Apparently we were lucky today. Just before I woke up, the building next to my work-place got hit with a rocket. It hit the building, then bounced off. Fortunately, it was a dud. EOD (Explosive Ordinance Diposal) came and disposed of it, but everyone was locked in the building until it was taken care of. It was about 50 yards from where I work. As you can imagine, when I got to work, the place was a-buzz about the rocket. If the wind had blown a little harder, it would have hit us.

....no need to worry though. :)

I'm just a little concerned about Ramadan. It's going to get worse. I have a feeling we'll be in "battle rattle" again for the most of the time I've got left here (I leave in January).

Well....I'm off to breakfast. At our chow hall, the food is pretty much the same every day. I eat the hard-boiled eggs because I've gotten sick the last few times I ate the omelettes -- you can't go wrong with hard-boiled eggs, I've decided. I was actually surprised at our selections -- fresh fruit every day, yogurt, all the bacon and sausages you could want (which looks disgusting so I don't eat it).... of course, some times we're out. Yesterday, it was salt. Today, it could be the yogurt. It's not that big of a deal -- there are soldiers out in the field that have to ear MREs. Oh, I found out that during April, when the supply routes got cut off, at Abu Ghraib they had to eat MREs for a few weeks -- the prisoners were ensured 2/day, but the soldiers only got 1/day. We had to make sure the prisoners were treated well, because that would be "unforgivable." It astonishes me sometimes how badly people want to make Americans over here look. I assure you, the soldiers (from the lowest ranking to the biggest General) want the people over here to be happy, have security and stability, and finally realize what democracy means. Unfortunately, there are too many "bad guys" who are taking advantage of the situation, and they find it easy to sway the POIs (Pissed Off Iraqis) in their favor. Most of the Iraqis just want a job, a home, food, and safety for their families. They don't want to be out on the roads setting up IEDs, but if their wives are shoving them out the door to "quit being a disgrace and get some money," they'll do it. What would you do, in their situation?

Ok, now I'm really off to breakfast. :-)


I got to work tonight to find out I would be the only one in my "cell" until morning. I was just delighted. Let me explain.... we usually put out a product of pretty good analysis every morning at 0400. It's so well-loved that when our Lt Colonels shut off our product in the interest of other things, the General himself walked down here, looked at us, and said, "The Daily is back up." I'm under the impression the General Officers need our Daily for one of two things: 1, they read it like a morning paper, with coffee in hand, first thing, or 2, they bring it to the bathroom. Either way, we were happy to be producing again. (The two days the Daily was turned off, we felt we had nothing to do, and were completely demoralized.) On Sundays, we do a "weekly" product that is essentially a wrap-up of our past week or some longer entries that weren't submitted earlier.

When I got in here tonight, ready to crank it out, I discovered NO ONE had given me their submissions for the day. That meant I had to do it all alone. (Note: A 1Lt doesn't have to do it all alone when there are Sergeants around who didn't do their job.) I managed to convince in the nicest way possible two Sergeants, and their submissions did help. I had other problems, like my own stupidity -- I shut the piece I was working on down, and erased it, having to start over. (Isn't it great that my greatest frustration in Baghdad tonight was dealing with Microsoft?)

Now it's 0315.... and I find myself done with my work. There's plenty to read, but I am not in the mood for it. I will have to find some way to occupy myself until 0800.

At my work place, there are two unclassified internet machines.... so there's usually a wait to check email, read up on sports (not me), or do research (there's a lot of info out there just in the newspapers). I, of course, back up the line by writing in my blog. :) It's totally worth it. I have to vent somehow.

Most of the senior officers here are either idiots or lazy (there are, admittedly, a few that are great), and I've discovered one of the main problems with this place is its top-heavy nature. There are too many Generals and Colonels about. I'm not even phased by Colonels or Lt Colonels (Navy Captains or Commanders) anymore. "Oh, you're a Major? Whatever, you're just a Major" ... and being a 1Lt is like being, I don't know... a fly on the wall. The benefit there is you can disappear when you want to.


Next year will be better, she said,
kicking the gravel across the road
Next year couldn't be any worse
that's for sure.
She fell over and died.
Next year couldn't come now,
and she was fine with it.
Those that found her body
couldn't see the scarring
or understand why her
soul ran out.

I don't know what to call this...it's not exactly a poem. Oh, and don't think I'm depressed. I was just very angry, happened to have a pen in my hand at the moment, and found an outlet for my anger and frustration -- which works much better than mouthing off in response to stupidity. I wouldn't have apologized or written an explanation, but so many family members are reading this now. I didn't want anyone to think I'd gone crazy. Besides, happy poems are so pase. ;)


Writing so soon again? Yes, I am.

