Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Family Jewelaeys and Expence

BIAP (Baghdad International Airport) is an experience that you don't soon forget. From the lazy passport control personnel to the armed guards to the overdressed and over made up duty free clerks it just makes for some unforgettable sights.

In 2003 it was an unpowered dump that had seen better days back in the 70s when it was built by the French. In 2006 it is an underpowered dump that had seen better days back in the 70s when it was built by the French. The difference is that now the Iraqis actually use it for commercial travel. There is a real attempt here at normality. They go to great lengths to keep it as safe as possible and as normal as possible. It's still a bit unnerving though to see armed and unarmed Iraqis around without armed US Troops to keep order. I hope it a sign of things to come and that they can do this everywhere else. Speaking of signs.....

One of the sights that is commented on more than any other is this sign right before passport control. There are other signs around saying "No Photos" so I have never attempted to grab a pic of this sign but one of my friends with a PSD company took this and emailed it to me. Maybe the fact that he was packing serious gear deterred the locals from saying anything.

When you read this you will find one of the worst translations ever in a public place. It is full of grammatical errors, spelling errors, and in some cases is downright confusing. You can tell that it was not reviewed by a native English speaker before being posted. Anyway, read on and enjoy. Last time I came through I commented to one of my buddies that I was amazed that they didn't say anything about "Family Jewels". Now that would have been priceless.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Another Desert

My friend Gary sent me this photo. Gary was with us in Iraq for a couple of years and is now in Algeria. He took this photo and emailed it to me to show me the difference between "his" desert and "my" desert.

I have to say that his is much more along the classical lines and makes me think of Beau Geste and the comic strip "Crock". I love the shadow play in this photo. It is almost like a painter's trcik to give you the sense of depth and scale. On this photo it works too.

A lot of people wondered why I have not been posting for more than a week. It is a simple answer. The insiduous machine known as IT have new firewalls which were blocking my access. Thank goodness for a sympathetic IT wonk who guided me through the "get around."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Radio Kuwait

Since I have been in Kuwait and subjected to long, long drives through lots of nothingness I have been able to indulge in listening to a lot of music. I bought a FM transmitter for my iPod so that I can have something other than AFN, VOA (Voice Of America), BBC, and Radio Kuwait.

Radio Kuwait reminds me of Bahrain radio. They play a mix of pop, rap, and extreme metal and then have the news which is read staccatto style by an educated Kuwaiti who can pronounce the names correctly. They cover every visit by the Royal family to every embassy, foreign dignitary, every foreign trip and it seems like every trip to the dentist to boot. They then segue into heavy handed reporting on the dangers of Israel and the west, something about Brittany Spears, and then follow up with a feel good piece. It is sort of like this:

"His Royal Highness, Sheik Faisal bin Faisal Ali Moutadad Kahlid Saleem Mohammed, Jr. was visited today by his excellency the right honorable judge Sheik Muqtada Ali Bin Laden to discuss dental hygiene in the region. After tea and massages they agreed that flossing is important and that it should be recommended as a state practice. In Lebanon today the Zionist Agressors launched a ferocious and unprovoked attack on a convoy of wounded children with teddy bears. The innocent lambs were butchered by the big nosed, money lending vampires. 567 children were killed and 300 teddy bears stolen, the rest of the teddy bears were raped at gunpoint. At the Teen Spirit awards Brittany Spears introduced her husband and kicked off his world tour. While unappreciated in the USA, K-Fed will be touring the Middle East where he can expect sell out crowds. (People here are starved for any entertainment be it from wannabes to has been rock stars from the 70s.) A bird was rescued today from a nest which had caught fire from the ambient temperatures of over 50 degrees (That is 130 to you and me!). Mr. Rajeesh Ghoul from Goa who is a 1 dinar per day laborer rescued the bird and was quick to point out that if the the American backed Zionist agressor had not made Allah angry by attacking the peaceful nation of Lebanon, Allah would not vent so much heat and the little bird would still have a home. The temperature today is a high of 50 degrees and a low of 32, the humidity will be at 90% so dress in light colors and don't forget to boycott Danish cheese."

