By lex, on October 11th, 2006
Google must have a thermos in it: When you type in the url over here, you automatically get the .bh suffix, with all kinds of cool, wriggly, right-to-left writing in the places where you’ve become accustomed to seeing “Web,” “Images,” “News,” “Groups” and “Porn” back home. Also, when you type in your search request, the letters fill from right to left, instead of the correct way.
How do it know? It’s got a thermos in it. That’s how.
NSA Bahrain is like an island inside the island. It feels just like being home, except that everyone is wearing some version of DCU’s. It’s “Lost” in cammies.
Marines walk the base looking tall and erect like desert digital Cylon centurions, plainly contemptuous of the lesser beings in their path. Navy officers wear starched brown and khaki DCU’s and try to look salty and unaffected in them. Largely failing. Brits walk around in their chocolate chips with a vaguely disappointed air, looking for all the world as if they’d just parachuted down to the expectation of a surprise party, only to find their expectations dashed. Ah, well: There’s always the officer’s club afterwards. What?
Well, perhaps they’ll be a little happier now.
Having to go to the exchange in order to replace those articles of toiletry I was unburdened of by the smiling ladies from the TSA back in Sandy Eggo, I wandered the vendor stalls for a bit, examining the local objets d’art et de couture on offer, trying and failing to imagine anyone I know of back at home who would want the cleverly colored crystal goblet, beautifully inlaid kitcsh box or jauntily colored wrap-around head thingie. Spared that expense, I searched instead for a pair of sweat pants suitable to fulfil my liberty uniform requirements once back at the hotel: This being a holy month, and much store being set in personal modesty, we were abjured from exposing unnecessary flesh when exercising out in town. Nekkid legs were out. Sweat pants were in, de riguer, necessaire, oblige. Wear ‘em.
They were also of course, entirely absent from the Navy exchange. I mean, it’s 90 degrees in the shade out here, come mid-October. Who in the world would ever need sweat pants?
Went back to my hotel to see the non-American Europeans blissfully sunning themselves in a very scandalous degree of undress by the pool. Bikinis and swimming trunks, if you can believe that. Entirely unmolested by the – let’s face it – entirely un-enraged Arab street, who, in this part of the world anyway, spends a lot more time trying to figure out how to make a buck than blow something up. Guys like us, in other words. Only in man-dresses.
There are only two possible reasons why wilting US military folks are furtively walking around in 90 degree heat wearing long sleeved shirts buttoned to the wrist and trousers, while the smiling and carefree representatives of Europa are wandering around wearing tank tops, shorts and sandals to the pool, stripping down to their thongs once they get there: Someone isn’t taking this shit seriously enough. Or someone is taking it too seriously altogether.
Me? I withhold judgement. Being that kind of guy.
Couldn’t help but notice that they sell whacker-wrappers at the exchange, just next to the toothpaste. Which I found a rather surprisingly pragmatic (if realistic) nod at the Way the World Actually Is, given the fact that the base is an “unaccompanied” duty station, with no spouses allowed, and taking into consideration as well, notwithstanding the fact that nature abhors a vacuum, that “unduly familiar” relationships between service folks of heterodox gender is strictly proscribed by some one or another General Order for the Prevention of Anything Truly Fun. It would seem to me that just about anything that would require the use of a whacker-wrapper would fall into that category. But, hey: At my age, what do I know?
Just this: There’s cheaper ways to have water balloon fights.
Used to be that there were families here, back in the day, but all of that has changed, changed utterly: A terrible absence is born. It’s all on account of the threat level, you see. When I was on base it was set as “High,” which I believe is the lowest level. The other levels are “Stupid High,” “Extreme,” and “Farked: Might as Well Go Ahead and Pop Yourself Right Now.” The base hasn’t been there in a while, thank God, and in the clean up after the last time it got that high there were so many lessons learned: Who got to go first, and who had the spare keys to the weapons lockers, etc.
It was all a false alarm of course, but still. What a fiasco.
Live and learn.
Headed back to the lodgings out in town, finished my homework with the brown fuzz chirring in my brain, on account of the lack of sleep that was in it. Decided (against my better judgement) to lie me down a while and rest, the hour being early yet, but only for an moment or two. No more than thirty minutes. An hour at the top. Just a nap. Was awakened by the phone ringing almost four hours later, feeling like Gulliver, sewn into the bedding, thick-tongued, unable to move. Let her ring three times, said I to myself, and when you answer it no one will ever know that you’ve been sleeping.
Which is the kind of thing you tell yourself, when you’ve been sleeping.
Met my running mate in the hotel lobby, for to seek our comestibles on the local, hotel prices being as absurd as warp drive. The lobby itself was all a-stir with earnest faced and burly young men wearing identical navy blue suits, speaking in low but excited voices into the microphones in their sleeves while adjusting the ear buds which coiled up out of their collars. Others of their ilk were cautiously checking the bags of people entering the hotel, and everyone seemed awfully serious, which in and of itself marked something of a departure for this region, inshallah. We ourselves were scarcely noticed as we made our way to the exit – apparently we didn’t fit the profile of whatever it was the men in blue suits were on the lookout for, but it’s funny how such knowledge doesn’t entirely soothe your mind as you head out into the toasty.
The muzzein was whipping the world into a frenzy as we approached the dining district, or at least, he was trying to do so. Yabba-dabba-do at ear-splitting volumes from the mosque’s loudspeakers echoing in the streets and alleys, calling for the faithful to go ahead and do something about it, and if I’d have had something to make it all stop with, I’d have been sorely tempted, it was that loud. From what I could see, most of the locals seemed pretty much content to continue doing whatever it was they had already been doing. While your correspondent was once again reminded – as if that was necesary – that he is a very long way from home.
Schwarma and a walk-back, sweat trickling down my spine. This then and a letter to my bride, and I’m an Ambien (or two) away from the land of nod.
Wish me luck