A quick weekend getaway to the IZ
If you are much younger than me, you may not be able to put that quotation into context. It is from a wonderful cartoon strip from when I was young (yes, I was young once ...) called "Pogo" which was the "Doonesbury" of its day.
Anyway, today is Monday 13 March, and I am back in Camp Victory, after spending the weekend in the International Zone in Baghdad. I was able to take a helo over there and back, so the journey was fairly short in duration. When one has to take the "Rhino," it takes about 5-6 hours, due to the through-the-neighborhoods-of-Baghdad routing, and checkpoints, and less than trivial inconveniences such as IEDs and RPGs. The distance, as the crow (or helicopter) flies is about 3.5 miles, so I was happy to sign up for SpaceA (space available) and take the trip. I got some nice pictures of Baghdad from about 100 feet up.
One of the more ludicrous experiences for me so far over here (and trust me, there have been a boatload of ludicrous experiences) is that Big Defense Contractor has located the Security/Badging Office inside of a gate through which you must pass with the proper badge. Hello? Can you say Catch-22? I arrive at the gate, intending to proceed to the Badging Office, in order that I might procure a badge, which will allow me through the gate. Have you got the picture crystal clear yet? Yet another outstanding example of less-than-optimal solutions by the mother of all disappointing performers, BDC.
I did get the badge, which allows me free access to all things BDC. Unfortunately (or, if you are the American Ambassador, perhaps you are thinking that your prayers ARE being answered), BDC does NOT run the site where the Embassy is located. I tried the South entrance, heavily guarded by Columbian mercenaries (I am NOT making this up: apparently, they have NO fear, and make wonderful security guards; maybe it's the coca~ne which gives them fearlessness), and was turned away by a soldier who instructed me that BDC uses the Main and North entrances. Fine, I go to the Main entrance, where I am told that BDC must use the South and North entrances. OK, I go to the North entrance, where I am told that BDC must use the South and Main entrance. I put a stop to all this madness, schmoozed the guard in my best street Spanish, and he let me through the gate.
Once inside, I managed to procure some really nice Polo Shirts with United States Embassy - Baghdad and the State Department Eagle embroidered on the front left. I also observed some shirts with the emblem embroidered on the front right, which makes no sense in my world.
I was in the IZ for three full days, having flown there last Thursday morning, and working in the Procurement Offices for BDC on Friday and Saturday. The dining facilities in the Embassy were OUTSTANDING, easily the best so far on my travels through Iraq. But that makes sense, since the personnel eating at the Embassy D-Fac are State Department employees, other contractors, and military types of all flavors (I didn't ask, they didn't tell ...). At the BDC sites in Iraq where I have been working, it's only BDC employees and, for the most part, the Army, which is notoriously forgiving in its consideration for fine dining.
I flew back out on Sunday, and put in a short day at the office.
One of the sanity-saving devices used frequently by me on this trip is iTunes. I have a nice library (thank you, Vector Ivanov), and I have been able to download this season's "Lost" episodes. I watched all of Season 1 of "Lost" in 6 days. 24 episodes in 6 days. Yikes. Since then, I have spaced it out, never more than 2 episodes in a day. The Lovely One was going to send me the DVDs for Season 1, but they did not arrive at our house, so she has not sent them to me, but it all worked out because a colleague here already had them.
Speaking of colleagues, I welcomed back Fearless Leader, Principal, D2, Mongo, and Ken yesterday. They are on a different project and will stay beyond my exit on 31 March. (For those who missed out on last summer's blockbuster blogs: Fearless Leader is the CEO of the consulting firm for which I work; Principal is a colleague who, uh, used to be a principal; D2 is a colleague whose initials are D. D. - duh!; Mongo is 6-5 and weighs 260 and works out and is fit and is also a Doctoral Candidate at UTD in Organizational Change Management; and Ken is Barbie's boyfriend. No, really, I think his wife's name is Barbie.
It's good to have friends around you in a goofy country like Iraq.
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