Thursday, June 16, 2005

Sorry, but I am not dead

I am sorry for not posting for the past few weeks. A while back I went on R&R to Qatar for four days. The US Army runs a facility that is used by troops to relax from the combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is part of a big logistics facility at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar. It was nice to sleep in without the fear of a rocket attack, use real toilets and take a nice long hot shower. The dinning facility was good. There was Baskin and Robin’s ice cream, unlimited Gatorade and lots of good fruit to eat. At the gym there were tons of free weight and weight machines with an Orange Julius that charged $1.50 extra for a scoop of protein powder with their drinks. The bonus part was going to Chilis and getting a nice big cheese burger and a real beer. Each soldier is allowed three beers a day. The Army sold beer tickets that cost three dollars and was tracked to your social security number. Some troops were selling their beer tickets for seven or eight dollars at the end of the night. Bonus points was that there were a swimming pool next to Chilis.

One nice part of R & R was that expat Americans who lived in Qatar picked up and drove us soldiers around the city, to the mall or gold souk (market). Part of going out is to wear pants, no shorts, women had to wear modest clothing and guys had to have collars on their shirts. The big mall in the city is supposed to be the fifth biggest in the world. It had a CarreFour, a French hypermart. Also there are many high price shops selling luxury items and two or three store selling sporting goods. Lst, there were five to ten stores that sold burkas for women.

In the food court had the best of fast food eateries: McDonalds, KFC, Taco Bell, Anthony’s Pizza and others. But the real prize was sitting down and ordering a steak at Applebee’s. I ordered a nice big juicy steak, bake potato and a huge class of lemonade. It was good service and nice to sit down and order a meal. It felt like I was home, except I was not with my family.

One though came to my mind while I was walking about the mall. I was looking for a bookshop to buy the latest bestseller, classic of literature, or some tales of old Arabic culture; something like the Norse sagas, or tales of old for the region to read while sitting at Starbucks. To my amazement there were no bookstores in the mall. This might be trivial to you, but to me bookstores are a repository of knowledge where ideas can be disseminated or knowledge can be purchased for the inquisitive. Not here.

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While driving around most of the notable buildings were five to ten years old. The skyline is peppered with cranes for construction. This is the effect of having vast reserves of natural gas underground.

The gold souq or market in Arabic was interesting. Think of a small mall made of marble with 20 or so jewelry shops selling gold, pearls and other precious stones. The gold was 10% to 20% cheaper than in America without any taxes, but the prices of pearls were rock bottom. So I did some Christmas shopping.

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For troops who golf and are lucky, there were trips to the PGA golf course, but were advised to go early. The temperatures went to 110-120 with humidity. You could change to shorts when you start playing, but with the heat you were advised to drink half a gallon of water, since the heat could drop a man.

It was nice to relax for a few days. Now it is back to the task to helping Afghanistan to join the 21st century.

5 Comments:

Blogger Jen said...

Relieved to hear you're okay. Never would have guessed that you were doing early Christmas shopping, or getting a big fat steak from Applebee's! Glad you enjoyed some time off. :)

2:41 PM  
Blogger Smartypants said...

Thanks for the post-I was getting worried. Thanks also for the description of Qatar and your time there.

Keep up the fantastic work that you are doing in Afghanistan and, as always, be safe!

= )

3:34 PM  
Blogger Chevy Rose said...

Agree, glad all is well and thanks so much for the photos and description of R&R area.

2:54 AM  
Blogger Shar said...

Sounds like you had some good R&R, and got some Xmas shopping done! (now that's major!) LOL Amazing about the bookstores, I can't imagine a mall without one and really don't think I'd want to.
Take care.

3:24 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Hey, I'm happy to see you aren't dead!

Glad to hear you got some R&R. Qatar sounds like the place to get it (short of the States, of course). I'm curious, though, who is employed at the Chilis and Applebees? Are they locals, expat Americans/Europeans, people shipped over there by KBR?

Oh, and I just have to ask...where do you stand in the great beef jerky debate? Not sure if you've been following it, but a fellow Afghanistan Milblogger (JP of The National Guard Experience; http://thenationalguardexperience.blogspot.com/) has started a war over beef jerky with an Iraq-based Milblogger (Mustang 23; http://assumecommand.blogspot.com/).

11:44 PM  

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