Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Iraq - Balancing on the Razor's Edge
He tells me to not believe everything I see on the news, but things are happening there that are difficult to leave on the doorstep. His 'To Go' bag is ready, has been since he arrived, and he's next to an airfield...he doesn't see a problem. He was told he had to have PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) armor, and since a container full was waiting to be destroyed, he custom fitted himself with two sets; one for the work site and one for his living quarters.
He thinks when he tells me all this that I won't worry anymore. The worry really started the moment his plane left Nashville on its way to Atlanta, then Dubai, then another to Baghdad; but he's an adventurer wanting the freedom to fly to the moon if need be. I settle for what's left...bits and pieces of a relationship spent mostly alone, while (as he calls it) my Rambo ready man chooses to live on the razor's edge for another year.
He's at the BDSC (Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center) next to the Baghdad International Airport. It's about one third what it used to be when the U.S. military occupied the area. It's been nicknamed Slum Dog Millionaire by those who live and work there. The other compound is the BEC (Baghdad Embassy Compound). It is referred to as Downton Abby by those who live and work at the BDSC.
His living quarters have a bed with a thick mattress, fridge, big closet, big double desk, night stand and book case. Compared to other places he has stayed this is extremely good and he's happy. There's a gym and the DFAC (dining facility) is the same as when the U.S. military occupied the area, although they are no longer allowed to call it a DFAC because that is a U.S. military term and use of those terms is no longer allowed by the Iraq government.
If he wants the email service the embassy sponsors he's charged $60 a month. The PX was taken over by a store called Taylor's. Taylor's has an expensive liquor department, a huge change from the military days. His first week: A small thin bath mat $15.00, air freshener $8.00, bath towel $17.00, tooth paste $15.00. He tries to buy from the local shop that is much more affordable. He still has no mail service, so he cannot order online or ask for anything to be shipped to him. If he can't buy it there locally, he's out of luck, and he pays the Iraq government 10% of his salary for the privilege of all of the above.
The Baghdad Embassy Compound grounds resemble a college campus with all the amenities anyone could wish for; yet, because they walk while he can cruise his short compound in a vehicle the embassy Pilates group, the party goers, and the club joiners tell him he has it so-o-o-o much better. Yes sir, yes sir...three bags full.
Phone calls are uninformative...he jokes he'd have to do me in if he said more...ha-ha-ha...laugh, I thought I would. Secrecy...I'm not amused. He did let me know that after weeks of complaining about the snow storm reception on his only form of entertainment, he was enlightened by the repair people to the fact that the exiting contractors who lost the contract sabotaged some of the electronic equipment including his.
Despite all this drama he actually likes the job and is proud of what he has accomplished in transitioning the previous operation into the first current operation of its kind. Vague, isn't it :) Cleaning up the previous contractors mess, establishing an accountability system, writing and implementing policy, coming up with efficient ways to accomplish the job...almost everything he did himself, by himself. He should be proud of his accomplishments...I am.
He labels it all a learning experience - gungho verses laid back and confused. He confides that all his years of working in those areas made most of it child's play, but it has impressed the hell out of those he works under. Remembering his conversations of the pressures he was experiencing to create a well oiled machine out of chaos; I'd say his drop in the bucket was more like flood waters breaching the top of the dam walls. I'm so filled with wonder at the man he truly is, and I'm never letting go of him...ever.