Friday, July 29, 2005


Well, a few days ago, my boyfriend told me he wasn't on the R&R list for August, which is a little disappointing, because I had started to anticipate seeing him towards the end of the month. However, he should get leave in September, and the bright side of it all is the later he comes, the less time I have to wait to see him again at the end of the deployment.

Also, I am just really thankful I can see him at all.

Snot-nosed rich people: Part Deux

I am spending 3 weeks on Kauai, where I grew up. For a long time it was the overlooked island of the Hawaiian chain. And the locals were happy with that. Maui seemed to be getting all the tourist love, along with Oahu, with the state's capital of Honolulu. But recently Kauai has become somewhat the new "it" place.

It is going through what I can only imagine the Hamptons did about 30 years ago. Suddenly mainlanders are discovering this paradise, and buying up land as soon as it goes on sale (40% of all house sales recently have been made to Californians), driving the prices up to almost prohibitive levels. The median house price here is about $550K, the highest in America. And when you think that most of the locals are involved in the tourist industry, you can easily see, that many people can no longer afford to buy property here.

If that weren't bad enough, the increased property value has raised property taxes to levels that belong more in Beverly Hills than a quiet island community.

Today I read in the newspaper that the mayor has proposed a ban on gated communities...thank goodness. I think it's all good that people want to move over here, because they like the island and its residents, but then to lock themselves in a gated community? Hello, people don't even lock their houses here. I am not kidding. You can go up to any house on the island and open the door and walk right in. People lock their cars when they are parked in a parking lot, but they never lock their houses, because they trust their neighbors. And the idea of gated communities and even worse "guard stations" is just so repulsive to me. People are moving to Kauai to get away from all of that, so why do they insist on bringing it with them?

I think eventually they will get their gated communities here, and their guard towers...and then they might have well stayed in Los Angeles, and they will have succeeded in turning this sleepy little island into the crack den they have left. (Can you tell that I am bitter?)

My Nightstand I got tagged by StoicMom (she called me a lady!)...but it's sad, because I really don't have a nightstand at the moment. Right now, I am living out of a suitcase back home.

However, back in Germany, my nightstand has on it:
1. Dust
2. A framed picture of my mother
3. A glass of water
4. A spray bottle of liquid melatonin for nights when I have trouble falling asleep
5. More dust
6. Hair bands, that I have removed from my hair before going to sleep
7. Earrings that I have taken out before going to sleep
8. Did I mention dust?

How boring I sound...well, I don't read in bed, so I can't list off all the awesome books I read and show how smart I am, or any of my brain candy magazines (which is probably a good thing). My nightstand really doesn't have much to show for itself (or myself). Now my refrigerator...that's a totally different story.

Generation Kill

Since being home I have had loads of time to read, and today I picked up a book at the library, that I almost didn't, because its title and cover picture were somewhat repulsive to me. The book was called Generation Kill, and its cover shows a picture of a soldier taken from below looking down at the photographer. I looked at it and thought it was going to be another book about how soldiers are killerbots, etc. However, it's the complete opposite.

I feel like I must have missed out on something, because I am sure this book is well known, and a total success, and I can't understand why I never heard about it. The author, Evan Wright, is a contributing editor to Rolling Stones magazine from LA. His observations are priceless, and his descriptions of the First Recon Battalion of the Marines, whom he accompanied on their push into Iraq, make me feel like a kid in a candy store.

The author definately belongs to the anti-war faction, but this doesn't cloud his opinion of the guys he is embedded with. In fact, it only serves to make his commentary sound even more genuine. Actually, I would say that someone on the anti-war side would consider Evans almost pro-war. He is probably as objective as anyone can get...albeit throwing a lot of personal opinions in.

There are so many laugh outloud moments in the book (along with shockingly sad moments). One of my favorite it the author's description of his first chemical warfare alert, and his hussle to get on his suit:

I manage to get it all put together about as quickly as the Marines nearby. We stand around looking at each other through the warping, fish-eye lenses of our gas masks. I can't conceal my feeling of triumph. Not only am I glad that I don't seem to be showing any symptoms of exposure to gas, but I'm also not a little proud that I've gotten fully MOPPed up without paniking. Unlike these Marines, I haven't spent the last few years of my life in wars or training exercises with bombs going off, jumping out of airplanes and helicopters. In my civilian would at home in Los Angeles, hald the people I know are on anti-depressants or anti-panic attack drugs because they can't handle the stress of a mena boss or a crowd at the 7-Eleven when buying a Slurpee. That's my world, and it wouldn't have surprised me if, thrust into this one, in the first moments of what we all believe to be a real gas attack, I'd just flipped out and started autoinjecting myself with Valium.

