Wednesday, November 10, 2010

On the road again

Dear Family-
Well, as expected, it does not look like I will be near any consistent internet access for the foreseeable future, so I decided to create some blog entries of my travels up to this point so I do not forget to tell you anything. 

Travel Day 1
We ended up leaving the villa in Kuwait at about 7:30 PM on the 6th as planned. At first it seemed like an excessive amount of time, but once we were dumped in to the chaos at the airport, I was glad to have the additional time. The last time I flew out of Kuwait, I flew on British Airways. This time I was flying Kuwaiti Airlines. As it turns out, flying on an American or European carrier makes all of the difference in the world in regards to how you get through the airport. The process for getting checked in this time was like a scene in the videos you see of third world countries. You know the ones, the ones with people with 500 boxes tied together with rope, the herd of goats and the cages of chickens. Okay, there were no animals running around, but you get the point. There were people pushing, there were people shoving, there were people screaming in Arabic and there were people who had really bad BO. As we made our way in to the airport, the security was corralling everyone along the way except for me and the guy I was traveling with. At first we thought this was cool until we got to the front of the line. When I got there, was told, “you stand here” and the security guard motioned me off to the side. We tried to ask why, but we got the “I don’t speak English” routine. About every 5 minutes we tried to sneak our way back in to the line again, but he would just motion us off to the side again. After about 25 minutes of this, a Kuwaiti military person came. The guy seemed like he was in a really bad mood for having to come out here. He looked us over and went over to the unused scanning lane. He turned it on and motioned for us to put our bags through. We ran the stuff through and were expecting to be searched further, but the guy simply turned off the scanner and walked away. We just stood there like, WTF? Sensing it was time to leave, I grabbed my stuff and got out of there as fast as possible. After all of this, I only had about 30 minutes until my flight left.  As I walked towards the gate, I just sat there thinking about what a dive this place is. It is dirty and very pretentious. Money can definitely not buy class or civility.

Once on board the flight to Dubai it was pretty uneventful except for the fact that we had to circle the city for a while. As I didn’t have my watch on, I did not realize that we were late for our landing. I only realized we were circling after I saw the same buildings over and over again.  I should have realized this earlier because how many left turns can an airplane make?  About 10 minutes after we were supposed to land, the pilot came on the intercom and announced that we were in a holding pattern. Really? I hadn’t notice that. 

The airport at Dubai was really nice. It was clean, well lit, and had a very modern look and feel. Once I was off the plane and walking through the terminal, I finally started to realize that the instructions I was given were not really clear or accurate for the situation.  I was told that all I had to do was check in at Terminal 2 for our connecting flight. After walking around and seeing that there were no signs mentioning Terminal 2, I began to think I had a problem. I walked around for about 15 minutes and realized that in fact I had a problem. So doing the un-guy thing, I asked someone for help. The lady was actually super helpful. She informed me that Terminal 2 was actually on the other side of the airport from where we landed. She took me to the taxi stand and off I went. It took me about 25 minutes to get there, but it also gave me the opportunity to see a little more of Dubai. Everything on the outside was as clean and well maintained as the airport. It was really night and day with Kuwait. 

We arrived at the terminal at about 2:30 in the morning. Let me tell you, at 2:30 in the morning Terminal 2 was a pretty deserted place. After walking around for about 15 minutes I was really lucky to find more helpful people that were able to tell me that I was in the right place for our next flight. Unfortunately, the check in didn’t start for 4 hours. So, I did my best to entertain myself. I watched about an hour of Cricket and I still do not get it. I went in to the bathroom to freshen up and realized there was a slight problem. Their idea of toilets and my idea of toilets are two different things. My idea of a toilet consists of more than a hole and a hose. You can see my other post for a picture. Aside from this, the time went fast and was pretty uneventful.

For my trip to Bagram, I was flying a carrier called DFS. DFS is one of the many companies that has sprung up as a result of the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. For a carrier that does not specialize in passenger services, they did a pretty nice job. The flight was smooth and comfortable. I was able to doze off for a while and when I awoke, I got my first glimpse of Afghanistan. We were flying over what appeared to be farmland that was bordered by large snow capped mountains. It looked very rugged, but I found it to be much nicer in appearance the endless deserts of Kuwait.
We touched down in Bagram and immediately you knew you were on a military base. Chinooks, Blackhawks, C-130s, and F-15’s! We taxied over to one of the tarmacs and parked while they brought the buses, stairs, and assorted things to get us off the plane. Even on the plane you knew it was loud outside. The sound of an F-15 taking off is thunderous. We were finally given instructions to get off of the plane and we made our way down the stairs. Boy it was loud out there!
After a bit we were herded on to a bus to the terminal. Once we were there we discovered that there had been a small oversight. The people on the tarmac were supposed to have pulled me out of line and driven me over to the plane for Kabul. It seems that they completely forgot about that there were people with connecting flights. They really weren’t to apologetic either. It was like it was my fault that they didn’t do their job. I was told to go sit in the waiting area while they figured out what to do with me. Luckily, I remembered that I had bought those Afghan SIM cards in Kuwait. I got out my cell phone and plugged one in and it fired right up. I was able to call our PM in Kabul and let him know what was going on. After he got done laughing he said he would get someone to come get me, but that it would take a couple of hours to get to Bagram.
So, once again I got to cool my heels and wait. I am not good at waiting after having to do it a lot. I really need to work on that whole patience thing. After about two hours, the guys showed up to get us. They wanted to stop at the PX before leaving because they wanted to see if this PX had any peanut M&M’s The base where they are stationed has been out for a while. As someone who prefers peanut to plain, I was very supportive. Bagram is a really bustling and crowded place. There is an incredible amount of energy and activity in everyone you see. 

Upon leaving Bagram, it was a real adventure. The guys really knew what they were doing. I was informed you drive fast and always keep moving. The only real problem is that the road was 30-40% potholes. (This is the only road connecting Bagram and Kabul) It was like getting to drive in one of the desert races they have out in the Mojave. The ones where the dune buggies bounce from obstacle to obstacle.  It is pitch black outside and you are bouncing from pothole to pothole with only your headlights lighting the way. At times the road got pretty busy and we had play leap frog down the line of trucks to keep moving. It was really kind of neat and a exciting way to cap off 24 hours of traveling. Next time, Camp Phoenix, Kabul.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Mid-Trip Post

Hello Family!

I am writing this in Dubai as I am waiting on my flight to Wonderland Extreme.  We have been in Dubai for about 8 hours and it has made a very favorable impression on me.  The country is noticeably clean and the people are very friendly and helpful.  The country is much more modern than Kuwait and, in some ways, it rivals U.S. cities.  When we got here we had to figure out that we had to essentially change airports to get our connecting flights.  It took a 25 minutes cab ride to get to the next terminal.  Kind of weird, but it gave us a chance to see the city a little bit.  There was one thing that made me shudder though.  I am sure you can figure out the picture below:

Love you!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Worth a watch

Dear Family-

I got the opportunity to watch some BBC today.  Well, there really wasn't much else to do other than watch TV.   I didn't plan my packing well and didn't bring my book with me.  So, any how I ended up watching this really great program titled Einstein and Eddington.  You can probably attribute this to either history or science for homeschooling purposes.  They did a fabulous job of humanizing these great men and showing the complexities of life they were forced to deal with as they came to one of of those greatest scientific discoveries of our time.

Love you!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Field Trip

Dear Family-

I got sleep last night, so I felt good enough to go exploring.  I went walking with a guy named Mike.  Mike is going to a base called Alamo in Wonderland Extreme.  We decided to walk the 3 miles to a mall that is south of the villa.  It was only about 102 today, so it was actually kind of a nice day for a walk.  Wonderland is really dirty once you start walking around.  Yes, it is a desert, but the people really are pigs.  Trash is commonly thrown from cars and people will toss trash down where ever they are.  It makes you thankful for minor good our litter laws do.  

Well, we got to the mall, and found that it was a mall.  It had all of your prerequisite items:  shoe stores, a dozen jewelry stores, clothing stores, and a food court.  We had lunch an Asian place because Mike said they had the biggest prawns he'd ever seen.  Gag!  I had a chicken dish with noodles that was really tasty.  After lunch, we walked through the mall.  It was really huge and it was spotless.  In all, there were 5 stories, but very few people.  In fact it was just about empty. I took a few pictures to give you the idea:

This first shot is looking down the mall (notice the ninja) towards the movie theater.   The food court is to the right.

This next shot is looking back through the mall.  Notice the number of stories and the lack of people.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


So this is my first moderately successful attempt to make pasta. As you can see, it certainly looks the part. And I'll be completely honest -it was totally fun to make. So here's what I learned:

1 - Don't put the entire ball of dough through the machine at once. It can't handle it, and you'll end up tearing your dough. The recipe I used called for two cups of flour and three eggs and I had to divide it into three pieces to get it to go through right.

2 - Pasta dough is soft, especially when you've rolled it out all the way. It's also very fragile, and that pasta you see up there actually mushed itself back together simply through its own weight. Be sure to separate your pasta strands.

3 - Boxed pasta is apparently seasoned. Either that, or however I made my pasta turned it very, very bland. Soft and tender, yes, but bland.

OK, so making pasta was totally cool. I'll admit to being a little hesitant after my first try, but after making sure I properly kneaded the dough, let it rest, and put it into the machine as manageable chunks, it was really actually ridiculously easy. Literally, you just pop it in the machine and it gets long and skinny. Two cups of flour and three eggs equated to a sheet of pasta easily twelve feet long by six inches wide. Now, with that said, I found the pasta just a tad bit chewy, so I think I'll stop at the second-to-last thickness next time.
Leave Comments!!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Thinking of You

This song makes me think of you every time I hear it. (Except for that weird part in the middle...) ;)

(The video is just funny.)

Love you!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Life at Home

Sometimes I feel like people are watching me while I'm in the kitchen. Do you ever get that feeling?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Elven blood or is he part Ogre?

Is there something you need to tell me about your family background?  Valiant is starting to exhibit traits I've never seen in my family!  Lightning?  Ghosts?  Green skin?  Seriously?  Is there something you need to tell me?

Little Girl or Little Ghoul?

Where in the world is Superman today?

Dear Family-

I am not sure how the internet will be late today, so today's post will give you an update on the last few days.  As of right now, I am still in Kuwait staying at the villa being rented by my company.  It is a nice place except for the fact that there is not a whole lot around here.  The internet died the day before I got here (I arrived 10/26 at about 11PM) and is just now back online.  I am hoping that it is good enough to Skype tonight.  By returning to Fort Benning to clear CRC, my new company has been able to get new orders cut and I am just waiting on the ID card piece.  As soon as that is done, we will be good to go and should be able to get my new TA-50 and get on a flight out of here.  It has been nice to have a couple of down days after flying 20,000+ miles.  The bad thing is there are no stores around and the only food available is by delivery.  Hope all is well!

Love you!

Monday, October 25, 2010

A little rewind...

Dear Family-

Communications over the few days has been pretty bad.  In the military's usual "hurry up and wait" mind set, internet access is not a huge priority.  So, this is going to be my first catch up post on what life has been like over the last few days.  As you know, I had to out process from ITT (here and forever more known as International Thieves and Thugs) and relocate to Ali Al Salem.  In local vernacular, Ali Al Salem is also known as LSA or as tent city.  Yes, Buttercup, I was a tent dweller for two days.  It is not horrible, but it totally lacks privacy and forces you to live out of your duffel bag.  The way these particular tents are set up, they can accommodate 16 people.  We never had more than 10, but even at 10 it was crowded.  As you can see in the picture below, the tents are air conditioned as much as they can be.  At most, it take the edge off of the temperature.  Between the snoring, the rustling of the wind, and the regular camp wide PA broadcast, it is really hard to get any sleep.   The bright side is that you know it is only temporary and that you will be moving on to something else in a few days.

Love you!

365 and counting down...

Dear Family-

Today is really exciting for me because today is the first day of my new adventure and the day I can actually start counting down the days until I come home again.  It has taken a long time to get here, but I think that it has been worth the wait and the struggle.  I can definitely say that there has been a weight on my shoulders wondering when this day would finally get here and the last two months have been especially hard for everyone.  The weight has finally lifted.  The roller coaster of you have a job, you don't have a job has been really draining on all of us and I want to say thank you for all of your encouragement and support.  I forget sometimes how hard all of this is on you guys even being at home. 

So, here is to the first day of the new adventure!

Love you all!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Life at Home

Valiant went to a high school football game a few weeks ago.  He said it was really boring and all the kids just sat on the bleachers playing on their smart phones and ignored the action on the field.   After I saw this Zits comic, I realized his experience wasn't unique.



By Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman

Zits Cartoon for 10/15/2010
Copyright 2010 ZITS Partnership. Distributed by King Features Syndicate.

(From:  ArcaMax Publications)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Modern Marriage

6 Chix cracks me up. Seriously...
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Monday, October 18, 2010

Look how big Baby Kaleb is these days?  Can you believe he's taking his first unassisted steps already?  He and his family came to visit Friday and I had to show you his hat.  

I think the little dude is paying homage to you.  Either that, or he's stepping on your "gig".  Either way, he wears it well, doesn't he?

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Life At Home

Why? Why do I have a brand-new box cutter in our bathroom? It is so new that the blade has never been installed. Life at home can odd.
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While we are discussing food...

Okay, while we are on the topic of food, I read the following article: 

Unfortunately for the people from Krakow, I think that this is just a bagel.  Is a bagel dog distinct from a bagel?  I like the presentation with the twists, but it is still a bagel in my book.

Your thoughts?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Bon Appetit!

Hello Family-

While I am over here stewing, I found something to take my mind off of things.  A tribute to a culinary classic!

Be sure to get yours while they last!

Love you!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Life at Home

Valiant added a Stargate to Halo Reach. Pretty cool, don't you think?
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Life At Home

Daisy and Lucy went to the groomer. I had Daisy trimmed up like a Lab so I'll have less fur to vacuum as winter rolls around and the dogs are in the house more. As you can see, Buttercup thinks her girls are beautiful (and, based on their smiling faces, the dogs are happy, too). Me, I'm just glad they smell better!
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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Life at Home

Ninja kindly provides a photo-op for Buttercup:  Title of this shot- "Classic Cat Pose"
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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I can top that!

Dear Family-

Recently, Valiant threw down the gauntlet with his whipped cream topped Oreo cookie.  Well, I think I have got something that will top that in the area of being absolutely void of any nutritional value.  They have managed to improve upon one of my culinary favorites; Texas Frito Pie!

Love you!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Is this real????

Okay, what is your vote?  Is this or is this not possible?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Having a Man Around the House...

...makes dealing with little mishaps like this MUCH easier.  In fact, you can probably imagine what I said when I discovered this. 

Can you see it?  I was so irked...

Can you identify it?  How did that happen?

 Are you sure?

Fortunately, Charming was on hand and so I effectively delegated the task of resolving the situation to him.  His shoulders are broad enough to handle the load!  One less toddler-sized cup in our cupboards...time marches on!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Self Protection

Dear Family -

The Middle East is a very dangerous place.  Danger lurks around every corner, behind every bush, and yes, even on top of your closet!  You never know when a marauding hoard may descend upon you.  
That is why I am glad you sent me the new NX 5000 Blade Weapon.  It is the perfect weapon of choice for home defense!  I easily sent those marauders packing back to the stone age.

Love you!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Self Reporting of Violation

Dear Family-

I guess that it is better to come clean now....I have to report a violation of my man card.  I am not proud of it, but I watched "Letters to Juliet" and loved it.  There was not one car chase or explosion.  It is definitely a really good movie that leaves you feeling great in the end.  I apologize for this.

Love you!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Food for Thought

Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of the living.

-Miriam Beard

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Dear Family -

As you know, I have racked up thousands of miles in the air over the last year.  One of the weirdest things to get use to is landing.  I have found that looking out the window is neat, but sometimes it can be a little disconcerting.  This is mainly caused by landing in a crosswind.  What this means is that there is wind blowing across the runway as you are approaching to land.  In order to get around this, the pilot has to kind of steer in to the wind to keep lined up on the runway.  It feels odd because you have straighten out once you land.  Check it out.   Crosswind at Heathrow

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Life in Wonderland

Dear Family-

As you may recall, the gang arrived via the postal service last week.  Needless to say, there was a lot of grumbling about the accommodations and how rotten the service was in stowage.  In addition, I did not get much sympathy about the cramped leg room I experienced or the long lay over in London.  I walked in today to find them back in their old pattern.  Making a mess in the living room and playing Halo.  I just sat down, took off my boots and took some pictures.  It is really amazing to me that in the last hour I have not heard the phrase "screen peeking" one time.  Imagine that!

Love you!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Life At Home

Big Brawny Army Bear...

A few months at home with girls...

Fairy Princess Bear!

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Friday, September 3, 2010

Getting Back To Normal

Dear Family -
Well, this is my first post after a truly great vacation.  I wanted you all to know that I had a great time and appreciated all that you did to make it so special.  Driving to Seattle and back was truly heroic in my book.  For my first post, I just have to tell you about my visit to London.  As I am a very inexperienced traveler, I just don't know all the ropes about getting in and out of the airport and such.  Afraid I would get stuck somewhere, I chose not to venture far from the airport.  So, this left me sitting in the airport for a long, long time.  Even when you are vegetating in an airport, you get hungry.  Heathrow is a big place, so I started looking earnestly for something familiar and cheap.  Nada.  Zip.  Zilch.  All they had were trendy restaurants that start at 10 Pounds for an appetizer.  Way out of my price range for airport food.  The only fast food was Starbucks and that was expensive as well.  I found the typical airport travel store that sold water, chips, sodas, etc.  I thought that I lucked out because they had a cooler full of sandwiches.  I ran to the door and opened it.  It was appalling.  Row after row of "prawn and cheese" sandwiches. 

Seriously!  Who the heck eats a prawn and cheese sandwich?  Obviously no one does because they have a cooler full of them.  As I left the store with my Coke Zero (which later exploded over me), I found a place to enter traveler's comments.  I wrote a page and a half about the need for a McDonalds.  EVERY airport I had been to before that had a McDonalds.  Kimpo in Seoul had a McDonalds.  Even Wonderland has a McDonalds.  You can see where my rant is going.  Maybe, just maybe, by the time I go on leave again, they will mend their ways and start having real food.

Love you!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Boys will be boys!

Wrestling at the table...

Then gesturing in a NSFW manner...

Keeping arm's length away because you're "men" and you don't hug ...

And then admitting you're best buds who are going to miss each other terribly.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Go Cart Warriors

Remember this night?  You all were wild and crazy speed demons!
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Monday, August 30, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Having A Man Around the House...

...makes dealing with sleep-walkers a bit easier.

One night last week, Valiant headed downstairs in the middle of the night.  Buttercup heard him even before I did and started calling him by name.  He didn't answer her, so she jumped out of bed (our bed, actually) and followed him to the front door where he was busily unlocking the door.  She stopped him and said, "What are you doing [Valiant]?"  He angrily replied, "I'm going to get Mom!  You left her in the TREE!!"  "Valiant, Mom is upstairs."  "No, you said you left her in the TREE!"  "No, Valiant, she's upstairs...go to bed."  Valiant turned and headed upstairs to the bathroom and that was that. 

(P.S.  I don't think we need to discuss from which parent he inherited this little trait, okay?)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Husband at Home Makes Dealing With...

...these weird things much easier!

Two trips to Napa later (yep, they gave me the incorrect one the first time - apparently the correct one is actually listed as for a 1998 or earlier!), I have a new radiator cap.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Having a Husband Around...

makes dealing with this weird topless muffins much easier!