Sunday, December 30, 2007

So my friend Ben (Hagan - Thank you very much) has set up this blog for me. I didn't realize the images I was sending were clogging up people's emails and really slow. So he came up with the idea of blogging - which, I admit, is a new one for me. I thought I would give it a try in celebration of the new year. If anyone is not able to view the blog, let me know, and I will email the pics to you. In the meantime - give this link a try.
It is a work in progress.
So to catch you all up, Christmas came and went without much of a hitch. Only one left to go... woohoo. Things have been relatively quieter over the past week. The hospital is still plenty busy with run-of-the-mill ER stuff - delivered my 5th baby this afternoon. Not really what you would expect from a COMBAT Support Hospital, but we have to take care of the people who show up at our door. The mood on Christmas was bittersweet as I am sure people wished they were home with family, but there were still some festivities to be had with the commadn group wandering around the hospital charolling and all. That's what happens when people have free time, they put on funny costumes and sing apparently. I would prefer to sleep.
The dining facility (or DFAC) was decorated in the same bizarre style as Thanksgiving - attached some pics of some of the decorations - Abe Lincoln appeared again, but no George Washington this time, maybe next year.

Got to do a little more exploring of the IZ, unfortunatly, I think I have exhausted all the places I haven't been yet and we still have over a year to go. Oh well, that's what movies are for I guess. There are several communications towers in the IZ with commanding views - made friends with the key holder for one of them, and my friend Dena (Family Practice doc) and I got to explore to the top. Well worth the 250 steps up.
Other than that, not much new and exciting to report here. Stil mostly enjoying the people I work with - really am lucky to have such a good team of people here in the ER. The surgeons get on our nerves - but hell - they are surgeons and get on everyones nerves. Besides, they rotate out in a little over a month - they only have to be here for 6 months at at time and they showed up 3 months before us.
So here are the pics for this latest instalment...

Convinced a couple of my goyim (if you don't know what this means - contact me privately) friends to come with me down to Saddam's palace for the last night of Hannukah. It was an experience having one of the 7 Jewish Chaplains in the Army lead us in Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel under a giant "Merry Christmas" which itself s surrounded by the words "Saddam Hussein" imprinted into every 50th brick.

Courtesy of my mother-in-law, the inflatable palm trees to decorate our relaxation spot on top of the hospital - also some pink flamingos. We got a little tired of trying to blow them up by hand, and decided to utilize some of the local... supplies... oxygen cylinders blow up palm trees nicely. A little bit of a fire hazard, but what is life without risks...

Ahhh... yes, the DFAC is decorated to clebrate the... uhmmm... The Bangladeshi interpretation of an American interpretation of Christmas. I am not sure what or who she is, but who am I to ask.


This picture is from that tower - looking out into downtown Baghdad. Immediately next to us is what happens when a few 500 pound bombs meet one of Saddam's palaces. Essentially the entire inside of the building has caved in with actually relatively little damage to the outside. In the distance is the river that is the natural boundary between the IZ and the "red zone", or the rest of Baghdad.

Finally - we get all sorts of cards from schoolchildren all over the country, which is really cute and entertaining as you might imagine. Usually letters of support or encouragement, but this one caught the eye of our staff and now holds a place of honor on our medication lockbox, for all to see...

Hope you are all well. Have a great New Year and thank you for everything.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Happy belated Hannukah!
I guess two weeks have gone by since the last update - time for the next. Thank you again for your emails... truly appreciated.
Things here are pretty much status quo. I have to admit I am pretty happy over a month has gone by. I try not to think how many are left, though. Only one more Thanksgiving and one more Hannukah away, though.
A few other docs and I have started to explore the International Zone a little more. We went to a hotel within the International Zone and had some local food - very good. Fresh hummus, lamb and chicken kabobs - we have been getting pretty sick of the dining facility food and were willing to risk the dysentery to try something different. Besides, one of the docs I went with is an Infectious Disease specialist and if he felt comfortable eating there, I guess I should also. We also went to some of the other local FOBs (Forward Operating Bases). They are based in various bombed out palaces and each have a unique flavor to them. One place has giant man-mad ponds that people (now US soldiers) fish in. Not that I would be willing to eat the catch of the day, though.
Got a tour from two people - first guy was head of all the guards for the International Zone(IZ), second guy was the head PA for the State Department here. Went to the top of the al Rashid hotel - the only hotel in the IZ. Actually out on the roof to get a view of all of Baghdad. Then down to the 'Crossed Sabers' parade ground where the speed bumps are actually dead Iranian soldier's helmets (some with bullet holes in the helmet's). Saddam was really lunatic. Took pictures imitating him firing his rifle in the review stand. The Iraqi government is planning on taking down the Crossed Sabers as soon as they can - as they are really a monument to Saddam's idiocy.
Hannukah here in Baghdad has been an experience as well. Forgot to pack my menorah - so one of the nurses made one out of syringes and needles (see the pics). It has beena point of conversation for many people who happen by the ER, especially when the candles are burning. The last night of Hannukah was spent down in the Embassy with a 6 foot electric menorah they had erected. There were supposed to be latkes also (traditional Hannukah potato pancakes), but the burner was 110 volts, and the only available outlets were 240. Oh well, maybe next year.
My frieds back at the clinic at Fort Monmouth also sent me my first Christmas tree ever (thanks Jose). It is actually a live tree and is one of the biggest hits this hospital has seen. You wouldn't believe the number of people who stop by just to smell a piece of home. They also sent decorations and ornaments that were put up on the tree and all over the ER.
So Baghdad is still Baghdad and Iraq is still Iraq. There has been an increase in our work recently due to a bunch of different things. The end of some of the local cease fires/pacts, and a general feeling of wanting to disrupt the holiday season and the return from the Haj which is taking place. A few days ago, a local oil refinery was hit with mortars - even though it was almost 10 miles away - the entire hospital shook and some glass actually broke. It woke me up 10 minutes before my alarm was supposed to go off - and I really like my sleep.
Well back home Amy has had her hands full. Naomi just got over a week of gastroenteritis just in time for Sara to get Croup. I think both girls enjoyed Hannukah though and still have no idea what to do with all the presents they got - and they stil have Christmas ones coming.
I hope this email finds you all well and you are enjoying your holidays.
I have attached the usual pics - my friend Ben is trying to set up a blog for them so that you all don't have to download all the pics if you don't want on a slow connection. More to come.
Happy Hannukah and Merry Christmas.