Oh, man...this is something I can so relate with. I mean, when I am back in LA, I can't help but think how some people are wasting their lives thinking they got it so bad. Anyways...the book is awesome.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Terrorists are terrorists

I have a weakness for women's magazines. Cosmo, Glamour, Allure, etc.

I actually interned one summer at a woman's mag, and that cured me from ever wanting to work at one. They are essentially brain-candy. Fun, but not something you would want to nourish your brain with longterm.

In the July issue of Glamour, there is a little piece about Marla Ruzicka. And it annoyed me a bit. This sentence to be exact:

Ruzicka was killed on April 16, when a bomb intended for a convoy of contractors exploded near the car she was riding in.

The author of the piece makes it sound like the bomb was some kind of stray bullet that hit innocent victims, almost implying that had the bombers known that Marla was in that car they wouldn't have blown themselves up. This was a huge car bomb, designed to kill or maim as many people as possible, and to scare the rest. Terrorist don't care who they kill, as they have proven time and again by blowing up women and children.

The article almost seems to indicate that Marla's death was a tragic mistake, and not the result of the barbarism of the terrorists.

Back in the States

I have been back in the States for exactly one week now. And it feels good. It's like I have become hyper-aware of all things American. And super proud and happy of the support towards soldiers. I love seeing cars with ribbons on them, and houses with flags flying out front.

There were a few highlights of the trip. First one was meeting someone who had served with SFC Paul Smith. I was waiting to get on my plane in Frankfurt, and I noticed a man with a memorial wristband bearing Smith's name, so I approached the man and asked him about it. He said that Paul Smith had been one of his best friends and they had served together. And then he mentioned that their brigade (I am not sure on the details of the exchange anymore) was kind of like the sunnyboy of the units in Iraq until the week SFC Smith was killed, they had suffered no causualties. And they lost 9 guys, 8 from his company (the guy I was talking to), in the span of 5 days. I didn't know much else what to say, but I thought it was pretty cool to have met someone who had known Smith.

The second highlight was getting select for random testing on my hand luggage, and the lady swiping my backpack with the testing pad, putting it into the machine and an alarm sounding which said: "Explosive Traces Present." I just laughed, kind of amazed, and the woman then looked at me and said they had been having problems all morning with the machine and that she knew I didn't have anything, and waved me on my way. Let's just say that didn't incease my opinion of those stupid security checks at airports. Obviously she had been doing her own version of racial profiling, because so far no Anglo-Saxon blondes have blown up airplanes, but still...just shows how stupid those random checks are.

Third highlight was going through customs with my two charges: two 14 year-old German girls on their first trip to America: my cousin's daughter and her best friend. The customs official asked me why the girls weren't American. I replied: um, because they are German. And he was all discombobulated. And then I realized what was wrong, and I said: ooooooh, they are not MY children. And he then looked relieved, and he said, yeah, I was wondering with the birthdates. And I said: oh, you mean, because they are Irish twins? And he replied, yes. Anyways, because we 3 girls were all giggling and laughing at him about thinking that I was their mother, he stapled the visa waiver of one of the girls into the other's passport, and then when he realized that he got even more flustered. And when we walked away from the booth, we realized that he had forgotten to fingerprint and photograph one of the girls. So, basically, 14 year-old German girls can slip through certain procedures of the Patriot Act.

All in all an interesting trip, and I am extremely happy to be home in the good old US of A!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Getting digits in the 'stan

So, Pete had a show last night at Bagram, and apparently there are some pretty hot chicks there...a detail my boyfriend has been kind enough to supress:

We had an amazing show last night in the Clamshell here at Bagram. A good sized crowd, Air Force and Army mix along with some Special Forces and Civilian Contractors. Not to mention one of the hotest MP's I've ever seen up front. Damn, she was pretty. I also met the coolest chick after the show. She came late and missed my act but I went to meet her later and we played pool and talked into the night while her friends looked annoyed. I got her phone number! How weird is that? I got digits in Afghanistan. I don't even know how to use the phones here...

