Sunday, May 30, 2010

Seeing The Sights

Museum of Islamic Art
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Yesterday, I went downtown with Eddy, James, and Lee. We had a loose agenda, most dictated by Eddy, and it ended up being one of the best trips I've had downtown since I got here.
After lunch and some light shopping at the City Centre, we headed across the Corniche to the Museum of Islamic Art. It was a place I'd driven past several times and always wanted to check out, but usually the people with me weren't interested.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
It's a gorgeous building that sits on a man-made island in the bay. It contained galleries with pieces collected as far west as Spain and as far east as China, and dating all the way back to the 7th century, when Islam was founded. There were some gorgeous exhibits, featuring everything from tapestries and jewellery to suits of armour and ancient pages of the Qur'an written with gold.

Lee & Eddy
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
From there, we headed over to the souqs for a little more shopping. The souqs are different than the malls because they're all locally-run shops in a more traditional setting. Plus, you can haggle with the shop-keepers, which is kind of an art form around here. Also, there are tons of outdoor cafes for relaxing and smoking the hookah.

Smokin' the Hookah
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We ended up sitting at the cafe for two hours, socialising and laughing. This trip was different than my other trips to Doha in that none of the guys I brought with me were people from work. I love the guys on my crew, but it was nice to get away with friends I don't already spend twelve hours a day with.

James & Eddy
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Eddy really wanted to go to this place called the Sky View Bar at the top of the La Cigale Hotel. Unfortunately, he couldn't remember exactly how to get there. So we spent a few minutes driving around in crazy Doha traffic with Eddy on the phone with the broken-Engish-speaking concierge trying to get directions. It was total chaos at the time, but something we couldn't stop laughing about by the time we got there.

Me & Lee
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We sat outside on the terrace, overlooking the entire city, and it was absolutely breathtaking. We reclined and told stories over cheese, sushi, and cigars. I laughed harder than I've laughed in a long time. Doha is quickly becoming one of my favourite cities.

James, Eddy, Lee, & Me
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
I'm really glad the four of us got to hang out yesterday, especially in a setting that made us forget, if only for a day, that we're deployed. I haven't known these guys for long, but it's good to know we have a brotherhood that extends beyond national borders or social boundaries. And if any of them ever find themselves in Italy, my door will be open wide.

Oh, and if you see Lee, ask him why I can't get this song out of my head.

Friday, May 28, 2010

End In Sight

I just got back from an out-processing briefing, something everyone has to attend within 30 days of departure. It's kind of a milestone of sorts, ensuring us that yes, we will eventually get out of here, and yes, that day is getting close. It's also going to make it even harder for everyone to stay focused on the job and not off in dreamland, fantasising about what they're going to do once they get home.
On top of that, we have a two-day weekend again. This time, it's kind of a safety thing. The Commander knows that once people get toward the end of their rotation, they tend to lose focus at work and not pay attention to what they're doing. Accidents increase and people get injured. This is his way of telling us to take an extra day to rest, giving us the energy to push through the rest of our time here and end on a positive note. I'm not sure it will be effective, but I'd never turn down an extra day off.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wind Resistance

I had a mock PT test today, and I was expecting to have improved in all areas. I increased my push-ups and sit-ups, and my waist measurement is down by and inch and a half. However, my run was nearly a minute slower than six months ago. I'm guessing it's because I've been running more for distance here than for speed. Once I get back to Italy, I'll start running intervals to improve my time; but until then, I'm still just gonna work on burning calories.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The 19th Mile

Our dig last week was the last major part of this project. Everything else over the next month is interior work, and it shouldn't be too difficult. It feels great to be done with the hard part, but at the same time, I'm going to have trouble keeping my momentum until we leave. And how can I expect my guys to stay motivated when I can barely keep myself going? "Just a little bit more," I keep telling them. "You're doing a great job!" I worry that my encouraging remarks are starting to sound fake, when they're actually quite genuine. The buildings those guys are putting together are coming together wonderfully, and the progress they make each day is so dramatic. I hope everyone that stays after we leave appreciates the effort we've put into it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Stir Crazy

