Best Regards from Baghdad

My One Year in Iraq

The Dining Facility - DFAC

June 4, 2007 - When there's nothing much to do, it's very easy to focus on food.  At least it is for me!  At the Palace, there are two places to go: the main DFAC (which we dubbed "D'Faccio's") or the smaller DFAC in the Palace ("BabyFAC").  Both offer a fairly wide variety of food.  The main DFAC has hot food, three times a day.  The smaller DFAC has fruit, muffins, oatmeal and a "lighter breakfast," and lunch and dinner are always the same thing - soup, salad and sandwiches.

The DFAC is run by KBR.  Mr. Lee is the man in charge.  He does an amazing job considering that he feeds several thousand people a day - four times a day (breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight rations).  A friendly guy, he believes in "MBWA" - Management by Walking About.  You'll see him cruising the DFAC during mealtimes, wearing his baseball cap of the day (he has one for nearly every baseball team in both leagues!) and making sure it's all good.  I believe he used to be a food manager on a cruise ship; someone told me it was a prison.  I figure Baghdad is somewhere in between - the most exclusive gated community in the world; the fanciest trailer park you'll ever see.

At any rate, I wanted to dedicate a page of photos of what the DFAC looks like during different holidays.  Mr. Lee was kind enough to give me copies of his pictures from Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter and Mother's Day.  While it's not exactly mom's cooking (and for some of us, that's a good thing!) the men and women of KBR do their best to ensure our bellies are full and we are happy.  In Spanish they say "Panza llena, corazon contento."  Which means, Fully Belly, Happy Heart.  And even when we don't have conveys for weeks at a time and there is no fresh fruit, veggies, Diet Coke, skim milk, etc., no one goes hungry.

So, to Mr. Lee and his crew - Thanks to you for all you do!!!!!

The Dilemma and the Possible Solution

July 25, 2006 - They say you'll return from Iraq as "a hunk, a chunk or a drunk."  I don't drink much, but, while some people eat to live,  I live to eat.  I love food - all kinds, especially chocolate, sweets and starches.  And here I am in the biggest, most varied cafeteria I have ever seen - and it's all free!  Oh, man.  There is Baskin Robbins ice cream, soft-serve ice cream and frozen yogurt, sandwiches, salads, about five main course, all kinds of pie and cake, those huge soft cookies - you name it, they have it.  Sunday we had lobster and ribs with corn on the cob, etc., etc.  Tonight there was a taco bar, or beef stroganoff; lunch was Indian food. 

And did I mention Mid-Rats, by the way?  If you're still hungry betwen 10:0 p.m. and 12:30 a.m., you can get "Midnight Rations," which are basically the leftovers from that day's lunch and dinner.  And who said you could escape leftovers. . .

So, how does one eat without overeating and without blowing up like a balloon?  How can I fight what I like to call "The Baghdad Bulge?"

Well, there is much to do.  There is a huge gym open 24 hours a day.  There are lessons in yoga, jiu jitsu and even belly dancing!  There is a huge pool at Liberty; and for me, there is the Palace pool -  an Olympic size pool steps from my hootch.  And you will have plenty of time to choose an activity.  For me, it was swimming.  I try to swim every day at lunchtime (swimming after work was too complicated and I cannot get myself up early enough in the morning to do it.)   I started to keep track of the time and laps I swim each day and to see how I do.  I'm not sure what my weight is these days (and I may not WANT to know!), but I hope to have some weight off by the time I go home in September.  I have a wedding to go to and my 15-year old son told me he wants to see me come home "lean."

So, wish me luck and send me all sorts of exercise and restraint in eating vibes.

December 7, 2006 - When I got back from my first R&R, it was starting to get too cold to swim, so I started going to the gym.  There, I do cardio (exercise bike, elliptical and rowing machine/erg), and light weights (machines).  For a while I was getting up at 6:00 a.m. and working out before work, but I was becoming exhausted and depressed from not sleeping enough.  Now I try to go on the weekends.  But it isn't enough.  I truly need to get myself into a routine - either starting to go at lunch for an abbreviated workout, or forcing myself to leave work by 6:30 p.m., get in a short workout and make it to dinner before Defaccio's closes or try again to get up in the a.m.  Perhaps when I return from R&R. . .  But for now, at least I am getting there twice a week.  It seems like there isn't anything else to do BUT work and workout, yet the days fly by and trying to find time is hard!  (I have an MBA in excuses, don't I?)

February 9, 2007 - OK.  While I was home on R&R, I was shocked to see how much weight I had gained since I started getting ready to come to Iraq back in June.  I have re-dedicated myself (for the umpteenth time) to following a good diet and exercise plan.  I started out the day after I got back (January 4) on Weight Watchers, and returned to the gym, but nothing!  So, this past week, I switched from the traditional "Flex" WW plan and I'm doing the "Core" plan.  It seems to be doing the trick; I lost a couple of pound this week.

I have also started doing more and more work on the indoor rowing machines ("erg").  (See "You're Such a Mom!" to read about my fundraising efforts for my son's crew club.)  I try to do about 20-30 minutes on the erg and 20-30 on the elliptical.  We'll see how this works.  I have started logging my rowing on the Concept2 website (they make "ergs"), and my husband and I gave each other a barely-used (one-day) erg for Valentine's Day.  He's using it at home and I'm working out at the gym here.  When I go home, I will be able to use the erg at home, so NO excuses not to exercise while on R&R!

Tomorrow I will compete in my very first indoor regatta - 2,000 meters.  Yesterday I clocked myself doing the distance in 9 minutes 06 seconds; today I did it in 8 minutes 47.  Tomorrow?  We'll see!!!

Erging for Real

February 9, 2007 - I am so excited and childishly pleased!  I just competed in my first 2,000 meter race and came in SECOND!  I was so thrilled!  I as the oldest woman there and the woman who beat me is 29 and used to row in Princeton's Crew when she was in college.  I timed myself earlier this week to see how long it might take me to do the 2000 meters.  On Wednesday, it took me 9 minutes and 6 seconds; on Thursday, it took me 8 minutes and 47 seconds and today - EIGHT MINUTES and 45 SECONDS!  I got a very nice medal that says "Palace MWR - MSMI - Central (IZ) - Baghdad,Iraq 2007."  It has a red, white and blue ribbon with "2nd Place" writte on it.  I have never won a medal or competition in my entire adult life, so I am very, very excited!  I plan to wear it all around for a couple of days until I drive everyone crazy and they are sick and tired of seeing it.  Even the RSO (Regional Security Officer) gave me an official RSO memorial coin. 

I also checked my time on the Concept2 website (they are the makers of the "erg" machines we use) and I am 69th out of 206 women worlwide in that time competition.  Can you see my cybersmile???    I think I may have found my niche here. . .