Thursday, April 5, 2012

visitors came calling

Hello Blogosphere!

Dropping a line today to write on a compilation of some of my encounters. As much as it seems that every day is the same and that I'm sometimes stuck in our own version of Groundhog Day, a good number of varied events have and are occurring.  Instead of filing them away, thought I'd share some of the bits and pieces of my last couple months.

Hmmm, where to begin? We've had a number of visitors through our doors in the past few weeks. The typical officer "brass" doesn't really count because they always find a way to make appearances to which we generally respond with a choreographed dog-n-pony show (no judging now, I know this is normal even outside military ranks!). However, some of our more interesting visitors have shown up rather unexpectedly and made for quite pleasant breaks in the monotony.
One of our pilots has a brother who is a dog handler in the Army. As he was travelling home after more than a year in country, he stopped by and caught some much deserved r&r and brought his doggie along too! Akita is a mutt dog (sorta) who looks much like a German Shepard, is four years old yet acted like a puppy. She is a bomb sniffing dog who had an obession for empty water bottles. We'd throw her one and watch and she crunched on it (very loudly) while running round the building trying to trick someone into thinking she'd give it up. Akita and her handler were a hoot to have around even if was only for a few short days.

Our other notable visitor was a photojournalist for the NY Times. Well to be more accurate he's a freelance journalist who often has work picked up by major circulations such as the NYT, Washington Post and Newsweek.  He's what one might a call a free spirit. Originally from Holland, he's spent the last few years documenting the trials of the human journey from desperate places like Afghanistan and Pakistan and even rode an illegal boat ride from Morocco to Spain with 30 immigrants fleeing the bonds of third-world poverty for a better life in Europe (nearly drown doing it).  He has done amazing work capturing our current war. Given access to ride along with some of the most daring operations, he has been able to showcase the battlefield from the perspective of those that endure it, live amongst it and even those who initiate it. He truly has a gift to be able to breath meaning into what, a snapshot ago, was merely just another moment in the rough sands of (war)time.

Our other visitors were of the Bob Hope variety. That's right, the USO came! And they brought s'mores!!!!! I politely ignored the fact that the reps were clearly selected to appeal to the likes of my male counterparts and instead helped myself to an extra serving (or three--what?! i'm working-out) of the chocolatey-gooey goodness which naturally ended up immodestly on my face as much as in my tummy. In addition to the sugar highs, they also brought tricycles. Tricycles? Well it just wouldn't be right to enjoy a childhood favorite without also partaking in a childhood past-time would it? So we raced! There we were, the preeminent air force in the history of time skidding around combat aircraft on none other than Little Tikes.  We raced with our knees hitting the handlebars and stupid looking red-white&blue '80s headbands crowning our nuggets. was fun!

I'm sure we'll have s'more visitors as our tenure extends and I'll be sure to take note if they bring a certain reportable aspect worthy of making the blog, but for now I better go to sleep.

I would like to thank the good people at for my special toiletries "care package"--so what that I was the one who ordered it?!  And thanks Grandma for the note--my reply is already in the mail! Finally I'm was absolutely floored that Mom and Dad's package made it here in five days where the usual transit is two weeks! Thanks for the soup, mama!

Will visit again soon,

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Jingle Trucks

Hello Family and Friends,

I'd like to start this bog by saying all is well here. The news, I'm sure, has been interesting to watch lately-- I'm fine over here and unless the mermites bring me down, I'll be ok.

The scene from the air is quite desolate (I'm told). Swirling coffee colored winds sweeping across the smudgy brown desert breaking only occasionally against tan shaded foothills before continuing along towards the open emptiness of yet more vast desert all devoid of tints other way, you guessed it, brown. On days when the air is stagnant, hanging heavy over the low planted fields of poppy, the sky is filled with a dirty film that glides over the horizon and extends to the far reaches of the ancient desert. All is utterly devoid of color.

It's too easy to retreat into the cynicism of others and join as the complaints range loud and often, calling the place a wasteland. It could be true. There's not much about the surrounding area that I can honestly say I find appealing or desire as a home for myself but even in the most rainbow-lacking of locales people find a way to add personality!

For today's theme I thought I'd share the quirkiness we've come to call the 'Jingle Truck'. Jingle trucks, I've found, are the Afghans' way of returning color and splendor to a scene otherwise lacking of either. Like in the states where the number one form of goods transportation is commercial truck, this place is no different. Trucks are constantly passing through delivering foods and supplies and their drivers take special care to 'doll up' the interior/exterior cabs.

