Sunday, January 20, 2008

No training wheels

The day with Tom went smooth – since there wasn’t really anything going on on a Saturday. So we went about seeing the camp, seeing and meeting the various people I was going to be working with at the camp, and getting an idea of the layout of the place. The camp itself was basically a square, with building practically on top of each other, and roads between that a car could drive down. In somewhat the middle of the camp was another square that contained the classified areas, with a wall around the outside, armed guards, and razor wire. There were 4 PX’s on base, from the Italians, the Dutch, the British and a fourth just dubbed, “The Blue”. There were 2 restaurants, an Italian (with a coffee bar, and the best pizza for . . . continents!) and a Thai, a coffee shop, and 3 chow halls – the “Big”, the “Little”, and the VIP. The Big was the original and larger chow hall. The Little was about 20’ to the left, and actually part of the same building, as the Big, and the VIP was directly in the center between the 2. We saw the ATM machine, that operated in Euro’s and dollars, and even worked occasionally, and the two market areas – Carnaby Street, and the Park Ave shops. Along the Carnaby St. market were about 10 shops, including several jewelry shops, 2 carpet shops, an electronics shop, 2 leather shops, and a DHL retailer. The Park Ave shops had a carpet shop, a T-shirt shop, a tiny cell phone shop the size of a closet, and electronics/software shop, and a box/marble shop – wooden boxes and items made from marble, like dishes and chess sets. For a small base, there was a lot here, really. We also got to see the soccer field, which is actually next to the front gate, where the weekly bazaar was held.

One thing I noticed walking around base, no matter how much we tried to walk in the street – or on the sidewalks, we were always walking in the dirt that was everywhere. It was wet from the rain the night before, and the water just made mud, everywhere. As I looked at the boots of the guys that had been here for a while, I could see that they were just ‘dirty’. Not that they weren’t clean people, or that they didn’t take care of themselves – they had just been walking in this mud for months. And it showed. Something to get used to, I gathered.

The first day turned into a 12 hour day. Not too bad, so I headed to my room to unpack a bit – as much as I could anyway – and relax before sleep. There was a surprise when we returned to the room – a gentleman from The Netherlands. Reminding myself that this was temporary housing, I introduced myself as best I could, and settled a bit.

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