I was going to put some pics on here, but it's not working.... if anyone wants some, email me. I know it's the tedious way, but that's what happens here on Army posts in Iraq.

I must be getting used to the heat. I'm not saying it's easy walking 100 meters outside at noon, but I don't feel as faint doing it anymore. I'm also getting used to the temperature in our tent. I put a work order in about the a/c not working and was pretty much chided by the maintenance man that "that's just the way it is." At least we finally got the lights to work. Although we had a few, for me to do anything I had to wear my headlamp.

Yesterday we formed up to find out they still hadn't assigned anybody jobs, and were given the days to "take care of things." Maj Dimech, SSgt Johnson, and I went to the Palace to take 'happy shots.' As I had said, it's gorgeous. We walked around everywhere, including around the third floor's balcony. The view was astonishing, and since this area of Iraq is flat, we could see for miles. There was deffinitely a battle fought here because some of the watch towers looked as if hit with 50 cals and grenades, and one of the bridges was pretty much broken apart. We spent about an hour opening little wooden doors (usually access to some sort of climate control system), climbing ladders that led nowhere, and acting like kids on an adventure. It was exciting. The excesses of the Palace really do make one think -- it was built after 1991, obviously with money that was meant to feed the population. The bathrooms really are made of marble, and the ceilings aren't just painted...they're carved, too.

Once we left the Palace and ate lunch, Maj Dimech and I rode the grey line bus to Victory Base North, where the "big" PX is. The bazaar is there, and I had heard they had shoulder harnesses for sale. (I had a suspicious feeling that my web-belt was part of my back problem.) We were told the bazaar pretty much just had cheap trinkets and fake military reproductions. Once we walked in (about two GPMedium tents put together), we were surprised. They had those trinkets, but they also had some very nice copper pots, tea sets, leather-ware, Iraqi currency, and other various items. It sort of reminded me of a souq in Bahrain, on a much smaller scale. They had everything from brass cups to batteries. I did find myself a harness for my M9. They only had two to choose from for lefties, so I picked the cheapest one. It's brown, and much more comfortable than what I was wearing. They also had a photo center set up, not unlike those old western portraits they have all over California, where you dress up in period clothing and get your portrait taken. Maj Dimech said we'll have to do that some time for our co-workers back in the States. After we were done I walked over the the BurgerKing trailer (yes we have BK) to get a milkshake. No milkshakes in Iraq, sorry. Just whoppers and fries, pretty much. Much disappointed, I got some gatorade from the PX and we caught the grey line back to our tents.

This morning we formed up again to find out the jobs weren't sorted out. I walk to the Chapel with another AF Capt. Having church in Iraq was ... different. For one thing, I had never seen so many heavily armed worshippers in my life. Have you ever been to church where everyone had either an M9 pistol or an M-16 rifle? There was an overflow, so we had the doors open and some people sat out on the porch. Since the door was open, it got rather warm in there, and those out on the porch actually got it a little better. I had forgotten my water bottle and was nearly dying by the time communion came around. Because General Order 1 states we will not consume any alchohol while in theater, I assumed it was grape juice. What a surprise. I was was thinking "grape juice, mmm, liquid" and instead it was, "oh my, that's wine" and it felt like straight vodka as it slid down and warmed me up (which I didn't need help with by that point). I walked back to my tent quickly and drank an entire bottle in about two minutes.

At noon we met up in the DFAC (what the Army, for whatever reason, calls the galley, chow hall, or dining facility) and they dispersed our jobs. Some people are working at the prison (yes, the infamous one) and will be moving out that way, some working in the international zone and moving out there (formerly the 'green zone'), and most of us will be working in either the Palace or some trailers nearby. I, unfortunately, don't get to work in the Palace. I don't even know where I'll be, but it's in one of those trailers I just mentioned. I'll be working in the Geo-Political cell. I don't know what I'll be doing, exactly, but I hope it keeps me occupied. I've heard that when you first get there, it's like standing along a river looking at people drowning in the water, and you don't know what to do, then suddenly you fall in and you're one of the drowning. Wonderful. :)

Well it's my time to get off the computer. This was long. Phew!

~ Amber