My second box of grandma cookies

October 31, 2009

I received a box of cookies and brownies from Grandma Webb today, while I’m still working on inhaling the cookies from Grandma E. Hmm, hmm, good! Halloween toe-socks were stuffed into the box as well, so this arrival was a perfection in timing. Nikki’s already wrapped my feet in festive gear today though :)

I’ve experienced two earthquakes in the past week, although I only actually felt one, since I slept through the first somehow. Everything shook, and then it was still. It was certainly news-worthy, but not movie-worthy. If there were actual decorations and shelves here, I really could see a few things being displaced, but it was only mildly scary. Thankfully, duffel bags can be shifted without breaking, so we emerged good to go.

I hate coughing, but, goodness, my abs are almost to commercial standard, almost. I visited the ER again last night for a few breathing treatments (and Halloween candy). I have inhalers and pills, but I’m really trusting in the holistic curing powers found in my recently arrived cookies!

Thanks Momma, Grandma E, Grandma Sue, and Aunt Theta for your generous and delicious treats! And a special thank you to my mother for being amazingly supportive and thoughtful. Love you all.


My first post-incident post

October 29, 2009

I don’t know what to say, what to do… It’s been a horrendous week. I won’t discuss specifics; if you know, then you know.

I’ve been working a condensed schedule this week, due to recent occurences, but it’s given me time to be productive. I have a stack of clean clothes, larger than the dirty pile for once. I’ve learned a few phrases in the Afghan language, while sitting around the DFAC and laundromat during ‘off’ hours. I’m most likely repeating something offensive, so I learn a phrase, then google its meaning. Surprisingly, the locals have been fairly honest about the definitions, fairly.

My respiratory woes have returned with a vengeance! I have a monstrous cough, and the medics have drugged me with 2 kinds of antibiotics and a horde of other medication. I’m physically and mentally exhausted. It’s bronchitis and asthma, and I’m planning on wearing a fashionable surgical mask, because breathing is pretty crucial.

Let’s talk positives! I have a confirmed job when I come home, although it’ll probably move my home across the country. My grandma baked cookies with my momma and mailed me a box of those yumsters; my other grandma and aunt decided to return the compliment and baked cookies of their own for me, which should be arriving soon-ish. If this continues, I’ll be turning into a round cookie myself! My momma sent a family photo, and I like the awkward entertainment when everyone remarks on who I look like and in what capacity. I also received a bouquet of wire flowers from our odd IT guy (computer nerd), who’s old enough to remember the days without phones, much less computers.

I’m ready to leave. I’m not quitting, giving in, or giving up. I’m overwhelmed. War is scary, but inexcusable actions during war create sometimes worse battles.

My first scare

October 22, 2009

So sugar bread was the breakfast of jittery champions yesterday morning. It’s basically huge granules of sugar sprinkled liberally over greasy flat-bread, and it’s delicious! Some of the guys on my team tried more local cuisine at lunch today, but I wussed out in favor of less sketchy, yet still questionable, alternatives in the DFAC.

As I mentioned before, the locals populate the base during the day, some as productive workers, most as squatters. If you climb onto one of the watchtowers, you can see into the school their children ‘attend’. I get the impression there isn’t a curriculum, much less a school schedule, as hordes of kids just run WILD during the day. The little hoodlums yell for chocolate, jewelry, and money and even dart in front of the mule, causing us to literally slam on the brakes. Yesterday, while we’re focusing on chasing the little girl from standing in front of the vehicle, her conspiring friends were climbing into the bed of the mule and beginning to dig into our bags. Some of the boys scream, “I love you, ma’am”, when I walk past, while others use different language that I won’t repeat. The girls are seemingly shy, although they’ll obviously rob you of any belongings if presented with the opportunity. Some of the kids have absolutely gorgeous eyes, but there’s that dang mischievous undertone!

The ex-military folks now working as contractors are interesting, and this assignment attracts a great crowd of these fellows. Many of them talk constantly about their time in the service, and some of the stories are unbelievably neat. Some things have changed in 20 years with new technology, but it’s remarkable how many things have remained steadfast. Unfortunately, a few things have taken a downward turn. Laziness is much more common here today, but, thankfully, there are some good ol’ boys still, fighting hard for our freedom. Anyway, these ex-military types share stories and spend incredible amounts of time trying to ‘beat’ each others’ tales. It undoubtedly turns into ‘the fish was thiiiiiis big’ scenario, and it’s both entertaining and obnoxious to listen to their banter. I spent the afternoon with a couple of ex-Marines… My general rule has now become to stop  listening when the egos flare and never, ever respond or comment, as that would be essentially choosing sides. I still have much to learn!