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The War on Drugs

I think we lost that one. It looks like they have struggles here too. I read more and more about drug busts here in Kuwait. Seems like the MTV culture exists even in a country where alcohol is banned.

It is so weird though when you need what are considered controlled substances in the USA. I have been suffering from bronchitis which was triggered by the change from dry, hot Iraq; to humid, hellish Kuwait. I hacked so much my head hurt and I had trouble sleeping. I had no antibiotics but I did have my steroidal inhaler with me. I knew I needed the drugs but did not want to go to another doctor to be told, "Hey MiG, you have bronchitis and and need a steroidal inhaler and some broad based antibiotics." No shit Sherlock.

I stopped at one of the multitude of drugstores here hoping that it is as loose as Dubai. Dubai has the loosest pharmacies I have ever seen. You wnat Viagra. No problem. You want Valium. No problem there either. The only problem is when you carry it out of country. I decided to give it a shot.

I walked into a clean looking place with a big neon sign for Panadol. Panadol is sort of like British Tylenol so I knew it was at least semi-legit. I walked up to the counter and an Indian fellow asked if he could help me. I asked of he had any broad based general antibiotics preferably in twice daily dosages. He looked at me like I had asked him for the physics breakdown for cold fusion. I asked again. Same result, the moose look.

Finally a local with a brilliant white lab coat walked up and asked if he could help me. I told him what I wanted. He started asking me diagnostic questions about signs and symptoms. I politely explained that I am a former paramedic and have a background in pharmacology. I also told him my condition was chronic and I knew what I needed. He started shaking his head and telling me that only a doctor could tell me what I really needed and that I should visit the doctor upstairs.

Yep, that's right, upstairs. I explained that I did not need a doctor I needed Amoxicillin. He stated again that I should see the doctor. I had enough by then. I looked him in the eye and said, "I'm not going upstairs to see some quack with a mail order degree from Bangladesh State University. If they don't have an NCAA football team, I'm not interested. What I am interested in is some Amoxicillin."

He looked at me rather quizzically and that is when I decided to be diplomatic and asked if he was going to,"Sell me the fuc*&^% Amoxicillin or do I go else where?" I got the Amoxicillin and harsh looks after that.

Yep, Kuwait is as jacked up about drugs as Dubai but at least they make you work for it.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

An Uncommon Sight

This sign is located on the famous "Highway of Death". You know, the one where the USAF just lit up a several mile long convoy of Iraqi looters during the First Gulf War. There are no visible reminders of this but it is eerie to be out there especially at night. I know that thousands died here in a very one sided fight but that is what the USAF is designed for after all.

I'm trying to find out the whole story behind the sign but so far I have not discovered much. It is way, way out not to far from the border so I expect that the Iraqis pillaged this area. Maybe the rancher had some bad experiences with the Iraqis and feels genuine compassion for our soldiers. What ever the story it is nice to see that some one in the world besides our families really care. I wish Cindy Sheehan could see this sign.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Price of Gas

I bought petrol yesterday. That is gasoline to those of you in CONUS. I went to a Kuwaiti station and filled up my thirsty Ford Expedition I was driving. When I finshed filling it I was astounded at the cost of fuel here. It has just shot up lately!

As you can see in the photo it was KD 3.81 for 63.47 Litres. That comes out to .77 cents per gallon. What the hell is going on here? Last week it was only .73 cents per gallon. What will we do? I did not budget for this at all.

Kind of puts it all inperspective doesnt it? The price of gas is totally artificial. After exploration, drilling, pumping, and refining this is what it really costs. Where is the rest of it going?

Friday, August 11, 2006

All the news that's fit to print

There are a lot of other folks commenting on the uneven handling of the ongoing fight in Lebanon and the war in Iraq so I won't comment on that. News being what it is these days is very depressing but every once in a while a snippet apprears that just makes you wonder.

The Kuwaiti Times has a Friday newspaper that is the equivalent of a Sunday paper back home and one of the more interesting sections is the crime report. I never used to read this stuff but Mrs. MiG is keen on Court TV, crime dramas, mystery books and the like so I peruse it to have some commonality of interest. She would love this.