Have any of you ever ridden a bicycle at 2am? Last night was my 1/2 night, and on the way to the MWR, I realized I couldn't remember ever riding at that time before. There aren't any street lights here, but the glow from downtown Baghdad is strong -- the nights are a bit hazy. At 2am, there aren't any humvees or SUVs driving by. Or anyone else, really. With my little headlamp strapped to my handlebars, I rode on, over speedbumps mysteriously sprouting from the pavement (you'd think I'd remember their placement) and holes in the dirt road that led to Bldg 51, MWR. I glanced up at the Pleides constellation, and walked into the building. Once inside, I used the webcam to talk to people back at home (and one in Germany). It's a little surreal, I think. I am always reminded of the movie "Enemy at the Gates," and I think, what would they have done if they had webcams? Useless thoughts, I know. Anyhow, my point is... well you get my point. After the MWR, I went home and watched more episodes of Alias, in the dark (my roommate was sleeping). Then I went to bed when the sun came up. I feel I've joined the race of vampires.

This is it for tonight. My boss is surely questioning why I am on the unclassified machine while there's work to be done. (He's actually very good to work for, and gives me my space -- more importantly, he gives me liberty when I'm writing my assessments. He says they're getting better, which is relieving. Can you imagine wanting to be a writer and then not being able to convey simple assessments well?)


Yes, I know, it's been a while. I started working the night shift and it threw off my sleep schedule so I have been a little too tired to care about updating this. However... the night shift is definitely better. It's quiet, and there aren't many Generals up and about at 2 am asking us questions. I can actually read through all my emails and the traffic, which is unheard of during the day time. The down side to this is that the day time is when others want to do construction work and check on your air conditioner, so it's a little hard to sleep. I think I've slept through, without being woken up, once so far. The other down side is that I missed rugby two times, and from now on I have to wake up earlier to play. The good thing about getting off work at 8am is that it's daylight - so I've been running after work. I go running with two guys (an LT and a Chief, both Navy), and we're aiming to run Monday through Friday. I have to wear my Air Force t-shirts to make sure no one thinks I'm in the Navy, of course. :) I don't think I've ever said this before, but running relaxes me. Too bad I didn't pick up this habit years ago.

It's difficult to find things to say on here because it's always a monologue, and my life doesn't change that much. Most of the things that go on I can't talk about, and the things I can talk about aren't of any real interest to anyone. Every day is Monday. Still, I've hit the two-month mark now, and looking back, it's flown by. Before long, it'll be Halloween, and then Thanksgiving, then Christmas and New Year's, and then I'll be flying home. Although the nights drag by, the weeks are swift.

Well, I've let you all know I'm alive. I'm in pretty good spirits, too. Oh, one thing that has changed that's a big deal in my life is that the doctor thinks I'm "gluten intolerant" and have a disease called Celiac Sprue. He can't test me for it out here, but he said to go ahead and do some research on it, and then when I get back to California, get tested. The big deal about it is that if I do have it, I can't eat anything made from wheat, rye, barley, or oats. Anyway, that means no cookies, bread, pasta -- anything with flour. That means no meat cooked in gravy. I've been sticking to it pretty well the past few days, but it's a little hard to say if I've been successful because who knows how they cook some of the stuff here. I have been feeling better, though. So, although that's not a big deal to you, it's certainly a drastic change. No cookies! (Unless they're made with rice or soy flour.) I guess this will be good for me, after all.

Ok, well I'll get back to work. My shift ends in a little over an hour...
Sorry about this being the most uninteresting entry yet. Maybe something exciting will happen that I can talk about!


Yesterday was my 1/2 day off...and I had intended to use the pool for the first time. However, much to my chagrin, just as I was leaving we found out we had to go to "full battle rattle." (Kevlar helmet and flak vest) The first thing I thought of was the pool. Dismayed, I mentioned, "well, I guess I can't go swimming now." One of the guys in my shop said, "Well, you could, but you'd have to wear your vest and helmet." The image of trying to swim in that gear came to mind, and I laughed, "Yeah, but I wouldn't swim. I'd sink." We have metal plates in our vest, and it adds quite a bit of weight. (You can jump a little higher on your bicycle if you weigh more, I've discovered.) Then I thought of rugby, and playing in that gear. Fortunately, when I showed up for the game, everyone else took their gear off and we "chanced it." I actually think it would have been more dangerous to play IN the gear. Someone would have broken their neck b/c the kevlar helmet is fairly heavy. The rules, however, say we have to run/exercise in full battle rattle.

