Sunday, November 30, 2008

Tick-Tock. The clock is continuing to tick down. The end of November is here - which means as of one hour from now I can say... "this month". Most people are starting to get very excited about leaving, a return to normality, the ability to wear jeans and whatever hat we want. Hopefully nobody opts to wear my Halloween outfit ever again. I say 'most people' because being here has a strange effect on some. It is like we live in a bubble where the real world (i.e., back home) doesn't really exist. People's problems and issues that are home are easily forgotten. We are in our own world here where we don't have the stresses of decision making in real life - what to wear, what to eat, who to be friends with. While I can't wait to get out of this 'bubble', there are people who are stressing over the return home more than they stressed about coming over here.

As for what is happening here - just more of the same. With the negotiations and recent SOFA (Status Of Forces Agreement) signing, unfortunately, work in the hospital has picked up. But we are still making time for the usual time killers. Trying to stay as sane as possible by... well... knitting. It passed the time for a few hours anyways. And now I can make a small 3x5 inch piece of knitted something or other. We have been running as usual to pass some time as well. And then there is another really stupid thing we did. In somthing called the 'DANCON March' or the Danish Contingent March, we actually paid money to march around the Green Zone for no real reason. One theory was that it was a giant prank prank played by the Danish to laugh at the stupid Americans and maybe even post it on 'You-Tube". Supposedly it is a ceremonial march that the Danish have everywhere that they have a military contingent deployed.

There is, of course the ever present need to exercise. We continue to look like giant fools and use the Nintendo Wii for regular boxing matches or other pseudo sporting events. I am sorry to say that I consistently lose to a girl... oh well. I have been able to continue on running pretty regularly, even up to the checkpoint of the red-zone. That has all stopped lately, though with the very special way that the various insurgents have been celebrating around our Thanksgiving (actually the signing of the SOFA much more than the holiday, I presum). But we do miss the freedom fo being able to run outside the hospital FOB. We did find a local "golf" course, though. Complete with 9-holes, par 3. It was a little 'ghetto' in that the holes were made of tin cans buried in the ground and they were marked by torn dish-towels with numbers on them. That and we were surrounded by cement T-walls and Barbed wire. The course is on the grounds of the NATO mission in the Green Zone and it has some nice inspirational signs up for us to contemplate.

In addition to the golf course Kristy and I found during one of our bike trips around the IZ, we also found one of the light towers that illuminate the Crossed Sabers parade ground unlocked. We took a trip to the top and were treated to quite a view of the Green Zone. Although inspiring a little bit of vertigo from the top, it was well worth it.

In addition to the views that we got, we also stopped for some food at a local restaurant. Surprisingly, we did not get the runs despite the swarms of flies that surrounded the place and dive-bombed our food and our faces.

Speaking of food - Thanksgiving was interesting again. The interpretation again by the caterers from Pakistan and Bangladesh was comical at best, disturbing at worst. It was our second Thanksgiving here, and it actually felt quite a bit different than the last one. For one thing, we knew what to expect both in the food and in the decorations. But at least it was like eating with family having spent the equivalent of a lifetime or two here in Iraq already. The people make it just about bearable. I have told them that while I feel pretty strongly about my friends here - I really don't want to see them again for a long time.

In the meantime, we will keep trying to stay sane for the time that we have left. Todd will keep trying out new patterns of Army camouflage. If you are interested in investing in some property in the Green Zone - there are some phone numbers that you can call. We hear there is quite a demand these days. And hopefully, the next time I send one of these out, it will be when we have started to pack our bags and are heading out the door.

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