Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thurs nite. Pain in the A**

Sitting on the back porch, just chillin'. Listening to the oldies on the stereo. Then I heard a "thump" and a man yelling "Get out of here". I thought, just some kids messing around. Then I heard the man "Your front window is broken". Sure enough-the storm door was smashed to bits.

Called the police, hassle. Tomorrow, I have to get a new door. I am flying to Tampa on Sunday, this could not have happened at a worse time.

Confirmation of start!!

I heard from my firm on Wednesday morning. I start work (actually training school) on Monday May 4, in Tampa FLA. I set up my flight from Reagan National to Tampa on Sunday May 3. Now, I have to pack, and get my paperwork in order. I made hotel reservations, and I will be in Tampa for about two weeks. I may have to do the one-week training school at Fort Benning GA. I did the school in August of 2008, and the training is usually good for one year. If I have to do it again, I will.

I would like to get a week off and go to Kentucky. Maybe I can.

If you have questions

If anyone has questions about any topic, please email me directly, I will be more than glad to answer. I got a question about the air quality in Kabul. I have done a couple of projects in downtown Kabul (way back in 2004). I thought the air quality was fine, you are up in the mountains, and there is no industrial air pollution at all.

On my first trip to Kabul (Feb 2004), I developed a blockage in one of my lungs. I got an inhaler from the US Army doctor. There I was, at 6000 feet, operating on one lung. I had to climb 12 flights of stairs to get to the top of the airport control tower, and I was wheezing badly. I eventually recovered.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tuesday night, Midnight

Got up early this morning. Made biscuits from scratch. I like to measure the flour, and the baking powder. I have a toaster-oven, that is perfect for a batch of biscuits. I also made some sausage and eggs. What a delight to be able to cook my own meals. I have been eating in chow halls since I first hit the ground in Afghanistan, February 2004. That was my first experience in Kabul.

I was hired by a firm in Reston VA. I filled out my security paperwork, and got a military ID at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. I flew on a civilian airplane from Dulles (Washington DC) to London. I then flew to Dubai United Arab Emirates. I drove out to the Al-Udied Air Base, and caught a military flight to Bagram Air Base Afghanistan. The place was primitive. I stayed there, then next morning I caught a chopper to Kabul. I photographed the air traffic control system at Kabul Aiport. I could not wait to clear out of there.

Any way- I am enjoying the transition back to ordinary life. I am getting used to driving again, on the freeways. I got lost Saturday night, and again this afternoon. It is easy to get disoriented. I went to the dentist, and I got a cleaning, inspection, x-rays. I have some deterioration in one of my teeth, I need to get a new crown, maybe.

I bought some hummus (chick-pea paste), and some stuffed grape leaves, and some pita bread. I find it ironic, that in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is impossible to get middle eastern food. I got hooked on hummus, when I lived in Saudi Arabia in 1991.

I got some small submarine loaves. I got some shaved ham, and swiss cheese, and I can actually make a sandwich. When you are eating in the chow hall, that is all there is.

I went to a discussion group on Sunday, up in Adams-Morgan, a district in Washington DC. It was nice to have an intelligent discussion with nice people. There was a man there , who is going to be assigned to China. I was in the foreign service from 1983-1988.

It is the end of April, and it is already getting hot here. Washington DC summers are the worst. HOT and sticky. I already miss the dry heat of the desert.

-I still do not have a definite start date for my new job. I am scheduled to start in Tampa FLA on May 4. I may have to wait an additional time.

In the meantime, I will be "living large". Taking tub baths, cooking my own meals, driving on the freeways, enjoying cable TV, and just "chillin".

Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday afternoon

Starting a new contract, there are 1000 things to do. I got the information package, and contracts in the FedEx last week, and there were about 40 forms to fill out, but nothing about medical. So I called the admin office and asked the person about medical forms. She said I will fill the forms out in Tampa.

I went to Wal-Mart, and got light bulbs, and an ashtray. Larisa said she quit smoking, but since her mom flew back, she has been chain-smoking. She will never quit smoking.

I bought paper towels, and mouthwash, and a decent plate to eat from. I have been eating from paper plates, and I decided enough was enough. I have rubbed holes in my jeans, and I got some iron-on patches.

I went to a meeting yesterday, it was at a mid-eastern cafe. I got some decent hummus (chick-pea paste) and some pita bread. I think it is ironic- In the chow halls in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army does not serve middle eastern food! I had some good moroccan tea, but it costs $2.5o per glass. On the other hand, I got a bottle of water, and it was free.

