My apologies for the hiatus since my last post. I have been working on evaluation reports for my Soldiers. While it is extremely important to capture all the accomplishments for my outstanding Sergeants, it is also mind-numbing over time and requires a fair amount of mental resetting. I’ve done a hard-restart, checked the power, and I’m ready to write again.
My latest travel adventure continues in that lovely sandbox we call TheHate. Near the end of our adventure, we were afforded the opportunity to visit the capital city. TheHate City is the crown jewel of the country complete with royalty, exorbitant displays of wealth, and taxi drivers as terrifying as that one Uber driver that turned out to be a serial killer. I was lucky enough to take two trips to this gulf paradise on the edge of a country where Dune was likely filmed.
On my first adventure, I spent the day with a like-minded individual who was looking to escape our regular duties for a time. We’ll call him Starlight because I loved Rainbow Bright as a child, and he was my first real connection to Rainbow Land. Starlight chose to wear some short, exuberant shorts, making him stand out among a culture sporting floor-length, robe-dresses. That fashion choice works better for students of Hogwarts than for aging oil tycoons. Sure, that area has been wearing Thawbs since the beginning of time, but even I gave up my slouch socks after 1995. I suppose I have a double standard for cultural garb since I happily accept the continued wear of kilts by Scotsmen. I accept that I am muddled and move on. Starlight and I walked along the coast until we found a mall stretching out on a pier into the ocean. Beautiful location! They had air conditioning and food, so we stopped for a while.
Meanwhile, the man-dress mafia was giving Starlight the evil eye for his shorts. There was a hilarious mix of disgust and jealousy, as displayed by the group doing several laps past our table during breakfast. Starlight and the Scandalous Shorts should be the next episode of Rainbow Bright.
Continuing our journey on foot, we passed the Sief Palace, a marina that would make the EPA cry, and the National Museum. While we were told that the museum was closed for the afternoon, the doorman gave us the impression that the museum was closed to western devils every day. Was is the scandalous shorts? While drinking smoothies across from the palace, Starlight decided we should try our luck with a taxi. We were told to check out a tourist trap called the Green Island, so that was our next destination. Finding a taxi wasn’t hard, but our Arabic pronunciation was non-existent. I know that the Arabic word for “Stop” looks like two men in a boat. God bless Google translation technology that can say “الجزيرة الخضراء” to a very confused driver doing 70kph on city streets. The Green Island was a large spit of land that boasted snorkeling, glass-bottom boats, picnic areas, and additional tourist gold. The gentlemen at the ticket counter acted as if we were bothering them when we asked to purchase tickets. They sold us two tickets to the park for the US equivalent of $3 per person. We quickly discovered that the park was in its off-season. We paid $6 to walk through a construction zone and a draining lake. Laughing was the only option as we stepped around cones under the scorching sun. Did I put on sunscreen lately?
Starlight and I rounded off our day with a smorgasbord of seafood at a place called Shrimpy’s and a visit to the iconic towers. Having visited the Seattle Space Needle, we felt like we had already had a similar experience, but the view of the nighttime skyline was beautiful. Also, we noticed a waterpark below the towers that was much larger than imagined at first glance. This was when I noticed my sunburn. I had sweated off my sunscreen and not reapplied. Fortunately, I had been wearing long sleeves and pants, so the only burned areas were by forehead and collar. It blistered over the next few days, and I vowed to protect myself better from the evil fire-ball in the sky.
The next time I was able to make a trip into the city, I was with several friends from my platoon and HQ. My friend from HQ has short hair, and I have teased that it feels like a hedgehog when it grows out. For this reason, we will call her Sonic. Another friend is also someone I view as a great leader, so we will call him Leonidas. Sonic, Leonidas, several Spartans, and I decided to check out the waterpark near the towers. The experience started out rough when Sonic and I went into the changing room. Going into separate stalls to change, I didn’t hear when the bathroom attendant misunderstood Sonic’s short hair and kicked her out of the changing room. It was traumatic, and the whole waterpark was ruined for her for the rest of the day. I should’ve taken this as an omen of things to come.
I had done some online research after the experience with the scandalous shorts and read that only that no bikinis are allowed in the waterpark. No problem! Before deployment, I had purchased a swim dress that looked more fitting for a grandmother only because I’m looking for aquatic fun and not a date while I’m overseas. However, I severely underestimated the amount of acceptable skin for a woman in a predominantly Muslim country. In addition to arms and calves exposed, I also had several large tattoos on display. As I exited the changing room, it felt like a laser focus was trying to melt me into the hot asphalt. As we made our way through the park, the blatant stares were so bad that the Spartans were commenting on the possibility of a stoning. Deciding to be unapologetically American, I held my head high and owned the majestic creature that I am. Several of us waded knee-deep into the ocean, just to feel the waves. Unfortunately, the tide was coming in, and the amount of trash floating in the water reminded us that we were still in TheHate. For such a wealthy country, you’d think their waste disposal would involve more than simply dumping it in the desert. Jokes about sharks ran the Spartans out of the water, and I followed, fearing floating plastic more than any sea life foolish enough to swim in these ruined waves.
Continuing the defiance of wearing a vagina to a waterpark in the middle east, I decided waterslides was what we needed. Our first group of waterslides were mild enough to make us step it up to the next level and get in line with all the kids. By kids, I mean boys. Boys that have been brought up with a different set of beliefs that showed in the confusion and judgment in their eyes. “It’s okay, kids. I’m just here for the same thing you are.” I tried to smile reassuringly and talk pleasantly to my Spartans. At the end of the waterslide, these kids were blocking my way out of the pool. Was it intentional or just oblivious children? The lifeguard yelled at them, and they scattered. It hurts my heart to think that those so young can already have so much hate, but children only know what we teach them. Dropping the existential crisis, we decided the racing slides with the foam mats were the final destination. I learned two things on the racing slides: 1. My hat covers my eyes at any increase in speed; and 2. Tucking your head down when you can’t see will only make you go faster. Let’s just say I won the last race and almost exited the pool on my foam mat.
I was happy to be allowed to visit the capital city, but despite all the wealth, it is still part of TheHate. My parting thoughts are to always wear your sunscreen and whether you are wearing a kilt, Thawb, or a swim dress, hold your head high, and don’t let anyone else’s opinion bring the hate into your life.