Sunday, November 17, 2013


Everyday brings surprises. While I think most people might say they do not prefer to be surprised on a minute to minute or even a daily basis, apparently, I rather enjoy a constant state of surprise or I would spend a lot more time sitting on the couch alone staring mindlessly into space. Today's surprises included a lovely compliment from a gentleman I met recently who installed 31 piers to level a 14 inch slope in the slab in one of the rentals. He told me I was a pleasure to work for because I was cheerful, spoke to everyone and worked along side his crew. Who knew that kind of behavior and attitude would be exeptional enough that he would comment on it. Those guys worked hard and did a great job for a very fair price.  Smiles and friendliness are free! It was nice to be noticed for being me. Surprise!

Another surprise for today was Aldi. We shopped at Aldi quite a bit during our tenure in Germany and I knew both my Mom and Dad enjoyed some Aldi bargains here in Texas since they have opened stores near us but yesterday was the first occassion I had to go in and look around. $168 later I realized what a pleasant surprise it had been to see German Advent calendars, several kinds of Christmas stollen, spekulas almond cookies and German gingerbread - lebkuchen! I also bought the eggs, bananas and raisins mother asked me to stop and pick up for her and threw in 2 packages of fig newtons for a mere 88 cents a package. It was good they were cheap as she ate a whole package last night and enjoyed every bite. Surprise!

My sister brought over to Mom's some very cute turkey cookies left over from a shindig at her work. They had been sitting on the counter for several days and last night when I got back from rent housing, I ate one. Apparently, she had been saving them to give the 3 other grandkids and now there aren't enough to go around. Brenda came over and played cards with Mom yesterday so she got to eat several. I got in trouble for gobbling. Surprise!

Other surprises for yesterday included the fact that given a random solicitation phone call, my husband will apparently divulge both of our social security numbers and all of our credit information to an unknown entity who will then call each of us incessantly for the next 3 hours after said husband gets tired listening and waiting after 2 hours so finally turns down whatever credit service they were offering and hangs up. After the 39th such call to my cell phone, I lost my temper and told them to take their f-ing offer and stick it up their f-ing arses and to never, ever call either of our f-ing numbers again (admittedly a loss of decorum) and the guy on the phone said he wouldn't call again if I would just act like a human being for a few moments and listen. Apparently, I was the one harassing him. Surprise!

My busy son changed his Saturday plans to help his aged and decrepid mother with her aged and decrepid rental without complaint and in fact, rather cheerfully. Surprise!

His daughter forgot to take the chicken breasts we planned to cook for dinner out of the freezer so again it was a food night. Surprise!

Last night was a full moon and wispy clouds were flying across the sky with the wind. The temperature was perfect and it was a lovely night, especially after the cold dampness of late. Surprise!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran's Day Weekend

Enjoying quite a visit with friends in West Tennessee. Good friends are wonderful!!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Now you see you don't!

 I am now in far Western Afghanistan on a FOB called Farah. There is both a Farah River and a Farah city. Farah city has about 100K residents. The city is about halfway between Herat and Kandahar. I flew in on a regular fixed wing aircraft this time instead of a helicopter. Farah has a dirt runway.When I fly fixed wing (which we call the DASH because its call sign is DHS 8) I have to show up at the bus stop at 4AM with my baggage and my battle rattle (helmet and vest with 30 pound ceramic plates) to go out to the flight line.

Usually, I am a very light packer - 2 pairs of pants, 5 shirts, 10 pairs of undies and 5 pairs of socks, night wear (because of possible incoming you have to sleep in something you don't mind wearing to the bunker with everyone else in the middle of the night, so I generally sleep in underarmour peddle pushers and a comfie, old, too big t-shirt) and my dop  kit with shampoo and stuff. We are allowed 50 pounds of luggage on the DASH not counting the rattle. In addition to my clothes and personal hygiene items, I must carry sheets, pillow and blanket (or sleeping bag) because they often don't have them at the FOBs to issue to visitors. I must have my computer, projector, external drive, Kindle and camera and a few other odds and ends. I am never over 50 pounds! Never. I have a big old Marine drag bag with offroad wheels on one end and a strict rule not to bring more than I can carry. Sometimes, it is a very long walk from the flightline to my assigned billet an it is always a walk through crushed granite.

