Patricia's Blog

8 days and a wake up….

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It is so close now I can smell it…the sweet smell of freedom.  Though, I am extremely disappointed that there were no flights to Africa which is where my nephew is based.  I really thought I could fly down there, find him and give him a great big hug.  He is still in theater for another 8 months after I leave.  I actually started packing tonight.  I have to move to a tent to make room for the folks coming in so it is going to be slumber parties with bunkbeds for a few nights before we get up at O dark 30 to head home.  Andrew always wonders why the military has to do everything so early…to be honest, our departure can’t be early enough.  My last rotation to Afghanistan, the day we were allowed to leave we left at 0001.  We sat at the end of the runway and watched when the clock hit the next day, “Cleared for takeoff!!"  Too bad we cannot do that here but things are a little different now.  This is a completely different war.  I have no desire to ever come back because the focus has totally been shifted from the mission to refreshing dorms and taking people for airplane rides.  

I had a girl from public affairs today call me in the office.  She wanted to take video of our C-130 that was departing the ramp.  She asked me what runway the airplane would be taking off from.  This is where I get a little edge on my responses…I can tell she has no idea what she is talking about and I smell blood in the water. We have two runways that are side by side and only one of them is open.  The information she wanted could not help her in any way.  “Would you like to know where the plane is parked?”  Now she lit up…..”yes..yes”  “It is on the Kilo Ramp” “Uhhhhhh”  That is as far as I could help her.  She had no idea what a ramp was…I could tell.  She called back 5 mintues later.  “Is there a C-17 departing too?  Is that also your airplane?”  I couldn’t take it…I wanted to ask her…..are you in the AIR FORCE??  Shouldn’t there be just a basic knowledge about what we do as a service?  We have airplanes…different airplanes…and different people fly them.  Call those people to find out when their plane leaves.  I think she was suprised that we even had airplanes….It is a different time and a different war.

Am I getting snarky??  Sorry…….

Can’t wait to get home!!

Pool Party….?

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Even the inmates get a day of fun!!  Saturday was Mia’s birthday and we had a group of us that traveled off base to a hotel and enjoyed the pool and a fabulous buffet lunch.  It was so hard to leave once the day was over because for that moment, you are able to imagine that you are home.  That you can walk out the front door, get in your car and drive home.  It is nice that in this country, we have the freedom to leave the base but there is always something to snap you back to reality.  As we were all lounging at the pool, it was an interesting spectator perspective.  One man was wearing a sailor hat like Hugh Hefner and he was half the size of his wife in every way…also, a woman in an Abaya and Hijab just got up form her seat and went right into the pool.  Head to toe clothing and in she goes.  It is odd things like that that snap you back to the reality that you are in another country with another way of life.

12 days and a wake up now.  So hard to believe how close it is.  I talked to Carlyn yesterday and it warmed my heart.  I have been sending her presents the whole time I have been gone to have something good happening while I am away.  I told her that when I got home, there would be no more presents from me coming in the mail.  She said. “That’s okay mom….I would rather have you.”  I can’t wait to get home and love my entire family…I miss them so much.

Today it is gale force winds out there and the visibility is down to nothing.  No point in going anywhere but I think at 3pm we are all going to rally for a movie, then probably dinner and finally the gym.  Sound familiar?  There are limited options here but I guess it keeps life simple.

Can’t wait to head home…just a few more tomorrows.

Happy Birthday…to me.

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Well…..thank you to all of you who showered me with birthday cards, presents and surprises.  What a great birthday…Mom and Dad’s cards came very early and I had already opened them and my great presents from them….and the package from my family at home and my best friend Julie was delivered today on my birthday….emails from my sisters and dear friends.  Thank you all for making this day in this lonely place so incredibly special!!

This is the place we live…”The Rock”.  It sits atop a hill and that is a sword coming out of the top, not a cross.  Behind me and out of the picture is a memorial to September 11.  I am off to the gym and then our squadron is planning a fun game night.  Just put in laundry and on that note will say goodbye to my birthday for another year.  

