I have this favorite pair of shoes (black mary janes) that I wear with nearly everthing. I've had them for so long, the strap was starting to fall off. So... while I was walking around Itaewon (in Korea) shopping for a new set of luggage, I decided I should look for a shoe cobbler. A man in a very nice, long cashmere coat asked if I wanted him to make me a coat, and I said "No, I need my shoes repaired." He pointed across the street to a cabinet-kiosk and said, "Repairing shoes, over there!" I thanked him and crossed the street.

The shoe cobbler was busy hamering away on the heel of a woman's high-heeled boot, but when I showed him my shoes, he ushed me inside his cabinet-kiosk and told me to wait five minutes. I watched him hammer in three very long, skinny nails, and then he got frustrated and pulled the whole heel off. I wondered if he was a very good shoe cobbler or not... The inside of the cabinet reeked of kerosene, shoe polish, and rubber cement. On my left was a mid-sized television that took up one end of the cabinet-kiosk and on my right was the shoe cobbler. I realized I had never in my life seen anyone repair shoes, except on old Dicken's movies or cartoons. He grabbed bits of elastic, twine, a needle I wouldn't want to war against, and a blade in the shape of a shoe horn. Within a few minutes, he was done and my shoes were like-new. We argued a bit over the price -- I thought he wanted 40,000 won ($40), but he wanted 4,000 won ($4). I gave him 5,000. With that, I walked out of the warm cabinet-shoe-kiosk into the freezing air of Itaewon and rambled about looking at hats and Burberry scarves and other trinkets. I bought my suitcase set (a red one!) and found a taxi to take me back to the hotel.

Everything in the market was the same... the scarves, the hats, the tables piles with socks and gloves... the stores with cheap plastic little drums with the Korean flag painted on them and enameled jewelry boxes... Nothing truly appealed to me or my cheap budget. All in all, I did some fine shopping while here and got the minimum of things I needed for Christmas.

Tonight promises a Korean meal steamed in culture.
I've been in Korea since Monday. It's similar to Japan, but a little dirtier and the food has more flavor. I went shopping on Tuesday and walked around the alleys and streets looking for good deals on leather jackets and souvenirs. One alley I went down must have been the spice market, because it had large barrels of bright red, yellow, and orange spices. There were bowls full of kimchee, and a few stalls away, tables piled high with foot-long silvery fish. There were tables with plucked chickens (with heads -- how did they kill them?) lined up as if they'd died right there, in the middle of a dance. The smell was...interesting. The Korean women at the stalls looks at me with surprised expressions; apparently not many foreigners walk down to that section of town. I found the fruit market and bought a mesh bag full of mikans (that's the Japanese word, don't know for Korean word, for clementines). When I realized I was hungry, I went to a retauarant that specialized in bulgogi, but I didn't order that -- I ordered bibimbap, which was ok but had a strange vegetable in it that my stomach wasn't too keen on. Nauseated, I didn't eat much. By the time I got home, I had several bags I toted, eager to drop them on the floor of my hotel room.

I think I may go back out into town today and do a little more browsing and try some other national dish. The alarming thing about being in Seoul is that North Korea is just miles north of here... people are there, starving or freezing to death all the while believing they have it better than anyone else. It's not exactly uplifting.

Well... time to get up and go to the gym.


Alright... I'm picking this back up.

First, I'd like to suggest everyone visit my sister's blog, http://www.punkhaz.blogspot.com. She's in China teaching English to kids.

Today is Veteran's Day, Remembrance Day, Armistace Day... end of World War One. Five times more American soldiers died in the three months the US participated in WWI than have died in the four years since the start of our current war on terrorism. (Just something to think about.)

I'm working on a children's story right now... it's too long for a short story so far.... I'm not sure how long it'll be when it's done. When finished, I'll submit it to a lit agent and see where it goes.

This being the first entry in about six months, I'll keep it brief.

~ Amber


I am retiring this blog. This is for several reasons, one of which is that I just don't have the time or energy anymore but most importantly because I feel I need to focus on my novel. That means no journaling - whether electronic or hard-copy. This is a distraction; when I'm procrastinating, I'll write in here instead of on my book. At any rate, it's been a good long run, and maybe I'll start up another one later on, at a new phase in my life or during another adventure.

Thank you so much for reading and commenting on my blog in the past. It's been very helpful knowing that there were people out there reading what I had to say and putting thought into what was written.