The Kuwaitis don't give up all the details like the US media or Fleet Street. Instead they just give up the barest of details that really make you wonder. Take this for instance:

Abnormal caught in skimpy clothes

Ahmadi patrols arrested a female citizen at dawn on Wednesday because she was wearing provacative clothes. The patrol was roaming Fahaheel markets when they spotted a woman wearing skimpy clothes. When they checked her documents they found that she was not normal. She was taken to Fahaheel police station.

Let's analyze this.

Ahmadi patrols are the religious police. Not the regular police who look for criminal acts but instead guys who just look for non Islamic behavior. You can get in more trouble with them than anyone else. Sharia law is much more swift and severe than civil law. Fair or not, that's the way it is and you live with it.

By saying citizen they mean...gasp....a KUWAITI! Not an expat or poor downtrodden Asian, an actual Kuwaiti. This is a scandal of the highest proportions.. Is she royalty? Is she from a well heeled family? Was she trolling for dudes?

What do they mean by "skimpy"? Was her dress above the knee? Was she wearing a tube top and showing a thong? Did she have some belly showing? Just what is skimpy? I know what it is by LA standards and that is not much. By European standards it means next to naked but just what is skimpy over here? I don't know but before Mrs. MiG makes a trek over here I better find out. She is working hard on having an awesome body and she likes to show it. In Rome that's OK but not here.

Just what the heck is "not normal"? Is she mental? Is she liberated? Is she protesting Islamofascist laws in her own country? Is she trying to make a statement or is she just some poor girl wearing European fashion and pushing the edge just a little too far?

If she had not been a citizen what would the cops have done? This little blurb is just one example of the difference between this part of the world and the one I come from. I have been here for years and still don't have a grasp on all of it. I understand the rules and the laws but just don't get the mindset behind it.

Documents? Yep. Even the locals must carry paper at all times. There is always an outcry whenever a nation in the west says we should have national ID cards or some other device but over here no one questions it. You go nowhere without ID of some sort.

Oh well, I must read on. Only Allah knows what other tidbits await in the Friday paper!


Alli states that "not normal" may mean stoned. Could be. There are three blurbs about Hashish busts in the same crime column. I swear that this is all there is. The Friday Times does not have it's own link but it is the scandal rag here compared to the regaular news.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Desert

People ask me, "Hey MiG. What does the desert look like?" That is like asking what a forest looks like. Do you want a coniferous forest, deciduous, jungle, temperate? Mountain, valley, new growth, old growth? Deserts have just as much difference. There are sandy, rocky, hard pan, mountanous, flat, cold, and hot. The desert in Iraq is way different from the desert here.

Deserts in North Africa are the classic desert in everyone's minds. Big sand dunes, oasis, Berber Bedouins, etc. Most deserts don't fit this mold and the ones here sure don't. This desert is hard pan, rock and packed sand mix. It is almost completely devoid of flora or fauna. It has very few distinguishing marks and is overall very dull looking. I have attached a pic of the average looking view that exists 50 kilometers or so outside of Kuwait City.

While it is dull it also offers no place for bad guys to hide and if there was an IED you would literally spot it a mile away. I wish Iraq was so barren. It sure would make the fight easier.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Movie Review - Napoleon Dynamite

I am getting old. I didn't get it. It sucked. It is the stupidest movie I have ever seen. It was worse than a David Lynch movie and watching those is about as much fun as cleaning your tennis shoes after stepping in dog crap.

I love dumb movies. I love Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. I think Blazing Saddles is the funniest movie ever made. Ren & Stimpy make me howl. South Park has lost it's edge but still is so insightful but this....was...just...painful.

Maybe the deadpan delivery was supposed to be so understated as to be over the top. Maybe the overuse of the word "Sweet" was supposed to cause it to enter everyone's lexicon. Maybe the Pedro vs Summer for Class President was supposed to represent the down trodden underclass finally punching the popular kids in the nose.

I don't care what it was supposed to mean. It was stupid. I am going to kick Dave from Daves Not Here right in the ass when I see him. He told me how great this was. I'm coming for you Dave, get ready. You don't have Chad to protect you now!