In The Trench
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Maybe it's the long hours. Maybe it's the 120+ degree heat. Maybe it's the fact we've been here five months and our return home still seems so far away. Whatever it was, this was a rough week. So rough that the other day, as we were all in the trench, sweaty and getting covered in dust, I felt the need to belt out a heartfelt rendition of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance." It brought a few smiles and lightened the mood, which was all it was intended to do in the first place.
See, I'm of the belief that all of life's troubles can be cured by a perfect pop song. There are quite a few out there, so next time you're feeling down, do what I did as I was driving home from work tonight. Put on this song:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sympathy For The Anorexics

I didn't really set out to lose weight on this deployment. In fact, I rarely lose weight in the desert, the exception to that rule being the '04 Iraq trip wherein I lost 15 pounds in three months.
But I downloaded an app for my iPod called "Lose It!" which is basically just a calorie counter. It also tracks nutritional information, which was more important to me than just calories. I wanted to account for what I put into my body--the good, the bad, and the high fructose corn disgustingness. I didn't really care about weight loss.
Everything was going well until about two months ago when I randomly stepped on a scale at the gym and noticed that I'd lost eight pounds. I know weight is really just a number and the whole deal about how muscle weighs more than fat, but I have to be honest that it felt really good to see that number drop. From then on, I started paying even more attention to my diet and workout routine.
Since then, I've lost another eight pounds, which puts me at 153 as of today. I've made a goal of getting below 150 before I leave here, but here's the kicker: I don't really want to lose any more weight.
When I take off my shirt and look in the mirror, I can hear my Mom's voice saying, "Oh, my stars! You're so skinny!" And that voice is right. I'm gaunt and emaciated. I'm the guy in the 60s beach party film that gets sand kicked on him. I'm McLovin.
Still, I'm desperate to see that scale tip at 149. I can't explain it; it's just something I want to prove to myself I can do. Every morning when I put on my pants and I have to cinch my belt tighter and tighter, I feel like a success. I prefer to think of it as an infatuation rather than an obsession, as I still indulge in the occasional soy macchiato or bagel with cream cheese. Still, it's easy to understand how people freak out over that stupid little number on their scale.
I know after I get back to Italy, I'll devour enough pasta and cheesecake to feed Liechtenstein, and I'll eventually get back to my normal weight. I just want to take this opportunity to see if I have the will power to resist shoving junk food down my throat. Let me wallow in my self-absorbed haze of Jarvis Cocker delineation, and things will get back to normal soon enough.

Monday, May 17, 2010

In Good Hands

Cheyenne & Chelsey
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
In my absence, Cheyenne and Chelsey are taking care of the casa and the macchina. Chey and I talk or e-mail once or twice a week, and I always ask if there are any issues with either one. She assures me everything is great, and that she and Chels have developed quite a fondness for yard work. Recently, to put any fears to rest (not that I had any), Chelsey sent this picture of my truck that's totally in one piece, featuring my house that hasn't burned down. Yet.
Thanks, ladies! You're totally getting your choice of cheesecake upon my return.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Thank You, God, for shopping on the Internets!

I just spent the past hour on the phone (Skype, actually) with Delta making reservations for a trip home and to several other destinations over Christmas. I've been looking around online for reservations for the past few months, trying to finagle my itinerary to see as many people as possible without bankrupting myself.
The tickets I wanted were ringing up at around 2400 bucks. (I know, right?!?!) But for some reason, a couple days ago, they suddenly dropped to 1800, so I figured I'd better get while the gettin's good. I made an attempt to purchase online, but because my flight originates from overseas, I had to call. This ended up being a good thing, because at the last minute, I asked about a military discount, which dropped my fare another 200 bucks.
So, between 11 December and 2 January, I'll be going from Venice to DC to Evansville to Denver to SLC and back to Venice. A whirlwind tour, to be sure, but I'm trying to see as many people as possible. It's seven months away, but I'm already excited.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

