Update From Caldwell
Date Published: 24 August 2004
Things are moving along here. I'm fine. My roommate moved to another base a few days ago, so now I've got a room to myself. However, that probably won't last since it sounds like I'll be moving to another base (separate from Chris) as well in a few weeks. Still most likely doing the same kinds of missions, though. Accomodations won't be as nice if and when I move, and Internet access will be much more limited as well.
I got a request to talk a bit about the living conditions for the Iraqis here. In this area things are very rural most of the places we go. The largest city nearby is Balad Ruz, which you'll find on CNN a bit if you do some searching as a site of some car bombs and other insurgent activity. It's the scariest place around here, but is not nearly as bad as Najaf or Fallujah. There are plenty of real buildings in Balad Ruz, with air conditioning and other amenities that we take for granted. Outside of the city, though, most people seem to live in mud brick one story (usually one room) buildings, most often with no doors or with a sheet or curtain for a door. There's no plumbing or air conditioning, and I'm not sure what is done about bathroom facilities (nor am I sure I want to know). It's stiflingly hot most of the day. Most of them have some electricity, though.
The children wear colorful clothes and are always on hand playing or just watching when we drive by, and usually they run to the road waving or giving thumbs-up signs as we pass. At some point once they get older, they stop wearing colorful clothing and the women all wear black 'ninja suits' and the men wear generally simple clothing. Some wear white dress-like garments. Mostly they wear western-style t-shirts and pants or professional attire. Nobody wears shorts, and I think even the shirts are usually long sleeved now that I think of it.
There aren't many schools in the area. I spoke to some Iraqi kids who were perhaps 10 years old the other day and they said this week was a holiday but that next week they would be in school in Balad Ruz (this was 20km or more outside Balad Ruz). So, I think most of the rural folks, if they want/need an education, must travel to the cities for it.
There are a lot of sheep and shepherds in the area as well. We see them all the time, and usually try to throw them some bottled water or something. I'm not sure where such people live, or how they get by all day, since they're not carrying anything that I can see in the way of food and water with them as they walk across the desert.
There are some palm tree groves in the area, but they're pretty few and far between. Standing in the shade of the trees, which I think are actually date trees judging by the fruit on them, it's actually fairly cool by comparison these days. We've been to several such groves and so far have only found one to have anybody living under its shade, which was a surprise to me since it's the first place I would think to want to put a home away from the desert heat.
A few of us in my platoon were discussing it the other day, and we all pretty much agreed that we hadn't seen a single piece of land in Iraq that we would think would be nice enough to want to buy or even considering visiting again. It's hard for us to understand why the people who live here stay here, unless they simply don't know how hard it is compared to other places in the world (and not just the US).
Steve is an experienced software architect and trainer, focusing on code quality and Domain-Driven Design with .NET.