Signing out,


About an hour ago I was getting my eyes lazered. (How often do you get to say that?) They numbed my eyes, and then took out a scrub brush and cleaned off the epithelium (outer skin cells) and then the laser did its job. The only discomfort was when the brush was working... the laser wasn't painful and was very interesting.... after a while it seemed I was looking down a tunnel at a blinking red light, and I imagined I was going through a space warp. After the procedure, I could read the clock on the wall, although everything was a bit fuzzy. (For instance, I can hardly see what I'm typing right now, but before the surgery, I wouldn't have been able to see this at all without lenses.) They put a healing-contact lens over my eyes, and I go back tomorrow for a check up. The packet of meds they gave... oh my. Steroid drops, antibiotic drops, numbing drops, rewetting drops, Motrin, percocet, etc. Crazy. I'm going to try to just deal with the pain and just take the motrin for now. The last time I took a narcotic pain-killer I got flown to the International Zone's C*A*S*H in Baghdad (after just a wisdom tooth removal), so I don't want to push it. Of course I'll drink lots of water. So, after my PRK, I am looking forward to great vision.

This evening my friend from England is flying in (Brit #9) and then tomorrow, a friend from South Dakota, and then on Friday a friend from New Mexico. Then we'll head out to the Coachella Music Festival. I am praying I won't be miserable due to the surgery while they're all here.

Now... I'm going take advantage of my convalescent leave and take a nap. Too bad I can't read; that's what I would love to do right now.... sit down and relax with a book.



Last Saturday I bought a new computer... an iMac. It's fantastic and will be the computer I write my first novel on. Isn't that exciting?

Next Wednesday the Navy is going to give me the PRK surgery -- lazer eye surgery. (For free.) It'll be painful, they say, but worth it. The thought of going from 20/400 to 20/20 is just plain exhilerating. :-) I won't have to think about contacts or glasses ever again, unless I need them when I'm old and can't naturally read a book in hand.

Today I had to present a block of instruction on writing to the staff where I work. I wasn't too nervous and it went better than I had expected, which is good. I have to do it again, this time to the big boss, on Tuesday. After that, I won't go back to work until I fly out to Seattle on the following Monday because of the eye surgery.

Next Saturday (the 29th) I'm going to the Coachella concert to see Snow Patrol, Keane, Wilco, and others. It'll be the best concert ever -- especially since some of my best friends are coming with me. One is flying in from England, one from South Dakota, one from New Mexico, and two from here. We'll be camping out in the desert there, as well. (Not that big-group camping is my ideal.... backpacking is better, of course, but in this case...)

Now I'm off... have a good week!
~ Amber


In LAX....at one of those internet kiosks....watching a man scrub the floor with a long stick that has a towel tied to the end, like an upside-down staff. Merlin the Janitor.

I just wrote six pages for my new book. Of course...I must remind myself..."there is no poor writing; only poor re-writing." That means I can write and write for now, without worrying too much about clarity/perfection. I'll do the revision later.

Hawaii was nice, but am glad to be on my way to San Diego. I'm tired of travelling, but I'll be doing it again in two weeks. Yay.

I watched Dark Star on the airplane with the DVD player the Easter Bunny gave me in Charleston. Never having seen it before, I thought it disturbing yet funny. Dark Humor.


Things were a little different today.... starting at 4:15am when he called... he asked if I wanted to go sailing on Saturday, which was his little way of saying things will get better. Then I rolled over and went. I was nearly late to class...arriving one minute before 8. (It's my style.)

After work I drove back to the hotel, changed into my swimsuit and laid out next to the pool to read some more of my darling and distressed Hemingway novel. The trade winds lapped over me, making it just a little cooler than I had wanted. I listened to the Features and Modest Mouse, with a bit of Keane to wrap it up.

After that, I walked to the Waikiki 24hr Fitness club to take the spinning class. *Sigh*....there cannot be a more beautiful place to tire yourself out. The class was on an open balcony across the street from the beach. Yes, as I was riding, I gazed out into the Pacific, watching the surfers floating in the water and the cruise ships gliding by. Oh -- and since the class started at 6pm, I got to watch the sunset as well. After the class, I crossed the street to the beach, took off my shoes and walked calf-deep in the cool seawater. Refreshing. Ahhh. At that point, the water was colored in strips of blue, pink, purple, and orange. The sun, just dipping into the horizon, glared orange, and the clouds streamed out from the sun like long, fluffy sunbeams of peach and orange-creamsicle. I felt as glorious as the view...