Hope it all works out for him.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

More bloggers from the 'Stan

I was at Mudville's Noon (Dawn) Patrol today...and when I read this (in reference to Afghanistan), I thought I had to do something to change the situation:

Editor's Note: Most of these MilBloggers have rotated out. Hope to find some new ones soon.

So, after some searching at Technorati, here are some newly discovered Afghani or environs bloggers:

Robert E. is an American soldier blogging from Bagram.

The Fortunate Son is a soldier from Texas in Afghanistan.

Then Miserable Donuts seems to be a new blog with multiple contributors, and at least one (Major John) in Afghanistan. This picture is priceless...some local Afghani celebs.

Okay...these guys aren't in Afghanistan, but they are close enough: The Real World Uzbekistan. And turn up your speakers...all those children of the 80s will smile with nostalgia.

Martin is a Canadian Reservist serving in Afghanistan. He has some great pics at Kodak that he links to in some of his posts.

The Cajun Technomancer, seems to be a contractor who was based out of Bagram, but is now temporarily on a smaller base. To get there, he probably was flown by Big Windy:

Also, I finally got to ride in a helicopter. I had to take a Chinook out here, and it was pretty cool. It was a night flight, but the full moon was out, so it was quite nice. Funny thing is that the parts of Afghanistan that we flew over look EXACTLY like something out of one of those military flight simulator games. If you seriously want to get a good idea of what the country's like here, rent "Hero" or "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." Both of those films were shot in the western province of Xinjiang, China which is about maybe 150km from Bagram to the NE. Dry, scrub steppe and mountains. It's pretty scenic in a harsh landscape, Badlands type of way.

I found a blog from a stand-up comic who is on tour in Afghanistan, and he is a riot:

Wicked Show at Camp Pheonix. Ok, so there was about eleven of the guys from the french military who showed up, and it was like a gift from the comedy gods. They were all wearing tight latex tops, and the most unbelievably short shorts I had ever seen. I just asked them some really polite questions about how comfortable they were in they're outfits, and if they really felt that was the look of a great soldier... and it killed the place went wild. They seemed to lie it to, but hey who knows with the french. Word of mouth from the last show we did really packed the place, and I was seriously impressed with the hotness of some of the Army women. They were damn fine, course I've been here for four days... by the end of the tour the Uzbekistani women will probably be looking fine. Uzbeki women by the way do not celebrate the same esthetics we do, for example symytry and leaness are not valued as much as a sturdy wood hauling back and a rounded shoulder hump.

He also has some awesome pics.

I also found a German blogger in Kabul. I don't quite know what he is doing there, I'll have to read up a little more.

And here is a French kid, doing an internship in Kabul.

Okay...well, that is all for now.


I love it that my parents are a strange mixture of conservative, but also very liberal. Having said that, I still get a little shocked sometimes. Like last night:

My parents are visiting Europe, and last night was my uncle's 70th birthday party. And I took the train up there to join my parents at the party. I was wearing a pair of shoes I just bought, cork wedge shoes, with little bands of gold sequins.

So I am standing next to my father, talking with him and my 40 year-old cousin, when my dad looks down at my feet and says: "Hmm...are those your F*ck Me shoes?" I think I turned about 20 different shades of red and stared smiling in shock at my father. And my cousin busted up in hysterics...which I probably would have done, had someone else's father inquired that about his daughter's choice of footwear.

I didn't know what to say. I felt like I had my hand caught in the cookie jar. Anything I said would be futile.

For the rest of the evening my cousin was taunting me and pointing out to anyone who cared to listen that those were my F*ck Me shoes.

Thanks, Daddy.

*Sigh* Well, I always say, my personality didn't come from nowhere.

A toast to life

A few days ago I got an email from a friend who lost her husband in Iraq last year. For the last year she has been coping with his death, mourning his passing and mouring the loss of the future she was to share with him.