I paid $17 for my snacks and $15 to park the car. I thought I could drive in to Washington DC on a Sunday afternoon, and there would be adequate parking. BOY was I wrong. I went to a district called "Adams-Morgan", and every free space in the area was filled.

I wanted to go to lodge tonight, but after all this hassle and driving around, I am going to give lodge a pass tonight. Maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday night in Lorton VA

What an interesting day. My mother-in-law was staying with us. This afternoon, she flew back to Moscow. She is in the air, even now. Larisa has been trying not to act too depressed about it. Anyway, we can have a bit of privacy, now that we are alone in the house.

Today, a Census employee dropped by, confirming our address. I worked for the 1990 Census, in computer operations. I used to tell people, that I had a job that really counted.

I went to McDonalds for breakfast. I like their steak/egg/cheese bagels. I drank a cup of their industrial-grade coffee. I bought a copy of the Washington post, I usually read it on line.

I went to the grocery store, and bought a Boston cream pie. I have not eaten one in many years. I also got some lettuce and tomatoes. There is no Imperial valley iceberg lettuce in Iraq, there is a lot of Romaine lettuce. I must get filled of all the USA foods that I can, When I return to the desert, I will do without.

My suspension from Masonry will expire in a couple of weeks. I am anxious to return to being a Mason in good standing, in Kentucky. Then the Grand Lodge of KY will inform Massachusetts and New York, and I can go back to being a three-lodge mason again.

I went to MENSA on Friday night. Only one other person showed up. The group has dwindled.

Tomorrow is Sunday, I will probably sleep in. Larisa gets all mad, when I fry, the odors waft right into the bedroom.

I would like to visit a horse race track, before I return. There is a race track in Tampa! Maybe I can attend.

I get the most interesting emails. But I keep referring the inquiries here! If people would visit the blog, they can get updated more easily.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Back to work in Iraq or Afghanistan

I have accepted an offer of employment with a telecommunications firm. I will be flying down to Tampa, FLA in the next week or so. Then I will deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan. I may have to do that military training at Fort Benning GA again. This is great news, and I am looking forward to returning.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Things are looking up

My contract in Afghanistan concluded on 4 April 2009. I am in Lorton VA, seeking employment. If anyone has information or a job lead, please feel free to write me.

Anyway, today I interviewed (by phone) with an engineer in Iraq. The interview went very well, and tomorrow, I have a phone interview with the tem leader in Tampa Florida. If I pass the interview, I will be hired for this new project.

I have completed four (4) contracts in Afghanistan, and two (2) contracts in Iraq. If selected for this project, I will attend a training school in Tampa, Florida. Then I will return, either to Iraq or Afghanistan. Believe me, the quality of life in Iraq is better than the quality of life in Afghanistan. The US presence in Afghanistan is growing so fast, that the infrastructure (housing,etc) cannot keep up with the demand.

Iraq is drawing down in numbers, but the US presence will be there for many years. I work in Telecommunications, and Telecommunications is always the first in and the last out! I am looking forward to returning.

I will keep everyone posted.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Email from a friend

Good Evening Charles, Sorry to hear you are under the weather due to coming back to the US. I know when I went out West, I caught the chest cold thing and it took a week to get use to the new climate. Do you live in the Washington DC area? (Yes I do) If so I will be up there on a April 30 and 31. I have found a job working for a large engineering company who corporate HQ is in Washington. I am going there to fill in all the paperwork and from Washington going to Camp Lejeune for a month of training then to Afghanistan. I would like to shake your hand if you are feeling well and have the time on Thur. or Friday week after next.Douglas Seaman (phone number deleted)

Email from a friend

Good Evening Charles, Sorry to hear you are under the weather due to coming back to the US. I know when I went out West, I caught the chest cold thing and it took a week to get use to the new climate. Do you live in the Washington DC area? (Yes, I live in suburban Washington) If so I will be up there on a April 30 and 31. I have found a job working for a large engineering company who corporate HQ is in Washington. I am going there to fill in all the paperwork and from Washington going to Camp Lejeune for a month of training then to Afghanistan. I would like to shake your hand if you are feeling well and have the time on Thur. or Friday week after next.Douglas Seaman (phone number deleted)

Sunday afternoon

A quiet Sunday. It is Russian Orthodox Easter. I had a good supper last night. I fried two italian sausage links, and the house smelled like fennel and garlic. My mother-in-law has asthma, so she did not like the odor. My wife opened the windows, but kept the venetian blinds down and closed, so no air circulated.

