Awards Ceremony and Jingle Bells

Our internet seems to be working very well again! It might even be faster than before the problems. So after formation this morning, I was able to get caught up on my e-mails and message boards. After lunch I did more on my computer and then we had formation at 1415 to go to the chapel for our awards ceremony. There were about 60 soldiers there – our unit plus members of 2 other units. Before the awards were presented, fellow trombone player Scott Dziadon got promoted to Staff Sergeant. We now have 4 SSGs in the trombone section. Can you say top heavy? LOL Most of the members of the band got Army Commendation Medals, and that included me. Our Commander and the 4 Sergeants First Class got Bronze Star Medals and 2 soldiers got Army Achievement Medals. It was a nice ceremony and only lasted about 45 minutes.

Once we got back from the chapel, I went to dinner and then came home and chatted with Ryan and Robbie (Robbie was typing in between Ryan’s messages) and my buddy P in Korea. I’m going to spend the rest of the evening stitching.

And now, the Taliban version of Jingle Bells, as written by Chaplain Lee who is now back home with his family.

Dashing through the sand, in a dry and barren land
Loaded in a truck in search of Taliban.
Back at the FOB, guarding my OP
I want to shoot my M-16 but all I seem to see are

Jingle trucks, just my luck
I never get to fire.
All I get to do is sit and guard this stupid wire.
RPGs, IEDs, Hey. . . Where is my mail?
Osama when we find you
We will send you straight to jail.

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The play is done

Thursday was me and Ryan’s 4th anniversary. Happy Anniversary Sweetie!

After our 0900 formation, we cleaned the rehearsal hall really good – washed the windows, swept, did a police call outside, etc. and then that was it for the day other than 1300 formation. I got some cross stitching done and even read some. In the evening was A Christmas Carol, night 2. It went really well – better than the first night and the audience was bigger as well. When I got home, I called Dad and got to talk to him and Rick for a while. That was nice!

Today all we had were formations at 0900 and 1300 and that was it. I stitched, read, and took a short nap. Short because the other females have no common courtesy and just come stomping in and crank their music up. I think I’m the only one in here that owns headphones. I’ve asked them before to use headphones or turn it down at least, but I just get “well, it’s the middle of the day so we can listen to our music if we want.” Ok, fine – but the whole camp doesn’t need to hear it. Oh, and we also found out that we’ll be here a few extra days now. The weather up in Manas has been really bad and flights haven’t been able to land so pretty much everyone leaving in the next week has been bumped a few days.

The play tonight was by far the best performance and it was almost a full house! It was a lot of fun, but it was also sad in a way since we’re done now. The audience was definitely the best tonight too – lots of laughs and interaction and that’s always a good thing. Eventually I’ll be getting a copy of the play on DVD, so I’ll have it to watch! And I’ll try and get a few pictures posted eventually. After it was over tonight, we struck the set (why is it called striking the set? we didn’t hit anything. . .) and got the chapel looking like a chapel again. Our cast party will be on Sunday.

I’m off to bed so I can maybe get a decent night’s sleep tonight.

Customs, Goodbye, and A Christmas Carol

This morning it was COLD in our hooch and I didn’t want to get out of bed. I finally got up around 7:45 for our 8:30 formation. We emptied out the quad cons that we packed yesterday and laid everything out. Every case was opened, every box was emptied, every duffle bag was emptied. The government equipment stayed outside and all our personal things went inside. Each person got a sheet of plywood (our floor is plywood) and we had to lay all our stuff out. The Haz-Mat (hazardous materials) inspector came through first and that was quick. Then the customs officials (MPs) came and went through everything. Nothing major was found – just a few items that people didn’t know they couldn’t ship. It actually went pretty quickly, and once our personal stuff was inspected, we could pack it back up. Then we got the quad cons loaded back up and built the 4 pallets (a metal platform on which things are packed and then covered with plastic and cargo nets). The MPs sealed the containers and put their stamp of approval on everything and we were DONE by 1:30!!! We had thought it would take a lot longer than that. We were released for chow and by 2:00 when I was coming out of the chow hall, there were already 3 quad cons on the back of a flatbed truck. It was good to see that stuff drive off!