When I saw her here in April, I was extremely impressed with her strength, and the dignity in her grief. I admire her honesty, and her courage. And when I got this email from her, I immediately wanted to share it with as many people as possible, and she gave me her permission to post it here:

A lot has been going on in my life during the past two and a half months. The month of May felt like the world was coming to an end due to the endless memorial services and the inevitable approach of the one year of Erik's death. It was far worse than the previous 11months. No longer numb, no longer in shock I had to face this milestone sober and the pain at times felt unbearable. And as some of you have come to learn, I had to do it my way - a.k.a. alone.

One week later I was sitting in a motorcycle course learning how to ride. Amazingly enough I passed which meant I received my motorcycle endorsement and am legal to ride on the roadways. Though I am far from confident enough to do so. I spent the following week looking at bikes and decided in the end to have Erik's 1200 Sportster altered to fit my significantly shorter body. Learning how to ride just felt like something I needed to do to help me in my grieving, and I was right. For the first time in a year I was excited about something and even felt a twinge of accomplishment.

The last week of June I went to Delta Company's first drill since they have returned. I had not seen any of the men since I was hiding in Europe when they returned and so I was extremely nervous. Nervous for what I am not sure. Perhaps it was the finality of it all. If they were back and Erik wasn't then the nightmare was confirmed. Instead of it being scary it was a relief to see them and gave me a peace I had yet to experience. Two wise men (they would be patting themselves on the back right now if they were to read this) said something to me that weekend, that planted a seed. They mentioned that though Erik's death is a part of my life it does not define it. I'm sure some of you have said this in those exact words or slight variations, but I was not ready at the time. And quite honestly, I believe only a soldier who was there with Erik could have said it in a way to that could penetrate my thick Scottish skull.

That one comment made me start thinking about my life. I realized that a year has gone by and I had nothing to show for it except an indentation in my couch and an increasingly "grumpy" disposition. It was now up to me to decide what to do with my life. I could either sit and continue to be a cranky old lady and allow Erik's death to define me, or I could get up start living life and allow Erik's death to be a part of who I am. With memories of my Great Grandma Carlson coming to mind - my hero - I chose the latter.

Though some of you might think this was the "only" choice or the "easiest" choice you couldn't be further from the truth on either account. It is not the only choice. I have examples in my life of family members who chose the first route. And as far as it being the easy one - wow. Being grumpy and sticking to yourself means you don't have to be around happy couples and families with kids. Choosing to live means choosing to be around those very things that make me the saddest, because those are the things I was suppose to have with Erik. And more than anything, choosing to live means learning how to love again. I don't just mean another man but love in general. Love has not been something I have been capable of feeling or accepting over the last year. True I may have said it to family members, but I never really meant it. To love means you put your whole self out there, you are vulnerable to pain and loss and over the last year I was diligently working on building a wall to protect me from that kind of pain and loss again. But as I told Erik in Scotland as he grappled with the idea of giving me the boot as he prepared himself for the inevitable deployment, God said it best,
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

1 Corinthians 13:13.

So here I go in the only way I know how to do things - 100%. I'm ready to live and love again. Please do not misinterpret this as - oh good Heather is finally "moving on". "Moving on" indicates leaving behind, forgetting and going on to something better. I am not as most say moving on, I am instead continuing to play the game just like you do after you are sent to jail in Monopoly, or sent home in Sorry or rolling the dice again after sliding down a slide in Chutes and Ladders. You start out at a new position impacted by the previous play but still in the game.

So here is a toast to life. May we all have a summer filled with laughter and love to get us through those trials that we can not avoid. One last thing before I go I owe you all a great thank you for putting up with the cranky me.

I don't think any comment I could now make could do this email justice. And I want to thank Heather profusely for sending it to me, because it touched me so deeply.

Bush and bikes

I have a friend who is a Scottish policeman, so I wrote him an email asking about how he experienced the G8 summit, and he wrote me the following:

G8 was pretty cool, I had to work 12 days of 12 hour nightshift and was at the nuclear weapons depot and other events that took place.

One of the guys in my station called " George " got hit with a bike which George Bush was riding. George Bush was riding a bike in Gleneagles at about 100mph. When he was passing, he said to a bunch of riot police "Thanks for being here guys" but then came flying off the bike and skid his arms and elbows. The bike then crashed into George.

The adviser to the president then phoned George an hour later and told him that the president would be phoning to apoligise, and 15 minutes later he was on the phone saying sorry.