I am suffering the effects of some kind of upper respiratory illness. I have not been sick one day in the last seven months in Afghanistan, and it is much more unhealthy up there. As soon as I get back to the USA, I get exposed to a whole new family of bacteria and allergens. My chest is sore, and I have a sore throat, and I am coughing a lot. I guess I will get over it in a couple of days.

I had a couple of bagels with strawberry cream cheese. I am enjoying drinking real american coffee, made in a drip coffeemaker. I also enjoy half-and-half in the coffee. I enjoy cooking my own meals for a change. Last night Larisa, sent me to the store for two containers of sour cream, and some whole-grain bread. I bought some spices. Army chow hall food, is bland, and they never use any spices. Even the chili is bland. I guess soldiers do not like spicy food. There is always hot sauce on the table, though.

It is a change to be in the house with two women. Larisa and her mom, have their own rituals. They do not have a good grasp on "kitchen science" and bacteriology. They leave a can of condensed milk, open, on the table for weeks. and they have left a can of creamed corn, on the counter for a week, open. Gross. I always make it a point to use only clean dishes and tableware. I have been washing the dishes in the dishwasher, because my wife does not keep a clean table.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Home a week

Well, it has been an interesting week. I was interviewed by phone, by Amber Healy, for a story in the local paper. And I just got off the phone with a photographer. I have been looking for work, and I have a couple of leads, hopefully, I can get back to Iraq soon.

It is good to relax, I have been in Afghanistan for seven months. Driving is a challenge, I almost hit a couple of pedestrians. It is difficult to get used to the traffic of Washington DC metro. And cooking my own meals! I can sleep the whole night, without aircraft waking me up! Biggest hassle, is my mother-in-law is here, and there is not much space for three people. The kitchen is small, and the wife and mother-in-law are always complaining. When I fry sausage, the odor goes all over.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Email from a fan!

Dear Mr. Martin,

Glad to read that you have made it home safely. Thank you for all you have been doing for our troops. I have been reading your blog for a couple of months trying to gain some insight into the needs of our troops. I am the mother of a deployed paratrooper. He is a (deleted)at FOB (deleted). I would trully appreciate any insight in regards to what they could use to make it easier. I know there is no px and they need hygiene and snacks. I also sent my son a box of laundry detergent after reading that you did your own laundry on Boris. In addition, I would like invite you to a web site I have recently found. There is a forum and chat room that people use to try to figure out what to send etc. OPSEC applies there like everywhere else. Nothing is more important than the safety of our children.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Laurie (deleted).

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday morning

A quiet weekend. I watched "The Sound of Music". This morning, I went to the car wash, and got the SUV washed. I went to Wal-Mart, and I bought some T-shirts. Then I went to Lowe's and Home Depot, looking for household grease, and a bathtub stopper. It is an adjustment to get back to normal life. Driving, and going to stores is strange. I went to Jiffy Lube, and got an oil change, and the differentials serviced. Then I went to taco bell. The chow halls in Afghanistan, cannot do mexican food properly.

I have a phone interview for a job in Iraq on Wednesday. If the interview goes properly, I will be heading back to Iraq.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Comment from Amber Healy

Good afternoon Mr. Martin,My name is Amber Healy, I'm a freelance reporter for the Connection Newspapers in Fairfax County, VA. Your blog popped up on my editor's desk this morning courtesy of the mention of your (safe) return to Lorton. I was wondering if you might be interested in talking with me a little about your time in Iraq and Afghanistan, what kind of work you do there, etc. Please feel free to email me at (DELETED) if you're interested.

I am delighted to hear from you! I am flattered that you are interested in a story about me. I called the paper, and left a voice mail for the editor, and I emailed you with my contact information. I am always delighted to work with the Fourth Estate. Please contact me, and we can set up an interview! Charles E. Martin

Friday, April 10, 2009

Back in the USA

I am back home in Lorton VA. It is good to have some peace and quiet, after 7 straight months in Afghanistan. I am enjoying "decompressing", I have been to the grocery store, and I have cooked my own meals. I actually made some coffee! I will find out on Wednesday, if I get to go to a training conference in Tampa Florida. I have not been to Florida since 1980, when I went to Walt Disney World.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Going back to the USA

I am heading back to the USA soon. For a well-deserved rest. Keep in touch on my blog.

Going back to the USA

I am heading back to the USA soon. For a well-deserved rest. Keep in touch on my blog.