Friday, December 12, 2008

Back in Baghdad

Playtime is over and I'm back in Baghdad.  My R&R was great.  Janis and I had a wonderful relaxing time, mostly visiting with friends, getting some little stuff done, and doing a lot of nothing.  Can't think of a better way to spend a couple of weeks.  I didn't update the blog since nobody wants to read about how I lay on the couch sleeping through a football game.  But now it's back to work.

I left Asheville on Tuesday afternoon.  It wasn't as hard on either Janis or me as it was the first time.  Maybe we're getting used to it ... at least she wasn't saying "get on the damn airplane, already!"  The flight to Charlotte was bumpy but short.  Had a couple of hours' layover in Charlotte, so I grabbed a chicken caesar salad from the barbecue place but it didn't sit very well later on ... nothing major, just a slight feeling of "I'm still here and I'm not going anywhere soon ..."  The flight to Dulles was uneventful.  I was a bit worried since Dulles can sometimes be a bear to get around in and I had a short time to get to the next gate, but my incoming flight arrived just down the hall from the outgoing one and I had plenty of time.  Then it was 12 hours on the United flight from Dulles to Kuwait.  Ugh.  The bright spot?  I had an aisle seat in the center, and the only other person in the row had the other aisle seat.  So with lots of empty seats next to me, I was able to get horizontal and pretend to sleep for about three hours.

The State Department makes it as easy as possible to transit Kuwait.  We arrived about 6 pm and, after clearing customs, were met by some guys who whisked us off to the hotel,  where State has a suite where we can sit in La-Z-Boys and watch TV or surf the net or whatever.  Then at 2:30 in the morning, we were loaded onto a bus and taken out to the military base, where our handlers processed us through customs again, collected our bags, and got us manifested onto the military flight.  We finished up at around 5 a.m. and had just enough time to grab something from the McDonald's trailer before being loaded on the bus to go out to the plane.  More sitting around waiting, and then we were off.  I like C-17's - they're roomy and (for a cargo plane) relatively comfortable, and they're reliable to boot, unlike my experiences with C-5's.  

Anyway, we arrived in Baghdad in mid-morning and it was cold.  Yes, cold.  Low 30's.  We were processed through the arrival system, got manifested onto the helo for the ride in to the IZ, collected our bags, and then had a couple of hours to kill.  I grabbed a crappy cuppa coffee but since I'd been up for basically two days I needed it.  Finally we were crammed into the blue State Department helos and had that wonderful, bouncy, noisy, COLD, but fun ride into town.  We settled down at Landing Zone Washington and I hoofed it across the street to the Palace and my office.  I was home again.

Baghdad had some interesting things happen while I was gone.  For one thing, it got a lot colder, as I noted earlier.  But it also had one helluva rainstorm that included some serious hail.  Can you believe it, hail in Iraq?  Yup.  I saw the pictures.  Not only that, but it rained so hard that it flooded the basement of the Palace, did some damage to a few other buildings, and created a bunch of sinkholes around the NEC.  Some storm!

Work-wise, a lot happened, but then, a lot hasn't changed.  I'm trying to get caught up on today's situation.  Some things that were hot three weeks ago seem to have just gone away, while things that were going just fine have turned to shit.  In other words, everything's normal.  
I've got a lot of other things to write about, but not tonight.  I got a lotta questions about how I see things going in Iraq today and I'll try to answer them.  And I got an interesting questionto answer  about what I found surprising about life at home, after being over here for a while.  But that'll all have to wait til next time.  I've got some serious sleep to catch up on!

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