After a sauna-like flight out on a C-130, a brief stop at a staging base, and a wild chopper ride, we're home. That is, we can finally unpack our gear for the first time in months and be assured we aren't packing it again for a few months.
The barracks are cinderbrick and tin; the stucco covering sand brown split with a spiderweb of cracks running across its smooth surface. The guys we replaced built a deck out back from spare lumber, with a small pool off to the side- no bigger than a hot tub, really, made from a large plastic tub. It's a little bit surreal, honestly. You step out the back door, and you're in the middle of a sandstorm. The sky is orange, with oily gravel underfoot, but there in the midst of it all is a pool hung with tiki christmas lights.
Oh yes... the ground. Back some time ago, someone decided it was a good idea to spray the dust/gravel mix with oil to keep the dust down. Now, the dust stays out of your face, but you can never get all of it off of your boots. It clings like brown tar, and gets everywhere. When it rains, it's even worse. The dust turns to clay and mixes with the oil. Nothing will take it off your boots. In fact, you're lucky if the ground doesn't claim one of your boots as its own.
Our quarters remind me of low income housing in some of the southwest US. The cement walls, the orange-tan tint to everything, and the graveled paths make it feel a little like some of the places I've been through back home. In between the buildings, however, it's a different matter. Near most porches is a burn barrel, used for burning documents, envelopes with return addresses; anything that the insurgency here can conceivably gain information from. At night, the burn barrels are often the only light. It lends a creepy, back-alley aspect to the scene. Another feature here that you won't see stateside are the sandbagged bunkers, provided in case of mortar or rocket attack. In our area, they double as stands for the abundance of satellite dishes. Thank God for Arab entrepreneurs! Without them, it would be a lot harder to get TV and internet here.
Inside, our quarters are better than anything I would have expected here on the wrong side of nowhere. The building is partitioned off with plywood into two and three man rooms. Mine is approximently 12x14', with a bunk and homemade furniture. That's really not much worse than what I had back in college. The AC works, the power is limited but usable, and we have limited cable tv and internet hookups. It's really pretty nice.
Well, that's all I have time for today. Next time I'm on, I'll try to paint a little bit of a picture of our area, and maybe get a couple pictures up.