Saturday Night Live

July ….

I know it’s Saturday, but I’ve already begun to lose track of the days. The weeks are marked on a dry erase board in our office that lists the days in a rolling sequence. As soon as the day is over you erase the number and replace it with the next numeral. This makes it extremely hard to think further than the hand in front of your face.

However, I do know it’s Saturday. Tomorrow is the beginning of the week, though the feeling of a weekend mushes together due to the fact that I had and 8 am meeting today and buzzed around until after 6:30 pm.

What do you do on a Saturday night in Baghdad? Well, I came home from work, passed out for an hour woke up at 7:54 and realized that dinner service at the DFAC stops at 8 pm, so I threw on some flops and flipped my way to grab a carry out box.

I decided I would use my stove tonight, so I grabbed 2 pieces of bread, 2 pieces of cheese and a butter packet and let my mouth water at the thought of a home made grilled cheese. I got back to my apartment and turned the stove burner on to my chagrin, it does not work.

Too tired to venture out for anything and amused at the fact that fate would not have me cook, I popped the cork in this weeks special delivery of Chateau St. Michelle Riesling and grabbed the book I started reading en route to this final destination. It’s a mystery that takes place in Hawaii. I was intrigued at the book’s back only because I am soo looking forward to visiting Liz in HI!!

I put on some Ray LaMontagne as a background and slid between my satin sheets (one of my favorite comforts I am so glad I carried on my back from the states). As I sipped my sweet wine, trying to figure out whodunit, I relaxed and for a moment relished living alone across the world. I will only have this time for a fleeting season, and I’m really enjoying myself.

For about 5 minutes tonight a few tears slipped into my pillow and I really missed my friends and lost loves. Sleep overtook the loneliness and left me where I am writing to you now.

A quick recap on this week would take an entire novel. It has been intense, and I realize that does not really fill you in on much. So let’s see … I’ve had a few wonderful morning wake up calls from my friend going to sleep late in DC, I’ve had a few head butts with the Chief of Protocol this week, but managed to keep cool, calm and collected (which at times I am sure pisses her off even more!) I’ve made a few new friends, including a lovely lady, Thérèsa, who will be my new roommate. She is a linguist and I don’t know much about her except that she is also a Scorpio and as clean as I am J We’ll get along just fine, I have peace in my spirit.

She came into the Protocol office to borrow some candles for a going away party for a few of her office mates and we got to talking and by the end of the conversation mutually decided we’d make great room mates.

The party she threw was Thursday night and so much fun! It was poolside at the palace pool and you know me and a pool party, I wore my black, Lands End bathing suit with a black pashmina that I turned pinned around my waist as a makeshift sarong. I got many compliments on my “black dress” (How very conservative, huh? JZ, my bathing suit looks like a dress) “Oh, I love your dress! I wish I would’ve packed a classic black dress!” “Beth, you look lovely tonight, that’s a very nice dress.” Ha! If there is a black tie affair here, I know my bathing suit and pashmina turn into a very formal outfit.

Anyways, the pool is fun. There is a huge deck, a 3 meter diving platform, ping pong and pool tables, a concert stage and a huge pavilion area where the going away party was happening. After a few hours of swimming in the pool and me racing anyone and everyone (yes I did win swimming the farthest with no breaths against all the boys including a marine) I ran around the palace finally taking pictures of where I work.

I had the day off on Friday (which is the typically Saturday) and not knowing what to do with myself without going into work, I met some friends for lunch. We walked to a local Iraqi restaurant in the IZ for some authentic, fresh, Middle Eastern food. I had chicken tikah and some bites of lamb tikah and minced lamb.

This restaurant is fresh! As soon as you order they either go out and kill the chicken or the lamb … I’m slightly exaggerating, but it does take a while b/c all the meat is made to order. Typically it would’ve been nice to enjoy my time, but was soon as we placed our order the power went out and w/o the AC or fans the restaurant turned into a sauna. Soaked to my seat (I’m pretty sure I left a butt print) I enjoyed the food and shopping around at the random antiques for sale in the restaurant. I bought my first piece of art for $22. A sunset scene of Iraq along the Kuwait boarder, which is semi circular row of palm trees as the orange sun slips from the sky. It adds a little something extra to my room and will always be a memory for me.

Now today: there was a codel (a congressional delegation) visiting the IZ. The 8 am meeting did not start until 9:30 am, so getting to work at 7 am gave me plenty of time to prepare for the day. General Petraeus was in attendance at the meeting along with the Ambassador. We had quite a bit of time waiting for the members to arrive and I was introduced to the General!

I was intent on fixing the standing air conditioner in the room (which did not happen) but he came over to help me and we got to talking as he tried to aid with no avail and then I was formally introduced by my friend, and ADPi sister, Maria.

On many a West Wing tours I would tell the story of the day I was waiting for a cup of coffee at the Mess and a voice behind me ordered a cup of coffee to which the Naval Officer asked, “Can I get your last name, sir?” and the voice replied in deep, powerful voice, “Petraeus.” I did a slow turn to the right and directly behind me was the General. I was a deer in headlights, smiling ear to ear. As a slowly turned back around, I noticed Secretary Chao (Secy of Labor) standing to my right and my smile grew even bigger. Typically, I am not at loss for words, but I was star struck. I turned back around to see if he was for real, and he was standing there decked out in uniform and I was… just smiling. Secy Chao did not miss the opportunity to introduce herself, and introduced herself to me and as I turned around to smile at the General one last time, he reached out his hand and said, “I’m David” All I could get out was a nod, smile still beaming. I took my coffee and tried not to trip over myself up the stairs.

This morning, I was not star struck, just humbled to be fumbling at a broken air conditioner with the General, trying to get the meeting room as comfortable a possible for the participants. Maria gave me an impressive introduction, telling the story of how I attacked her the moment she walked into my old office to enthusiastically tell her I wanted to come to Iraq and help.

It was a very cool start to the day. And now as the day winds down with a glass of wine and a good book, I’m content and eager to turn the page and finish this chapter. Good night.