Sunday, June 04, 2006

Iraq therefore I am

For a while, I thought this BLOG was finished. Done. Over with. (If you noticed, I didn't have a single entry for the month of May and I haven't had a single comment for four entries.)

That is, until yesterday. I learned from my dad over the phone that he ran into someone who really wanted to read all this mumbo-jumbo, but my dad didn't remember who it was.

If you do exist, secret fan, this BLOG entry is for you. I hope you enjoy it because, in all likelihood, no one else will:

I am now back at Anaconda leisurely passing my last few weeks of the deployment. Everyone in the unit has stockpiled stories so that we would have a little time with no work before the replacement unit arrives. As it turns out, we've got a lot of time. I'm trying to make this time productive by studying Arabic on online Rosetta Stone language courses, provided by the Army for free, doing my homework on my Media and American Politics class from BYU Independent Study, and releasing my artistic energy through various creative writing projects, including this.

Last Monday I was doing something less leisurely: serving my second and, I hope, my last guard tower duty. My partner and I spent two four-hour shifts staring aimlessly into the flat country, looking for anything that appeared threatening. Nothing did.

The guy I was stuck in the tower with was Sgt. Jason Baldwin, a communications expert of I forget which unit. Interesting guy. Why is it the soldiers I have tower guard with always remind me of the strange people who sit next to me on buses?

Baldwin, however, was a pretty good guy. I found this out because when you're in a guard tower, you find yourself rehashing all kinds of anecdotes to total strangers just to keep your bored brain from petrifying. I learned about Baldwin met his wife while he on leave in Germany; they were attracted to each other even though at the time he spoke no German and she spoke no English. Now they've got two kids, a four-year-old boy and a daughter (of I forget how many months) whom Baldwin has never met. He told me about how he looked forward to reading books like "Green Eggs and Ham" to his children and how he worries about their grades even though they are too young to go to school.

Of course, I heard numerous stories about the son he had spent time with. I laughed when Baldwin told me that, at three years old, his son figured out how to rig up a Playstation before he did.

I didn't have anything to match stories like that, but told him a few stories from basic training and my deployment.

This particular guard duty we had more than conversation to keep us amused. On our first shift, some of the locals came very close to the perimeter fence to burn brush and graze their sheep. One of them, a man of maybe 40 years old, broke out singing and dancing. When Baldwin tried to sing along with the Arabic chorus, the locals found him very comical.

If our interaction with other cultures was always like that the world would be a whole lot better.