I walked until it was dark, then went back to the hotel to shower off. Hunger hadn't quite set in, so I walked about, window shopping along Gucci, Prada, Burberry, and Chanel Lane... I saw a $5,000 Chanel suit. If I had the money.... it was Quality!

I decided I should eat something...found a Japanese-style Korean BBQ (don't ask) and paid a rediculous amount of money (not really) to grill fatty beef strips and eat kimchee. If you're ever in the situation where you're eating alone in Honeymooners-R-Us, a Korean BBQ is the way to go. Grilling keeps you occupied so you don't end up twirling your chopsticks and looking pathetic. As an extrovert....I've found eating alone is an exercise in silence. I was just dying for someone to talk to, so I kept calling the waitress over to ask for napkins, more water, to turn the grill up.... she didn't speak English very well and didn't want to acknowledge my Japanese, so the conversation stopped at "water please." (mizu okudasai)

Well, I and my piece of Godiva's Dark Chocolate Mint will now retire to the bedroom. Hope I kept you entertained for 5 mintues...

~ Amber


do you ever see photos of yourself of happier days and wonder...how was i ever so joyful? do you ever scorn your previous self for being happy because the darkness of the world is embalming you? i am having one of those days. or rather, years.

just a pointer: don't go on a business trip to Hawaii, alone, unless you're really happy in your relationship status, be it single or happily committed. after work today i sat on Waikiki beach, trying to read A Farewell to Arms, but was distracted by the happy Honeymooners and Vow Renewers strolling by, hand in hand. it reminded me of the mess of my life, and how i was alone, and suddenly my date with the sunset wasn't nearly as appealing. just when it would be at its orange peak, i stood up. i walked back to the hotel talking on my cell to the man my heart is wrapped around. (the man who's not sure if he loves me -- my own fault, believe me.) "wow," you say? yes, i know, i've never mentioned him before. well, i try not to bother the general public about my darker side and the hurricane of a love-life i've woken up to. it's funny; just when i say it couldn't get any worse, i am once again unpleasantly surprised.

so i cried, took a bath, stared at my sandwich, and decided to come downstairs to the "business center" of the Radisson Hotel and purge. purge till my fingers bled.

on a more positive note, i started my novel last night on the flight over here. it's amazing how much easier it is to write something when your emotions are on a rampage.


Back at work... It's amazing how little work I do here compared to what I did in Iraq. So far I've worked on a PowerPoint presentation and planned next week's business trip to Oahu. The pace will pick up when I get back from Hawaii because I'll only have two weeks before my next business trip to Seattle and I have a lot of things I'll need to get done before I leave for that.

A movie commentary (a short one): "Robots" -- it was great! Ewan and Robin did a great job, but whoever wrote the dialogue and planned the story-line deserves much recognition. I'd love to write scripts for movies like that...but I'm not nearly ingenious or funny enough.

Alright--- gotta get out of here and go to an appointment. Today in San Diego the weather is - PERFECT - and I've got my Cabrio top down so I can enjoy it while I drive over to Coronado. Ciao~~


i'm visiting my parents and sister this week in Charleston, South Carolina. it's a nice, warm, sunny day, and guess what i get to do now? mow the lawn. wonderful. mom said i can "work on my tan." i love how they pick this week to do house work.

this may be my last time visiting them in Charleston as they're moving to Denver for about six months and then to Anchorage. Christmas in Alaska, my dad says. at least it'll be white.

well my sister is getting increasingly annoyed that i am being "lazy" and not helping. i doubt she understands that the past two days have been the first relaxing days i've had since i got back and i just don't feel guilty for not jumping in and helping scrub the new tile they just laid down in the sun-room. some mischevious filament inside me is relishing my new-found ability to annoy my little sister. muahaha. i have come back from Iraq and am evil! ;-)



I started work yesterday, and it's going well so far. It is strange and different to be back, needless to say. The work day went by so quickly, too, now that I'm only working 8-hour days.

The new shoes are great. We went running last night in the neighborhood, up and down hills, and my legs didn't hurt at all (still don't).

