Al Asad Services
Things here are mostly inert, with the last indirect fire occurring months ago, causing us to develop a false sense of security. Aside from living in open bay tents and having to walk everywhere, the services available are quite accommodating.
Bathing is available in trailers with hot water, lasting only a couple of minutes due to the small water heaters. This makes one learn how to turn off the water between soaking, lathering up, and finally rinsing, a conservation effort usually not exercised in the U.S. The water in the trailers is not potable, as a result there are pallets and pallets of bottled water everywhere. You can't walk further than a city block without having bottled water available. Aside from our camp area, most other places are serviced with porta-johns complete with their wonderful odors.
Internet and phones are available, but each takes time to stand in line to use. Though free, the internet is very slow and the computers available all have missing keys and are filled with the powdered dust of the Iraqi desert. I have had to compose emails and postings on my computer at home (look, I am already resolved to the fact we will be here a while) and use a memory stick to transfer them in order to utilize the 30 minute time limit in the most effective manner. As for the phones, you have to wait in line either at the AT&T phone center, where use is not limited to 30 minutes and the price per minute is more expensive, or wait in line at the government contracted phone booth, where time of use is limited to 30 minutes and there are only ten phones, but it is only four cents per minute. Either way I have found it much easier to utilize email as a way of communication on a regular basis. Maybe one day I will replace my waiting in the internet line with waiting in the phone line.
Goods are available from the Marine Corps Exchange. If there is merchandise you see that you want, it is better buy it right then, or else it will be gone. You never know how long it will be before new stock arrives as it has to travel in by convoy, a constant target of the enemy. At night, with the minimal electricity and supply of light bulbs, there are only a couple of lights, making shopping hard on the eyes. All of the merchandise is covered in dirt and dust, making reading labels close to impossible. Lines at the checkout are extremely long, further reducing the propensity to spend money there. Also, as you spend cash, your coin change is not in U.S. currency, but in gift certificate coins, only redeemable at the Exchange.
Burger King and Pizza Hut are available in the trailers at the walking mall, which is lined with gravel and a constant pool of stagnant water that emits the most wonderful of odors. Also available is a beauty salon where soldiers can get manicures, pedicures, and a head and neck massage after a haircut. Of course there is also a standard three dollar barber shop providing nothing but a marginal clipping service. Next door is a coffee shop and a Subway, providing a semi-touch of home.
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