Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Bread the (REALLY) Old Fashioned Way

I mentioned in a previous posting how much we love the bread here. Well, Staff Sargeant (SSG) Brad Attebery had the chance one day to see how one type of bread is made, the same type that we'd call 'nan' in an Indian restaurant. The following series of Attebery photos illustrates just how it's made, and how it's probably been made for centuries.

By the way, if you wonder why my blog is suddenly sporting so many shots from SSG Attebery, it's because he takes far more photos than me (partly because he, as a SSG, isn't stuck in the gunner's turret like I so often am) and because he just recently burned all his many photos onto some disks and we've all been making copies.

The bread is cooked in what is, I believe called (or maybe is just called in India) a tandoor oven. Posted by Picasa

You flatten your dough across a leather sort of pillow (seen here in his hand with the dough on it and then another on the top of the oven) and then slap the dough against the inside of the oven, where it sticks. Posted by Picasa

The bread bakes while stuck to the inside of the oven. Posted by Picasa

Then, if you're lucky enough to be dining with some of the local police like these guys from 4th squad, sit down with your nan before the main course is brought out. Bring plenty of Pepsi products because they don't have Coke here, outside U.S. Army bases. I believe this is because the Coke bottling plant is in Israel. Posted by Picasa


Most mosque shots we have, like this Attebery photo, are from some distance away. We're strictly forbidden by the Army to get too close to them and of course never go inside. If there were to be a bad guy shooting at us from or taking refuge in one, we could attack it. Luckily though, that hasn't happened yet. Posted by Picasa

Of course mosques can be large and ornate, like this beautiful one located on the other side of a bridge-building project. This one still sports towers large enough for a man to climb and make the call to prayer five times per day. Posted by Picasa

And mosques can also be small, as this one located about an hour's drive outside the city attests. Posted by Picasa

Another moving Humvee shot of a traffic circle with an ornate mosque in the background. Mosque architecture and decoration can sometimes be quite elaborate, as you can imagine. Posted by Picasa

This mosque near the soccer stadium appears to be a little more modern than the rest. Posted by Picasa

A distant shot of a larger mosque not far from the Citadel, this one sporting some impressive domes. Posted by Picasa

A mosque near one of the police stations that we work with. Note the speakers atop the dome. Most mosques have done away with men climbing into towers to yell out the call to prayer and now use loud speakers instead. The call to prayer might entail, I believe, expressions like, 'God is great, god is great. Come praise the one true god, come praise the one true god. Come praise his prophet Mohammed, come praise his prophet Mohammed. God is great, God is great.'Posted by Picasa

Yet another moving Humvee shot (note again the gun shield in the upper left corner) of a mosque near the KRAB. This one is wedged in between several businesses and I have actually seen inside the front door, albeit briefly while we drove past. I saw men on their knees with their heads on the floor, in the typical Muslim manner. Mosques have separate prayer rooms for men and women.Posted by Picasa

This small mosque is located in a large graveyard. By the way, those small, cradle-looking tombs actually hold the dead person's remains, although they're so small that we're not quite sure how. Posted by Picasa

One last, better shot of a mosque, again from SSG Attebery. You can see on this one how the original prayer tower now has been wired with loud speakers. Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Incredible Shrinking SAW

With a 100-round ammo pouch, a SAW weighs 21 pounds and it is bulky to carry, but even more so entering into/out of Humvees. However, soon after arrival in-country I heard of something that would help. A SAW can be outfitted with both a collapsible stock and a shorter barrel, which are usually only given to airborne units but were now available to all SAW gunners, if the parts were just ordered. With these two parts, my SAW could actually be shorter than the M-4 carbines (basically a shortened version of the M-16) that most of the guys here carry. I found this out ten months ago, while we were still at Camp Scunion.

At that time, one of our other platoons already had them, since they weren't stationed at Scunion and their host active-duty unit gave them all the stocks they needed, but no extra. I had to have them, not just for me but for all my similarly-suffering SAW brothers. At that time, I started badgering our supply guy to get the collapsible stocks for our platoon.