Jingles take on all forms. They have fringe on the frames of their windshields and tassels on their mirrors. They are red and gold and purple and have flags and pennants blazing from the sides. Some even have constant theme music playing in repeated 10 second tracks.  In essence, Jingles are as varied as he men that drive them.  And the drivers are proud! They smile valiantly if they catch you staring. They beam as they drive by a crowd of rubberneckers huddled around a bus stop. And if you do as I do and wave to the more elaborate Jingles, they will, without hesitation, return the gesture with a blaring sense of victory.

I think, what wonder! To be in a land so deprived of the color spectrum and worn down by a ten year war yet still find such a unique and descriptive way of expressing pride alongside vivid personality. I was inspired!

I have decided that we too will have a Jingle! The crew has agreed unequivocally that if we are to have a Jingle that I will be the one to make it so. One might interpret this as disinterest on the part of my fellow commuters, but I secretly think they all agree that of all people, I've got the best taste. As such,  I've set out on a quest to collect the necessary decor needed to rightly display our pride of ownership.

I've kept my eyes peeled for fringe. Preferably gold but really any color will do. I'm also hunting for some red or blue fabric to bunch and cascade across the front window. This far I've only been able to acquire an old St Patty's Day garland of shamrocks. However, just today while i was rooting around the supply closet deseperately seeking a new ballpoint, I spied a box of Christmas decorations that look especially promising.  I hope this endeavor comes together.

Special thanks to Linsey for the glitter decor (the guys loved it, ha!) and thank you Avigail for the care package--I immediately broke into the Luna bars! I was especially touched by the card from Founder's Day--please pass my sincere gratitude to the rest of the DG alumnae! And Mama, I finally got your boxes the other day! THe pancake mix were an instant meal and the guys have already finished off the horchata mix! ha!

Gotta get back to work now! Talk to everyone soon!


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Good Morning All,

And HAPPY MARDI GRAS!!! I knew I would miss Shreveport the most come this time of year. I absolutely fell in love with Louisiana as I saw neighbors with big  beaded wreaths on their doors, viewed the elaborate invitations to the local balls and of course partook in the absolutely to-die-for king's cakes! I can almost taste Julie Anne's Bakery's king cakes as I'm typing this out. (Linsey, I know you can remember the time we devoured that entire pastry by ourselves a couple years ago...or should I have kept that a secret?) I wonder if Julie Anne's delivers to Afghanistan?

Well, as I will be doing my fat Tuesday and subsequent Lenten season desert style this year, I thought I'd share in some of the other adaptions I've made as of late.

To begin, I've taken up chronicling our days. I figured as the shifts begin to melt together and since days of the week have no real reference that I would instead keep track of our ventures by milestones. I've even got the guys in on it now. Each night as we drive back to the Mods (nickname for our barracks--this might be the topic of another blog so I'll keep from gettin into the details of our beloved homes away from home for the time being) I query our crew by asking the open-ended question: "Today was the day ______" and they fill in the blanks. I learn a lot about my fellow compadres by the feedback I receive.

Some reply with work related events;  others have more colorful language; and still others twist humorous headings that normally involve embarrassing moments of fellow crewmembers (these are the best). After a few minutes of grappling and laughing and making of defenses by the guys' whose actions have now been publicly displayed, we decide on that day's theme.

So far we've had: the day B almost landed at the wrong HLZ (helicopter landing zone); the day we rescued a military working dog and had to give it a catheter (this was quite hilarious to have to explain to the guys whilst they were airborne--- "wait, you want me to what? NO! I'm not probing a sick attack dog in the back of a helicopter!!";) the day Olivia pissed off the Group commander by telling him his squadron missed a target (not my proudest moment); the day of the biblical flooding, followed by the day we went off-roading in a 15 passenger van through the mud and almost fell into the sinkhole (yikes!); and, most recently, today was the day we got a parking ticket for parking perpendicular in a 'parallel only' spot.

The latest was a very comical way to end our night. So we got the ticket a day ago but we didn't discovered it until tonight. The citation reads, that one must appear before the base police with one's supervisor and ultimately receive the daily punishment. Well our driver didn't pack his military drivers license and upon discussion we realized we all had forgotten to bring our mil drivers licenses from homestation or had it but had let it expire. (real smart ones aren't we?) After much discussion, and with lots of head nodding, we decided the best thing to do was to have one person take his California license to base police, explain that this should trump a military permit as driving in California is actually a lot more hazardous than driving in a war zone and then hope that the discipline would end there and not make its way  back to our commander.

