Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving in Iraq

Let me say up front, I had a great Thanksgiving. If I can't be with my family for a holiday, the next best place is to be deployed with my Air Force family. This Thanksgiving was definitely better than my two Thanksgivings in Virginia. It's just not possible for it to be better than last year's Thanksgiving though. Last year I was with my mom, Terry, John, Henrik, and David for Thanksgiving, mom and Terry's wedding, and mom's birthday. Nothing could top that.

This is my third deployed Thanksgiving. I don't remember much about the last one in 2004. I fondly remember the one in France in 1994. My unit had a small corner of a French Air Force base. People in the unit set up tables and decorated the central room of the building where our offices were. There was quite a selection of food spread out over the tables. I filled up a plate and took it back to the office I shared with two enlisted Airmen. We had our fill of some very good food and great conversation. Yep, that was a good one too.

I worked on Thanksgiving, but it was a slow day so I mainly worked on getting ready for my upcoming trip. At lunchtime, a group of over 20 people from work went to the DFAC together. The DFAC was all decked out. There were streamers all over the place and Thanksgiving-themed paper decorations everywhere. What was really impressive though were the decorations made from food. There was a life-size turkey made from potato chips. A 5-foot long alligator made from pineapples and a watermelon for the mouth. Bread baked into different shapes, 4-foot long sheetcakes, a gigantic cornucopia, and a huge eagle that I have no idea what it was made from. There were even more decorations, such as a Statue of Liberty and Taj Mahal (I guess for the Indians at the first Thanksgiving?), but you get the idea. Why don't I have a picture of all that? That's a story in itself.

I'm watching people run around at lunch taking pictures and wondering why I didn't bring my camera. I decided I would stop by the DFAC at dinner, whether I was hungry or not, with my camera to get pictures then. So after work, I went to my room and grabbed my camera. I decided to go to the BX to pick up a few things before going to the DFAC. I got all the way to the entrance of the BX before I realized I forgot my ID card. You need it to get into the BX or DFAC. I went back to my office, grabbed my ID card, and returned to the BX. When I got back to the BX, it was closed because there had been a fire inside. I stood around for about 15 minutes before giving up on it opening soon. I headed over to the DFAC to take pictures and grab something to eat. I went inside the DFAC, took out my camera, and...dead battery. UGH! Oh well, I had a second Thanksgiving meal (ham instead of turkey this time) and went back to my room to watch the Lions lose. The picture below is from a coworker who took a picture of the lunch group.

Hope everyone had a blessed Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Into Africa

Those of us who are here for a year get a 2-week vacation. The Army has a similar policy. Usually it is taken at about the half-way, or 6-month, point. I hit 6 months last week. I'll take my leave just short of being here for 7 months. I like that because I'll have less than 5 months left after I return. The military provides us with a commercial airline ticket to anywhere we want to go. I'm sure my mom would prefer I come home to see her, but I decided to take a trip to Africa.

I'll fly out of here on 30 Nov and initially go to Kuwait. I'll wait there until the military can get me on a commercial flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. I plan on spending a few days there. I'll check out the city, including some museums. I'll also do a day safari in Kruger National Park. From there I'll fly up to Livingstone, Zambia. I chose there because it is the closest city to Victoria Falls. Unfortunately it is the dry season, so the falls won't be in their full glory. Oh well. I'll also check out some parks in that area. Nairobi, Kenya is the next stop after Livingstone. There are multiple museums in the city, national parks are nearby, and Mount Kenya isn't far away. I'll take a day trip to see Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (I decided to pass on the 6-10 day trip for climbing the mountain). I'll leave Nairobi and go back to South Africa, Cape Town this time. I have wanted to go to Cape Town ever since I saw pictures from a visit by friends of mine. I love that the mountains are right next to the ocean. I'm going to experience both, Table Mountain and the beaches. I'll also go out to the Cape of Good Hope and go where I can see sharks and penguins. I'll spend some time relaxing before I have to return to Iraq.

Obviously I'm very excited about the trip. Not only am I looking forward to the experience, but I'm ready for a break from here. I'm also looking forward to wearing civilian clothes, not shaving, and having a beer. My mom is concerned about the crime rate in African cities. She said she'll be happy when my trip is over. I asked her, "So you'll be happy when I'm safe and sound in Iraq?" We had a good chuckle about that.

I promise to give you a recap of the trip and provide pictures when I get back.