Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fallen Comrade

Don't know if there is some unwritten rule about sharing this, but I think people back home ought to know about Fallen Comrade ceremonies. I read that HBO captured the journey of a fallen soldier in a new drama starring Kevin Bacon, titled Taking Chance. The movie premiers February 21, 2009.

For me, it has been an emotional, surreal experience; to take part in a Fallen Comrade ceremony at the airfield I'm deployed at. After transportation is arranged, an alert is sent throughout the base, notifying us of the upcoming ceremony. At the appointed hour, thousands of soldiers, and others paying their respects, line the route. We quietly wait, knowing what is to pass before us. As the fallen soldier’s motorcade passes, all arms crisply salute and the silence that follows is haunting. We disperse, with thoughts of what his/her family must be going through playing through our minds. I am honored, humbled, and reminded of the realities of war; able to pay my respects prior to a soldier’s journey home. I thank God though, that this is not a daily occurrence.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I want to learn English!

Interesting how the foreign troops I meet almost ALL know a little English, learned in their country. I think to myself as they struggle, "how many US citizens know two languages?" The US should become better at encouraging and teaching students to speak another language fluently, period!

People I meet are eager to learn English, and I would like to oblige them, being a teacher and all. Those of you reading this, any help or suggestions you can think of, would be greatly appreciated.

I have become friends with Afghans, Polish, Korean and other coalition troops who seem to want to practice English and improve their skills. For many, it's their first time using the English they learned as a youth in an English speaking environment. I find it humorous that they are always apologizing for their "bad English" so I keep on encouraging them to speak and practice whenever they can. These people know the potential value of learning English and want to become fluent.

Here is a hint for those of you who WANT to learn. The military is a great place to use a foreign language. If you want to travel the world, are fluent, and don't mind the military lifestyle, then concentrate on countries where we have established bases. Learn their language. From what I have seen, you will use your language skills and be in the thick of things, which will make your experience very interesting. If the military is not for you, people (contractors) are making very good money using their language skills to help the US and foreign militaries. Again, a potentially great experience.

Teachers: What languages do your students know? In class, start exploring their language and set up word walls; label your tables, chairs, door, etc. with it's language counterpart; start the school day with introductions/ welcomes and end the day with good-byes in each language. By the end of the semester or school year, each of your students will be enriched with a slice of language they might otherwise have not learned. Good luck!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Half Way There!

Well, as of the 25th, I am at the halfway mark of my deployment. Three months are behind me, as I was "boots-on-the-ground" October 25th. Have met a lot of friendly and interesting people, traveled minimally, and sat in on some briefings I never would have had the chance to back home, I could go on.

In short, I am grateful for the opportunity to be here. It's funny, but I have not heard a lot of complaining going on. Oh, being in a joint environment as an airman, there are those who have to adapt to the Army's way of doing things. Not that that's bad. It's just that like any culture; each service has it's own "language", it's own way of conducting business, and it takes some time to assimilate if you are assigned to it.

An example? Some AF personnel are having to pull KP and guard duty, something they have never been trained for, but it is part of helping out, part of assimilating into the Army's culture. Oh, and learning military languages, each service has what you could call, it's own language, HOOOAH? Even ranks take a while to learn depending on the service. When I first arrived, I was wondering why there were so many colonels around, especially young ones! Well, I wasn't aware of the Navy's ranking system. Their enlisted wear something similar to an eagle for their rank and when walking past them, until you learn, you may find yourself saluting a twenty-year old. Can you tell I haven't posted in a while? I'm

Part of me believes I'm in a lull after only three months. As I've heard others say or describe it, it's Groundhog Day, every day. Pretty much the same routine, day-in, day-out. The challenge is finding what you like to do on your down-time and doing it. Time passes quickly here, before I know it, I will be home reminiscing about my experiences. Lots to talk about...

Teachers: I wrote about culture. Consider having a class discussion comparing the cultures of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, etc. to the diverse cultures in the US; African-American, Hispanic, Asian, etc. and compare their similarities, or differences.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

HGTV Dream Home Giveaway has started

Every once in a while, I am a sucker for online giveaways. To help me feel like I'm at home, I'm going to share with you one of the giveaways I enter yearly. It's the Home and Garden TV Dream Home Giveaway, which you can enter until Feb. 19th.