Normally, most of the FOBs I go visit have a PX for snacks, drinks, shampoo and stuff like that. Sometimes they are well stocked. Sometimes not. FOB Farah has a 40' truck trailer serving as their PX. It has a VERY limited selection of inventory. It is also closing June 1st, so the folks on my team that got here before I did sent requests for stuff they wanted me to import for them from KAF. There has been an ongoing theaterwide shortage of potato chips since the closing of the Pakistani/Afghan border crossing but finally the flow of Pringles has resumed at KAF - still no corn chips though, LOL. Anyway, so I packed and brought a huge bag of Jolly Ranchers, a case of Cup o' Noodles, 6 bags of mini Snickers, 2 bags of Werthers and 4 cans of Pringles along with a couple of Ritter Sports, 2 movie size boxes of Sugar Babies and several packages of Japanese chewy Starburst-like candy. My baggage has NEVER been that heavy before! Fortunately though, it still was under 50 pounds.

So the pictures above are of the mountain right beside the runway at Farah Airfield. About 3 days into my stay here we got a doozie of a dust storm. The first picture is how the mountain normally looks. The second picture is how it looks in a dust storm. It is amazing how poor the visibility really is during a dust storm.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Target versus Walmart...

All is well here at my new duty location. We have all the modern conveniences...showers, flushing toilets, sliding doors on our rooms for privacy an a full range of chain stores...OK no Ross and no mall but...

Here at Farah Airfield we have our very own Tirget...maybe next week they will upgrade it to a Super Tirget! LOL. The suspense is killing me. I bought two mouse pads that look like carpets and some Beats earbuds for the grandkids. The little boy sitting in front is in charge of getting people to come in and buy stuff. His cousin is in charge of the store next door. They had quite a little fuss when we went past Tirget to get to Walmart but everyone knows Wally World is the way to go!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Flying in the Spring...

Friday last week, I bid a fond farewell to FOB Wolverine and all my good friends there. I enjoyed my stay as always...good food, comfortable living, fun folks and best of all, a husband for a change. From Wolverine, I hopped a one hour helicopter flight back to Kandahar and got to stay in my own room for a few days - all by myself! After sleeping in a tent that flaps in the wind for 6 weeks, with 5 other tenants, I must say, I slept like a rock for a solid 12 hours my first night back in my own dark, quiet private little CHU.

I had hoped to see red poppy fields during the flight. I didn't. What I did see was swaths of fertile looking green! Spring in Afghanistan. What a land of contrast.

With the Spring of leaves, I could make out actual orchards!

The towns look so barren they just grew up from the dirt. It appears from the air like some towns just dissolve themselves back into the ground and move to a new location nearby. You can barely make out rectangular outlines where they used to be. I think the desert eats them!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012, clear water...

This is another helicopter view of Southern Afghanistan. I snapped this out the window on my way from Kandahar to FOB Frontenac. We crossed over a couple of large mountainous ridges and there, in the middle of a totally arid plain, was a sparkling stretch of blue water. I thought it was a lake and was quite interested to see just how much good the water was doing for the swath of agriculture along the banks on either side of the outlet river.  I tried to look up the name of the lake online and I believe that it is called the Dala Reservoir and that they use the dam at the mouth of the river - the Kajaki Dam for hydroelectric power. Apparently, only about 10% of Afghan households have electricity. Once, when I was on a convoy, I got the chance to pass through a local village and I saw the occasional solar panel next to a mud hut with a woven reed roof piled with broken stuff to weigh it down and keep the wind from blowing it off. I found it an odd juxtaposition and wondered what they ran with the power from the solar panel...TV perhaps...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Jingle trucks...

One of the more decorative and interesting things we see coming and going on the bases and FOBs are the local "jingle trucks." Some are old, others are newer. Some are tankers, others are freight haulers or dumpers. I am constantly amazed at the range of decorations they exhibit. The truck in the top picture has loops of chain hanging almost lace-like from its trailer. It has whimsical painted metal cutouts of ponies, hearts, birds and fish welded to the sides and back.

The tanker truck below is a "poo pumper" used to transport gray or black water off base.  Both trucks have a platform above the trailer and in the top shot you can see a decorative ladder. Usually, they use these platforms to carry even larger loads, but I often wonder if once in a while they don't take the extended family out for a Sunday picnic or for a little spin up Hwy 1. The view must be grand from the roof rack and I can just picture the family sitting up there on top of the world, playing Parchesi, smoking hookah and having a grand time. Afghans have hard lives. I want to believe they have some peaceful, enjoyable family times as well and for some reason, the decorations on the jingle trucks seem encouraging to me.

Before trucks are allowed onto any base, they have to spend some time in the soak yard - meaning they sit in lanes off base waiting to see if anyone is going to blow up. Occassionally they do. Usually they don't.