These computer labs are purposely freezing; the staff intends to make such an uncomfortable environment to dissuade anyone from using the computers more than the allotted 30 minutes. I have a jacket, and, as long as no one in green is waiting, I’m going to rebel against that rule.

Here’s my closing statement… If you own a knife, please don’t play with it, especially close to other people. Making threatening motions with a blade, while ‘jokingly’ saying inappropriate things is just stupid. Incredibly stupid. That’s all I have to say about that for now.

My first Afghan tea-time

October 18, 2009

I’m traveling this week to a few different FOB’s. I took a luxurious ride on a fixed-wing and had the enjoyment of flying with Canadian pride. I thought a 90 second helicopter ride was absurd; not eating breakfast yesterday morning was one of the most intelligent decisions I’ve made in a while. I don’t think it’s wise to name the FOB on a public forum, but this place has a well-tended garden, delicious food, and really friendly locals. The locals gather for tea in the afternoon, and I joined in the conversation, not the consumption. The Afghans swarm the base, working during the day and playing a rousing game of volleyball in the evenings. I’m not exaggerating. They’re serious about the volleyball match. The losers are doomed to mocking for the next 24 hours from both the soldiers and their Afghan buddies. It’s entertainment… Although the addition of guns to the normal smack-talking makes me a bit nervous still. I also visited an Afghan Army compound; ill-equipped is the best description.

I don’t necessarily enjoy drinking water. It’s boring, and it tastes like nothing. But, I think it’s absurd to grab a water bottle out of the cooler in the gym, begin running on the elliptical machine, and proceed to tear open a package of Crystal Light to pour into the water, while continuing to exercise. Don’t mix and run. It doesn’t end well… You can ask the goofy Army girl who attempted that feat this morning.

I’m ready to be back at the main base… Unfortunately, this assignment attracts some creepsters, and the past few days have been anything but a pleasant experience. I’ll stop commenting there.

UT 16 > OU 13


My first Afghan poem

October 15, 2009

From Josh, my older, more lyrical brother…


Dusty, Musty

Incoming, Outgoing, Seriously?

I Hate This Place


He did a dang good job verbalizing this dang job. 

Combat first aid training is a special experience, unlike any Red Cross course. Instead of splints and bee stings, we learned to treat bullet and shrapnel wounds. The instructor was intense, and, after I made a disgusted face during his graphic opening speech, I had the pleasure of demonstrating first aid techniques for a variety of things, including nasal tubing. Yep, in a battlefield situation, to assist with breathing, a tube is inserted all the way into the individual’s nose and into the throat. In a learning environment, our instructor decided to turn on his freak and volunteer to endure this procedure… I most certainly volunteered. With the help of a tube about the width of my pinky and the length of my hand and a packet of lube, I ‘saved’ Brandon’s life with only a few (of his) tears shed.

I’m stoked for the UT/ou (capitalization intended) game this weekend! I was more excited before I learned I’m leaving tomorrow for a short, in-country trip, but hopefully I’ll be able to secure a signal to watch the throw-down. I’ve been spewing incredible amounts of smack the past few days to my Sooner coworker. Although I won’t be able to win in front of him, I will win with grace and humility… until I get back to throw it in his face! I’m just saying.

I’m going to make hot chocolate, finish my day, and pack for a week-long FOB excursion.

My first church service

October 12, 2009

I ‘sleep’ down the road from the MP station, which is just down the road from the church. I’ll admit to not really trying to attend a service since I’ve been here, although I really, really could’ve benefited from that trip before yesterday. I met a buddy on the original flight from Dubai, who works for an intelligence firm here. We talk and hang-out, as much as a guy and a girl can on this base without being terrorized for fraternization. He and I were talking about church one night during dinner, and we decided to go for it. It was great; there was nothing fake, no lofty production, no judgemental attitudes. Everyone holds a strong facade constantly, but it was one of the most real moments of vulnerability I’ve seen here, if that makes sense. Anyway, it was refreshing… And I’ve now experienced a church service with a gun-wielding congregation!

I started making a list of everything I missed last night; I was having a moment of nostalgia. I miss things like baking cookies and cooking dinner. I miss talking with my mom without a delay and attempting (and failing) to convince her to try sushi. I miss loving and feeling loved; distance changes that dynamic. I miss genuinely resting. Yep, I’m going to keep a list of things I miss, because I want to remember to appreciate them enough when I’m home.