I don't what else to say. Hopefully the house will get organized soon, and before I leave for home this weekend.


just a quick update: house is still a mess, but getting slowly better. the roommate situation is a little improved. got new running shoes and am going to take the dogs on a run to the beach....


this has been the worst day since i left Iraq. i have broken down more times today than i can ever remember doing in one day before. i don't know what it is. so many things didn't work out today, plus it was gloomy and rainy and my roommate skimped out on me in my time of need to go to a movie with his girlfriend. now, the house is a mess with all of my belongings all about because i just unloaded my storage unit. i don't know where to put it away or how, and i don't know why i have so many (heavy) books. my dog thinks i'm insane because i keep yelling into my pillow as i get increasingly more frustrated and upset. it's too quiet here. i wish my storage unit had burned while i was away. i wasn't even able to get into it until 6 because the guys tried to deliver it too early and i was at the gym, then they came later so i had to wait all day and pay extra for them to deliver it again, and then i discovered i lost the key to the lock and had to buy some bolt cutters to open it. my roommate helped me unload it as i yelled at him for even the notion of leaving me with this mess. i became an enraged demon, willing the books to fly at him but instead getting a stitch in my back as i carried my desk upstairs. my writing desk...the one i'll write my first novel on. i thought of that, briefly, as i fumed. he left as soon as the furniture was in the door and i broke down. after screaming into my pillow and crying for half an hour, and calling for my dog who never came, i came here to purge my angry thoughts and my self-pity. now i'll do anything to get this house in perfect condition before he returns so he can feel guilty as hell. unfortunately, that is impossible, and i'll have to actually work with him on the house tomorrow and be civil. i wanted to call my friend in town, but she's got kids and really doesn't have the freedom to just run to me when i've lost it. really, it's probably funny. i can handle being in Iraq, but i can't handle being left alone with a house in mint-tornado condition. i'm half tempted to drive to Border's, sip a latte and browse through the travel section and just ignore it all. but i can't concentrate with a house like this. i don't know how he can sit through a movie right now. grrrrrrr. oh, and don't post any comments on this like, "oh now Amber, things will get better," or "having a bad day?" or "you really need to calm down" because i already know these things. tomorrow may not be as bad as today -- it may not rain, or i may get one room organized, or a gorgeous man may knock on my door and whisk me off to a movie while my roommate has to organize. yes, that would be better.

mammoth lakes valley1

mammoth lakes valley1, originally uploaded by ambotchka.

amber rides

amber rides, originally uploaded by ambotchka.

at mammoth mtn


the Sierras are absolutely gorgeous in the spring. rolling, green hills beneath peaks of snow, speckled with pines.

i went snowboarding and cross country skiing up at Mammoth the past few days and then drove to the western side of the Sierras (via Nevada since the pass was closed) to see family. the poppies have started to bloom, and it's warm and breezy here. why be anywhere else?

adjusting to life in the States has been a little more difficult for me than i had anticipated. for instance, the hotel door kept making a deep booming sound whenever anyone else opened their door, and it sounded much like the door in our house in Baghdad did when an IED would go off nearby. i find myself staring at things that never affected me before. i can't really explain it.

getting back to San Diego after this trip will be a relief. i wish i had spent more than just two days there before leaving again. it seems almost like i wasn't really there.

my uncle is watching the new Exorcist movie. it's very disturbing. i don't know if i can watch it. this is sorta a distraction, so i don't have to look at the bad parts. but i am being rude and i should get off his computer.

~ amber


I am in El Paso, Texas. It took me THIS LONG to get here, but at least I am back in the States. I may be able to fly home tomorrow - I hope!



unfortunately, there is no pool here. oh well.

tonight after my yoga class i was going to do some cardio, but they were having a boxing fight and the rest of the gym was closed off. i stayed to watch (nothing else to do), and i have to admit it was a little interesting.

boredom breeds the desire to shop, so i spent some time in the PX today, browsing and getting the new Tori Amos and Ani DiFranco cds (plus season two of Sex and the City, which i'd never watched until recently and am embarrassingly hooked).

my flight leaves on the 6th. that is too many days to spend eating all my meals and doing everything alone. forced time to "look within" and figure myself out, i guess.


I have arrived in Kuwait...after a nice, gucci C-17 (from Charleston) ride.
It feels so strange, being out of Iraq. Away from my friends.

They said the next flight out of here that I can get on won't leave until around the 6th... so I suppose I'll be doing a lot of writing, reading, gym/pool.... and being bored. In a way, it's nice because it will give me a chance to unwind before heading home. Almost like a decompression chamber.

I'll keep this short since I may have plenty of opportunity to write at length later this week.


I leave Iraq TODAY.... that is, if I can find a ride to BIAP.

Just wanted everyone to know...

I'll continue this when I get home (hopefully in less than a week), but it will just go back to normal everyday life.
Thank you, everyone, for supporting me while I was here...