We're Talking Crazy Heat

Summer has kicked into high gear here in Qatar. Just in the past week, the temperature has gone from "Wow, it's pretty warm out here" to "I walked outside and immediately burst into flame." It doesn't help that we're on the part of the project that requires a lot of trenching out in the sun. But even so, we don't have our air conditioning units hooked up yet, so inside is just as warm with no air circulation at all.
One of the buildings we're working on is right next to the clinic, and yesterday, the captain that works in mental health brought some fresh fruit out to us. Today, she brought smoothies. Apparently, she can spot a potential basket case a mile away and is doing her best to keep us cool and sane.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Departure Gate

Steve, Pete, & Steven
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Sonny, Steve, and Steven are leaving tonight, so last night, a group of us went out for our beers. It was a bittersweet evening of laughter and stories, and our team isn't going to be the same after they're gone.

Our Crew
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Steve and Steven are stationed in England, and a few of us Aviano guys are already planning trips up there this summer. And they all know if they're ever in Italy, they totally have a place to stay. Yeah, it's hard saying goodbye to people, but it's great knowing I have friends in every corner of the globe.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Four Fellas

Mike, Sonny, & Kevin
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
I went downtown again yesterday, this time with Sonny, Kevin, and Mike, three guys that work in HVAC. Our agenda wasn't much different than any other time I've been downtown, but for some reason, it was really relaxing and mellow. I think part of it was that there was only four of us, so it was easier to decide what to do and where to go. Also, those three guys are a riot. The banter between them kept me laughing all day long. I took them to some places they hadn't been before, and they were really appreciative.
Sonny is stationed in Aviano, as well, and even though I'd met him before, we never really hung out until we deployed here together. He heads back to Aviano this week, and then he'll be leaving Aviano permanently next month. I hope I get back there before he takes off.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Fast Friends

Brock & Me
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
I know I've mentioned this before, but one of the harder parts about life in the military is always saying goodbye to your friends, whether they're leaving or you are. And something peculiar about desert life is how fast things progress, including developing friendships. Since the turnover rate is also higher here, I end up seeing people off even more often than normal. Tonight, for instance, my friend Brock, whom I haven't known long, heads back to his home station in California. It's a small Air Force, so I'm sure our paths will cross again.
There are a lot of people leaving in the next few weeks, and before long, it will be my turn. And as many people as I've met here, it will still feel great to go back to Italia and see the friends I've been missing since December.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


A couple days ago, I was just about done. Even though I enjoyed my two-day weekend, by the time work was over on Monday, I was exhausted, weak-spirited, doubting my abilities, feeling unloved, and just plain shitty. I started to write a huge tirade about it that night, but before I posted it, I stopped myself. "Perhaps," I thought to myself, "tomorrow will be better." Boy, was I right.
Tuesday started off a little weak, but by the end of the day, I had hashed some things out with people, the project was moving along in the right direction, drama subsided, and I was feeling like my normal optimistic self again.
Today was even better. I felt productive and cheerful. Some project issues I was worried about were resolved. We were all having fun. Plus, I listened to "Heaven Is Whenever," the new album from The Hold Steady. I've been looking forward to this one for a long time, and I recommend you legally purchase your copy as soon as possible. Just try and listen to the chorus of "The Weekenders" without your heart feeling as though it just might burst. Go ahead, I dare you.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Letting Off Some Steam

G, Steve, & Petzold
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
On nights before their days off, most of the guys go out to the Desert Eagle Lounge (DEL) to hang out, relax, and indulge in their three beers. Up until a few weeks ago, I never went. I don't know why, but I usually spent my evenings in my room, quietly rewinding after a long week.
But, for some reason, they all convinced me to go out with them a couple weekends ago, and I had a great time. And since then, I've joined them every Friday night, drinking our beers, and laughing about things that happened the previous week. It's the closest thing we have to a bar, and even though it's not perfect, it's enough to get us through the next two months.
By the way, after not drinking for so long, three beers are surprisingly potent.