I personally would have milked it and asked for a tour of the white house and a trip on air force one.

Thought it was an amusing little story.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Funny stuff

There are a few bloggers, who when I read their posts, I just think...genius...why didn't I write that? Or why hasn't someone else written that? It's just good stuff. Funny stuff. And I always feel stupid constantly writing: "you're so funny" or "hilarious"'s like my standard comment for them, so after I while I just give up and stop commenting, because it would be like saying that to Mike Myers or Will Ferrell: saying how great they are to them is just stupid, because it's so widely accepted.

Jake, for example, offers More Truthful Bumper Stickers.

MyAdidas muses about Combat Commando Base In-processing.

KatieDid on Cutesy Celebrity Couple Nicknames.

Mustang 23s friend Dave (okay, so he doesn't blog...or maybe he does...and I just don't have the link). But Mustang 23 so kindly copied and pasted an email from the guy.) I should probably direct my attentions to some writing that's actually going to lead to a degree in something other than being a blogging genius.

Eat like they do at Gitmo!

I think I need to buy one of these cookbooks just for collectors value's sake:

On testing the recipes, one member of the book team disliked the glazed carrots but says the carrots "did not sink to the level of torture."

I am so loving this.


After the first plane hit the Twin Towers, many people in the second tower called home to tell their loved ones they were safe, some were still on the phone when the second plane hit and disconnected their calls.

The same thing happened to a few people in London on Thursday. Miriam Hyman was one of them:

The 31-year-old spoke to her father on her mobile phone to say she had been evacuated from an underground train at King's Cross. She died in the explosion on the No 30 bus.

Her death is tragic no matter what, but when you think that she walked out of the frying pan into the fire, it's one of those moments where you know her father wishes he had told her something, wishes he had somehow intervened in her fate. It somehow makes the suffering of those left behind a little harder, when they think they may have been able to change things.

Welfare mentality

Yesterday I was reading a milblog from a soldier in Iraq, where he was mentioning the welfare mentality of certain groups in Iraq:

As I have stated before, there is still very much a welfare mentality here. The discussion largely revolved around "we need this or that" and "how can you help us with this or that situation." After 30 years of Saddam's regime a majority of the people do not know how to take initiative to solve their own problems. This is why it is so crucial that we continually hand more and more responsibility to the Iraqi people so they can learn to look to themselves to develop solutions. I believe it will take an entire generation before there is real change in the general population. I fear most of the current adult generation are too set in their ways. However I have hope that the younger generation, with the proper influences, will grow to be more independent and productive.

This reminded me of a conversation I had with A., my "host mom" in France. Last week before the funeral we were talking about what she was going to do now. This winter she already spent 6 weeks in Niger helping a nomadic tribe with medical aid. But she said she came back very disenchanted with it all, saying that she felt that the tribe she was living in thought that begging was viable, and she found that they didn't work hard enough in their gardens to produce food. She was pretty angry about the whole situation when she returned, and said, although she pities them, she doesn't have such a good view of humanitarian aid anymore.

She will be returning in November, and she says that now that she is widowed she will have more time to invest in such ventures. However, she was angry with the governments, saying that because Western countries picked up the slack, there was no incentive for the local leaders to do anything. And that we aren't really doing them a favor by helping them so much. And this is something coming from an adamant socialist, not just another conservative being greedy, as is often accused when someone takes such a position.

My boyfriend feels pretty much the same about the humanitarian aid they are distributing in Afghanistan. It will all mean nothing, if the new government can't step up to the plate.

This article in the Spiegel was a breath of fresh air, and I hope that there will be more of a movement towards help through self-help in first-world countries treatment of Africa:

"For God's Sake, Please Stop the Aid!"

The Kenyan economics expert James Shikwati, 35, says that aid to Africa does more harm than good. The avid proponent of globalization spoke with SPIEGEL about the disastrous effects of Western development policy in Africa, corrupt rulers, and the tendency to overstate the AIDS problem.

Love and Infatuation

Recently I have been super goo-goo over my boyfriend. I always was to a certain extent, and I always thought it was mildly amusing, because I have never found anyone half as entertaining as I find him. I can literally sit for hours watching him, his mannerisms, his shy smiles, the way he laughs at himself, the way he laughs at me, the way he gets worked up about certain things, his stern face when we are arguing about politics and then just listening to his silly jokes.

