zonewombat: (bird of paradise)
A bit ago I alluded to my friend K– hauling my half-naked and unconscious self up out of a pool while berating some Muslim men.

At this point, we all took stock and decided to leave while we still could.  And that is how we came to call Sunway Lagoon “Tortway Lagoon.”

The biz

Sep. 12th, 2006 08:28 pm
zonewombat: (cake or death)
The Department of State is busy re-structuring its policies in order to force staff to go to Afghanistan and Iraq.  There's a lot of discussion back and forth about whether this is wise, whether it's helpful, what it means to be a commissioned officer in a disciplined service (hey, at least State officers can resign if they don't want to go), but the main point is that both these posts are unaccompanied: Your spouse and children cannot go with you.

In a recent informational cable, State mgmt responded to the question "Does this signal an end to State's "Family Friendly" policy?"  The answer: "Absolutely not.  We have produced a handbook for children whose parent has been assigned to one of these posts."

A handbook.

That'll help.

We're trying to figure out what the handbook could be.  I'm kind of hoping it's a coloring/activity book, with pages like "Here's Mommy's car!  Where would you put the bomb?" and "You're the first responder after the terrorist attack - which mark would you put on the foreheads of each of these victims?"  Other folks think it will be dry reading, something along the lines of "Who Needs Two Parents Anyway?"  (which will then be utilized according to the Republican Playbook to show how State lacks family values).

It's just tough.  A friend who is a Marine just left for his second tour in Iraq.  He's kind of hoo-ah anyway (Marine), but his comment was "Better me than the guys that have kids."  Another Army officer I know is on his third tour in Iraq.  He has two children; he's never seen one of them, almost 4.  He's missed over half the other one's life.  He's rabid in his belief that there are WMDs, that he's fighting terrorists, that he's doing the right thing.  He has to be.

As for us, we are still waiting.  When we accepted Athens as a post, it counted as a hardship post (just barely, but it did).  We chose it in large part so we could do a hardship tour.  That status was removed while we were here (in an accounting maneuver to give more money to folks in Iraq and Afghanistan, and rightly so), but now we, and others like us, don't know whether we count as having taken a hardship assignment or not.  If not, Robert's bound for Iraq.  We won't know for months, as it's in the Department's interests to delay that decision.


Sep. 11th, 2006 03:24 pm
zonewombat: (falconer)
Robert was leaving for Japan that day.  I worked near Dulles Airport, so I dropped him off at the United terminal to catch his 9:00 am flight.  Once at work, I jumped right into working on a database, getting my friend the star db developer to sit with me as we pounded out some code.  We were both deep in coding brain, and idiot coworkers kept coming by with nonsense.  There was a group of guys in particular who never seemed to do anything but watch TV all day.  When the second one of them stopped by and said "Hey!  Didja hear?  A plane hit the Twin Towers?!"  we shut my office door and put a sticky note on it that said "We KNOW!!!  DND."   We assumed it was a private plane, because big real commercial planes don't do that.

Then an IM popped up from another, more trustworthy source, telling me to turn on CNN.  I did, and our jaws dropped.   That was some serious damage for a little plane.  Then we saw the second plane hit - it happened just after I'd turned on the TV.  Now, whenever I see that shot or think of it, I immediately tear up.  Then, I went instantly into denial.  I could not process it.  Another IM popped up from an intern, wanting to know if it was terrorism, wanting to know if it was, why the WTC?  I typed back "Yes, and there are probably planes in the air for buildings in DC right now."  Then I thought, "Oh shit, there are probably planes in the air for DC right now."

My friend left for his desk to call his wife, who sometimes works at a government building.  I wanted to call everybody - State, the Pentagon, the White House, the Capitol, the CIA, hell, the Smithsonian - and tell them to Get Out!  But I couldn't.  There was nothing I could do except be glad Robert was safely away from DC, answer all the people coming and asking me if this was al-Qaeda, mindlessly watch TV.  Then came the announcement about a United flight missing from Dulles.  Or something.  All I know is that my brain finally put it together that Robert was on a trans-continental flight from a DC airport, and his plane could've been grabbed, and I was on the phone to United.

They actually answered - normally you can't get a person on the line, but they answered and were nice, and explained they had no information but had asked all their flights to land at the nearest airport.  I went over to my friend's desk to tell him I was going home, and to suggest that we all do the same, as, like I said, close to Dulles.  Over his shoulder I saw the TV, and there was only one tower.  I remember blinking at it, thinking, how weird, from this angle it looks like there's only one tower.  Then he asked if I'd heard State Dept had been bombed.  I hadn't, but I doubted it; spending all that time working the al-Qaeda target meant I had some idea of what they'd pick as targets, and Main State wasn't it.

