Sunday, February 28, 2010
Dear Family- Our fabulous internet service has been down for some time so I am behind on some posts. Today I am doing a picture post of me. Exciting isn't it?
This is a picture of me after getting off work. I kind of like the whole casual work environment again after being in a tie for so long. Twelve hour days wear you out a little so I do not look my best, but hey, its me.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Today I get to tell you about my first cooking adventure in Wonderland. Courtesy of the wonderful supplies sent by you all, today's task was to make a batch of spaghetti sauce to have pre-made food readily available for my days off and stuff. I was able to find several one pound blocks of frozen ground beef in the PX. Each pack was priced at $3.35. I thawed them overnight and started cooking the next morning. I was light on seasonings, but I was able to cook the meat in salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
It was weird cook on the small electric stove, but I got the hang of it. I had to add a lot more seasoning by the time it was done cooking. Once I had the meat cooked and seasoned, I added the sauce and let it all simmer together for a while.
I took the pot off of the stove and let it cool for a while and then started packing it away in serving size bags that I could freeze.
By the time I was done, I had ten serving size bags to put in the freezer. Pretty cool, huh?
This morning I was introduced to a new weather condition - the sand storm. Before I begin with this, let me back up. On our way to work several days ago, we ran through huge fog banks. Being right on the Persian Gulf, we apparently get some really heavy fog from time to time. This fog was by far the thickest I have ever seen and we literally went down to visibility in feet. That is pretty hairy let me tell you. Now about the sand storm; this was just as bad or not worse. As you drove in to the beginning of it, you were not sure of was it was fog or not because it was just felt different. The other people in the car had seen one before so they knew what it was. We kept the car buttoned up and drove on. As it was still dark when we got to work, I really could not get a good look. By the time we went to breakfast, you could finally see it. Dirt was hanging on everything-you could feel it and taste it.
This picture was taken the next day. As you can see, the air is still filled with dirt. This view is normally clear for BLOCKS. You can barely see the building in the next block. Luckily everything is closed up in my apartment, but I will have to venture forth later today. Dust rag anyone?
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Saturday, February 20, 2010
I am going to try and get in the habit of posting one picture of me doing something each week. I haven't had my camera out a lot recently, so I am going to reach back and pull up a photo that was taken at Fort Benning. This photo was taken right before we boarded the flight out.
The place is called Freedom Hall and it is absolutely huge. My guess is that it is roughly the size of a football field or bigger. The large flag I am in front of is there to welcome troops home as well as send troops off. Even though there were close to 300 people in there, it felt empty.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Payday was yesterday, so after we did our "To Kill a Mockingbird" group discussion, I took the kids out to Kim's Kitchen for some Korean food! Mmmm...it was so good. We got there early enough to take advantage of lunch prices and she recognized the kids as belonging to you: "I know your Dad!"
Daeji Bulgogi all around, complete with kimchi (yes, even the cucumber salad). It was really good. (We're scared to tell Mr. R that we went without him. Think he'll get over it?)
I know that it is no big secret that one of my biggest challenges so far has been finding ways to eat good, healthy food. You guys have helped a lot by sending me some supplies and now the Army is helping out as well. While I was at one of the Dining Facilities, I found a refrigerator containing prepared salads.
I had one the other night and it was fabulous. My goal is to eat these as often as possible preferably before 4 PM.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
The local librarians were holding their event following our discussion time, so the kids each got their own copy of the book. Pretty neat, eh?
Great book, great movie, and wonderful opportunity.
P.S. Buttercup took a book to send to you..she said if you take care of it, you can give it back and she'll put in her library when you get back.
I'm so freaked out by snakes, alligators/crocodiles and sharks. Even worse? For some very, very, very,very weird reason I'm scared of potatoes when they have those tiny "eyes" on them. I know it sounds really weird, but they scare me for some reason. I do not know why.
Make a donation today!
