Thursday, July 7, 2011

4th of July and ISAF

Time for another update from the wonderful world of Camp CupCake.  I’m sitting out in the courtyard, which they spruced up a little recently, writing this.  Currently in the background over the hum and drone of the generators you can hear the Call to Prayer from a nearby Mosque.  It sounds like a dull moaning but it isn’t altogether unpleasant and it doesn’t last a long time.  Just enough to remind you you’re some where else.  As for the courtyard they added fresh gravel and a lot of new picnic benches, however they took away the chairs and small tables they had which is what gave it the café feel. Oh well.  We’ve actually eaten outside a few times this week since the weather has been good. One day the wind kicked up and started blowing everything around, I haven’t done the math but the wind has to be pretty strong to blow over a half full can of soda.  It makes eating interesting when food starts blowing away.  Maybe I should just stop eating salads?

The 4th of July was this week for those of you not paying attention.  Not that we have days off or weekends but the work level here really did drop noticeably just due everyone back home being off.  We had a short little ceremony here which was pretty cool.  The big deal is that GEN Petraeus was here and gave a short speech as well as handing out Commander Coins and Combat Patches to some of the soldiers here.  Of the three of us in the office I was the only one not to get anything, then again I’m not a solider.  Commander Coins are more or less an atta boy type of tradition.  I think they evolved from challenge coins that units give to unit members but I could be wrong.  Anyway getting one from GEN Petraeus is pretty cool.  Combat patches are worn on the right sleeve of the uniform and show what unit you were deployed with for combat operations.

 “They aren’t a big deal, unless you don’t have one.” – GEN Petraeus
Just the army way of saying “been there, done that”  Still getting one from GEN Petraeus adds a little to the experience.

Other than that the 4th was a pretty normal day, I did get to watch the hot dog eating contest while I was riding the bike at the gym so I guess that is worth mentioning too.  I was able to get a polish sausage for lunch which was hot dog like enough and the grilled up steamship round for dinner.  They had a huge cake but it looked really dry so I didn’t have any, still working our way through the stash of cookies in the office anyway.  (It is a tough job but someone has to do it right?)

Also last weekend I finally got kicked out of my room, it was a little sad but atleast I don’t have to deal with that anymore.  So now I’ve got a room in one of the real building with two roommates, both seem pretty cool.  I’ve got a top bunk which is only annoying since there isn’t a good way up or down.  It’s different but I’ll get used to it, actually right now one of the guys is off on R&R or Emergency leave or something like that so who knows when he’ll get back.  I need to get a locker in there so I have somewhere to put my stuff but I keep forgetting to go grab one during the day, guess it isn’t that critical.

The boss and I made a trip over to ISAF HQ the other day, that was a pretty neat trip.  It is rather close by so not a long drive over or anything but I always like getting outside of walls and seeing what’s around.  We almost missed the ride over, we showed up late (not my fault),  but we made it so that’s really what matters.  We were really just going over to get a lay of the land and so when we have to go over in there future we know where things are and can do things efficiently.  That said we spent most of the time we were over there exploring and finding all sorts of things.  It isn’t much bigger than C3 but they have I a lot more shops and building packed into the area.  Eating lunch at the dining hall (yeah we didn’t get to go to the good pizza place, oh well guess I’ll need to get back there..) they have sign in sheets for every different country that is there.  We counted 33 different countries and then spent most of lunch comparing all the different uniforms and camo patterns that we saw.  They also have grass, nice grass.  I don’t think ive seen that anywhere else.  The volleyball court has astro turf and looks like they also use it for soccer, however when we walked by there were a bunch of guys playing cricket on it. (it’s caged in and rather small and it was obvious they were playing some indoor/modified form of cricket but still not something you see everyday, least I don’t).  They also have a really nice garden type area with grass and trees and places to sit in the shade and hang out.  I guess that doesn’t sound to weird except unless you see what is around it.  Everything is drab and dusty and gravel, veryy little green or natural looking things.  There were 3 or 4 decent sized PXs there each one run by a different country so they cater to their own people but anyone can shop there.  So just walking thru those was interesting.  Something that they sell there just blew me away with surprise, one of the PXs had “Fury Love Cuffs” for sale, yup, furry handcuffs.  Someone is having a lot more fun than I am…   They also had a pistol crossbow that I actually thought about getting (hey if you can’t have a gun why not a crossbow right?) but according to the boss I wouldn’t be allowed to carry that either so that defeats the point, alas I didn’t get it.  Before you make fun of a crossbow it worked out ok for Chewy.

Oh I also saw a strange stat this week that actually made me rather proud of my alma mater.  The four year graduation rate for first time, full time students, starting in 2001: 21%. 

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