So, all in all, yesterday was pretty interesting. Once I got back to my room, I was able to change into PT gear (shorts and a t-shirt), but I still had to wear my kevlar and flak vest. I'm sure I looked quite a sight. Before going to rugby, I stopped by the DFAC (dining facility) to pick up a sandwich for dinner. As I was leaving and trying to juggle the helmet and my food, one of the officers that walked by said, "Guess this is what makes Iraq special." I agreed. This is what we get the little bit of extra pay for. The mortar rounds haven't been any worse, but people are worried because everyone knows what is tomorrow (September 11th). The mortars and rockets may increase just a bit. Fortunately, no MNF (multi-national forces) have been killed on my base. We're nestled snugly between Camp Slayer and BIAP (Baghdad International Airport). It's amazing that every time a trailer has been hit, whoever had been in it had just stepped out -- to use the bathroom, go to dinner, or brush their teeth. Sort of makes you think of "divine intervention." I was laying in bed last night, though, thinking of how often I've heard the booms and felt the concussions. I take it for granted, a little, that it won't hit me. This isn't WWI -- THEY got shelled a lot. I try to not think about it and am usually successful, but every once in a while reality kicks in and I have to acknoweldge the fact that I'm not far from those mortars/rockets.

I am SO excited because next Thursday is my first whole day off since I got here. That is, as long as nothing happens between now and then. I haven't slept in yet, and I think that will be VERY nice.

Well, I better get back to work!

~ amber


Now that my life has become rather routine, I've added some new things to it. Last Thursday, on my 1/2 day off, I played Rugby for the first time ever. It was way too much fun. Let me describe what playing Rugby here at Camp Victory is like:

First, as we arrived at the medivac pad, a few cars were lined up. They were waiting for the helicopters to arrive. The few stragglers who showed up early to play sat down on the side, and wait for it all to be over. In the 110+ heat, we watched as four blackhawks landed. Just before each one landed, all the dust and hot wind blew at us, nearly knocking us over (even though we were sitting). The gusts were hot, dry, and stinging. Several people jumped out and walked quickly to the cars parked next to the hel0pad. Within in a few minutes, the blackhawks lifted up again and flew directly over us. I tried taking a picture, but the wind blew the lanyard on my camera in the way, so all I got a picture of was my hand, the lanyard, and part of a helicopter directly above. Once they were all gone, the one Australian stood up and said, "Alright then," and everyone followed. They explained the rules to me, which were deceivingly simple, and we began. I never knew that in Rugby you threw the ball backwards. Anyhow, it was a great work-out. Mostly I just ran back and forth. It's much quicker than American Football, and I have to say, much more interesting. We played until we couldn't see the ball anymore (it got dark quickly). The Australian who had taught me how to play said, "you did bloody well for your first game." I decided then I'd come back. :) I hurried back home to shower.

Once I got ready to take a shower, I was dismayed to find out there wasn't any water. I was ready to slice whoever had let the water run out. I then walked down to the other shower-trailer and got all ready once again to find out the water was out. I had gotten into the habit of showering at night so that I wouldn't have to put my hair up wet in the morning, and this frustrated me. I didn't mind too much, though, because playing a team sport had been so much fun. Oh, I forgot to say it was just touch rugby. I can't imagine playing regular rugby on the tarmac.

I was sore over my entire body for two days. I felt great. Yesterday, they played again. I worked it out with my boss to let me play rugby during my dinner time. My hours had been shifted back to 0800-2000, so at 1815 I rode my bike home quickly and changed, then played until 1920, then went back to my trailer, changed back into my uniform (I was out of breath and very hot by then), and rode back to work as quickly as I could. I worked until 2030, then went home and finally got my shower. At least this time the water was working. I had a great time though, and the same Australian, who's more or less the referee, said, "are you sure the last time was the first time you had ever played?" I said yes. Then he said, "you'll be here on Thursday then?" If they keep making me feel like a prodigy, I'll be playing rugby twice a week until I leave! I'm not that good at all, for sure. I just have a great time. Next time, though, I'll make sure I get a sandwich. I was starving by breakfast time!

Today is Labor Day. I get to serve my country all day at work. Wow. Usually I do something interesting on Labor Day weekend. Not this year!

~ amber