~ amber


The General finally released the group I came over here with... we're free to go home. (We were calling ourselves "detainees" for the past month.) Yet there's a catch -- the plane home doesn't leave Kuwait until sometime after the 1st of March (probably after the 3rd). I thought of leaving, and waiting in Kuwait where I don't have to work and will be able to relax, but then I thought about the lack of privacy in the transient bays, the cots, the noise, the boredom... so I'm staying here until Monday, as planned. Some people here think I'm crazy, but it makes sense to me. I have my own room and a bed here, plus the friends I've worked with the past six months.

So... Monday I catch that C-130 and head to Camp Doha, Kuwait. It will be so strange leaving this place. I practically live here. However much I want to leave, it's my most recent home.

~ Amber


guess what i get to do today?? out-process!!! it's SO exciting. i get to drive around and visit all the little places, like the armory and supply, to check out. i leave Baghdad next Monday and i can hardly wait! i don't know yet when i'll get home b/c it could take three to nine days getting there, but it doesn't matter. as long as i get to return to the real world, it doesn't matter if it takes a week getting there.

it's warming up here already. the past few days have been gorgeously warm, albeit a little cloudy. today looks bright and shiny, though.

~ amber


today i went to the "rug shop" over at North Victory and bought three Persian rugs... one from Qom, one from Naim, and one from Tabriz. they're gorgeous. the Qom one (all silk) is the smallest and has a hunting scene on it -- very...well, Persian-looking. the Naim one is blue and white, with a more geometric design, and has the family signature woven into the top. the one from Tabriz is darker, with intricate browns, golds, and a bit of blue and green around the border. i am very please. first personal mission: complete.

i am slowly getting in the mind-set that i'm actually leaving soon. oh, that reminds me. how often does THIS ever happen to anyone? -- i was walking past the fax machine, and it was blinking saying it needed more paper. usually i'd ignore it and walk on, but i was feeling nice, so i actually stopped to feed it. interest piqued, i waited to see what was printing out (we rarely get faxes). to my utter surprise, it was for me (my ammended orders for being extended). it was so random.

found a four-leaf clover yesterday.... i'd begun to wonder if i'd ever find on here. [ok for those of you who don't know, i have this strange knack for finding them.] anyway, now i've gotten my four-leaf clover and my Persian rugs, i can leave.


last night i went to a bonfire... i almost felt i was anywhere but here.

this morning i separated out the things i want to ship home from the things i have to bring back with me to drop off at either Kuwait or El Paso on my way home. it took a while, and then i packed up one of my duffels with stuff for my TX drop-off...one bag is now ready to go. it was nice sitting in my room with the morning light streaming in, lazily rummaging through my things. i'm sending home my DVDs, CDs, extra clothes and boots, books, and other various things. my goal is to have only the bare minimum to carry back so i have less of a weight on my shoulders.

i'm listening to Keane right now, on my iPod. it's nice to have distractions like this, a way to separate my mind from reality whenever i wish. how did the soldiers in WWI, for example, fight off boredom, monotony, and depression?


just a few more weeks.... can't wait!

today is one of those Saturdays that should be spent laying on the couch reading a good book...not being at work in front of a computer all day and all evening.

sorry don't have anything extravagant to say.
oh, i'm learning how to read Arabic. a bit late in my tour, you say? well, yes, you're right, but i don't care. it suddenly seems interesting.

ok lame post, yeah, but i'm brain dead.


on my way down stairs today the Captain called me "Heather." why is it that whenever someone calls me a wrong name by mistake, it is always "Heather?" i have nothing against the name, but it's curious that ever since i was little, that's the name people subconsciously think i should be called. i guess i look like one.

i'm working on writing a page-long piece about my experiences on Iraqi Election Day for the St. Louis Gateway, something one of my friends works on for Hostel International. so far, i've only written a little dit. really, though, i will get onto it when i've got the time. promise.

ok...back to work...


some days are great, and some days i end up feeling like i got run over by a tank...this is one of those days.

for starters, one of the blogs i've been tracking took a sudden dive... the guy said he was going to kill himself, and it seemed serious. there wasn't anything i could do or any way i could contact him b/c he didn't set up the blog to receive comments or have an email address... so all i can do is sit and see if he waits out the depression and makes another post.

