Sunday, December 16, 2012

It's Been a Quiet Week in Camp Arifjan, Kuwait - My Hometown - Out on the Edge of the Desert

"Five G-o-l-d-e-n Arches, Four Texting Birds, Three French Fries...." 

Last night, was the Brigade Christmas party. Of course, it was not called a Christmas party to be politically correct and totally secular it was called "Holiday Ball".  This means that everybody wished each other a Merry Christmas, all the decorations were Christmas, and everyone was sharing Christmas memories but because it was called a Holiday Ball,  neither MSNBC nor the ACLU showed up to protest.

Normally, I work in the headquarters building and don't spend a lot of time out at the marshaling yards or in the ports so there were a lot of people at the party who I seldom see or that I have not met at all. There is nothing wrong with that because there is enough esprit de corps that everyone was friendly; it just means a lot of the faces were new and different to me.

There was a nice spread of food, a DJ who was playing a good variety of music, and themed contests. I think everyone was having a good time but maybe it's because of my own age or experience in being in these types of situations that I found myself looking around at the faces of the young troops. It was very obvious to me who was spending their first Christmas away from home. They would spend a lot of time smiling and laughing but when they thought no one was looking their expressions would change and something in their eyes let you know that they were reflecting back on what was going on in their life last year, or maybe the year before. It is never easy being away from family; it is harder this time of year.

A lot of the troops I serve with are Army reservists, and even though they not only volunteered to go into the Army – – because there's no mobilization -- they also volunteered to deploy here. There are many worse places they could be but keep in mind there are a lot better places they could be as well. They are here by choice, and they are serving our nation willingly at a time when less than 5% of the total population of our country has ever put on a uniform.

So, as you go through your Christmas holiday I would ask that you keep these young troops in mind, maybe say a silent prayer for them, and remember to give them your thanks for being here. Whereas the politics of any particular situation is not always immediately visible, in the heart of every one of these men and women is the feeling that they are here to protect America.

This will be my last entry until the New Year. I am taking off for a short vacation and some much-needed family time. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and I can't wait to see what the New Year brings.

That's the news from Camp Arifjan, where all the Soldiers are strong, all the government Civilians are good-looking, and all the TCNs are above average."
Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sunday, December 9, 2012

From Omega Man to ???

When I moved here,  I had a choice in where I lived.  Because of the hours I was going to be working, I chose the place that was closest to work so that my commute would be shorter, even though the apartment was not in the best neighborhood.

The apartment reminded me of the one that Charleton Heston lived in The Omega Man.  The movie was set in a future post- apocalyptic world with Ray Ban wearing mutants running around in monk’s robes and stuff generally destroyed.  In the middle of the mess was this apartment where Heston lived that was very nice on the inside while maintaining a facade on the outside so that the mutants would not know he was there.  Eventually, they found out he was in there and…  well I don’t want to spoil the ending to a 1971 film.  Anyway,  my apartment was like that,  nice on the inside,  slum on the outside but if you didn't know that,  you would not have looked twice – that made me feel safer.  Note:  I do not wear a smoking jacket or have Van Gogh’s on the wall – just a Salvador Dali.

Last week I found out that I was going to have to move because the apartment failed to meet health and safety standards due to the neighborhood.   Now, before I go further I will say that I generally like the people in my neighborhood and I feel safe; some of the people do wear Ray Bans but none wear monk’s robes.  It is filled with mostly Indian Expats who are friendly and generally very nice.  The children in the neighborhood have gone from being scared of Falkor, to running up to pet and greet him by name when we go for walks.  There is a nearby bodega for milk and other odds and ends as well as a Chinese restaurant and easy access to the beach.  Lots to like,  but I will admit it is dirty and due to the garbage issues probably not healthy.

Old Place Outside Views

Old Place Inside Views

The new place is in the same section of Kuwait City,  but about 10 blocks from the old place.   I won't move until after Christmas,  but they gave me the address so I could take a look at the neighborhood.  It is residential versus urban and most of the folks I saw walking around were Kuwaiti.  Only the first floor is mine,  there are other folks on the upper stories.

Speaking of Christmas,  we have the office door decorated now and during our last staff meeting the Commander added some background music of Christmas music.  It was the first I have heard this season.  Some of the stores here have up a few ornaments, but nothing like the US,  but that is to be expected.  I don't recall Macy's having much up for Eid.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sometimes You Get Waffles, Sometimes You Get Steak, Sometimes You Get Waffles & Steak – But If You're Cute You Get a Rib Bone

Kuwait can seem like the Atlanta Airport of the Middle East as a lot of folks transit through here on their way elsewhere.  In the past week, in fact, we had two major reality stars come through. Kim Kardashian and my second oldest son.  Kim was on her way to Bahrain to market milkshakes and was greeted by protestors, and my son was on his way to Afghanistan to help a nation stand up and defend itself, he will be greeted with open arms by the guy he went there to replace.  Both are realities, but in my mind there is only one star,  the other is a pariah.

Son flew in to catch a connector flight, so I drove out to Ali Al Salem to see him,  at the time we were not sure how much time we would have since his ongoing travel arrangements were not concrete.  In the end he spent two nights here, staying in my guest room instead of a 15 man tent at the base.  Since he had some free time and he arrived on my day off, we took in a few sights.

Before coming here last March, I had been in and out of Kuwait many times and even during the last nine months (yes, nine months), I have never been to their Hard Rock Café.  So we went and had lunch there.  The hamburgers,  were – as usual for Hard Rock – expensive but awesome.  The building has a gorgeous view of the Gulf too, well worth a stop if you are in town.

From there we went down to the Kuwaiti Towers,  the major landmark in the city.  There is a restaurant and observation deck in the Towers, but they are currently closed for renovation.    Note: I didn’t write about it when it happened,  but Kuwait celebrated the  50th Anniversary of their Constitution a few weeks back and that included a $5 Million fireworks show that was held near the Towers.  I did not go to the show, I can only imagine how bad the traffic was, but it is now in the Guinness Book as the most expensive ever staged.

That evening we went back out to base,  and again my son did not make it on to a flight.  I had to go to work the next day,  so the Son watched TV,  did homework, and gave Falkor a bath – up until then Falkor enjoyed the idea of company –after the bath,  not so much.  I took off from work early and we went to one of my favorite restaurants,  Waffle and Steak.  We took Falkor along with us and sat at one of the outside tables,  since the weather was nice.  The manager was immediately taken with Falkor and brought him out a rib bone,  he then packed up another one for the dog to take home.  The manager even took Falkor  for a short walk while we ate.  Whereas many Arabs seem to have dog phobias,  the Filipinos and Indians working here seem to like dogs a lot;  I think it may be memories of owning dogs of their own at home.    Falkor is welcome inside a few local eateries and stores – which blows me away when you consider a few months ago he was considered a mongrel who was thrown out into the street.

Speaking of being thrown in the street,   I drove my son back out to the base and this time he made a flight out and I have email that he safely made it to the other side where is now sleeping in an unheated tent with no bedding waiting for the final leg of his journey to Leatherneck to begin.