After relaxing during the afternoon some, and crocheting for a bit, and dinner, I headed up to the chapel for cast call which was at 6:00. The Bagram Allied Thespians are putting on A Christmas Carol this week. Tonight was opening night! I am one of the carolers. The director added a touch of Afghanistan to the play, and the carolers are dressed in Afghan clothes. We are poor Afghans, and have dirt smudges on our faces, and mismatched clothes. I even go barefoot because I’m so poor. We sit around a burn barrel (complete with fire in it – red chem lights and a couple of candles) with some wood in it. We are cold, trying to stay warm from our meager fire. But our carols are warm and friendly.

The play went really well for its first night and about 50 in attendance. I think my only bad part was intermission when I went backstage and the floor was COLD. LOL The actors/actresses did really well, despite the missed lines. We carolers have a script hiding behind our fire barrel. Lots of work has been put into this in a short time, and it will be a nice break for the soldiers/sailors/airmen/Marines/civilians stationed here. Hopefully more people from the band will be able to make it the next 2 nights – there were 2 of the females there tonight.

This tired caroler is off to bed as another day awaits.


A Christmas to Remember

Merry Christmas to everyone!!

This morning started with me going to Skype my family while they were at my grandparents’ house for Christmas Eve. Well, when I got up this morning, the internet was out. 😦 So I didn’t get to talk to my family. I got ready and went to church for our Christmas service. I played the piano some, but the Brass Quintet was there also and they did most of the hymns. It was a well-attended service – 60-70 or so. It was a very nice service.

When I got home, the internet was still out – as it was pretty much all day. I crocheted for a while and enjoyed an ok Christmas dinner at the chow hall. The company was much better than the food. Of course, had I been home, I would have had both – good food and good company. After dinner (at 1300), I crocheted a bit and then took a couple hour nap. That was very much needed and I felt a little better after I woke up. I went and tried to call home since the internet was still down, but I tried for 1/2 hour and couldn’t get an outside line from the phones. So I still didn’t get to talk to my family.

The barbershop chorus sang at the General’s Mess this evening for their Christmas party – pretty much everyone was a Lt. Colonel and higher. It went very well, and the BQ was there as well so we did the Hallelujah Chorus again. They really like it. And of course, the Taliban version of Jingle Bells received much laughter. I’ll share the words tomorrow. We all received coins from the CG (commanding general) and I got a picture of me and him by the Christmas tree. Also, during the sing along portion of the evening, I slipped out of my place in the choir two times to deliver Santa hats. I went up behind MG Freakley (the CG) the first time, said “Merry Christmas, Sir” and put the hat on his head. Then a couple of songs later, I saw our Division Command Sergeant Major, so I slipped out again and went behind him “Merry Christmas Sergeant Major” and stuck the hat on his head. They both really liked it and thanked me afterwards. I think there were a couple of people in the choir that didn’t think I would do it. But I “ain’t skeered” of no General or Sergeant Major!

So, we got back home and the internet was finally working but of course, Mom and Dad and Rick and Ryan and Robbie had already left for Christmas activities at my aunt & uncle’s house. So I found their phone number and was going to call there. But I still couldn’t get an outside line on the phones. Oh, and just before I left to go to the phones, the power went out. So now we have no internet, no power, and no phones. And I still haven’t talked to my family. The power and internet are back up finally (obviously since I’m writing this. . .) but the phones are still overloaded. I guess everyone is talking to their families. Hopefully I can talk to them in my morning/their evening, and maybe watch them open the last of their presents.

This will definitely be a Christmas to remember with all the good times with the choir and fellow band members, no internet, the power going out, and not being able to call home.

Oh, and I got gifts! I got some Bath & Body Works lotions from N, some hand cream and nail stuff from E, cute Christmas toe socks from C, and a little stuffed penguin from T. Thank you all so much!

Christmas Eve Snow!!

Merry Christmas Eve! Today was a wonderful day! Our chapel service this morning was a service of Lessons and Carols, so lots of God’s word and lots of singing! And, as always, we had communion. It was really nice. Then I went home for a little bit and then back to the chapel for 1300 rehearsal of the Hallelujah Chorus. That rehearsal went well and afterwards it was home again for a little bit. I had to be at Base Operations at 1500, and our barbershop chorus caroled for their Christmas party. It was a lot of fun, and we got a picture with Santa – I’ll upload tomorrow and you’ll be able to see “Santa’s Militia”. LOL After we were done singing, I got a new country for my collection – New Zealand!

Once that was done, I was finally able to relax for a while and I did a little bit of cross stitching after dinner. And I had nice chats with Ryan and Mom and Dad and my buddy P. It was a good afternoon. And then in the evening (2000) was the Protestant Candlelight Christmas Eve service. It was a very nice service with the Brass Quintet, Woodwind Quartet, and even guitar (along with flute and oboe) for Silent Night at the end. There were probably over 100 – maybe even close to 200 – people in attendance! And with all those candles – WOW. Yes, Mom, I cried when I sang Silent Night. There were people from the U.S., Korea, Afghanistan (they’re Muslims and don’t celebrate Christmas, but there were some Afghan soldiers there!!), Great Britain, and probably other countries too. What an awesome thing!

After our service and before the Catholic Mass at 2200, we had a community sing along. We sang lots of Christmas songs, and then we ended with the (possibly) first-ever performance of The Hallelujah Chorus from The Messiah. The Brass Quintet accompanied us, and it went really well! Of course, after all that singing, I don’t have much of a voice left. But that’s ok.

Once I got back to my hooch, I stitched for a few more minutes while I burned CD’s of the pictures I took today for the members of the barbershop chorus. Then I played Santa and put my gifts for the females in their stockings. Of course, one was too big for her stocking, and it’s precariously balanced sort of in her stocking and then on the beads and garland we have up all over. LOL I also delivered gifts to a few of my guy friends.

I’m off to bed now.

Post Office Day

This morning we had a couple of hours blocked off at the post office where they had a couple of windows just for us! That was really nice, and about 8-10 of us went (I got a bus to take us there). I mailed 5 boxes home – 2 full of yarn and other craft stuff, one of books (that went media rate. . .) and 2 of just “stuff”. My room looks pretty bare now. I got a lot of cross stitching done today, and finished the project seen below. I also started a new project this evening, and it’s seeming to stitch up pretty quickly. I had a good run this afternoon with my Platoon Sergeant, and then we did 2 sets of 50 situps. My tailbone hurts from them – the floor is hard. But it felt good to do situps again – it’s been way too long since last time. My abs will probably hurt tomorrow. Dinner at the chow hall was steak, crab legs, chicken wings, and other stuff. I had crab legs and chicken wings. And some corn. And ice cream! It was a good dinner for a change. This evening I had nice chats with Mom (actually, she was before dinner), Dad, and Ryan. And I called on Skype for a little bit and got to talk to Robbie. But he was hungry and didn’t want to talk. That’s ok though.

Here’s a picture of my latest cross stitch finish. It’s called The Counting House and is by Little House Needleworks. Free Image Hosting at www.picturetrail.com

Bare room

Today was the day. I packed. I have 5 boxes (none all that large) ready to be mailed home tomorrow. I got the majority of my extra equipment and uniforms packed and ready to put in the shipping containers next week. My room is pretty bare now, but I still have ONE picture of Robbie on my wall, my Runners World calendar and my Christmas cards up. And I still have my door, upper wall dividers (aka light blockers) and ceiling (another light blocker) up. Those and my blankets will be mailed home on 2 January, and I’ll sleep in my sleeping bag that last night here.

After lunch I finally computered (the internet was down a good part of the morning again) and got some stitching done. Just before I went to eat, I called Grandma and Grandpa. It’s always nice talking to them! After dinner I stitched more and chatted with Ryan as he was packing, and Dad.

Counting down the days!!