Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Home Again

It sure is good to be back at home again. (Something about that line brings back the sappy John Denver song ... normally I'm not a fan of his, but that song is very apropos right now). Had a long trip home and have been going pretty hard since arriving here.

On Saturday, I was up early and was glad to see it was going to be a bright, clear day. I had to brief my boss on a significant restructuring of six of my programs. He had just returned from R&R a few days before and I needed to make sure he fully understood what I was proposing. He seems to now ... of course, I won't really know until I go back in a couple of weeks. Then I went back to grab my bags and throw them into the truck for the trip to the passenger terminal at Sather. As soon as the truck was loaded, both the driver and I were wondering "where the hell did all this fog come from?". Yes, fog - thick, too. On the drive to the terminal, we had to creep along as we could often see only 50 feet. It didn't clear up for hours and delayed a bunch of flights, mine included. So I sat at Sather from 8:30 until we finally loaded up and took off at 4:30 in the afternoon.

The flight to Kuwait was typical for a C-130: crammed like sardines onto the most uncomfortable nylon-net bench seats you can imagine. There's no padding and you have to wear your body armor and hold your bags on your lap. And you have to wear earplugs because there's no sound deadening either. My butt was numb and my legs didn't want to work by the time we finally landed.

Ali Al Salem has had some changes since I was last there a few months ago. Evidently a new commanding officer has come in and turned the place into a cross between a passenger terminal and boot camp. Once we got off the bus, we were lined up in rows, all of us, from the most junior private to most senior Colonel, with some senior State Department civilians thrown in, while a young private barked orders at us. Then we were marched over to our various check-in desks. Then down to turn in our body armor. Last time I did this, I walked in, filled out the form per the directions, turned in my armor, and was on my way in five minutes. This time, I had to wait until there was a full crowd, then a sergeant bellowed us block-by-block through the form. "BLOCK 14. WRITE YOUR LAST NAME AND THEN FIRST NAME. BLOCK 15. WRITE TODAY'S DATE. IT'S ONE SIX DASH ZERO ONE DASH TWO ZERO ONE ZERO. DO NOT WRITE IT ANY OTHER WAY. HOOAH?" In another tent, a master sergeant was doing the same thing with a batch of soldiers going on R&R. Sometimes you just gotta roll your eyes and go with the flow.

I hooked up with the Corps of Engineers detachment and they got me over to the Kuwait airport. Then it was onto the plane and off we went. The flight home is about 13 hours. I dunno about you, but I cannot stay in one position, or one seat, for that long, so I was up and moving around a bit. Still I managed to get some sleep, so I was ready to go by the time we landed at Dulles. Which is where the grumpiest scanner teams in the world work. I mean, they were crabby. I run into crabby people every time I go through Dulles - at the ticket counter, security screening, immigration, all over. What is it about that place? Other airports manage to have friendly, or at least neutrally efficient, people working there, but Dulles sets its workers on edge.

Our departure from Dulles was delayed due to weather, but not enough to make me miss my next flight. I wound up sitting next to a very interesting gent from South Africa and we had a great time talking about all sorts of things. Then it was on to Asheville and back to Janis. Home again!

We've been pretty busy doing a lot of nothing. I've run a few errands, walked the dogs, checked off some things on the honey-do list, played with the dogs, visited with some friends, walked the dogs again, and taken the truck to the shop. Lots of little things that are all about being home. My body clock is all messed up, of course. I've been waking up between 2:30 to 4 a.m., regardless of what time I go to bed, and I poop out about 8 pm if not earlier.

But that's fine. I'm home. What a great place to be!

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