This plan failed.

While the cops let our crew car go with just a warning, our sacrificial lamb got a mark on his driving record. Don't worry, he's the lowest ranking--it's kind of a right of passage to get pinned with this stuff.

Trying to park again after all that we were again left with a poor choice of spots. Either we pull another perpendicular job in a parallel only street or we try to squeeze our 15-pax van into a Mini-Cooper space. Luckily there was a third option: the truck parked at the end of the lane had left his door unlocked...Now before I divulge this next part of the story, you have to realize that things operate differently while deployed to an austere location and sometimes one must do things that just make sense in the moment.... Before anyone had a chance to verbalize it, I hopped out, slipped behind the wheel of the little Toyota Hilux and popped the clutch. The guys were already thinking along the same lines, got behind the tailgate and started pushing the little hoopty slowly down the street. This Hilux had a lot of nerve taking up so much real estate for his little pick-up...he fit much better in the new spot we found him down the street. He might be a little surprised come the morning. Ha!

Well, I'm off again! Special thanks for the Girl Scout cookies--Thin Mints are always a good choice! For all who've been wondering, while I'm gone Brandon is hanging out at the house and watching over the chihuahuas and he's even made rare stealth visits to Bath & Body Works for his wife who is in deseprate need of smell-goods--thank you, Brando! As always thank you all for the prayers and I hope your Lenten seasons are filled with much spiritual regeneration!

love, Olivia

*ps: if you are finding difficulty posting a comment to this site, please let me know ;)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Food report

Hello All!

Haven't had a chance to get to this in a few days. The internet connection sometimes leaves much to be desired.

Had a few very cold days here lately. Luckily, I'm so bundled up I don't realize too much. Today on our way into work it was 27 degrees Fahrenheit but I didn't really notice until the maintenance guys told me.  I felt it later tonight when the wind picked up though! It cuts right through me!

As some of you know, during college I studied for a few months in France. One of the things I realized while there was that the French talk about food like Americans talk about the weather. Example:
Bob: "Man, this is some weather we're having"
Tom: "You can say that again.  I hope this rains clears so I can ride my bike to work"
Pierre: "I had the most amazing creme brulee last night..."
Jacques: "Really! Tell me all about it!"     (<<<very french-sounding accents of course)

Or something like that.  So, for this blog's theme I thought I'd do as the French do and give a food report.  (As I've already fulfilled my obligatory remarks on the weather--ha!)

One of the more notable events of going on an all-inclusive vacation is the food. For those among this readership that have had the pleasure of experienceing an all-inclusive cruise you are no doubt guilty of praising the delectables you'd consumed while aboard the ship. The variety of the tastes, the availability to snack whenever your heart desired, and probably how much you'd eaten! This vacation has some relatable characteristics: we do have variety (goat's milk or goat's milk claiming to be cow's milk or goat's milk claiming to be soy milk), we kinda have availability (providing you can get to the open chow hall on the other side of base), and we will no doubt have those among us that will do the squadron's share of consumption (there's a saying about deployments that you either return "Fit or Fat"). 

However all that said, I'm not the best person to give an accurate report on the chow halls. Instead we get our meals delivered (yea, we're kind of a big deal!) Yet, instead of a hearing the appealing sound of crystal glasses being dinged with a spoon to alert that our food has arrived, we get something like: "Mermites are here!!!"

Mermites: (mher-mites) noun. Informal. 1) Food-like material delivered four times a day in deep metal trays within plastic bins to crews on alert that have no other choice but to eat one of six separate options 2) Possibly below human-grade substances with food sounding names

I've heard the origin of this term is rooted in the name of the company of that manufactures the plastic bins.  However, upon closer inspection I've learned the current name on the side of the carrier case is Carlisle.  So this at least throws out that theory. I've similarly heard that this term of endearment has something to do with the preparation; that all the food is boiled and the current name is a blend of the words mermaid and bites. Although, I'm going to have to throw this one out as well because I have a hard time thinking that the beef stew I ate a few nights ago was in fact boiled (the beef chunks probably were though). While I will continue to search for the real meaning behind the name, I fear the true origin of our beloved "mermites" might be lost forever.