If you are watching the news, you know that things are carzy here.  Glad we are leaving soon but I hope that we can help if we are needed in the meantime.  Please send prayers to the poor folks in the areas of unrest. 

Roll Them Balls…..

Just a little blurb about our Bingo night….I can’t believe I won two games.  One regular bingo and I got the final game of blackout bingo but unfortunately two others won on O67 as well for blackout.  They have you draw cards and the highest number wins…..I didn’t get that one but I did win $40 with my regular bingo….too bad I can’t head to Vegas while I still have a little luck!!  Anyhoo…just thought I would share.  Weigh in at the gym tomorrow….eeekk….wish me luck!!

Grand Mosque

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Wow…..what a great day.  Full of every sort of new experience.  Well, first of all a huge thank you to the Air Force Chaplain Corps. They do these tours for folks that cannot make the regular tours and it is so generous of them to take their time.  That is the one thing that the Air Force is great at…supporting their Chaplains who are always and incredible oasis at these bases.  They are essential to the community and I thank the Air Force for not thinking them non-essential.  

So, as we headed off base, I had heard lots of talk about the crazy drivers.  With the exception of a crazy man tailgating at 120KPH 3 inches off our bumper, the driving was quite similar to LA driving with no defined lanes in the road.  As we went along the road, all the houses looked like strand houses in Manhattan Beach but no beach.  All of them appeared to be no less than 3 stories and about 5000-6000 square feet.  I guess for many natives they have a floor for each wife.  

As we arrived the Grand Mosque, in the center of town, we had to put on the Abaya and Hijab prior to entering.  The picture above is Mia and I in our dress.  They showed us an outer courtyard and then took us into the inside room.  It was grand indeed.

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It was comprised of marble, tile and a lot of 18k gold  the floor seats 175 across and 58 deep.  When the mosque is full inside and out, it can hold about 80,000 people.  It was facinating to learn that the dome you see in most mosques is practical not ornamental. If you stand at the front in the alcove and talk out to the crowd, the dome carries the voice so all can hear.

After the mosque tour, the chaplain made a lunch reservation for us at the Raddison and we had the most wonderful meal.  Fruit that was ripe, meat that was tender, cheese (I have not seen cheese since Greece) and deserts that I had to sample.

Then believe it or not, they had a pirate ship!!  It has never sailed but designed as a meeting facility.  Below is a picture of me on the boat.  It was an interesting day.

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Hot Hot Hot

Ok…well this weeks temperatures are averaging about 115 deg…whew…it  is warm.  Last night, we also had the pleasure of a Host Nation Thunderstorm.  Not only do you get the thunder and lightening of a regular storm but you get the sand blowing at about 50 mph.  Everyone eating decided it was God’s way of making the decision about ice cream for you.  Might as well partake since we are not going anywhere for a while anyway.

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As we left the DFAC, Mia exclaimed…"lets get our facial on".  I guess in a way this sandstorm is mother natures version of dermbrasion treatment but God help you if you open your eyes.  

As we walked to the DFAC last night, I thought I would take a picture of these signposts.  This has been somewhat of a staple at most bases I have been to.  There was not a California sign so we need to work on that before we leave but it is nice to see where everyone, who has traveled through here, is from.

Got my pool on today in the 115 deg heat…the only problem is that they only sell SPF 50 at the BX.  Of course the Air Force doesn’t want you to tan.  I am not sure if I am going to get any color with 50 but I guess it is better than being a lobster.  

Three days ago we all lost our Imminent Danger Pay (IDP) in our paychecks…you know…. the $200 someodd dollars that vanished?  So for all of you worried about us here… the greatest threat we face until we fly off this base is the food, the sun and the sandstorms….Breathe a sigh of relief and we will see you all in 36 days!!

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© Patricia Murray 2014