sometimes, when i've got the time (like now, waiting for a meeting to start at 10pm), i browse the net for pictures of real life... mostly on Flickr, where there is a lot of random variety. i just want to see what is going on, to ensure to myself that the rest of the world has kept on ticking... one of the pics was a candid shot of some girls talking in a coffee shop. another was of some kids in a playground. another of a mountain ridge, another of the ocean. one of some ice on some fragile branches.... life has continued, and i just can't wait to get back into the real world and see it, live it. in just three more weeks i'll be on my way home, to sunny California and grocery stores, gas stations, jamba juice, movie theaters and malls, Borders... i'll see children again (it feels like forever since i've been around people outside the ages of 20-60) and my Grandparents. i'll be able to pet dogs and go on runs in my neighborhood, past all the houses and different stylized yards. the future, the "real world" is so imprinted on my imagination that i can nearly taste the Thai food and a good glass of red wine, i can feel the breeze off the ocean and smell the salt and eucalyptus leaves. i'm sure everyone is like this over here, off and on. especially when the days are suffocating and packed with frustrations. it makes coping difficult sometimes when dealing with different personality types for hours and days on end, without an outlet. i have learned tolerance as well as confidence here.


a mural at Camp Slayer, probably of the Iran-Iraq or the 1991 Gulf wars...

this past week has been a pretty good one... just three more to go until i'm out of here. (oh, and i plan on keeping this up after my deployment; it just won't be about Iraq anymore)

last night i went to the Brit house and watched Wales beat England in rugby. rugby has got to be the best sport out there....MUCH better than American football (never did get into that game). it all moves faster and you can actually see the players and their frustrations; it's also not as commercialized or media-centered as the NFL is. speaking of the NFL, due to the Superbowl, they were letting us have two beers per person at dinner tonight. not for New Year's; just Superbowl. apparently we know where the commander's priorities are. ;-) anyway, i've not only not seen as many smiles in the chow hall before, i've never seen as many people in there before. no one wanted to skip dinner tonight! i really think they should do as the Brits do and allow a two-drink limit. morale would be higher, and if they policed it carefully enough, there shouldn't be any mihaps with the program. of course, who am i to say so?

back to the grind tomorrow. this day off was blessed. i hadn't had one in three weeks or so, and i loved sleeping in until noon and then doing pretty much nothing the rest of the day. i put some more music on my iPod mini and walked around outside enjoying the fact i didn't have anywhere to be. it was nice to be allowed to relax and unwind.

my replacement should be here soon. when he gets here, i'll show him what to do and then i'll slowly back off. it'll be nice, i hope. too bad i can't be in the first group to go, on the 15th of Feb, but i've got some good friends here who will help the time pass until March 1st. then, i'll be off to El Paso to drop off my gear and then finally home. i'm sure it will all be extremely surreal.


time for another picture... this is the chapel at Camp Slayer. you can see my house straight ahead, on the water....


Sometimes... I just get so frustrated!!! Grrr!!! I had written a really good entry, and when I pushed "publish post" the page didn't load up correctly and I lost everything! I hate that!

Well... I mostly talked about the elections. Of course. It's a gorgeous day outside, and hopefully the majority of Iraqi people will show up to vote, defying the insurgents who've threatened them. So far, after the polling sites have been open for four hours, it looks good. I am glad that Iraqis around the globe participated. My favorite snippets from the news were of the Imam in the US quoting Martin Luther King saying, "We are now free!" and Geraldo Rivera saying, "I'm so happy; damn the insurgents!" The energy of the day is rippling throughout the country, all the way into the Palace I work in. It's like a jolt of caffeine.

Last night I watched "Identity" with some housemates. At one point, during a very loud and scary point of the movie, we could hear gunfire from outside. Iraqi surround sound, you know.

I'm off to eat my Mystery (MRE...Mr. E....Mystery) lunch pack now. What shall I get?

Sorry the earlier version didn't publish. I promise it was more profound. Something about the significance of the elections and the impact it will have on history and upon myself.... I am not a sage, however, so it wasn't too profound, and apparently I don't have picture-perfect memory because I couldn't recreate it.



Thanks for the comments, guys (comments with the pic below). I read that comment last night just before heading home and was not only stunned, but mystified. I racked my brain most of the night, in between being a little disturbed by the shooting going on and having just seen a lot of tracer rounds from my kitchen, wondering why someone would say something like that and then wimp out by just posting a comment instead of emailling me directly. Next time someone wants to accuse me of un-gentlemanly behavior, he should be a gentleman himself and let me know what it was he thinks I've done wrong directly, via email. Posting in like that, in that tone, was not only unprofessional, but dishonorable. Really, there are other things I've got to worry about over here than vague accusations. Well, enough about that. I shall make extra care I don't say anything dishonorable or unladylike anymore. Really, though, my grandmother reads this, so I'm fairly certain I've kept it clean.

