Well, I promised some pictures, so how about the ones from our going away party. We seem to have a party about every month or so to celebrate someone arriving to or leaving from the team. It could also be that we are always looking for an excuse to have a party and to make Kamil cook for us again. But this time it was OUR time to be sent on our way in grand fashion.
As usual, we typically have Iraqi food for our parties. This time a lot of the local Iraqi employees had their families (read "wives" in this culture) cook us food for our party. We had all kinds of good eats, to include Dolma (sp?) which is like the rice and meat stuff you would fill in a stuffed bell pepper, except that it is wrapped up in grape leaves...it's wonderful.
Oh, and the two females are with the band. They were here for a huge ribbon cutting earlier that day so they got to join in the fun too. Not new members of the team.
What party wouldn't be complete without the requisite attempt by Steve on Oghale's life? I keep telling him though that the plastic forks won't do the trick. Once Steve recovers from the butt kicking that Oghale swiftly administered, I'm sure he'll be at it again.
During the night there was the obligatory semi-formal giving of speaches and gifts and such. One of the presents from the PRT as a whole were these huge photos of the pretty much the whole team and most everyone had signed them. Even the base commander left his mark. They're pretty cool...it just took a few days to figure out how in the heck we were going to mail them home. We basically had to cut up a bunch of boxes and make one big box for each one.
Also, the Iraqi staff gave us some gifts as well. I got what is supposed to be a brass replica of the oldest guitar in the world. LT got something that resembled a Christmas tree but it was supposed to be something else. You may also notice that we somehow convinced the Lieutenant that smoking cigars was cool during these pseudo-monthly parties. So here she is puffing away.
And what farewell party would be complete without a stirring speach by Dr. Khan, our local resident Chicago native engineer. He can sure give one heck of a speach and it's always hillarious with plenty of segways and non-sequitors. I swear to you at one point he said that "we had been here ten months and he was amazed that LT Neve wasn't pregnant". Or something along those lines pretty much. I swear to it - I couldn't make up this stuff if I tried.
Well folks...that's it for Iraq hopefully. In the next 24 hours I start hopping from one spot to another on my way back home. I wish I would have had more time and energy to blog, or at least for the internet to cooperate more often as well. But for those who have stayed tuned I'm glad that you did and I hope that I kept what is going on here in Iraq a bit more alive than the local media does for you. There are great things happening here and I think in the end this war is definately going to be seen as a success, especially by the troops and civilians who executed it and made it all happen.
This isn't signing off though. There will be other photos I'm sure once I get home and some more time. And who knows...maybe we'll even keep posting so that those of you far away can have some confirmation that we're still alive from time to time.
But for now, wish me speedy travels and safe pilots on our journey home.