[with all sensitivity, intended... I'm fine. I'm sorry for any concern prompted by my extended absence. I'm trying to get to this posting more regularly, but believe me, if something (bad) happens, you'll see/hear something about it here
Monday I took a trip to Camp Liberty in Baghdad. It was such fun and such misery all rolled into one. Another officer in my unit, Chris, needed someone to go with him to conduct some business at this base, and I was the appropriate choice.
We were told our scheduled flight via Blackhawk was at 9:35 a.m., so we needed to be at the flight line an hour prior. Arrived at the flight, oh yeh -- we were on the list, but the guy who scheduled us -- the same guy who told us when to show up -- had scheduled us for 7:30 flight, meaning be there 6:30, 6:45. Had to fly space-available, but it worked out. We just didn't know for sure it would. Watched three sets of helicopters land in 15 minutes, each time thinking it would be for us, but it wasn't. Sometimes no one got on. There was no ride from the flight line at Liberty coordinated with a receiving party. We begged a ride off a couple specialists who were from units operating on our own base. They dropped us off at the PX/Bazaar area, and the madness ensued.
There was some incidental business we had to take care of -- pay for and pick up commemorative stained-glass plaques for all the members of our unit.
First of all, let's do a little math here... The vendor said that 18 of the plaques would be ready upon our arrival on Monday. Each weighs no less than five pounds and is approximately 20" x 30" x 2" in it's protective case. In addition, we're required to travel in body armor and helmet with no storage location on arrival site. Translation: all transactions, traveling, shopping, and carrying of the plaques was conducted in a uniform that added 20 pounds to our body weight!
So we arrive around 9:45 a.m. at the Bazaar, shop that is stocked and run by an assortment of Iraqis and Third Country Nationals -- displaying wares from India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and every copy-cat item you can imagine... you want a Movado watch? a Rolex? $20 pair of Nikes that cost $3 to make?? ...Go to the Bazaar. They won't promise that your goods will even function beyond 3 steps out the door, but that's not what you bought it for anyway, right? Ha.
Bazaar was supposed to open at 10. Closed, closed... STILL closed... waiting... nope, still closed. Bought a couple Lattes from the Seattle's Best in the food court there while we waited. Actually, Chris went in and ordered while I watched the body armor, etc we had both so willingly shed. Then I watched him go back and forth to the coffee shop no fewer than three times for forgotten items -- heat sleeve for the cup -- stir stick -- sugar... and we waited some more.
Then at 10:45, a soldier came running by in full armor (the uniform of an armed escort), walking into the Bazaar and opening the door for the crowd to enter. As suspected, it wasn't the vendors at fault -- but the soldiers! hmph. Chris and I went directly to the booth of our vendor, inquiring after the plaques. By this time it's 11:00.
Vendor: "They are not here yet."
Colleague: "What do you mean? You said they would be completed today. None of them are here?"
V: "They will
be coming; they are just not here yet. They are in the car of the owner, waiting in line to come through the gate."
C: "Oh. Ok, how long will it be then?"
V: "Thirty minutes, sir."
So we had planned on shopping around a little at the bazaar anyway. He wanted to get something nice for his wife; I wanted to get something nice for my mother... Trying not to spend too
much money, and trying not to raise my voice too loudly with my mutterings of what CRAP people were willing to sell -- and buy
, my goodness. Bought a little leather-bound notebook ($5), nail polish ($2), chess set ($45), bracelet for mom ($ ha -- won't say), and 2 pairs of shoes ($22 total). I looked so goofy trying those shoes on. Decided that I wanted to remove one boot and sock in order to try the shoes... but I looked so funny wearing my uniform and body armor, one boot and this little green toeless heel -- great plan for a return home in the middle of winter, I know. But, hey, it was fun.
Two hours passed after the conversation with the vendor... we finally left with 12 plaques in tow at 1:45, caught a shuttle to the flight line, we thought... asked the Indian, non-english-speaking bus driver three times if the bus stopped at the flight line, "oh yes, yes" replied three times... then "helicopter pad?...no, no that's the other
bus." Great, now we're never going to make our 2:25 flight!
Lugged all of our stuff onto the other bus, 50 yards away, sat there in the parking lot, no bus driver for 20 minutes waiting to leave; finally left, drove half way around the base to get to the pad; all to find out that the 2:25 flight left at 2:05!! Oh, and by the way... the next flight wasn't going to leave until 5:15.
Did I mention we had skipped lunch? We hatched this brilliant plan to catch the next shuttle that came to the flight line -- one of us would go, and one of us would guard the pile of stuff -- no shuttles came. Needless to say, we arrived a little frazzled, but all intact, at our home-sweet-home base around 5:45. But hey -- I got some sweet shoes out of the deal!
More when I can... --- tommi