The FFBV is an organization with a small staff and probably 100% Profit margin. I mean whatever is donated gets used so I (oops, we) can have a better vacation. So really it should be called FFMBV because it helps me and my family. Get it? Foundation for My Better Vacation.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Fortunately Netflix streaming was at the ready and provided hours of cheesy entertainment.
First, we watch "Godzilla Tokyo SOS ". (As I type this, I've been informed that this movie was NOT cheesy. Sorry--my bad.) Still can't figure out the two orange-sarong clad fairy chicks, but hey, what do I know?
Buttercup loved it and now I can say I've introduced my children to badly dubbed foreign films. My work here is complete!
After that, we took a risk on "Dragon Wars". We all agree this turned out to be THE WORST MOVIE WE'VE EVER WATCHED.
Yet, we watched it all the way through. What does that say about us? It was really like finding yourself watching golf or bowling on Sunday and being too darned tired to get up to change the channel. (Remember those days?)
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Took the two younger ones out to breakfast, followed by some abysmally bad bowling. Then we picked up Charming and had a family dinner. Best of all? You skyped right in time to participate in singing "HappyBirthday" to Valiant and "helping" him blow out his candles. A bunch of the neighbors were there, too. It was awesome!
(The picture is terrible and the camera went wonky right after I snapped it, but, hey, at least we've got it! Look at that smile on Valiant's face!)
Monday, February 15, 2010
I am going to warn you right now that this is a weird post. We were having a discussion this morning at breakfast about how funny it is to watch all these young male GI's fawning over the relatively small female population over here. Girls that back in the states would get little or no attention get it by the bucket full over here. As an older, married guy, I looked around and got a kick out of the posturing and playing that was going on. Later that day, I picked up a copy of the Stars and Stripes and saw this cartoon.
I died laughing because the Star and Stripes and Doonesbury are not on my reading list. I can fully attest that this cartoon is VERY accurate. The 4's, 5's, and 6's are now the 8, 9, and 10's. They are all giddy with all the power they wield. I am not sure what they do with it so I will leave that one alone. I am sure that they keep a solid military bearing at all times.
Little Boy Statue? Nowhere to be found...
Gate attached to nothing? Check! (Notice, if you will, that I brought my own power source for the gate!)
Look at that sky! Isn't it gorgeous? Even almost-getting-stuck-in-the-mud-with-my-Suburban was awesome with scenery like this.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
I was going through the pictures on the camera and saw that I had stuff on there that I had not posted. The pictures below are from Ali Al Saleem Airbase. This camp is where we went after we landed. It is essentially a huge tent city with row after row of tents.
Each is setup to hold about 16 people, but they try to keep the number at about 8 per tent. The tents were on concrete pads and there were trailers set up for bathroom facilities and showers. They had a really good dining facility and access to fast food. We were here for about 3 days before we headed south.
This was my tent....
It can't be that bad, they have a McDonald's! Notice the Arabic on the sign...
By the way, this is the only camel I have seen so far.....
Over the last couple of weeks I have been able to determine that our apartment building is located in a very well to do part of town. It is not easy to determine which side of the tracks you live on here in Wonderland. With that said, the building is brand new and we are the first people to live here. Being as handy as I am, I like to look around and see how things were done and the quality of the job. For the most part everything is built okay, but they seriously have no concept of finish work or what is aesthetically pleasing. My favorite items from my apartment have to be how they chose to vent things. This first picture is from the kitchen/laundry room. You would think as they were building this place they would have thought, hey we are going to need to vent the stove and the dryer to the outside. Well, as you can see, it was apparently an afterthought. The solution was to cut holes in the windows and install a fan and a place for the dryer hose.
Cute huh? This next one is from my shower. Showers = Steam and moisture, right? You of course would think of this ahead of time, right? Nope! We will punch a hole in the wall and shove a fan in.
Cute, right? Not only is it not very pleasing to look at, it turns out to channel noises from other apartments. You hear all sorts of things coming out of that thing.......
Score one for Daddy!
