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100 Years in Four Days

It has been only four days.  I left the U.S. late on Friday.  It is now Tuesday afternoon here, still morning where I came from.  It sure is hard to believe it was only four days ago that I was typing at a computer at IIP and cleaning off my desk for the last (maybe also first) time.  So much is different. 

My day was full of meetings.  I am learning more about how a PRT works and knowing less.  There is no plan that can tell me how to do my new job.  Many have been in such situations & places before, but they remain always undiscovered, where past experience is crucial, but cannot be directly applied.  We have to learn by doing, plan by doing and do by … doing.  I have reasonable confidence that I can do this job, but I could not tell you now with any specificity what I can do.

I met a really good source in the PRT leader from Diyala.  His name is John Jones.  I am making him my model.  He has experienced the FS and life.  He has been shot at and bombed near, but he maintains composure - a friendly equanimity - I admire.  What is more, his family used to own forest land on the James River in Buckingham County.   We talked a bit re that.  He is thinking about getting some forest land in Southside, VA.  Maybe I can return his favor by helping him out with that.  

Diyala is now what Anbar was a couple months ago.  It is still dangerous but moving in the right direction.  John Jones has seen a lot.  He told me that we just have to invent, innovate and experiment.  He talked a little about the cultural difference, not only Iraqis and Americans, but also State and DOD.  I took some lessons I think will be useful.

I had an appointment at the PRT Baghdad, which is outside the Embassy compound. Met some good people.  I walked back to the Embassy.  It takes only about ten minutes.  It takes just about that long to drive because of the route and checkpoints. The streets are quiet, since few cars are allowed to drive in the IZ.   It was really hot in the sun, but pleasant in the shade of the tree where you have them.  It was a very warm summer day - but this is October.  I do not look forward to July.  I felt safe, but the presence of "duck & cover" bunkers placed regularly along the road and lots of armed men reminded me that the peacefulness might be deceptive.  Most people think the security situation here is much improved, but they also fear the progress could be fragile. 

On the Embassy compound, we live in a village that looks a lot like a Florida trailer park with sandbags.  It is not bad.  There are lots of palm trees.  I like to think of my place like a cabana. Some of the military guys tell me that this is like heaven, mentioning more Spartan conditions they experienced in the past and warning of less comfort in the future in parts of Anbar.  Life is tough all over.

I was surprise to see beer in the refrigerator at the DFAC.  You recall my paean to beer two posts past and my belief that I would not see it again soon, so I was happy.  But then I noticed those terrible words – “non alcoholic”.  I do like the taste, so I drank some, but it is not the same.

Well, I am off to get something to eat and then I hope to get some sleep.  A combination of jet lag, stress of the trip and busy schedules is wearing me down at bit.  I want to stay energetic.   I know that my experience so far has been prosaic.  I kinda hope it doesn't get too much more exciting in some ways.  I welcome comments.


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Comments

John, great to hear you made it! Your desk is still a mess..are you sure you cleaned it up?

mariza, is that the best you could come up with? I read it?

John, you excel in doing by doing.

We look forward to reading your entries. I'm sure that you will do very well and figure out some solutions.

Mark

Maybe somebody messed it up again after I left. Maybe the cleaners thought they were making it the way it should be and always was.

Cj - I sent you a note with some other details hope you got it.

Dorothy and Jerry

Thanks for reading. It is fun so far.

John,
Love reading about your experiences. I have no doubt you will do an exceptional job! Please stay safe.

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