And I know this isn't normal. And I sometimes say to him I really don't understand my infatuation with him, no offense intended to him, but it's like some little pixie has sprinkled fairy dust over me, because my boyfriend can practically do no wrong in my eyes.

I know that this whole spectrum of infatuation/dislike exists in relationships. And sometimes when you want to get out of a relationship, your partner really can do no good in your eyes. The way he walks, talks, reads the newspaper, everything is annoying.

And I think this same infatuation must exist for parents with their children, because that is the only explanation I can have for when parents look at their bratty kids, and think they are the most special people in the world and can never do any wrong. I guess they see those temper tantrums completely differently than the rest of the world does. They think: "awww, how cute...look at the determination on his face." And I think the next time I see a situation like that, I will observe it with a different attitude. Not acceptence, but perhaps knowing understanding...however, letting my boyfriend get away with renting a horrible movie is less annoying to other people than letting a child run around in a restaurant like it's a playground. So, I still consider my little infatuation harmless.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Let the internet shopping begin!

I am absolutely tired. Can't think straight anymore, but not tired enough to go to bed...what to do? Well, since I will be flying home next week, I decided it's time to start the internet shopping, that is to say, take advantage of all those things I want to buy on the internet, but don't want to ship to Europe, because it would double the price.

So I finally got my obligatory 'I love my soldier t-shirt' from Cafepress. com and as was thinking, well, as long as I am paying for shipping, is there anything else I want to get here?

And then I remembered a shirt I had first seen on The Apprentice and had been hunting down ever since. And bingo, Cafepress had it. So I ordered it. My boyfriend comes from Kentucky (seriously took me about 2 months to get that right, I kept on mixing it up with Kansas, and saying: "where are you from again?" But then I had the little memory trick, I kept on thinking Kentucky Fried Chicken, and since then I haven't forgotten).

So I have had my heart set on getting this t-shirt ever since saw it...and I know I am going to have to wear it for a novelty photo when we go to visit his family, but I am sure it'll also be something that my boyfriend won't be letting me wear around his parents.

Not afraid

You live in a city of about 6-7 million inhabitants. You are going to work in the morning, and you take your normal mode of transport. You get to work fine, but you later learn that about 30-50 other people weren’t so lucky. They died on their way to work, fatally wounded by a terrorist’s bomb. Dozens to hundreds of others are also wounded.

Your reaction? If you are a Londoner, you get up and go to work again the next day, taking your usual route. You can be pretty sure that the events of last Thursday are a one off. That British security forces are making sure that something like this doesn’t happen again soon.

On Thursday, I was listening to commentary on the radio about the attacks in London. As I was driving through France I was subjected to French experts and their opinion, which were pretty enlightening. One guy said, this is a war that will last a century. It’s not something that will be over in the next few years. We can expect a few more such attacks over the years. But really, we shouldn’t worry about it too much, because in the last 4 years there have only been 3 attacks in the west (apparently the school in Breslen didn’t count as the west). And those 3 attacks have caused less than 4000 deaths. And traffic deaths should be more worrisome to our daily lives than terrorism, and we shouldn’t live in fear of attacks. Our security forces are pretty good at protecting us.

I thought what he said made sense. Yes, these attacks will happen, but we can’t live in constant fear of them happening. We’re not afraid.

However, how about if you couldn’t be so confident that it wouldn’t happen again the next day? In fact, if you knew that somewhere in the city there was going to be another bomb? And more innocent victims? And that you could be one of those innocent victims? The first paragraph to this post also refers to a scenario a resident of Baghdad experiences at least once a month. Everyday Iraqis get up and go to work. Every day they have been trying to say they are not afraid, although it’s a little harder there, when they don’t have the security infrastructure like we do in the west.

I can't imagine what it must be like to live in that kind of uncertainty, but to bravely continue despite those dangers. Iraqis have my utmost respect, and many are leading the way in showing us how to not live in fear, from those joining the Iraqi security forces, to those who are up at the crack of dawn to open their market booths. They are not afraid, and they will prevail.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


In a little under two weeks I am flying home for a month, and I am on page 40 of my thesis. I wanted to be on page 50 by this Friday, and then give myself the last week or so to write the introduction and the conclusion. Things are going well, on the thesis. I am stressed, but it’s a stress that is temporary and will eventually pass.