On to other things... work is very serious and very busy lately. Today I did find time to eat lunch out on the balcony of the Palace (which I've never done before). We're on MREs now since the DFAC is closed. Eating MREs isn't bad. It's a little like opening a grab-bag - you never know what you're going to get, and there is a communal feeling to it as everyone trades around the peanut butter and brownies and tobasco sauces for something else they prefer. (Today I had the beef raviolis, which is generally a good bet.) It was so nice sitting out there, avoiding the pigeon droppings, overlooking the rest of Camp Slayer. In the distance I could see the squarish houses outside the wire, where the real world begins, and a colorful circus-tent-painted Mosque. I haven't had a lot of time or energy to write on this blog because I've been writing a lot at work, and my eyes get tired. I do occasionally check the comments, though, on my way home (like last night).

I am currently reading a book on Nepal. It's a collection of personal accounts and stories written by people who have traveled there, with a short tour-guide at the end of the book. Exactly what I'd like to get in to. I wonder how freelance writers manage to pay the bills and plan for things, though. Anyway, the stories are really fascinating. One was about just walking around the cities, and another about a guy with a bloody nose who later found out he had accidentally gotten a leech in his nose after drinking directly from a stream (won't find me doing that now). I've been reading the stories while loading music onto my computer -- I bought an iPod mini and it finally got here (I love it).

Well, I have to get back upstairs and get to work! I dunno.... is writing emails and blogging dishonorable and unladylike during working hours? ;-) Of course, here, working hours are ALL the time!

Oh, I listen to music while working, too. Is that bad? Today I've been particularly fond of Badly Drawn Boy and Franz Ferdinand. ;-) Everyone, take care! I am SO glad the Out-of-Country voting seems to be going well. Pray for all people manning the voting stations tomorrow! They'll need it.


Here's a pic of when I was at the Muff Bar in Qatar with my best friend and two guys she worked with there.


don't really know what to write today... every day is much the same. from an outsider's point of view, i'm sure this is boring. i'm really just updating my posts to let you know i'm still alive.

ever since the dining facility bombing in Mosul, things have changed. no longer can you walk straight into any building without first getting checked by the MPs and clearing your weapon (i've not shot mine in about a month, but they're extra careful now), and they've put up barriers around the dining facility -- so there's just one entrance, to save on the number of guards that must be present. so, security is enhanced. i don't know if this has to do with the threat of the upcoming elections or if it's indefinite. at any rate, it's a necessary evil, i suppose.

the thought of getting out of the AF in 2006 and becoming a writer seems more delicious each day.... but i'm not so sure how i'll be able to live off of my writing, not having any basis to start from, not having a novel already-written in my back pocket to wow the publishers. i guess if i end up getting close to starvation or can't pay my rent, i'll get a job in the government as a civilian or go teach English in eastern Europe. it's actually nice not knowing what will happen -- my future is a blank slate. it seems much more interesting thinking of my future that way. thinking of staying in the AF for a full career.... it looms ahead of me, the timeline already flat and uneventful, full of the stresses of promotions and leadership, continued deployments.

i should get back upstairs to the office. i just came down here to look up clubs to join when i get back to San Diego. i've got 40 days left in Baghdad!
cheers~ amber dawn


the past few days there was a horrible smell in the big room I share with the other girls in our house (our little rooms are like cubbies, with blankets as doors). I couldn't figure out what the smell was, exactly, or where it was coming from, and as the days went by, the stench grew. It reminded me of the smell of the rotting cattle we'd ride by on horses in Bahrain when I used to live there.... so I had a hunch it was a dead rat. After four days of not being able to find it, I called the contractors to see if maybe it was in a pipe or the vents. He looked around outside, on the roof (it's flat), and then we went back inside. I said, wandering around the room, "the smell hits you right here." Just as I said that, I lifted the blanket of the girl who's room is next to mine, and saw a tail...a furry bottom.... and I both screamed and jumped about three feet back. Then the contractor jumped a few feet. The rat had been there for several days, dead. I had to leave the room, it was so disgusting. The man took the dead rat away, I swept up what was left behind (gross), and then went to the gym. As I was falling asleep last night, I couldn't help but think of the dead rat, and of how many more rats must be running around at night.

Well that's about all the time I've got this morning.... ciao!


