Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Eve Eve

It's hard to get in the Christmas spirit when you're forward deployed. You can't go shopping in the mall with several thousand of your new closest friends. Well, you can go to the BX, or one of the little Iraqi marts on base, but that's not the same thing. There are no lines of kids waiting to sit on Santa's lap and get their picture taken. No Christmas carols blasting. No sales clerks frantically trying to get you to buy something - the clerks in the BX don't care whether you buy something or not. Actually, most of the Iraqi store owners don't seem to care, either. They got what they got; if you want it, buy it; if not, there's another store next door. Even the weather isn't cooperating: our highs for the past week have been about 70, and lows around 50. Perfect jogging weather at lunch time. Not so good for getting psyched up for Christmas holidays.

To be sure, our DFAC is certainly doing what they can. They took down all the brown and gold streamers and put up red and green ones instead. Little cardboard Santa faces hang like little decapitated heads from the ceiling. The DFAC workers took down the plaster Pilgrims and put up a couple of Charlie Brown prefab Christmas trees. Oddly enough, they didn't take down the painted Thanksgiving backdrop, so now we have these two trees standing in front of a really weird Thanksgiving scene, which appears to include an oversize Irish elf, a hippie, a Spanish conquistador, a midget, and a few Indians ... from India, not North America. And we still have this mysterious 10'x20' styrofoam model of the front of the White House. Nobody has yet come up with a rationale for that particular decoration. Yes, Victory Base is a strange place.

My whole office went out to eat at the Babylon Restaurant last night. It's a new restaurant located on a far part of the base. I ate there once before and it was really good. I mean, it was really good - and not just for Victory Base, either. So we were pretty excited: good food, good company, Christmas, the whole deal. And we were let down. We discovered that the restaurant staff has no clue how to handle a crowd. By "crowd", I mean anything over, say, four people. Total. In the entire restaurant. We had nine in our group, and there were three other groups of similar size that arrived at various times, plus several small groups of two to four. "Chaos" is a pretty good word to describe the experience. To make a long story short, we finally got most of our orders about two hours after we got there. At least the food was good. To tell the truth, I didn't mind all that much (although it would've been nice to get a glass of water at about the 1-hour mark). I was deep in discussion with one of our support contractors. He is an Iraqi who left in 1989 and settled in the U.S., eventually getting US citizenship. He came over here several years ago to do what he could to help his old country get back on its feet. He's sorta optimistic and sorta not, and it was very interesting to hear his viewpoint.

A lot of people have gone on R&R. Seems like a bunch of them left here just in time to get snagged by that big snowstorm that clobbered the US. I imagine we'll hear lots of horror stories when they return. I'll be heading home on R&R next month, right in the deepest part of winter, but hey, it's a trip home. I am NOT going another six months without seeing my wife and dogs again, not if I don't have to. From the "work" side, the timing looks pretty good. I should have a lot of my projects out for bids from contractors, and when I come back, it'll be time to hit the ground running hard so we can get those contracts awarded and launched.

So that's the scene from my little corner of Victory Base, Iraq. I hope you and yours are having a wonderful Christmas season and that you get to spend time with your families. If you're a veteran of Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, Lebanon, Panama, Grenada, or any one of a number of other conflicts, a tip of my hat to you and enjoy your holidays. You earned it - and the young soldiers out here right now are holding up your tradition.

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