Monday, August 08, 2005

The Dust Weather

When I reluctantly woke to my alarm clock this morning, I noticed my room seemed unusually dark. My first hope was that I had set my alarm wrong and still had an hour to sleep, but a glance at my watch showed it was indeed time to get up. I staggered to my fridge to grab a Redbull to start the day, and cracked open my door. I was greeted by a wall of sand. It’s called a Shamal.

One of our interpreters, Junior, calls this “The dust weather”, sandstorms that begin in the western deserts of Iraq and Syria. Sand worn to the consistency of baby powder by eons of wind erosion is carried by the hot desert breeze from Anbar through Baghdad and into Iran. Breathing is painful, as each inhalation is accompanied by what seems to be a pound of desert sand. You can’t see unless you are wearing glasses or goggles, because no matter what direction you move, the sand buries itself in your eyes. Clothes, skin, hands and teeth are immediately coated with a gritty dry film. But duty is duty, so we trudged off towards the gate. As we drove, I noticed that the headlights of other vehicles took on an eerie, ghostly blue color, but everything else blended together in a orange and tan swirl.

Junior warned us on the way to the gate that no one would be coming to work that day, and he was right. A handful of Iraqis came in, but for the most part everyone stayed home, except the soldiers. We manned our posts, wrapped our faces up and toughed it out. All I can say is that it has been a long day. When I got back to the “pod”, the collection of trailers that we live in, I climbed into the shower and attempted to scrub the sand off. It had penetrated every pore, through my armor and uniform, into every inch of my body it seemed. Now, a couple hours later, I still feel the film of sand working its way out of my skin, and as I am typing this I am coughing up chunks of the western desert. Junior, ever the optimist, showed me the silver lining; he assured me as we were leaving the gate “the dust weather is not all bad, you’ll see tomorrow the flies will all be dead!” Thanks, Junior, for giving me something to look forward to in the morning when I stagger to the fridge for the next Redbull.


chris muir said...

Thanks for having the toon on your site,Mustang-it's an honor for me!

Breezy said...

Oh one day I'll be there too dude... One day.

Toni said...

What eerie pictures. That's just unreal or should I say surreal. Which do you think is worse - a blizzard with 30 or 40 mph winds and temps in the subzero range or this type of duststorm?

GI Korea said...

Your pictures bring back memories of when I was stuck in those Shamals during the war and OIF1. Those storms reminded me of the scene from the Mummy when the sandstorm rolled in.