Friday, September 28, 2007

Fleas, Rats and Port-a-Johns

The old saying, ‘don’t let the bed bugs bite’ has taken on a new meaning for me. There’s an infestation of fleas in our sleeping areas. Flea bites can be compared to mosquito bites. But there must be a pterodactyl-sized mosquito or one Usama bin Laden-like flea around here somewhere. I thought I was going to grow another whole knee-cap from the swelling on my leg last week.

It’s those pesky rodents. They attract the filthy little bugs. Before all of the biting started, I saw a mouse sprint across the cement floor of an old Iraqi building we live in. I affectionately named him ‘Speedy.’ But after he left some droppings on my boots the other day, I’m inclined to think he’s probably a rat. When I’m on convoys out among the people here, the kids and many adults wave to us. But, as evidenced by my former quasi-pet, I’m certain the rats don’t want us here. (Pun intended.)

The other day we visited al Asad, an American base and the place where President Bush met with Sheik Sattar ten days before he was assassinated. As we drove by what equaled the most run-down trailer park squalor ever found—anywhere—in the U.S., I found myself longing to have a home like that here. “Oh,” I uttered aloud, “wouldn’t it be great to live in a place like that?” Inside the Humvee, I could hear the soldiers moaning in concurrence.

Let me tell you about my room.

Imagine a large, square, empty room. Now invite a group of kindergartners to design a floor plan to put in 15 rooms, give or take 7 or 8. Give several underpaid foreign laborers (from outside of Iraq), who have absolutely no idea of how to build anything, hammers, nails, 2 x 4s, several sheets of ¼-inch plywood, as well as the blueprints the kindergartners made; add multiple health code and basic electric safety violations, and, walaa! you have my living space.

OSHA would have a coronary.

There’s a hallway straight down the middle and unequal-sized rooms with plywood doors on either side. There’s a two-foot gap on the bottom of my wall—plenty of room for rats the size of Saint Bernard’s to run through. A four foot gap on the ceiling facing the hallway helps the ventilation. The smell of sweaty soldiers working all day in the hot, dusty climate reeks to high heaven. My room is about the size of my bed back home. I miss it. My bed, I mean. Of course, I miss other things too, my wife, my kids, et al.

But at least I have my own room. I am in no way complaining, especially not after having lived in open bays and tents for two months with zero privacy and a cot during the initial, torturous train up.

I don’t mind going out to the Port-a-John toilets. It reminds me of the outhouse at the family cabin. So, being in Iraq is like camping, really. The only difference is people are trying to kill you, you’re not with your family or friends, and it’s not fun in any sense of the word.

But, hey, I have Internet. How great is that?! Of course, it’s less high-speed and more half-speed/sometimes slower than dial-up. Regardless, I thank the Lord for all these great things. My friends over here in 2003-04 had it a million times worse: no where to sleep, no where to shower, zero privacy, MRE-meals everyday for two months straight, no contact and no mail from home for weeks on end. (Thanks, Ray.)

No, I have it pretty good. In fact, a while ago I had running water in my room, that is until the A/C got fixed! I almost unconsciously now avoid saying ‘it died,’ instead I use the phrase, ‘it’s broken.’ It’s a war thing, I guess. The water leak from the broken A/C attracted a lizard I caught my first morning here. I caught him and let him go outside.

Lizards are welcome. Rats, fleas, mosquitoes, and other pesky critters, to include repulsive and ultra-annoying terrorists, need to go dig a hole and bury themselves in it. I’m sure you can think of worse things than that! I know I can.

1 comment:

JP's family said...

Ahhhh...memories! I'll have to send you a pic of the hole I slept in there (LITERALLY, a hole!)

Stay safe brother! Semper FI

J. P.
P.S. need anything?