Iraq Blog - September 2008
DAYS 1 & 2
Austin to Chicago, Chicago to Frankfurt, Germany. No delays…that’s a good start! No 40 hour ride type crap like our last trip home from Dublin. Props to Lufthansa for their on-time service, decent food, and friendly flight attendants (not to mention free drinks, of course!). Everyone’s feeling good and the vibe of things to come is in the air for sure – slightly anxious yet generally excited, and just that overwhelming feeling that we’re going to have journey that not many people will get to experience in their lifetime, but with almost absolutely no idea of what to expect. We had been briefed by the production company sending us overseas and had a long band meeting to discuss the semi-obvious odds and ends. Bring socks. Bring a towel. Good shoes. It’s going to be Ramadan. It’s going to be hot. Be flexible and patient. Go into the bunker if there’s a mortar attack, etc, etc. Other than these type tangibles, it was all left to the imagination.
In Frankfurt we meet up a couple more folks joining the entourage; Matt Hulet, one of our two tour managers on the trip (and who has done several similar tours with his band Hollowell), and Joey Medina, the hilarious comedian and one of the original ‘Latin Kings of Comedy.’ The connection after the “nice to meet you” formalities is immediate, no weird silences or hopes that we’ll maybe get along. It’s like we knew that we were ALL going to part of something special, so might as well get comfortable quickly with these new faces.
Frankfurt, Germany to Kuwait International Airport is the next leg of the tour. Arrive about 9pm local time and head to the Visa counter. Take a number, collect passports. Wait. Wait a little more, and a little more. 2 hours later the stack of passports with Kuwaiti entrance visas arrive in hand, and we’re off to collect the baggage. Search one corner of the building, the next one, then the next one, and finally we find it lined up in some sort of orderly fashion…relief. Now if only everything was there. It is. More relief. Alright, good so far.
We follow Matt through the main exit of the airport and past the drones of folks waiting for family and friends. Right at the exit, and under the “Welcome to Kuwait” sign we are easily spotted by Ben Adamson, our other tour manager, and the military escort sent with him. The heat smacks you in the face and body right away. You’d think that being from Texas would prepare you for such an onslaught of oven like temperatures and steam room type humidity, but this is unlike anything we’ve ever felt. The warning to drink water constantly is instantly confirmed, for some at least. Throw the bags and instruments in couple pickups, personnel in the Mitsubishi passenger van. This is where we meet the very friendly Brodie, our driver and de-facto tour guide for the 45 minute ride to Camp Arifjan.
Arrive Camp Arifjan at 1:30am. It’s a base built by the Kuwaitis for the US after the first Gulf War and at that point, between the darkness of night and our blurry eyes from 30 hours of travel, we can’t see much more than our accommodations. Everyone is handed a key to their room in the barracks, which definitely had the college dorm feel to it. Small but comfortable size quarters with bathrooms and showers on each floors. But what did it matter, sleep is what we needed and the news of a good night’s rest was all we desired to ready ourselves for the road ahead.