January 23, 2007 - I asked some colleagues to finish this sentence ("Baghdad is the only post where. . .") and here are some responses (including some of my own):
--- You work in a palace, but live in a trailer. (Thanks to Sandy M)
--- The word "helo" is used as a verb, e.g. "I'm going to helo out to BIAP tonight."
--- My housing is smaller than my place in the States (usually we live like kings)
--- You sleep in a single bed.
--- The Health Unit has a flat screen TV, X-box, a massage chair and a Social Worker (we need this!!!)
--- You can walk down marble halls, under crystal chandeliers, in a palace and hear the sounds of a pick-up trio (guitar, banjo and vocals) consisting of two military personnel (one an officer, one enlisted) in camoflauge (with their weapons resting on the ground next to them) and acivilian in a suit and tie singing blue grass - during a "duck and cover" drill.
--- People really do work 24/7/365. Not the same people, but there are always people in the Palace.
--- You learn that helos always travel in pairs. If you're talking on the phone, you know to wait until they have both passed overhead before you can pick up your conversation
--- You share a bathroom with someone you're not sleeping with or related to.
--- They give you free drycleaning, free internet service and free cable.
--- The way in and out is via military transportation, and you have to wear a bulletproof vest and helmet to/from the airport.
--- People continue to load food onto their plates in the cafeteria even after hearing a bomb go off in the background. (Kellee F)
--- You can hear gunfire at any hour, day or night, and you recognize whether it's coming from the firing range or not.
--- Part of my job is drafting Mission Notices about the deaths of various colleagues - both American and Iraqi alike - due to violence.
--- You never know if your local employees will show up to work, or if the milita has closed down their neighborhood.
--- You can walk past the pool area and see an outdoor movie, karoake, bingo or "Baghdad Idol" going on.
--- There is an all-you-can-eat buffet at every meal, including frozen yogurt, soft-serve ice cream and Baskin Robbins. All free. Three times a day. Oh, my spreading waistline. . . (Here's where the next thing comes in handy!!)
--- There is a huge, free gym. And you're working out next to everyone from the local guard force (who are really from Latin America) to the DCM and other Flag Officers. And a sign admonishes "You must keep your weapon with you at all times." And the women's locker room has a few pairs of army boots stored under the bench. REAL army boots. . . Which brings me to the next one. . .
--- If your kid's schoolmate says "Your mother wears army boots," it's not an insult, but a statement of fact.
--- You find signs that say things like:
----------"No drinking while armed" (thank heavens for that one!)
----------"Slow down and show your ID and take off your sunglasses" (so that the guards that buzz us in and out of the Embassy building can actually SEE your face. . .)
---------- "Women Only" (in English and Arabic) on the ladies' bathrooms (unisex rest rooms are obviously frowned upon here)
---------- "Stay Back 100 meters or you will be shot" (Found on military vehicles. Not why don't they use these signs in the US when teaching kids how to drive???)
---------- "No hat, no salute" (I guess that's the military's answer to "No shirt, no service.")