This desert life

Surreal.

I’m finding that I’m having to use that word to describe most of life. How is it that so much of reality seems unrealistic?

I sit in a wood-paneled room. Desks and computers line the walls and the center isle. Huddled against the screens are dozens of soldiers, pecking away at their keyboards like some cyber sweatshop.

Although windowless, the frosted glass panel on the two doors cast enough daylight for the whole length of the room to read by.

Outside is a lunar landscape. Sand blasts the rag-tag metal trailers and dust tents. Worn, smooth rocks make the ground uneven, while dunes pile up to keep you from seeing too far into the wastes.

The cloudless sky takes up most of your field of view. The sand in the sky makes the sun seem like an enormous, hazy, fiery disc.

And the heat, whew. Stepping out into the day makes your body go into a miniature panic, like when you slip in to bath water that’s too warm. Your initial reaction is to get out, but you can’t escape it here. Finding some shade, you wait for your body to calm down and start to sweat.

The wind picks up and showers you with grit, wearing off skin and making you feel that sandy crunch in your mouth every time your teeth come together.

Your tinted goggles are marred by sweat-smeared grime. The sun’s heat is reflected by the ground, providing an even bake.

And in this setting, sit several shops among the military buildings and structures. There are Subways, Burger Kings, Baskin Robins, oriental food shops, jewelry stores, and even internet cafes for soldiers to spend some hard-earned war money on. In the central, outdoor seating areas, soldiers sit with their Pepsis, covering the tops to keep out the blowing sand.

They sit with their rifles slung, in body armor, sometimes wearing bandanas around their faces to keep out the grime. And they dine on Whoppers, cafe mochas, cookie-dough ice cream. They can buy DVDs, CDs, TVs, cologne, knives, T-shirts, hats, lighters, M&Ms.

I don’t know, but I just didn’t think war was like this. Strange. Sure there are mortar attacks, threats of bombs, RPG fire, rockets and all that business, but there’s also Caramel Mocha Cappachinos (can’t spell, my bad).

Oh yeah, I’m back! I’ll have more regular Internet access when we move up to Iraq. More later!

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About salemonz

Born in San Diego, Calif. Raised as a Navy Brat, I jumped ship and crossed over to the Army. Served as an enlisted journalist for a bunch of years, then helped the DoD figure out what the hell to do with social media. After the Army, now I drift down the river of life, trying not to be a jerk.

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