A United plane hit the Pentagon.  Another friend, who lived in an apartment overlooking the Pentagon, was running late as usual, and saw it happen.  He called me, asked what flight Robert was on.  I started to come unglued.  Our boss had said there was no official leave for work, but I left anyway; I was going to melt down and didn't want to do it at work, and no one had my work number, not even Robert.

My friend from near the Pentagon met me at my house and we watched TV all day.  By the time I got home, I had messages from all over the States, all my family and Robert's.  I returned calls as I could, saying that Robert was somewhere, but not on United 93 and I'd let them know.  I have no idea how all these phone calls got through.  I zapped quick emails to friends in NYC: "If you are reading this, I guess you're okay but please let me know!"

Around 2:00 pm Robert called.  His plane had been grounded in South Carolina.  At first they'd thought it was a technical problem, but when they deplaned they saw the news.  By this time the news that State had been bombed was playing, so they tried to call State; no answer.  State was transferring to emergency operating locations at the time, but not getting an answer from the Ops Center dismayed them.  So many planes had landed in the smallish town that there were no more rental cars, and Robert's delegation got the last hotel room.  We made various plans, ending up that another spouse would drive her minivan down and pick them up.  He got home safe and sound sometime after midnight.

The next day at work it was quiet.  The constant noise of airplanes taking off and landing at Dulles was gone, and the silence, as they say, was deafening.
Thanks to [profile] casperflea and [personal profile] ste_noni for inspiring me to write this. 

I'm going to keep my FS hat on a moment, and say that I find these movies, especially the ABC piece, irresponsible beyond measure.  9/11 still very much informs our foreign policy; it's still an active, living, breathing problem.  The purveyors of media like the ABC piece are making things up that will be taken as historical fact, and will be used by the public to demand certain courses of action.  al-Qaeda is a huge part of our foreign policy, and to create pressure to base that policy on lies is criminal.


Apr. 4th, 2006 07:15 am
zonewombat: (travel)
They can't take the friendly skies from me!

R&R itinerary:
May 14 - DC
May 15 - Phoenix
May 19 - San Francisco
May 21 - Phoenix
May 23 - Roswell
May 27 - DC

and then back to Athens.
zonewombat: (Default)

So, we found out today that somebody's been tapping the embassy's cellphones. (My money's on the French in the office pool.)  Reuters picked up the story, but for reasons unclear to me, is running it under "News of the Weird." 

Not that weird, guys. )

zonewombat: (Default)
American news media often makes me cranky by what they print, but they recently made me cranky by what they didn't print: Canada's lead diplomat in Afghanistan was assassinated. According to Canadian press, he's the first Canadian diplomat to have ever been killed in the line of duty.

I'm finally starting to roll with my job, get my feet under me on the subject area and make some progress. Only working 2 days a week has made the learning curve seem extra long.

We've been trying to figure out where we can buy a house in the DC area for when we return in 18 months, and the answer is "Kansas." Seriously, we have been saving assiduously for ~15 years, but with a crappy townhouse going for half a million dollars, what can you do? Even with the $100,000 we have for a down payment, we can't afford anything within a 2-hour commute. And renting is no longer an option with the increase in rents. Not for the first time, I wish the federal government was located in a city that federal salaries could afford.

This is making this tour even more offensive, as we are painfully aware of the large amount of money we are losing by being overseas.

We've even been considering living in DC itself, but I have sworn to not move into the District until they change their license plate slogan to "Bitch Set Me Up!"
zonewombat: (Default)

A new officer and his wife recently arrived at post here.  We knew them in what seems like another lifetime, when we all served together in Malaysia.  Some memories stand out, like the time we all co-hosted a Halloween party at their house, and sometime around midnight the guy thought it would be a good plan to go off with some of the other guests.  He was maybe a bit drunk, but thought he could get a taxi back.  He failed to take into account the fact that he was dressed as a Greek God, in a tiny white miniskirted toga, with gold leaves on his head and gold curly ribbon wrapped around his bare feet to indicate sandals.  Oddly, no taxi driver in this very Muslim country was inclined to pick up a big Orang Buti in a miniskirt in the wee hours.  So he walked back the couple miles barefoot.  At least it wasn't cold.

But the memory of this couple that really stands out was when we all went to the brand new waterpark in KL, and she ended up hauling my unconscious and topless self out of the pool. )


zonewombat: (Default)

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