23 December 2007

24 DEC 2007 Santa is cleared for landing

24 DEC 2007 Santa, you are cleared for landing

There are may tiny cultural differences that remind us that even though we are essentially the same, we become the products of our own society's mannerisms. Beyond language and gesture, there are the little nuances like how close to stand to each other and how long to make eye contact. Our new indoor hospital, (to differentiate it from the old tent hospital) was built by a contractor that uses Turkish labor as well as machinery and resources brought in from Turkey. In addition to the contract to build the place, they also are charged with maintaining and cleaning the structure. There is a good bustle of activity in recent weeks because they are laboriously adding a structural security feature which is a (redacted.) This is a bit awkward, because the hospital is already built and in use.The current construction involves breaking down certain parts and working around the beehive of activity in what is probably the most busy trauma-only hospital in the world. From time to time, we have to shut down sections of the hospital or go without running water. All told, it is far less interruption in essential infrastructure than most Iraqis have to put up with. Our power source is nearly continuous, and we have loads of bottled water for the times that the tap is turned off.

The Turks who clean the hospital are very friendly. They use very little English, but are quick to give a warm salutation. They will occasionally comment on an interesting poster or scrub top, but mostly keep to themselves, socially. They are remarkably adamant about completing their cleaning duties. If you are using a computer to enter patient notes, and they are cleaning the room, they will roust you from your seat to clean under the desk. They won't take no for an answer. Even if you stand your ground and refuse to move, they will meticulously clean every available space around your feet and the base of the chair. They work the mop between the legs of the chair and between your boots. In our changing room, they asked us to keep our boots off the floor. Each day they would pile them into boxes on top of the benches. We would have to sort through the boxes of nearly identical boots to find a good match. When that didn't deter us from leaving our boots under the lockers, they hid some of the boots on top of the lockers or behind the laundry basket. Once Laparoscopic Surgeon S.'s boots were even found marked with a big black capital T on the to of each boot! It has proved costly to keep boots on the ground.They are in for a nasty surprise when the mud comes.

Our DFAC is staffed by very friendly workers contracted by KBR from India, Indonesia, and other places. They smile broadly as they scoop brown stuff on rice into our plates. They never mind if we want an extra helping of wings. The other day as my eye traveled down the cafeteria line, it was arrested by the sight of circular pads fried in a crispy batter.

I asked if they were eggplant.
"No." came the answer.
"Well what are they?" I inquired.
"Chicken." I was told with a smile.
Sure, a little chicken patty sounded good, so I took the plunge.

From the first bite, I knew something was rotten in Denmark. This was too soft and grey to be chicken. I sliced the patty in half, expecting to find the answer. However, the dull granular cut surface of the mystery foodstuff didn't betray its secrets. I delved further and peeled off the batter. There I found the offensive surface of one of yesterday's hamburger patties, complete with grill marks. I had been stuck with a refurbished dinner. In spite of the $36 per meal fee our government is paying, they had been forced to recycle patties, and hide their shame in a crispy coating of fried bread crumbs and oil. I had been bamboozled! They moved the headstones, but they didn't move the bodies!

That dinner turned out to be soup and salad night for me.

Our part-time contractor, and sometimes Vascular Surgeon, M. has gotten the new rooftop lounge "OR #5" wired with electricity. Tonight it will be lit with strings of over sized multicolored Christmas lights, signalling Santa in for a landing on the helipad. I hope that we have been nice! It's hard to get naughty when your sweetie is so far away.

Be well, and a peaceful Christmas Eve to you all.

Your friend,

Chris

4 comments:

lainy said...

I'm quite sure Santa can find you!

Merry Christmas to all of you.

emergencyem said...

Merry Christmas, sir.

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas to all of you! May your Christmas be bright (with the oversized landing lights)!

Angel in Kentucky

bridgett said...

We're tracking Santa in 3-D courtesy of our friends at NORAD and Google Earth. Somehow, I think that the zoom will be disabled when he reaches Balad, but I am sure that he'll be dropping something your way. I just hope he's not delivering by helicopter this year.

Merry Christmas, Chris. Next year, stateside.