Monday, August 22, 2011

When you're so busy looking forward, looking back is hard to do.

Holy mother!?!  It's mid-August!?  It's a hard time for me.  On the one hand, I'm SUPER elated.  That means its almost time to end my desert island stint (Hallelujah!).  On the other hand, its kinda sad.  It means that 2 years of my life have passed on desert islands, and as much as I bitch (its ok, I know I do it) about being on desert islands...  It's not been all bad.  Friends were made, I learned to dive in GTMO, I actually got to do my (trained for) job in Bahrain.  I survived 2 years w/o America. 

It's just hard to look back when I'm so busy focusing on MD in November.  New car?  New house?  New Place.  Those are pretty big things in comparison with things I've overcome while I've been stranded on islands.

By the way, yes I know that GTMO isn't really a desert island, but it was kinda, because we didn't get rain all that often (shall we recall all the writing in the dust on Teh Kaar?), despite being in the Caribbean, due to the mountains that surrounded Guantanamo Bay. 

Lets think of some small things that will be big changes related to going back to the states?

-For the first time since I've left training, I'll be able to wear my uniform off base.  In GTMO, we obviously weren't allowed off base.  In Bahrain, we're not allowed to go off base in uniform, which means getting to work early so you can again get ready for work by changing into uniform.  And if you have to go home in the middle of the day, that means changing out of uniform for the 20 minute excursion, and then changing back into uniform when you get back to work.  What this really means is, once I walked across base looking like an idiot wearing my super high socks with my gym shoes and capri pants.  Classy. 
-American fast food, besides McDonald's.  They have "American" fast food places in Bahrain, but usually, its not the same.  The ketchup packets you get aren't the same as ketchup packets in America.  I don't know how to explain it, they just aren't.
-Having to be on the lookout for unmarked cop cars and cop cars in general.  The speed limit in GTMO was 25..miles per hour..  You could get away with a bit over that, but you also knew where the MA's were usually staked out.  In Bahrain, the cops are... well, I'm not sure what they really do.  I've seen people pulled over before, but I've also seen cars weave through lanes in a construction zone, definitely speeding with a cop right behind us, and nothing happened.  I've passed cops doing well over 100kmh and nothing happens (praise Allah).  On the other hand, I'm so used to going slow (from GTMO) that staying at the speed limit wasn't so bad (when I was home on leave).  Yet, from Bahrain, I'm so used to going however fast I want, that it might be an issue now.
-No Saudi's.. or people from Dubai or Kuwait, or whatever other arabic names are on the plates I can't read.  They are like tourists in Florida.  On Wed/Thurs/Fri nights when the visitors come over, you can expect traffic to be heinous and people to be at their stupidest, not even factoring Ramadan into the equation.  And while there are stupid people in America, at least there is the potential of them using their signal light before they are turning and they often obey the lane rules at red lights.
-The probability of having to salute cars again.  In Bahrain and in GTMO there was no enlisted/officer base passes.. easy day.

There are definitely things about GTMO that I miss, and there will be things about Bahrain that I will definitely miss.
Diving- G
24 hour delivery- B
lack of law enforcement- B
relaxed work- G
3 day weekends- B
regular work hours- G
easy days- G
any day is beach day- G
proximity to everything- G/B
certain people- G/B
certain foods- G/B

But with school starting (yes I see all those copy/paste teacher and bullied child statuses), it makes me realize that the summer flew by.  Literally.  It feels like it was May not that long ago.  I don't feel like I wore shorts for long enough (which I'll prob blame most of that on Ramadan...).  It's hard to believe that 5 years ago I was starting my last semester of college (FIVE YEARS AGO?!?!). 

2 years ago, I was finishing my training in VA Beach.  I was going home and then getting on a plane to Gulfport and then to GTMO, my first, overseas duty station.  It's crazy to me that last year at this time I was preparing to come to Bahrain and my LPO was threatening me with dhow counting (oh so many freakin' dhows!).  I had pretty much turned over my job to a sexual harassment panda (who I've yet to hear all the interesting stories on, which kinda hurts my heart, because I know they are good stories).  I was headed to yet another island, yet another overseas duty station.  At some point between GTMO and now I seem to become immune to the fact that I missed certain American things (Texas Roadhouse, sushi (which thankfully we can get in Bahrain)).  It became a matter of ticking down the time till those things were actually available again, to me, in person, which is almost too much to comprehend.

I'm actually going back to America, and its blowing my mind.  2 years is long enough to get into habits that are for coping with the non-American things in your life (like power sockets and transformers in Bahrain).  It's long enough to stop missing some things.  It's also long enough to realize that people that were in you life when you left, have moved on and you are no longer a part of their life anymore.  It's long enough to forget what you are actually missing while you're away.

Side story:  when I went home on leave from GTMO, I had been on the island for 7.5 months.  I remember standing in the grocery store frozen section, stunned.  There were so many options.  It was more than 1.5 aisles (which is more than at the NEX in Bahrain) of frozen food.  There was almost half an aisle of just ice cream.  There were things I'd never seen before.  I stood there, stupefied.  At the same time, I was moved, literally, tears in my eyes (which is strange for someone that can chill wine with their heart).  This had all been there before I left and I hadn't even noticed... I hadn't ever noticed, because I never knew it didn't come standard.

My eyes have been opened by not being in America, and for that I'm grateful.  I'm ready to listen to people complain about how hot next summer is, and tell them, its not desert heat during Ramadan, so stfu.  I'm ready to walk in the rain and get wet.  I'm ready to hear frogs and crickets outside on summer nights.  I'm ready for the quiet of the winter.  And I know that I'll probably cry the first time it snows when I get back, because I missed snow more than any other thing while I was away.

Thinking of these things help put MD into perspective a bit.  That, for as much as happened in 2 years, settling into a familiar place may not be as difficult as settling into an unfamiliar place.  Time is whooshing by, but that doesn't mean that everything has to be done in one day.  Things can wait and not everything has to be planned (I'm sure if I tell myself this more often I might actually believe it one day in the far, far future).

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