Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Things that go Rat-a-Tat-Tat in the night

One of the oddities about an assignment like the one I am on is that you are assisting people who are in desperate need of our help.  While I know things back home are in tough straits with record numbers seeking government assistance, things in the local area where I am residing presently are much worse off.  The level of poverty in a war torn country like this is unimaginable for the average citizen of the United States. 
I have traveled around this side of the world and have seen how tough things are for the majority of those in impoverished countries.  That is why what we do here is important as the aim is to have them help themselves and not need the continued assistance of the United States.  The goal is to develop self sustaining programs and teach them the skills that develop agriculture, business and opportunities for a better life for the people. And most importantly, rid the place of the idiots who show up in pickup trucks with guns who terrorize the people.

Anyways, I digress.  Here, life moves at a slightly different pace than back home.  As it is an Islamic Republic, the sounds of the call to worship are a regular occurrence.  It is not the sound that gets your attention ( as I have been in enough Islamic countries that I have heard it before), it is the timing.  Like the call to worship that comes at 03:45 each morning.  Yes, 03:45 A.M.  Now I am an early morning type of person ( yes, I know that alone makes me strange) but at 03:45, even I am cutting the long logs.  I liked Robin Williams in " Good Morning Vietnam " who said, " You know what the " O " in 04:00 A.M. stands for ??  It stands for " Oh my God it is early !!"

So that is one of the rhythms of the place that you become used to and get accustomed to when you are here for a while.  Then there are the sounds that you don't hear all the time and get your attention immediately.....

Like the sound of a large caliber machine gun being unleashed in the middle of the night.....accompanied by the sounds of helicopters hovering in the distance.  Now, the first point to make is this was not outside our walls.  It was a few blocks down the street. The second point to make is that the "anger" of the deal was not being sent our way...That alone was a blessing as we do not ask for or require that kind of attention.

Many who have served in a war zone will understand what I describe as you are laying in bed, asleep and then the quiet of your room is cut with the unmistakable sounds of " Rat-a-Tat-Tat " and the larger, deeper sound of a large caliber machine gun " Buck-Buck-Bu-But" in response to the guy who fired the first salvo.  This goes on for about an hour and you find yourself trying to make sense of what you are hearing as you attempt to pull your sleep filled brain out of the ether.  I could tell after a while that the sounds were likely from a certain location up the street a few blocks that the security experts let us know about when we arrived.

The sounds of gunfire were followed up with the sounds of helicopters hovering and swooping around so there were " angels " overhead supervising the game, which gave me some comfort. It is always good to have them up there and when I was the guy shouldering the weapon back in the day, I always loved to see the men & ladies of our military in the helos overhead as they were there to make sure we were well protected.

The festivities died down and I was able to roll over and regain a modicum of sleep again...until by 03:45 buddy did his thing right on schedule.  By 05:00 I was up and starting my daily routine.  When I went out to head to our offices, life in the city had gone back to normal and there were the usual sounds of the citizens preparing for another day.  It is a war zone but life has to go on for those who try to bring their country forward from the grips of those who would terrorize the populace.

My day began and I went to the office, got my breakfast and started on the days work of my small part in assisting the people here who need work and an opportunity to become a better nation.

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