The mermites aren't all that bad though. They at least provide a fair share of the food pyramid requirements. One can choose a protein (chicken or beef ), a starch (always potatoes! just like being in Germany) and some veggies (these are the most varied...however, I've never seen a turnip prepared that way).  One can arguably keep to a balanced diet and even with a halfway adequate fitness regimen might just return in the "Fit" category of the "Fit or Fat" joke.  There is also a dessert choice! We had brownie-cake tonight! I'm pretty sure it was supposed to be a chocolate cake, but it was a little too thick and baked a little too long.

If there is one thing about the mermites I can craft some constructive criticism on it is their poor construction. And for all the maintenance guys that accuse me of being "the one that ruined dinner" and now refer to me as, "Captain Stew" I say this to you: it was shoddy workmanship and it wasn't my fault!!! The other night I was helping myself to the aforementioned beef stew. Yet, when I tried to pull the tray from the bin it only slid out about two inches. My other hand was holding my plate, so I gave it another little tug.  Still no dice. Finally, not getting the desired results, I yanked on it. Less than a second later I watched as three gallons of brown slop flung out from the box, stuck to my uniform and proceeded to make the most grotesque Chewbacca-zombie costume ever to grace the hangar.  I was completely engulfed in the stuff!  To make matters worse, I was now (more than I already was before) crunched for time and as I ran in a dead-sprint to the restroom with brown gook running down to my boots and an extra set of pants in my hands people must have only thought the worst! aye!

On that note and with that fun mental image in your heads, I'm off! 

Special thanks to Cassie for the chocolate! It arrived today and I gobbled a few pieces then shared the rest. Unfortunately they deliver the mail in front of the whole group so I was forced to share and not hoard---j/k!....I shared....most of it.

Thanks for all the prayers!

Love, liv

Saturday, February 4, 2012


The request for my address has been asked more than once, so I thought I'd post it on the blog.  Thank you in advance, if you send something! Please address exactly as below and don't include my rank or my current country on the labeling.

Olivia Hardy
APO, AE 09347

love, liv

a little skinny on my first days

I'm going to attempt to update this a couple times a week.  We'll see how that goes.

So, to start, we have arrived.  It is cold! And rainy! REALLY RAINY!

We had a minor setback in Germany, but we didn't complain too much.  I had an opportunity to visit the town of Tierre, Germany. On our first night about ten of us went out and had a traditional German dinner.  We decided on a chic looking cafe in the downtown area. As we strolled up, it appeared about half full with similarly aged, good-looking peeps we thought, "Sweet! We'll fit right in!" Well we fit in alright. We fit in among ourselves as we were quickly ushered and seated in the back of the restaurant alone! Whole restaurant hopping in front, non-German speaking Americans in the back.  By the service door. What nerve!

Well we had a good time anyway. We laughed and sang and told jokes and pretty much carved ourselves into the exact stereotype that was probably expected of us by the hostess. I tried spitzel for the first time, with a side of potatoes. (Every side is a potato dish! Cassie, you know exactly what I mean.) I avoided the beer though. I know, I know be in Germany and not even try the beer. Turns out German beer (un-)surprisingly smells like all other types of beer which I've never had an affinity for--so I passed. But I did partake in the German chocolate cake! Which, by the way is just called "chocolate cake" in Germany. It was delightful!

After dinner we went out looking for a futbol game. Apparently there was a big Germany versus England game and we thought it festive to do as the locals do.  When in Rome. However, none of us could really understand what was going on and there wasn't very many English-speaking peeps to converse with so, once again, we stuck out like sore thumbs.  It wasn't all for naught though, I acquired a one liter stine from the sports bar for which to drink my coffee here at work.  I realize this is overkill, but it looks really cool. :)

We finally, boarded the plane and after a short seven hour flight touched down in Kandahar, Afghanistan. I was able to talk the pilot into letting me sit up front for landing and even though it was at night, i got a pretty good lay of the land. (Well, the loadmaster loaned me his NVGs so I wasn't comepletely in the dark.) I'll update more (possibly tomorrow) on my settling in here. It's been a crazy start but things are finally sinking in. Please contine to pray for our crews, they really do deserve the extra attention.

Until next time!

Friday, February 3, 2012

I am here!

Hello All,

So we've arrived and we've hit the ground running.  Apologies for not getting too much in the way of emails out as of yet, on top of being super busy setting-up we also have not so great internet connectivity. But alas, I am here.