Yesterday I was sitting at my computer, checking emails, while talking to a friend on the phone (the ValleyGirl version of multi-tasking). I was surprised to have received an email from the husband of C., my exchange partner from France. Well, we were never really exchange partners, but I have a really close relationship with her family. C. and I first met when we were 14, when we were in the same class at school in France. I was staying with another family. Two years later, C. came to stay with us for three months in Los Angeles, and went to my school.

And when I went to France the year after, her mother A., kind of adopted me, even though I was living on my own. My apartment was just across the street from them, so I would inevitably go over there almost once a day…and she insisted on washing my clothes for me (I swear, she insisted). A. and I became really close. She is an amazing woman, a doctor who is really active in social issues. If all socialists were like her, socialism would work. She is very active in the local chapter of Amnesty International, she goes once a week to the train station to give medical care to homeless people, she took a second job at the major’s office. Her husband is the ying to her yang. He is the conservative. He had never left France before he met her, and she is the world traveler. He is the capitalist, she is the socialist. She taught him how to sail, an she learned a lot of culture, and an appreciation for literature from him.

I always thought they made the most amusing couple. One of my favorite scenes between them happened a few years ago when I was there visiting. A.’s husband, also a doctor, was on-call for the night. The cell-phone rang, and he was telling a story at the dinner table, so A. went to answer it, as she is in the same practice, and would be equally qualified to take the call, and arrange for her husband to make a house-call later. She came back to the table, and after her husband was finished telling the story, he asked her what the call was about. And A. said, “Oh, it was just someone with a rash on their hand. I told them they could wait until tomorrow and go to their doctor in the morning. Can’t believe they would call an on-call doctor for that. What an abuse of the public health system!” And her husband cried: “A., you have no concept of making money. Give me the phone, I am going to call them back. Of course I am going to make this house-call.” And he did.

C. and I, although the same age, were never really close. But A. became my second mother. We email a lot more often than C. and I, and to be honest, we see each other more often. She even came to visit me here in Germany for the weekend last year.

C. got married last summer, and I my boyfriend and I made the drive down there to take part in the wedding. It was a great weekend, and it was nice to watch C. being led down the aisle by her father. Her husband is a nice enough guy, but I never really hit it off with him. So, it really surprised me to receive an email from him yesterday. Especially with the Subject Line: Bad News.

I opened the email with some trepidation, and he told me that C.’s father, A.’s husband, had died over the weekend. Her father was young, just in his mid-50s. It is a shock to the whole family.

I can’t imagine the pain the family is going through. The pain of losing a father, nor the pain of losing a partner. I was never really that close to her father. But I am close to A., so it grieves me to think that she is now a widow. The sorrow I feel is less for what his loss is to me, but the suffering of C., her brothers and her mother.

The funeral is tomorrow. I immediately arranged to travel there. Suddenly the stress with my thesis and the deployment seems so insignificant. I don’t want to relativise anything, I am just saying that we sometimes forget what we can be thankful for, and sometimes take those for granted.

I immediately called my own parents, to inform them, and also just to hear my mother’s voice.

I chatted later with my boyfriend online, and what he said was of great comfort to me. I get along really well with him, and we have a very relaxed relationship, and are constantly teasing each other. And because we have so much fun, I sometimes forget the attributes that he has that I don’t always see, and sometimes almost forget they are there. But then they come to the surface, and I am always so impressed. And I am just so proud that I somehow convinced him that I was worthy of his friendship.

Since I have to write about 10 pages today on my thesis, I don’t really have the time to write this post, but I needed to. Sometimes it helps to write things down and to share your thoughts with others.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Ghraib Danger

I used to love Dagger JAG, but he stopped posting last year. But today I found a new JAG blog, Ghraib Danger (via Mike) .