Monday, August 07, 2006


Here they are. I still need to get my SLR with telephoto for this. I got as close as I could to snap these but still had to hang way back so I would not spook them.

Here is a lovely, lovely beast. The drover was nearby and waved at me. At some point I will take the time to stop and try and get some up close shots of his charges and him. It will set me back a few dinar but these camels are the real deal, not some zoo kept animal.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Kosher Food and Japanese Troops

It gets weird sometimes. I found out that there is indeed a Kosher restaurant in Kuwait. There is a Nathan's Hot Dogs at Camp Arifjan. If you have never had Nathan's you have never had the best. Even Jerry's Famous Deli in LA serves Nathan's. The signs don't state because we are in an Islamic country it but I know a little secret. All of Nathan's foods are Kosher.

Hee Hee Hee. I just felt dirty knowing I was breaking some kind of Sharia law. I could probably get like 15-20 years in prison in Iran for this. No pickles but good crunchy sauerkraut and deli mustard. Fat waffle fries and some lemonade make it a meal. It's not cheap ($6.00 for the combo meal) but damn well worth it in Kuwait.

What made this an even weirder experience is that there were genuine Japanese soldiers in line. I thought they had all gone home but apparently there are still some lingering in Kuwait. Like the Canadians they wear little flags everywhere. Little Japanese flags on their blouses, hats, and bags. I guess they, like the Canadians, don't want anyone mistaking them for Americans. Fat chance!

I was letting my mind wander while standing in the direct rays of the sun being cooked like a Nathan's dog. It suddenly dawned on me. I have eaten Japanese food with Jewish (Kosher) friends. Now I was going to eat Jewish (Kosher) with Japanese.

OK, I know that is a reach for subject matter but right now I am just in a grind trying to get my feet on the ground and learn the mission here. More to come....

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

My Friend Maureen

The people you meet doing this kind of work are just amazing. I have reunited with two old friends of mine here in Kuwait and today received a message from another friend who is in Chad working for Christian Children's Fund.

Maureen is a wonderful person and I have kept in touch, albeit sporadically, since we were in Bosnia. She attended some classes I taught and was one of the very best and brightest students. She is a Kiwi from New Zealand and is one of the best traveled folks I know. She is smart, witty, attractive, and can knock back a beer with any man alive. How the hell she has stayed single all these years is beyond me.

If you are interseted in reading about her adventures check out her blog. It is at http://www.mytripjournal.com/ccfchad

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Relative Humidity

No, not your sweaty cousin. It is humid here and really, really friggin hot. Iraq has this dry, roasting heat where you feel like you are in a convection oven at 110 degrees but this place gets up to 130 and has 90% humidity. It is like going from Las Vegas heat to a Finnish sauna. One of the MCT guys who has been here a while told me that Kuwait has two seasons. They are Summer and Hell. I agree.

You start to feel like you are being poached or steamed like a crab. I am adjusting but this brings back memories of some of my childhood on the Texas Gulf Coast. The minute you walk outside your shirt starts to get soaked. Sweat runs down your back into the top of your pants. Your pits are soupy. Your undies are damp. Your socks are too. It is just muggy and all around uncomfortable. Thank God for Under Armor! At least it wicks this away. I have the t-shirts and some boxer briefs but now I am going to get rid of all my cotton and go Under Armor only. It is expensive but worth it here.

Yesterday I was coming to work (An actual commute) and listening to the radio. The VOA DJ was stating that it was going to be a nice day in Kuwait with a high of 45 degrees. That translates to 120 in the USA and that is considered a NICE day. Add that to the damp, muggy vapor and you now know why the Big Hair craze of the 80's never caught on here.

When I was in CONUS for R&R in June it was about 90 degrees and it felt good to me. Everyone else was complaining but I thought it was AOK compared to Iraq. After being conditioned to this sweltering sauna of a mini-country I may need a light jacket next time.

Oh, well. Two more months of this and it will get back to a more comfortable 100 degrees or so. I can't wait.
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