Best Regards from Baghdad

My One Year in Iraq

Summer

August 12, 2006 -   Hot, really, really hot.  During my training course, the instructor told us "If anyone says 'But it's a dry heat,' you should kick them in the shins."  Well, it is a dry heat.  Some people compare it to standing in a small room with a hundred hairdryers all blowing at you at once.  Yes, but there's not that much of a breeze or wind.  You know the feeling when you open the oven door and it's preheated to 350 degrees?  It's something like that.  It can take your breath away.  I checked the internet (what did we do before google?) and found that the temperature can range anywhere from 120 degrees (F) in the summer to 19 degrees (F) in the winter.   But for sure the summers are hot.  Be prepared to dress in cotton, and in layers.  The air conditioning in the Palace ranges from adequate (like in my office) to downright meat locker-ish.  I found that dressing for warm weather, and carrying a jacket, was the way to go.  Luckily, I don't spend much time outside - just walking to/from my hootch, the office, the pool, the DFAC, etc.

Fall

October 2, 2007 -   When I got back from R&R in late September, the weather had changed noticeably.  According to the internet, it ranges from low to mid-90's in the day and low to mid-70's at night. It feels cooler than that - perhaps because of the lack of humidity.  But last night, we had rain for the first time since I got here.  First, there were high winds (we lost the satellite TV signal) and then it just came down.  Hard.  I stayed inside, but a colleague told me that she opened her door and the air was full of dust and dirt.  Once it rained for a while, the air cleared and she said it was actually quite nice to see the rain come down.  The wind did blow over some palm trees and there's even a rumor that one of the T-walls fell over (probably the sand below it eroded away with the rain, not because the wind was that strong!)  Anyhow, I am still wearing summer clothes, but with a jacket most of the time and it's downright pleasant.  More like late spring in DC.  Quite enjoyable.  The only drawback (so far) is that the cooler, moister weather seems to bring out the flies, at least in the early morning and late afternoon.  Hmmm.  Maybe that Deet I brought with me WILL come in handy!  In the meantime, the fall brings Ramadan and dates.  I mean the kind you eat.  Lots and lots of fresh, sweet, delicious dates.  Oh, my!!!

Winter

December 15, 2007 -  Well, winter is not as cold as it is in the DC area, but it's chilly.  The days are usually quite nice in the middle of the day - crisp and sunny.  The evenings can get down into the 60's and the nights are colder than that.  Since I don't have far to walk, I am comfortable with just a suit jacket, or a nylon windbreaker or a sweatshirt.  However, if you want to hang out outside in the evening (at the "Lock 'n' Load" or at "The Hump"), you probably want something warmer.  Also, if you have to walk far to your hootch at night (I don't), you probably want something warmer.  I will bring back my dress raincoat with the zip-out lining when I return from R&R in January, and that should be just right.  Needless to say, shorts are out and jeans are in for weekend and evening wear.  So far, we have had very, very little rain, but I'm sure that's coming. 

Rainy Season

January 14, 2007 - When I lived in New England we called this weather "raw," meaning it was cold and damp.  And with the rain comes the mud.  I have had to pick my way through puddles and mud, in spite of the pavement.  So, I ordered myself some "duck shoes" and plan to wear those to work and carry my "dress" shoes.  Also, I am glad that I have my windbreaker for casual wear, my London Fog for dress wear and two umbrellas - one I keep in my hootch and one I keep at work.  Hopefully this messy stuff won't last for long.

On the other hand, yesterday it was clear and the sky was so blue and the clouds so white that it looked like the opening scene from "Toy Story."  The colors were almost surreal; and at 4:30 p.m. there was a slight tinge of orange as the sun was getting ready to set.  With the palm trees in the background, it was a very attractive sight!

Spring

February 25, 2007 - Ah, spring!  The weather these days is downright pleasant.  The other day I took a walk along the river and enjoyed the shade of the T-Walls.  As I looked up into the crystal blue sky, delineated by the razor wire along the top of the T-walls, it was downright gorgeous.  While there are no flowers blooming (or even grass, for that matter), it is very nice to take a stroll, eat a meal outside (there are tables in the pool area just for that) and relax by the pool.  Not quite warm enough to swim (although I have seen a few hearty folk taking quick dips), but there are some sunbathers already trying to catch their Vitamin D.  When I went to the gym, some of the local KBR workers had started a pick-up game of soccer in a parking lot using sandbags as the goal posts.  What a totally universal sight that is!  Spring in Baghdad is one reason to celebrate.  The evenings are cool, the days are warm.  We like it.

Dust Storms

September 15, 2008 - Dust storms are a reality in the desert.  The wind blows and the dust/sand gets absolutely everywhere - in your skin, in the sheets on your bed, you name it.  Amazingly enough, there were no major dust storms while I was in Baghdad from July 2006 until July 2007.  However, they are a normal occurrence.  Today a friend (Keith Kluwe) posted some cool pictures of a dust storm to his facebook account.  I asked him if he would mind me posting his photos and he said no.  So, for those of you who wonder what a dust storm looks like, here are a couple of pictures (and no, the colors have NOT been altered!):