P.S. Both kids, however, were bemused by the neighbors presenting these to us. The delivery was made while we were at the movies and our neighbors kindly accepted them, but the kids had trouble understanding that the stuff wasn't gifts from the neighbors...too funny.
I have gotten to know a new word here in wonderland. It is the word "Insha'Allah". Translated this means "God willing" or "If it is God's will". Traditionally, its is used to indicate a desire for something to happen or to indicate that you want God's blessing for what you are about to do. For example, if you wish to do something that is very difficult, you would say "Insha'Allah" to ask for God's blessing.
This word also has a "dark" side as it is also a nice way of blowing someone off. For example, you ask the repairman to come and fix the lousy internet service in your apartment. He may respond with, "Yes boss, I will be there tomorrow at 2 PM, Insha'Allah." The "Insha'Allah" gives the nice repairman the excuse not to not show up or call. When 4 PM rolls around and no one has shown up, you can automatically assume that God did not will this to happen and the repairman won't be coming. This phrase also can be used in conversation around the office. Lets say that your boss asks one of your coworkers to finish a project. Your coworker could say, "Sure, I will have it done tomorrow". If they want to tell your boss to go pound sand (without saying "go pound sand") they would say, "Sure, I will have it done tomorrow, Insha'Allah".
There you have it. One word with two possible uses.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Valiant had Stage Combat at the civic theatre this morning. There was no wi fi so I couldn't really play on my laptop. Instead, I did draft blog posts and make good use of my time! You'll be happy to know that our son is learning to properly wield a quarter staff and a broad sword...good times.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Part of the living overseas experience is getting out and trying new things. In this case, I went looking for cheap local food. Whenever I asked people about what the locals eat, it pretty much universally comes back as Shawarma. This is the universal meat on a bun kind of thing that would probably equate to us eating a hot dog. Below is a picture Shawarma served in a pita type piece of bread.
There are numerous types of Shawarma that you can order such as chicken, beef, lamb, etc. The cool thing about it is that it is pretty much a complete meal for under 1.25 KD. I have tried lamb and beef so far and I have to admit that I liked the lamb a little more. My next time out I am going to try the chicken. As you can see below, the "sandwich" is basically made by shaving off the slices of meat and combining it with an assortment of vegetables. It is pretty tasty and very filling. One is all you need.
So, be looking forward to trying all sorts of new and exciting foods. I am sure there will be some you love and some you won't care for, but the experience you will never forget.
Most people when they get home are greeted by the family dog or a loved one shouting, "Welcome home! Did you have a nice day at work?". I, on the other hand, never know what I am going find. Take today for instance. I got home about 5:45, walked up the stairs to my apartment and was greeted with the chorus of Hooah! Hard core man! I looked up and what did I see? Lion 2.0 rappelling out of my bedroom window!
Above him I saw Lion 1.0, Squeaker, and Carnation whooping and hollering about how big certain parts of Lion 2.0's anatomy were. I said, "What the heck do you guys think you are doing?" In unison they shouted, "Training Sir!" I said, "What kind of training?" They said, "Army training Sir!" I said, "You guys aren't in the Army! Don't you think this is taking this too far? Do you realize what would happen if you fell 30 feet?" Apparently, Lion 2.0 had not thought about this before climbing out of the window and heading down the rope because he immediately froze up and smacked face first in to the wall. This caused a lot of laughter from those up above and some pretty crude remarks. I had to run up stairs and pull him back up because all of the laughter up above was getting in the way them helping out their friend down below.
I have given them a stern lecture about the continuation of "Army Training" but they do not seem to be taking me seriously. I have forbid it, but I have a hunch that they are going to truly move forward with Airborne school. God knows when that will happen
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
I gave you a brief introduction to driving in Kuwait by telling you how fast and unregulated the whole thing was. Now, I thought that I would tell what is like commuting each day. We leave at dark o'clock each morning for the base. The roads around where we live are not paved and are very bumpy. This area is still under development so nothing is finished. The materials for finished sidewalks and stuff are stack all around. The first 1/2 mile is pretty bumpy until we get to a pave area and then it is off to the expressway. At this point, everything pretty much goes to hell. Depending on the time of day, you have a lot of cars going really fast going and not really looking out for each other. At home, we entrances that allow you to go the direction you want to travel. Here you don't have that luxury. You enter where you enter and then you have to drive down the expressway to where there is a place to a u-turn. At that point, it is like getting on the old 110 freeway in Pasadena. You need to accelerate really fast to get going the other direction. At this point you are often greeted by flashing headlights and blaring horns. Once you are up to speed, you have to pay more attention to what is coming up behind you than what is in front of you. People coming up from behind expect that you see them and will just get out of their way. Luckily, the signs along the expressway have English as well as Arabic so we can pretty much tell where you are going. The drive takes us by multiple refineries along the way. The most remarkable thing about the refineries are that they have multiple large pipes emitting these huge flames. These pipes are called flare headers and are used to burn off gases that are released do to the over pressurization of the refining equipment. (I will try and get a picture of this as soon as I can. ) Once we past the refineries we pretty much head out in to the desert to the base. Once on base, we have to go through multiple check points to have our ID's checked and the vehicle thoroughly inspected. From the time we leave the villas to the time we reach our building it takes about 45 minutes. It all actuality, the trip should only take about twenty minutes. I am trying to get clarification on what pictures I can and can not take so I do not compromise anything. All for now!
Love you guys!
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Sunday, February 7, 2010
It is hard to believe that you've already been gone three and a half weeks. That we're already well into February and planning ahead for March. The time is flying. It seems like I spent all of last week catching up, following up, and taking care of business. Six Priority Mail boxes are on their way to you, plus the desert boots you asked for have been shipped to you, as well. (I can't believe we found a place to ship to an APO…that was so fortunate.) Box 7 is halfway full already. This week I finally feel like I'm done, we're here, this is the way it is, and I can plan things. I need that feeling…I hate being in limbo.
The weather has been so mild, I'm pretty much convinced that we're out of the woods for any serious snow this winter. We've actually had to feed the koi this week; their pond never froze over. The compost is ready to be turned and we bought more waste digester for the Doggie Doolie. I confess to being really grateful for this weather, even as the eastern seaboard gets hit hard. I was secretly horror-stricken at the thought that I'd have to be the one to climb on the roof to relieve some of the pressure from the weight of too much snow. That was my biggest fear regarding being on my own.
We're even starting our seeds in the greenhouse this week. (Tootsie over at TootsieTime has had hers started for two weeks…I feel like a slacker!) In addition to tons of flowers, we're going to do quite a few vegetables. Tomatoes will go in the ground and in 5-gallon buckets. Peppers will go exclusively in buckets so we can get a long enough growing season for them. Broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, cucumbers, onion, corn, zucchini, and pumpkins will all go in the ground. I'm so tempted to try watermelon and cantaloupe, too. I'm studying up on apple trees to see if we can't get a better yield this year and I'm looking into some berry bushes, too. (Strawberries, blueberries…who knows?) I'm eager to see if we can harvest some garlic this spring (fingers crossed). Anyway, in addition to our other garden spots, I was thinking these stepped boxes would be really cool in the circle. If Steve never comes back from Alaska, I'm sure I could get my Dad to help us build them. What do you think?
P.S. Superbowl Sunday? Of course – the kids and I celebrated by enjoying some Mexican food in our favorite restaurant.
Well, I thought I was done having to spend money then a couple of items came up that required the expenditure of another $38. This expenditure was required do to the fact that I had to replace the trimmer I brought with me. The one I brought in incompatible with the power over here. I never gave the power thing much thought before I came over here because all of the documentation said that all I would need is to pick up a couple of power adapters in the PX to run my stuff. Well, that is not entirely correct. Yes, the plugs are different, but so is what is running through the wires. In the USA we live in 120 Volt world and all over our appliances and stuff are designed to run at this voltage. Here in wonderland, not only are the plugs different, they deliver 240 Volts to your appliances, etc. Unless the power supply or electrical information on the unit says 120V-240V, you can not use it without buying a step down unit. I was going to buy a step down unit until I found out that the cheapest one I could get is $135. Hmmmmm.....let me see....$135 or $35? Tough call. Luckily, my laptop is 120-240 compatible and my Ipod can charge through my laptop.
P.S. Having not trimmed my beard for over a month, it felt really good to get it trimmed short again.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
I am going to have to master the art of using Office to create my blogs! With all of the continued internet problems we seem to be having, I will need to start doing this offline and then send it up to the web. We were down for almost two days before we had someone come out and find the problem. I am not sure of what the issue was, but I would bet it was the result of someone plugging something in to the network. I can not justify the 30KD a month for internet, so I am sticking with what the company provides.
I have been in country now for almost two full weeks and I am finally starting to get my bearings. No matter how much you try to prepare yourself, things are flying at you too fast to try and keep up. I haven't been here long enough or seen enough to give my two cents as to what I think of things. I will, however, give you some insight to some of the things I have encountered on base and off base.
1. The native population is really a mixed bunch. I have not been introduced to any Kuwaiti people, but the ones walking around town are not the most friendly group of people. I think that it is safe to say that if you are not one of them, you probably don't exist in their world. No one has really been rude or anything it is just the way they do not notice you or acknowledge you. I am 6'-4", do not tell me you do not see me.
2. All work is done by third country nationals. (tcn's as they are called) They are definitely treated as a subclass of people in this country. Some would go as far to say they are treated as slaves, but I do not have enough experience to make that call. One thing is for certain, they do every filthy, degrading, and nasty job you can imagine. They deliver your Burger King to your house, pick up your laundry, clean, and do anything else you need done. You can't enjoy a meal brought to you under these circumstances. Tipping them well doesn't seem to help with this either.
3. Driving in Kuwait is a free for all. There are no rules other than Kuwaiti's own the road. They will not look at you driving and will literally pull out in front of you expecting you to avoid them. (reference #1) You have to be super alert and drive aggressively. Being courteous is like blood in the water for sharks. The speed limit on the expressway is 120 KPH. It is not unusual for people to pass you at 180 KPH or more. The draft caused by that is incredible. I definitely want a bigger car. A Camry doesn't cut it.
4. I lose a lot of my day getting to a from work. Getting to the base, getting through security and getting back again at the end of the day chews up about 1 1/2 hours a day. Considering a get up at 3 AM each morning to get ready and then don't walk back in the door until 6 PM. That is 15 hours. I get 30 minutes of exercise in before I leave each day and I am trying to figure out how to effectively get in another hour.
5. Eating in the mess hall is not bad. No, it is not home cooking or is it high dining, but it does offer you everything you can really want. The only thing (I can not believe that I am saying this) I have to complain about is that lack of vegetables. The only vegetables you have are canned vegetabless and they suffer from the affects of being canned. I am going to check at the Sultan Center on my days off to see if I can at least get frozen vegetables.
6. Contractors are a different bunch. There are a lot of good people here who would probably never be given a shot in the "real world". The professionalism and maturity required by corporations is not always seen here. Part of what I am seeing right now is the result of new leadership and a lack of willingness to engage in confrontation. I must of brought "scary me" with me because people are not willing to challenge me and generally treat me with a great deal of respect.
7. Most importantly, I really miss my family. This is hard to deal with and I try not to dwell on it. What I am doing is important to me and my family and it will be worth it in the end. It just sucks sometimes. I think that it is mostly when I feel cut off by the internet.
Well, enough for today, talk to you tomorrow.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
I was so excited to tell you that your paycheck actually arrived! Woo Hooo! Your first paycheck for this job did what it was supposed to and hit our US account on the day it was supposed to. Phew...too bad I couldn't tell you so you could stop worrying about it. You know, you have a building full of computer geeks and you can't keep your internet up and running? What does that say about your collective talents? Hmmmm. Hey, I'm just saying...
In other exciting news, the fact that you've started doing the 30 Day Shred has kept us motivated to keep going ourselves. As long as we don't skip one day, we'll remain ONE DAY AHEAD OF YOU. Oh, yeah! Oops. Was that gloating? Valiant made me do it. I would never ever crow about being ONE DAY AHEAD OF YOU! Darn, there is is again. I can't seem to help myself.
The lady at the Post Office is starting to remember me. I've sent a ton of packages your way this past week (okay, five, but still) and I have at least one more to go. Did you know that you can send Flat Rate Priority Mail Large Boxes to an APO address for only $12.50 no matter how much it weighs? Well, now you know. One of my boxes actually weighed more than 17 lbs - the post lady was impressed!
In homeschooling news, Teaching Textbooks - Math 5 and Algebra are on their way for the kids next math levels. I love, love, love this program and am so glad I found it. I also ordered at writing program : Institute for Excellence in Writing's Student Intensive Writing program and am hoping for the same level of success we had with Teaching Textbooks. Fingers crossed. We stopped at the library and picked up two copies of To Kill a Mockingbird for the next Adolescent Literature seminar meeting in two weeks.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Where, oh, where have my da--ays gone,
Oh, where, oh, where can they be?
I'm not stressed, but I feel like I want to get more stuff done - more fun stuff. Ah, well, must sign off and go pack the bag of clothes for the charity truck arriving tomorrow morning.
Today when I got home I was in for a big surprise. While at work the gang decided that they needed to take their living arrangements in to their own hands. They had been watching the military channel and came to the conclusion that I had not done a good enough job in providing them with adequate security and defensible positions in this "hostile" territory. For the next twenty or so minutes, I was lectured on overlapping fields of fire and terms such as protecting your fire base. (my objection as to the lack of anything to shoot or otherwise defend one self was duly noted.) (_8(|) Doh!
Anyhow, as you can see they have taken up a defensible position on top of my wardrobe closet. They have commandeered several bottles of water as well as several of the before mentioned cereal cups to sustain them in case we are overrun. Seems to me the that smart choice was to hop in the box and go home.....
Today was my first day off after starting work. I did not have a lot planned other than trying to get organized, cleaned up, and caught up on some posting. In addition, I gave myself permission to download four episodes of The Big Bang Theory. I was able to get Season 3 episodes 5-8. I watched them after I started laundry and finished cleaning my room and bathroom. I am sure that people could hear me laughing in the next building! I am not sure where to start listing my favorites parts, but the Wil Wheaton episode had me in stitches. My favorite line came from the one where Penny falls in the shower. Later in the episode Sheldon states that, "Heroes always peek!" A great line and proof that I am not a pervert, I am your mom's hero. As I sat there watching the episodes, I want you to know how much like Penny your mom was when I first knew her. For that matter, I was pretty much like Leonerd. As you sit there and watch them interact you have to be amazed that your mom and I ever got together.
I have a small confession to make.....sitting down? I have been taking cereal from the mess hall! I am not proud, but the cereal you can buy here SAYS it is the same, but it is not. Luckily for me, the mess hall stocks huge bins of cereal for breakfast, etc.
As you can see, these little cereal cups are the real thing! No Arabic writing or any of that other stuff you can not understand. They are coming in handy for snacks or for that matter, breakfast. It is the simple things in life that you miss.
Love you all!
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
No dogs peed in the house - a good thing.
Cat slept on the couch for five hours without moving - a good thing.
Birds chirped all afternoon - a good thing
Schoolwork is done - a good thing.
PE is done - a good thing.
Buttercup hit a brick wall and a palm tree and is, apparently, an awesome cobra - all good things.
Valiant and a buddy saved a bunch of Marines on an off-world assignment from an alien scourge - a very good thing (according to him).
Hit Costco this evening so we'll have milk for the morning - a very good thing.
Thank you's are finally done - a good thing, but embarrassingly late.
Yep, just another day in paradise.