It’s COLD… and getting colder, like face-whoopin’ cold. If I have a 2am ‘calling’, I can’t take care of business without layering and wrapping up, although my feet don’t get more than the flip-flops. No, a 10-second walk in sandals is not the reason I’m sick, so don’t judge me! I was sick, and then I was better… And now I feel yuck again. And the flip-flops were utilized throughout that process, so, there, you WebMD-preachin’ nuts. Thank goodness for hordes of Nyquil at a safe medicinal distance. Anyway, I’m constantly cold, which jacks with my daily ice cream consumption. Cold Becca+ICE Cream=Brain and Body Freeze. I like my cookies and cream, and, although there are bigger monsters than cold treats here, this weather is trying to wreck my simple pleasure. Therefore, I’m now starting a hot chocolate/ice cream post-dinner routine, which a)balances the temperature and b)tastes excellent together. Everyone wins but the cow.

I watch baseball and/or football games every morning during my workout/breakfast time, which makes me feel more American than the “STAY ALL AMERICAN” signs posted around the base. Following sports isn’t as difficult as I imagined, although the timing is a bit awkward. I wake up before the sun, so I get a good view of the primetime linebacker/shortstop action from my stationary bike. I’ll admit to tripping on the treadmill a few times during some intense games. I’m pretty sure everyone that works for Fluor knows about an event no more than 30 seconds after it happens, so, when I happened to fall while running outside because of an excessively large rock that moved into my path, I heard my story being retold by the time I was at the office. Information travels on this place faster than even tabloids could handle. The other day, my coworker messaged me that she’d ask me to go workout that evening but knew I had already gone… Whoa, stalker. How did she know? Some Fluor guy told her he had seen me in the gym, although I’d never seen or even met this dudeface. There’s no escaping the Fluor here… I’m just saying, I’m being watched, and I mean that to sound as creepy as you just read.

I need to buy a coat, scarves, and gloves online now, because we just skipped fall and dove into winter. I’m getting my warmth on-lock. Bye guys!

My first packages

October 8, 2009

It takes almost 2 weeks for mail to reach me… I know, because apparently it took 2 weeks for Halloween candy/Thanksgiving decorations/a Bible from my momma… and I’m guessing about as long for Nikki’s Halloween socks/spider stickers/artwork as well. I honestly never realized how special a piece of mail can be until it’s one of the only forms of tangible communication with home. I’ll admit to a choking up moment, but tough, Afghan girls don’t cry.

So, thank you, mom. It meant so much to me, even though the decorative, edible corn met the trashcan before feeding the rodent population… And, thank you, Nikki. Your picture is hanging next to my mom’s scarecrow, and your socks will be keeping my toes toasty tonight :)

I’m sick right now. I’ve been a coughing, sneezing, feverish mess for 5 days. I have a sketchy bag of unmarked pills from our medic, although they’re doing nothing productive so far. Yesterday, the only effect I felt from the meds was a dizzy spell, followed by my coworkers forcing me into the van and into my bed. I slept for 3hrs, walked to the office to call my momma, and slept for another 9rs. I bet you think I’m well-rested, but I still feel like a walking, coughing fool. Shockingly, I don’t recognize the names on any brands in the store here, so I’m taking a chance and taking OTC medication now. I feel awful, and I’m thankful my mom forced a box of Emergen C on me before I left.

I started writing this post 2 days ago. That day, in the middle of the ‘sick’ paragraph, Fluor closed our offices and forced us into our PPE for a few hours during an increased alert. The heavy gear becomes even heavier when I feel like a bagillion pounds of force are on my chest already. I had to loosen the chin-strap on my helmet just to eat dinner; next time, I’m doing that before entering the DFAC to avoid the snickers from the military guys. (FYI, I’m still incredibly sick.)

Wugner is a Filipino driver, who rules at life. He talks about his wife and daughter and carries a collage of pictures on a foam board. Because of laws in the Philipines, Wugner can’t return there to see his family for 2 years. I can’t even fathom. If you ask him why he’s here, he’ll tell you, ‘to make better life’. He and countless others are living in tents and missing their families, and, when I ask how he is every morning, he tells me, ‘always good, ma’am, always good’. This morning on my way to work, Wugner was listening to the rap radio station when Eminem started blaring. I asked if he knew Eminem, and I’m pretty sure he was confused and thought I was talking about candy. Yep, he’s my favorite.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO BENNY! My little brother is now 21 and not little… Love you, buddy!

Miss you all, love you all!

My first mouse attack

October 3, 2009

I have an unhealthy fear of rodents… And I opened my eyes to see a mouse/rat about 2ft from my face around 4am last night. I woke up to loud scratching, coming from the wall behind my bed, and I rolled over to see a nasty booger scamper onto my bed and down to the floor. I don’t think you can fathom the freak-out level. I instantaneously screamed, jumped up on my bed, and started banging to scare it away. This furry punk just looked at me; it didn’t flinch. I’m seriously giving it the death stare (and still screaming), and it’s just nibbling on rug fibers. By this point, the girls had all realized what was going on, and I’m sure our tent sounded like a roller coaster ride with all the shrieks. I called pest control, who politely advised me to grab traps from their office. Um, I’m sorry, mouse-killer. That’s your job, not mine. I’m not pretentious, but I have limits. I convinced him to make a house visit, but I’m still going to delay going ‘home’ this evening as much as possible. If there weren’t confirmed mice in our work tent as well, I’d take up permanent residence at my desk, which is almost how I feel already. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep after the incident. However, leaving my room that early means I washed my laundry and ran all before 6am.