The weather has been beautiful lately... cool and crisp, but clear and not too windy. Yesterday, just before sunset, I learned how to play cricket. It's really cool, and not that difficult...with a tennis ball. Having a real cricket ball flying at me would probably scare me off. I have some not-so-fond memories of softballs crashing into my cranium... Learning cricket is one of the benefits of having Aussies and Brits to work with.

One of my friends brought back an Eddie Izzard dvd from England for me... I'm going to go watch it.



Today has been pretty good, considering... it's Iraqi Army Day, Epiphany, Orthodox Christmas Eve, and my own, personal, Quarter-Century Day. My co-workers gave me a plaster tablet copy of (I think) Hammurabi or something Babylonian, and I got some books (I love Bill Bryson). After work (we're getting off "on-time" tonight, which is early) we're going to the Camp Slayer Lion's Den for "karaoke night." I haven't been yet, so I have no idea what it'll be like, but my whole team is crashing the event. It'll be glorious, except for the making me sing in public bit. Are we at war, or are we singing? For today, I'm glad to forget. Of course, I am still working as usual and not letting up on the effort.

Our own little cheeky slogan (after observing the leadership here, you'd understand): Fighting the tactical fight at the strategic level. Our best analyst, who went home in December, used to say that.

I was writing out something by hand first, before typing it into my computer, and the Brit that sits next to me said I should "come to the dark side." I asked what he meant, and he said, "leave America for Britain." He said that because I was doing things the "old-fashioned" way. I said I was just doing it MY way. (Sometimes, I just have to write in pen first, to get the juices flowing.) I would like to visit England and Scotland some day, though...

Yes, I'm rather wordy today. Usually I feel rushed when down here in the computer room, but today I'm taking my time. I'm also taking muscle relaxants because of my back, so I'm just (un)naturally relaxed anyway and not in a rush to get anywhere. (I do hate the fact I have to keep popping pills, but they don't have a chiropractor here, and this is the best they can do. It makes me think, being so expectant of "immediately resourceful" health care, what it is like for those that can't get to a doctor when they really need one, or of people who have chronic pain and the thought of getting relief doesn't cross their minds because health care has never been there for them before. What lives. I may have to just deal with the pain for now, but I know when I get back to California I'll be taken care of. I can't fathom having to accept this for the rest of my life!)

I'll go to the other cyber cafe, where they allow you access to the CD drive, and put some pics on here.... later. Oh, I'm so sleepy today! (And spacey.)

The tsunami has diverted some of the news away from Iraq and the elections, but at a terrible price. Now, at the chow hall, instead of playing news on Iraq (as if we don't know what's going on here), we get images of IEDs in Baghdad and stories of poor children who had to cling to doors and trees for days out at sea in southeast Asia. It's sobering, at the least. I'm torn between wanting to hear more of what's going on and wanting to drown it all out and ask for cartoons instead. How do people process this information and accept reality? If you asked me, would I rather live a life of fantasy (the unreal, and hence, a lie) or a life of reality and truth, I would immediately ask for the unreal, the happy fantasy I could protect my mind with. Alas, we don't get choices like that. No matter how much we may try to get to that fantasy world (either through books, or movies, or drugs, etc), reality always steps in. And of course, reality=disappointment. (That sounds much more depressing than I really feel, so don't think for a moment I'm in a bad mood.)

Time for me to stop. This is very long today. Have a lovely day, and go read something that will take your mind off of reality, for me, since my job makes me face it all day long.

Cheers~ amber dawn


Came back from Qatar a few days ago... couldn't post anything there because this site was blocked (as were all the useful sites). Anyway, yes, Qatar was amazing. It was so odd to be out in the "real" world. I went from eating at the chow hall here with plastic forks to a restaurant in the Ritz with fine silver. Needless to say, I was speechless most of the time, staring out of the car window in awe. Qatar was gorgeous, and strikingly similar to Bahrain. I loved going around the round-abouts at 90kph with tires screeching.

Rest. I really think that was what I needed most. Now I'm ready to tackle the elections here. Funny how I know so much about the Iraqi government and political situation and really haven't paid any attention to US politics.

Just two more months! Suddenly this will all be over (for me) and I'll find myself back in sunny San Diego in my old job -- but with "more experience and credibility" as they say.

For my Quarter-Century Party on Thursday we (my team) are going to Karaoke Night. Although a real bar with real alcohol would be more fun, it should be entertaining. We'll sing some sort of military song then too, since it'll also be Iraqi Army Day.

When I get my pics from Qatar online, I'll post a few here. Wow I'm in a good mood. Now, off to save the elections....!