First they couldn't order them because we were only temporarily at Scunion. Then we had to move and get settled in here. And then the paperwork was finally submitted.

Six months after that, our supply guy found out why the parts were so delayed: someone at the KRAB had misplaced the order form. So new forms were submitted. I continued to jokingly badger our supply guys, here and there, while resolving myself that the parts would never come in and I would just finish out our tour with one long, bulky weapon. And then suddenly, like manna from Heaven, they arrived! I literally ran to the supply room to get one and install it immediately.

My SAW, nicknamed 'Sawz-All', prior to stock liposuction surgery. Note the flashlight mounted on the handgrips near the barrel, which is useful when entering darkened buildings. Posted by Picasa

The slimmer, trimmer SAW after a succesful stock liposuction.

I have to say that a SAW pretty much embodies the word 'utilitarian' as there is nothing asthetically pleasing about it - no smooth lines, no aesthetic design, no thought given to form at all as it is all strictly machine; all purpose, all strictly function (and for good reason obviously). But some rifles and shotguns and even a machine gun or two (like the German MG 34 and 42 from WWII) can have a certain grace about them. Not the SAW. It put the 'machine' in 'machine gun' for sure. Posted by Picasa

The SAW with stock collapsed, now named 'Shorty.'

Now that I finally have my stock, I can start bugging the supply guys about that shortened barrel...Posted by Picasa

Can you say duality of mission?

I think this Jake Smith pic of me (making a teddy bear-like face) pretty much says it all, with a SAW in one hand and teddy bear in another. Unfortunately I wasn't able to give out the teddy bear yet as I have to be careful with it. Essentially I want to give it to a little girl but I have to find one alone, without other kids around (who would go ballistic and all start begging me for one), who is right outside her house, so that she can run inside before any boys rip it out of her hands. Posted by Picasa

Kirkuk Dining Guide

Looking for local food in Kirkuk? Well, here's your dining guide – of sorts.

This is a shot of one of the best restaurants in town. Posted by Picasa

Like so many things in Kirkuk, similar stores are grouped together, so the other best restaurant is right next door, just a bit of which you can see to the left of this photo. Cost of a meal of lamb and/or chicken for a dozen people in either place might run you about $30. Posted by Picasa

Here's another random restaurant, which like most in the city isn't quite as nice as the place above. Posted by Picasa

And this is a bad, blurred shot (once again from a moving Humvee) of almost an ice cream parlor, just to the left. I just wanted to include this shot because it's an ice cream parlor but obviously hope to get a better shot before I leave.
 Posted by Picasa

If you are buying groceries, there are just a few markets like the one in this SSG Attebery photo. A larger, U.S.-sized supermarket was built by a Turkish company right near our base and it offers, when it opens, to be the largest supermarket in Kirkuk. It's been ready to go since we moved here, complete with brand new shopping carts, shelving, and all, but still has yet to open for some reason. Posted by Picasa

Small neighborhood bodega-like stores are very common. Here's a shot inside of one from Sgt. Shriver. Sgt Renon is behind one of our interpreters (in the hat with his face covered) and buying a few treats for his kids at home (and us) as local kids look on. Often, many of the packaged foods come either from Kuwait, Iran, or Turkey. Posted by Picasa

The bread here is excellent. It's generally pretty simple, but very fresh, nicely chewy, and a welcome change from the processed military food we get (imagine eating high school cafeteria food for each meal for a year). We love the bread but can't usually get it, unless a 'terp brings it to our base for us or when we buy a burger from the little burger stand in our base, which is run by a few of the 'terp's wives. This is a shot (again while I was the gunner in a Humvee and shot between the armored turret and the armored shield around the gun) of a local bakery. Note that these folks, like many people in Kirkuk, are happy to see us (we hope) and waving. Posted by Picasa

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