I set the alarm early so that I could get online and get some things done before leaving. I ended up taking a shower, emailing Hasan, and checking Facebook. Caleb grabbed his uniform – can’t be worn off base – and we went to breakfast. There was a mother in there with two school-age children and another one throwing a tantrum. I tried one of the stuffed croissants from Caleb’s plate and we were out of there.
On the road, Caleb realises that he forgot to shave and decides not to wear his uniform again today. Some of the spokespeople have been no-shows, but three of the guys on Caleb’s boat decided to get too drunk last night to show up on time this morning. It’s no wonder that the anti-terrorism, shore patrol, and pass & ID speeches that we hear today will sound repetitive. It doesn’t matter how many people say it multiple times – stupid people are going to make dumb choices – even if they get to fly large equipment, carry fully automatic weapons, have families at home, or are in another country.
I know a lot of people who did their time in the Navy – like myself who used the time to be crazy at first and then grow up and make something of themselves when they got out, but today’s navy is more about daycare for adults than a responsible learning environment. Part of the security brief was about transportation on base. You’re supposed to register your bike for theft recovery when nine out of the ten recovered weren’t registered – just as I was becoming impressed with the security of this place I realise it has its faults like everywhere else.
After 9am a lot of people left to get their visas and other things taken care of – including us. We already knew we needed a print out from Admin from upstairs in Bldg. 1 so we went there first. Then passed some of the guys from the command that thought we could use the Liberty Center computers to print out another form we need, but only the library has color printers for that purpose – and both open at ten. We sit down at a bench in the shade and Caleb’s XO approaches. I don’t say anything while she’s there – obviously – but as soon as she walks away I ask Caleb how long she’s been in. He’s guessing at least four years because the way it sounded to me it should be Caleb who’s in charge. She’s been here since the second of June and looks to be on vacation. She’s not in uniform, she didn’t meet us at the airport, and hasn’t helped the command in any way (that I know of).
In the library we try to use the wi-fi code on the computer and when that doesn’t work Caleb sets up an account. As we’re printing ours we’re able to help other people who come in get their form in order. You only fill out one sheet, but it prints four and the library charges 25 cents a page. We take all that to the immigration office which is a conex box with a couch in it making the space even more limited. We wait in line to turn over our passports so that they can take three weeks to process them for our one-year visa – even though they knew ahead of time that we would be here for two years. As we walk out of there I mention the same thing about lodging. The first week should’ve been taken care of, but then there would be our issue of getting the wrong room paid for. This whole process continues to be unorganised with no sign of improvement.
We start to walk back to the briefing room so I can sit for the Bahrain FRG (family readiness group) when Caleb realizes he set his water bottle down somewhere. He goes back to look for it while I go to the bagel shop to buy lunch. I get a veggie bagel with olive cream cheese and a jalapeño cheddar bagel with plain cream cheese. I meet Caleb upstairs and we have time to eat, lay back in the uncomfortable chairs, and then go down to the NEX to buy a pumice stone and loofahs.
Upstairs we notice that we missed the MWR brief because there are yellow bags everywhere with their initials on them. Some a-hole threw his away instead of saying no thanks so I was still able to get one, but I don’t think I can wear it off base so I will be mailing it back to the States to one lucky person. We sit through the sexual assault brief and learn all about the victim’s rights, then the best news since we’ve been here gets delivered by PSC Mendoza. He lets us know that for those of us that will be here for two years the Navy will pay for a $2,000 round-trip ticket to an approved location – meaning not Iraq, etc. and other nations that may be on the don’t travel list at the time.
He goes through all the other entitlements – how much for hotels and houses, how much food money we get, family separation pay (only if your family was not approved for overseas), and then tells us that if active duty extends for a year they will have the choice of one of four incentives – 30 days free leave, $2,000 cash, $80/month for the extended year, and something else, but letting us know that most people take the free plane ticket and free leave and go on a vacation. I let Caleb know that he doesn’t have to do that. He doesn’t want to be here for two years, let alone three.
We don’t have to stay for the rest of the brief and are let go at 1:30pm. Caleb’s command sent around a sign-up sheet to go to PSD, but one day we have the dogs appointment and the next we signed up for the culture tour – museum with lunch for BD7 and free tour of the Grand Mosque. I didn’t think that many people were interested, but Mr. Hassan said that more than 40 people are going. I was looking forward to a smaller crowd, but I hope the people going will be respectful and it makes me happy that they are curious.
With the PSD brief out of the way we figure we can go by the office on base. The guy there tells us to come back when Caleb checks into the boat, though we can come back to get our hotel room reimbursement and some advanced pay for food. I bring up going to the souq and Caleb’s thinking about the tour – both require BD, so we go to the exchange office after the ATM. On our way there we see Amy and meet April – another lonely wife at her command. They leave with hands full of boxes and upstairs we pull out $500 to have it turned into BD188.
It feels late and I’m ready for a nap. Caleb reminds me that it’s only 2:30pm, not 4pm. Not that it makes a difference in jet lag, but that it’s technically still early in the day. I’m anxious to get home and tend to the dogs. Traffic is heavy heading towards the highway and there’s a lot of merging with lanes ending and lane closure for construction. I pissed a local lady off today when I wouldn’t let her have my lane so when the road went back to two lanes – she took it! I slowed down and let her go. I know that she can total her husband’s car and blame it on the stupid American and I will be left waiting for the police to show up and paying for damages.
Caleb vents to me the rest of the way home about that injustice – we let foreigners walk all over us in the States and then they are free to do it in their home country. I have learned to accept things are a certain way in different parts of the world – that’s what makes them unique, but if there were ways to improve them such as equal rights, well that might seem better to us, but here this system works for them and I applaud their absolute freedom to share lanes and park on building ruins and half in traffic lanes. This doesn’t make me want to run back to the States; it makes me want to see more of the world and all its glory.
The puppies are excited to see us when we get home. We have good timing today and are able to park directly in front of our door instead of a few feet away on the other side of the fountain. We walk them, feed them, and I eat wilted salad – tomato, cucumber, lettuce, and feta – and chocolate as a snack. I refill my water bottle that I carry everywhere so that I can recycle some of the plastic bottles on base tomorrow when we go. I look forward to the day we can reuse the five gallon jugs instead of having to buy cases of 1.5 liter bottles.
I will get some writing done while Caleb takes a nap. I go into the kitchen for another snack and see my first moldy banana (thanks humidity). I’ve seen them get soft spots all the time, but this thing was growing. I cut the tip off and was going to save half of it but it was mushy, so I sacrificed a half-inch and ate the rest. I contacted the realtors and made an appointment for tomorrow; tried looking at bills and with a slow internet connection got logged out before the page would load; and was going to call the doctor and dentist but realised it was after hours so I turned on the TV. I flipped through a few movies – Snow Dogs, Selena, and watched them blur. It’s a little after seven and the dogs need to go out.