The details can be obtained from the link below and you can enter daily. The homes have been awesome throughout the years! Go ahead, take the video tour of the home in Sonoma, CA. To enter, there is nothing to buy, watch, or subscribe to. They even have their own blog for more information.

The only downside is, if you win, it would be an agonizing decision whether to keep the house or sell it? Why might you sell it? To pay the taxes that will be due from the windfall.

If you choose to enter - good luck! Here's the link: ENTER BTW - the drawing is live, March 15.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Nan - Afghan bread

Just got back from the translators' office late this afternoon after saying bye before they left for the day. I drop in frequently and was offered a cup of tea, as Afghans usually do when guests arrive. The tea was warm and refreshing. They've made it a point of teaching me some of their language so I can greet them and further educate myself on their culture.

I say "their" culture because these are Afghan-Americans, born and raised in Afghanistan whose families fled their homes when the Russians came. They were hired to help translate Afghan language news to English. These are not the only translators on base, there are many.

I bring up nan because I have had occasion to enjoy the bread while visiting their office. The group has invited me to eat with them when they are able to get local food brought in by their friends. It is infrequent, so a treat when it happens. I have sampled their lamb and chicken dishes when cooked by the locals.

Today, I was treated to a gift from the translators. When I arrived, they pointed to a small piece of nan left over from lunch. They said it was for me, so I nodded, said thank you - tashakur- and proceeded to grab it. They stopped me and laughed. The small piece was not for me, the big piece you see in the picture was for me, it was hidden by a piece of newspaper. Seems they each had a piece for lunch and decided to save one for me. I told them I would eat a piece of it and save the rest. They again laughed and said once I started eating it, I wouldn't be able to stop. They weren't kidding. As I write this post, I ate it! And yes it was good!
Teachers: If you are from a diverse area like I am, ask your students about their culture and any foods they eat that are similar to nan/naan. Look up its recipe and compare it's ingredients to their foods. Afghanistan is considered SW Asia, why? Have your students research the many cultures in Asia, what do the people look like - their similarities and differences.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Mother Nature's busy!

Mother Nature is busy these days. Finally some snow yesterday. And if that wasn't enough, this morning at 0100, we had a 5.9 earthquake

Was wondering when it would start coming down, it has been cold enough, but no moisture. Am from CA, so not very aware of the weather warning signs for snow. Now ask me about dense fog, and I can help you out, it’s prevalent in the winter. Why is this a big deal? I have not had many opportunities to live in a snow laden environment. Spent 3 months in Germany back in 87 and it snowed heavily, come to think about it, I was there for Christmas and New Years too.

Curious to see how it affects things in a deployed environment, will it slow down considerably? Fewer flights (sorties) for the helicopters, props and jets? Fewer troop movements, fewer enemy contacts? We’ll see.

As for the earthquake, I was surprised to find out that there is a history of earthquakes in the region. See USGS It gave me a good shake in bed this morning and I planned my exit strategy as I lay waiting for an aftershock or more severe shake, but it never happened. Not my first earthquake, but it was a total surprise . Wonder what Mother Nature has in store for us next?

Teachers: The above links will give you a head start; what is the geology in this region that contributes to it's earthquakes? Have their quakes been disastrous in the past? Explain. What does
USGS stand for, and what is their job? Do they have stats on your area? Explore.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Dreaming of a better tomorrow?

When I am eating at the dining facility, the employed Local Nationals, or LN's, walk up and down the aisles waiting for people to finish eating so they can prep the table for the next diners. I can't help but notice that the LN's glance at the big screen TVs situated throughout the facility and observe what is showing on Armed Forces Network (AFN).

I find it interesting because they watch what is being shown as if it is all new to them. Duh! You say? They see a variety of news, sports, entertainment, documentaries, TV series, movies, etc. and I see a sense of wide eyed marvel, (or is it curiosity?), about what they are viewing. These are people who may not have TVs and who look at the affluence of modern societies as depicted on the TV screens.

I wonder if they watch the TVs and think about their culture and their country's future? Are they dreaming of a better tomorrow while I, a US citizen, dream about what 2009 holds for me as I continue my deployment. I see a striking contrast. With that being said, Happy New Year from Afghanistan.

Teachers: Describe the scene and ask students to discuss what they think the LN may be "dreaming" about. What are the contrasts in our respective cultures? Research AFN. What is it? What programming do they offer the troops who are deployed? domain from: