Since I'm at the halfway point, I'm apparently entitled to a four-day vacation (a 96-hour pass in Armyspeak) to the charming, exotic, far-away place called Qatar. For those of you who don't know, Qatar is pronounced "gutter," so my expectations aren't especially high.
In order to get to Qatar, I first have to find my way to Bagram Air Field. In order to make it as easy as possible, I was going to hitch a ride with the base chaplain tomorrow. We used to be roommates back when we were still in transient billeting before we were moved to our permanent rooms. Now we're neighbors. Since is also going on R&R at the same time as me and he has a hookup with the folks that run back and forth to Bagram to re-stock our little post exchange with junkfood and deodorant, he was able to get us a couple of seats in the empty truck on it's way out.
Bummer of it is, the truck was rescheduled and he ended up leaving today. I found out when I called him to find out what time we were heading out tomorrow and he said there was a change of plans and he'd actually arrived in Bagram just an hour before I called. Apparently he'd forgotten all about me. Now instead I'll be hitchhiking to the airport where I'll hopefully be able to find myself a seat on any one of the several flights from Kabul to Bagram scheduled every day.
I'm not exactly thrilled about the idea of going to Gutter. From what I'm told, the first and last days of my four day vacation will be spent on briefs and paperwork while they teach us all about what's off-limits (everything) and what's permitted (not much) while we're there. From what I'm told I'll be allowed to leave the base if I'm lucky enough to get on any of the few guided tours (which I'll get to pay for) and I'll even be allowed to have as many as two alcoholic beverages per day.
The getting there and back will be pretty interesting too. Once I get to Bagram I'll be briefed on how to get a flight and so on. Then I'll be placed in the lowest bracket of standby for travel. Then I'll get to wait for one to as many as eight days for space on a flight to Gutter. The same sort of thing will happen on the way back. So my four-day vacation could be bracketed by as much as a week of waiting in passenger terminals before and afterwards.
The whole thing sounds like such a pain in the ass that I'm not even sure why I'm bothering. I figure doing nothing in Qatar has to be at least as much fun as doing nothing in Kabul. At least I'll be able to see a bit of ocean if I'm lucky.
I guess we'll see how it goes. For now I'm trying to decide what I'll need to pack for the trip. So far I've set aside a couple of books, a couple of weeks worth of underwear, my laptop, and a few vomit bags.
More to come. Stay tuned.