My coworker has cleared his throat 19, no 20, obnoxious times in the past 6 minutes. Excuse me, 21. He isn’t sick; this is unfortunately normal. 22. Yes, we are counting, and I don’t understand his deal. Is he an excessive phlegm-er? I’m going to anonymously gift him a family size Halls cough drops. We’re up to 26 now.

A few more folks arrived from the home office, and thankfully one of them is a friend! It’s good to have my buddy Jeff here, and, even better, is that a)he’s sitting right next to me and b)he’s making the tally marks of the perpetual throat-clearer. I don’t appreciate the random rodent images he’s flashing on his screen though.

I’m really busy with work now, which makes the days pass much quicker. I’ve begun leading Town Hall meetings, which breaks the monotony. I like that work. Time to go!

Not my first boom

October 1, 2009

I’m realizing I’m in the middle of an emotional battle, while being stuck in the middle of a war. I worked late last night and crawled in my bed around 10:30, and, about an hour later, I was still tossing and not sleeping. Standard night, until I heard a whiz and then an ear-piercing boom and felt the whole building shake underneath me. Girls woke up screaming, and I rolled clumsily onto the ground. A rocket hit, and, judging by the noise-level, I knew I was close to those feeling more than just a jolt. I know what I’m supposed to do in that situation, but you never know what you will actually do. I got up, barely dressed, and hauled my shivering butt to the bunker. I called my friend, and I prayed wildly for good news on coworkers, as the operations team head-counted. Everyone is safe. I haven’t slept, and I haven’t taken a deep breath yet today. I’m calming down slowly, and I wish exhaustion could cure the restlessness.

I allow myself to get out of bed around 4:30 every morning. I’ve been awake for hours normally, but it’s an acceptable hour to rise for me and about 5 other runners. It’s peaceful, and it’s eery. Every morning feels like the beautiful calm before, well, you know. I love mornings, and focusing on that helps me get through the night. It won’t change, but it will get better.

Ok, shifting the conversation. I’m running the Army 10-miler next month here, and that whole Boston run convinced my coworkers to make me the bearer of Fluor’s hopes for a victory. If I don’t win, I hear I’m not welcome back in the office, and I generally try to avoid that degree of shame. But, I’ve seen some of these folks run, and I’m literally in their Afghan dust. I still eat ice cream every night, and the scooper still asks, ‘one or two scoops?’ every single trip. I am a two-scooper, and he knows me by name and flavor, but obviously not scoops.

I see funny things all the time. The guy at lunch, drinking a Beck’s non-alcoholic brew out of a straw. The ‘fire hidrant’ sign near the office. Jingle trucks with loofahs hanging as rearview mirror ornaments.

The coffee isn’t made, and that’s a productivity FAIL. I’m going to rectify that situation and potentially do more work.

Love you all.

My first sleep

September 28, 2009

I’ve always liked sleep, but I’d rather be awake. Normally. Everything changed when I started working my life away, and I LOVE the thought of sleep now. I love something that has been beyond my reach for many reasons, but last night marked my first consecutive 9 hours of sleep for months. In itself, this is worthy of a post. I feel good.

I moved from my rat-infested tent dwelling to a bhut. Google it. My standards have morphed, and a wooden building, smaller than my old living room with 4 rooms the size of my old bathroom, has given me privacy, sleep, and space. How do you decompress from a long day, when you’re never able to be alone? I haven’t found a way, but billeting has stopped my search. Overnight, I have hanging clothes, a locked door, and a new sleep schedule!

It rained yesterday! It was cold, and it felt amazing. The rain subdued the dust for a few hours, and the mountains were more visible than I’ve seen so far. You know, I might even call them majestic; I definitely didn’t have an ‘ooo and ahh’ moment, but it was enough to break the monotony.

I ate serious gravel playing football, and now I’m the timesheet-helpin’, football-fallin’, always-runnin’, ice cream-lovin’ HR girl. I won’t repeat my actual nicknames, but, when you tell your coworker you’re going to douse him in honey and release bees on him, people start questioning your sanity. That’s what I hear anyway.

My countdown has been extended-; Jan 3rd is now my return-to-reality date. Maybe sleep wasn’t productive for my decision-making abilities! Oh well, I need to make coffee and keep workin’.