Sunday, February 7, 2010

Groundhog Day

This past Tuesday was the real Groundhog day, but if you've ever seen the 1993 Movie "Groundhog Day" with Bill Murray, that's how several of us here refer to life on a deployment. In the film version, the main character keeps living the same day over and over again until he finally gets it right, then he can go on with the rest of his life. In my case, the number of days is predetermined, but each one very closely resembles the day before and you go to be with confidence that tomorrow will be a similar experience. That's not to say that it is boring or mundane. On the contrary, it has been very busy and engaging with each day presenting new challenges and priorities. Everyday seems to run into the next and they start to lose their distinction. It is not uncommon for people to lose track of what day of the week it is or to feel like something that happended 4-5 days earlier seems like 2-3 weeks ago. A lot happens in a short period of time, so all of your normal time references seem to be out of calibration.

Sundays are a little different. They actually help define the boundaries between the weeks. Even though most of us still walk over to our office for some reason or another on Sunday, it breaks up the routine and gives a little freedom of decision, time to ask yourself, "What do I want to do now?" There are not many options, but at least you get to ask the question.

Today is Sunday for me. Here's how day has gone so far. I slept in until 8:30 this morning, which is a nice break from waking up at 5:15. I opened up my laptop to check my email and to see who might be signed-in on Skype (fyi, my skype name is "jason-lay" if anyone is interested). Everyone back home is living out their days while I'm asleep, so I usually have several emails to scan through to see who might have sent me a message. After that I went to the gym. It's a short walk, about 50 yards from my barracks. I did a little bit of PT then went back to my room to get ready for the day.

With the flexible schedule, it gives us more time to walk to a dining facility (we call them "D-fac's") that might be further away. There is a group of about 15 people from my Squadron that meet at 10:30 on Sundays to walk to the BBQ Dfac. It's a little over a mile away, so we gather outside our building and then walk as a group. The weather has been in the low 30's and it's been of-and-on snowing and raining, so we were all bundled up and wearing stocking hats for the jaunt.

The BBQ Dfac serves barbecue food everyday, but on Sundays they feaure ribs, potato salad, corn on the cob, and fresh watermelon and pineapple. It's the closest thing to tasting like a meal from home that you can find here at Bagram. About half-way back from the BBQ Dfac is the BX (Base Exchange), which is basically a store with a variety of stuff. It's always busy on Sunday, but since it's on the way, I decided to stop and pick up a few things I was needing (soap, toothpaste, etc.). I dropped my stuff off in my room and wandered down to our office to check my email. We were expecting a delivery of lumber to come in on a flight from Manas, Kyrzygstan last night and I wanted to see if it had arrived. Lumber is in high demand here and very difficult to get quickly. I had an email message that stated the plane had some maintenance issues they were working on, so I couldn't confirm if it had arrived yet or not.

Next door to our office we have our construction shops which house the tools and equipment for our different trades. If you saw my earlier blog photos, you'll know that we are moving these shops into k-spans; however, right now they are located in large, dome shaped tents called a California Medium Shelter System. Again, in my photos was our the new tent city we are building, those are the smaller version of the same type of tent. They are called Alaska Small Shelter Systems (we just call them Alaska tents... this is once case where the military doesn't promote the use of the acronym... you'll get it if you think about it. Anyway, so I stopped over at the structures shop to see what was going on over there. Several pepole were gathered to play cards. I joined in on a 4 handed game of Spades and got to know the other guys in my unit a little better. It was a fun time.

I left the CE compound and came back to my room just to relax a little before the evening chapel service. That's where I am now adding this post to my blog. It is 3:32 in the afternoon, my room is quiet and dark and I am enjoying the peace of the day. At 5pm I will head to the chapel. I volunteered last week to play keyboard with the praise team, so we will practice a few of our songs before the service at 6:30. I did this last week too and really enjoyed it; it's another one of those things that break up the routines and give distinction to the week and keep if from feeling like Groundhog day all the time.

After Chapel is over, I will probably come back to my room to see if my family is awake yet on Sunday morning back home. Isaac is usually the first one up and he is often ready to play some games on Skype. We can interact with sound and video and even play checkers, hangman, or several other games together online all at the same time. Skype has been wonderful. It is invaluable to me to be able to see my family and smile back to them. Last night we Skyped for over an hour and a half taking turns talking with each other and playing games. That has been a real blessing!

Once the evening sets in, it will be time to wind down and go to bed to get ready for another day here in Afghanistan. And I'll try to find a way to make it different from the day before so that I know I'm not trapped in some quasi time-space continuum where the earth stands still. So far so good!

P.S. I forgot to mention in my last post about the Soviet tower that I had just copied that picture and article from our weekly base newsletter here at Bagram. That was all interesting information to me that I wanted to pass along to others, and I wasn't trying to imply that I had written any of that... just a redistribution of information. I hope you enjoyed it.

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