My favorite post right now is his description of the Iraqi Criminal Justice System. Apparently, in a foreign fighter trial, even the defense lawyer didn't help his defendant much:

Not even the "defense counsel" plays along. Case in point: being a foreign fighter is a huge crime in Iraq. They don't want jihadists from Syria and Saudi Arabia coming into their country and starting shit. Anyway, the US is presenting evidence against an Egyptian foreign fighter at the investigative hearing, and as evidence, the JAG introduces a photocopy of the guy's Egyptian passport, to prove he's from another country. The guy denies that it's him in the picture, because it's a photocopy and there was an off chance it wasn't him. Well HIS defense counsel quickly cleared that up. He took the picture, examined it for a second, and looked straight at his defendant, and said in front of the judge, God, and everyone else, "Oh yeah, this is you." Apparently, even the Iraqi defense counsels don't like foreign fighters.

That post was also packed with loads of legal details that made me thankful for my legalese expertise thanks to hours of watching Law and Order.

Anyways, I had to just drag myself away from his blog, because he has loads of stories that remind me of the kind of things I would hear when sitting in the communal living room at hostels while backpacking. Not totally wild stories, but just well told personal experiences, and you keep on wanting to hear another, because these people had been places you had never been before, and might never get to see.

Sick with anticipation

Being so completely absorbed in my thesis for the last few weeks, and its seemingly unendingness, I had completely lost all sense of the passage of time unassociated with the completetion of my thesis.

And today a friend mentioned the flow of R&R visits home that have started in earnest now. The anticipation that grows once you know that your significant other is coming back soon is an amazing thing. You learn about 2 weeks beforehand of the approximate time he or she will be returning. And you have those two weeks to get things in order, and prepare and anticipate your hero's return.

It's similar to fasting before a long anticipated meal. The hunger grows until it is almost unbearable, and you get almost sick with excitement. Not even believing that your anticipation will eventually be satiated.

And my friend asked: "So how much longer until your man comes back?" And I said....oooh, not for a long time. But that's not true: somehow during all the stress of the thesis, cursing the speed of the passing days, the time that was going at such a sluggish speed before, had also slowly ticked by.

And I realized that soon enough, in just over a month or so, I, too, will be sick with anticipation.

You mean they're, like, from Europe? No, Robbie, they're not from Europe

Steven Spielberg sure can make movies. I went to go see War of the Worlds last night with some friends, and I spent half of the movie in one of my friend's lap...and she spent the rest in mine.

It's not like it's scary-scary, but it's suspenseful, and it's scary like movies probably were back in the day, before the fear started following you home.

Anyways, the movie is funny, unintentionally funny. Like for example just at the beginning when the aliens start attacking people in the cities, Rachel (this has got to be the most annoying role Dakota Fanning has ever played...she screams so much, that you want to slap her most of the movie) asks her dad, Ray (played by Tom Cruise...and even if he is freak, he can still act) who the "terrorists" were. Sorry, if I started laughing already there. I mean, for me that was a sign of the times. Of course, any American 10 year-old is going to think it's a terrorist attack if a city suddenly is attacked.

So, Ray answers: "They're not from around here." Then it gets even better. His son Robbie (played but some young hottie...if I were younger I think I would develop a star crush on this guy like I did for Edward Furlong after T-2) asks Ray "You mean they're, like, from Europe?"
And Ray replies: "No, Robbie, they're not from Europe."

Crazy aliens attack New York city and start vaporizing people and a 16 year-old kid thinks that Europe is invading. Yes, current affairs or history don't seem to be a strong point in education nowadays. Oh, by the way, the kid was supposed to be writing some report about the French in Algeria. Somehow I don't think he was going to get an A on that paper.

Soldiers play a big role in the movie, and every time they showed up on the screen my heart swelled, to think, that in the case of an attack from outerspace my soldier would be protecting humanity on the front lines. And then I was like: um, does it take a movie for you to figure out that he is already doing that? So, as soon as I got home, I had to message him and tell him how proud I was, and thankful. It was a great 4th of July flick!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Birthday tribute to a 229 year old dame

MJ has written a beautiful tribute to America on her 229th birthday:

For the fourth Independence Day in a row America is at war. It’s not the first time that this has happened and it probably won’t be the last. Yet this dream that freedom is a birthright has been borrowed the world over. To think that people everywhere if given the choice would not want to rule themselves is probably as incorrect as to think that democracy imposed from the outside is also value of that dream. To dream small with the American Dream is as wrong as dreaming too big.

MJ, I am with Sminks are either a script writer, or a politician in the making....or both.