Saturday, July 21, 2012

Little things that count

It's the little things that paint the big picture. I recently returned back from R&R, and the enormous difference of lifestyle between Europe (or any well-developed country for that matter) and slowly developing majority of the Middle East really opens your eyes. I went from a COP the size of 2 football fields where my guys are washing their uniforms in a plastic tank and drying out on a wire outside to waking up in a hotel on a comfortable bed, walking outside and taking a dip in the Mediterranean Sea with absolutely nothing to worry about except stepping on a sea urchin.
We take so much for granted back home. And for some it's still not enough. You want more of this, faster service, a bigger variety, speedier delivery, less of that... In the meantime some people ride their bicycles to get drinking water from a well a few miles away.
You know what I enjoy? Eating food with real utensils. When I landed, and went to grab some breakfast, I genuinely was happy to eat with real silverware from a real plate. It reminded me that I'm not in the hot sun, waiting for resupply or waiting 2 weeks to get mail. "-Nothing for you this time, LT..."- womp womp womp. Takes forever to get some parts out here, and slightly less faster if you just go online and buy it yourself.
Comcast Deluxe with some fries on the side TV package? I stayed up the whole time on the plane, and watched 3 random movies back to back. Best entertainment I've had in 8 months. I can easily get through the next 4. On the positive side, lack of TV makes you read books if you have free time. USO and all the organizations that ship books out here are doing an awesome job. There is always a variety, and I'm catching up on all the timeless classics.
I was lucky enough to watch Euro2012 while on R&R, I love soccer, and it was a major bonus for having already a good enough time. Do I miss certain things? Of course, I can't wait to get back and hit the slopes, and start skydiving again. A big break like that only makes it more exciting when I start again. It's a treat, like a kid who knows that X-Mas is coming up and he'll get presents. You don't need crazy resolutions, and absurd goals. Just have something to look forward to - plain and simple for starters. I like rock climbing, and attempting to climb Everest is something that's in my future plans, but for now, I just want to get back home, drink some eggnog, and ski my butt off for the rest of the day.
Amenities, or lack of amenities to be precise, aside, this place is very different. I've never seen stars so bright at home. There is no electricity in many areas, and we practice blackouts at night on the COPs and FOBs, so the sky is as clear as you can only imagine. It makes for a great navigational tool if you are familiar with constellations, and local kids love the stories and myths about them.
Probably the biggest thing I miss is good food. Food is not bad here, local cuisine is actually pretty good, but I like variety. Coming from New York, you are accustomed to pretty much every cuisine in the world, and you have an infinite numbers of places to eat. And you just can't find a slice of real New York pizza elsewhere. When I go back to Brooklyn this winter, Totonno's is my first stop. I haven't had pizza in a year, and "real new york peeeezza!" that some guy was selling in Prague is not real. If you think otherwise, you are probably the guy or gal who believes that Subway has "real" Philly cheese steak too. Maybe I'm picky, or maybe it's because we've had hash browns for every single meal in the last 18 days (yes, at this point we are keeping the count).
I'm not telling you to dump your cell, cut off your internet, eat TV dinners for a month straight and throw out your 55" plasma. I'm just telling you that lack of your favorite Venti Skinny Latte with soy milk and a shot of hazelnut syrup at Starbucks that day is not the end of the world, and there is no need to call the manager, and threaten to take your business to Seattle's Best. If you don't understand the real reason, I'll give you a secondary - Starbucks owns Seattle's Best and they will still get your Benjamins.
Back in January and February when I was stuck on of the little COPs due to ridiculous amount of snow and no-fly weather, I made the best dessert you could ask for.
1 big empty Maxwell Coffee jar or equivalent
1 can of sweetened condensed milk (I found mine in one of the damaged vehicles, you can get yours in the grocery story)
Fill up the jar with snow, add condensed milk, mix it all well. And you got yourself one big jar of ice cream. It's delicious when you normally can't have any.

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