eardrums.

Before taking off, I took off my body armor and placed it under my butt. I sat on if for the first 20 minutes of the flight. The last thing I wanted was a bullet aimed at the underbody of the plane to hit me in the rear end.

Posted by alohafromtim at 5:31 PM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
September 10, 2005

Topic: Posts While on R&R
I didn't get out of Iraq on Saturday, but I am glad that I am not inside the Green Zone on September 11th (Sunday). Last year, the bad guys launched tons of rockets and motars at the Green Zone. Many Americans living inside the Zone spent the day huddling inside bomb shelters hoping that they would make it through the day. I don't really expect anything to happen and didn't plan my R&R to specifically avoid being in Iraq on that day - it was simply a lucky turn of events.

Posted by alohafromtim at 3:01 PM EDT
Updated: September 26, 2005 8:30 AM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
July 23, 2005

Mood:  don't ask
Topic: Posts While on R&R
I am stuck in Amman due to sandstorm in Iraq. This turning into one of the longest "short" rest breaks ever! Hopefully I will get back to my compound on Sunday night so I can resume my regular postings. Posting while traveling is very hard.

And in other news . . . I recently learned that one of my Iraqi coworkers was nearly killed because she works for the Americans. She is very lucky to be alive.

When she left Baghdad for a business trip to Jordan a few weeks ago, she decided to take her family with her so they could enjoy a holiday weekend in Jordan. Soon after she left, a neighbor saw a few masked men show up at my coworker's front door. They were carrying AK-47s. They were about to break the door down until one of the masked men realized that the door was locked from the outside - a clear sign that no one was home. The masked men left without disturbing anything. They apparently had one thought in their minds. They wanted to kill my coworker and her family, who luckily were gone in Amman.

When my coworker returned from her trip and learned that someone wanted to kill her and her family, she immediately gathered up her belongings and moved to her mother's house. She is now in the process of trying to find a new place to live in a completely different part of Baghdad in an effort to evade the people trying to kill her.

Posted by alohafromtim at 3:01 PM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
May 31, 2005

Topic: Posts While on R&R
Assuming everything goes right, I will be back inside the Green Zone by Thursday morning. After arriving at the airport, I have to kill the rest of the day at Camp Stryker waiting for the late night Rhino bus run. Camp Stryker a very dusty Army camp right next to the airport that offers very little entertainment. There is a small post exchange (like 7-11), a Subway, and a barber shop. That's about it.

Sadly, the higher ranking foreign service officers don't have to spend the day at Camp Stryker. They can jump onto helicopter and zip right into the Green Zone. Meanwhile, the "common worker bees" have to wait for hours at the camp and take the slightly more dangerous Rhino bus run in the middle of the night. Consequently, senior foreign service officers don't really understand why everyone else is complaining and saying that the trip to and from the airport gives them second-thoughts about even taking their R&Rs.

Posted by alohafromtim at 3:01 PM EDT
Updated: June 2, 2005 4:37 AM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
May 30, 2005

Topic: Posts While on R&R
When a soldier goes to Iraq, they are surrounded by their fellow soldiers. Each stop along the way, they can talk their buds, which helps them prepare for the unknown adventures that wait for them in Iraq. When contractors or foreign service officers go to Iraq, for the most part they travel alone. They generally travel on commercial carriers (Delta, Northwest, etc) until they reach Jordan or Kuwait. They spend the long trip battling with their own thoughts without anyone close to them to talk about what lays ahead.

Posted by alohafromtim at 3:01 PM EDT
Updated: June 2, 2005 4:37 AM EDT
Post Comment | View Comments (3) | Permalink
May 29, 2005

Topic: Posts While on R&R
So it begins again. I am going to start my journey back to Iraq today. Getting there from the States is very hard. Although most people travel through Kuwait to get to Iraq, I go through Jordan.

I leave DC on Monday night, arrive in Germany on Tuesday morning, hang around Frankfurt until Tuesday night, arrive in Jordan at 2am on Wednesday, catch an early morning flight into Iraq on Wednesday, wait around all day until I can take a late night armored bus (Rhino) run into the Green Zone, and finally I will arrive back at my "home" in the weeeeee hours of Thursday morning.

Because it takes so long to get into and out of Iraq, many foreign service officers seriously consider skipping their rest breaks rather than go through all the hassle of getting in and out of Iraq. I have even heard of people who haven't gone out of the Green Zone in months even though the have been instructed by their bosses to take their rest breaks.

Posted by alohafromtim at 3:01 PM EDT
Updated: May 30, 2005 12:23 PM EDT
Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink

Newer | Latest | Older