Friday, July 31, 2009

Once in a Lifetime

On Friday, 31 August, I was fortunate enough to be one of the few soldiers in my company to visit the Ziggurat of Ur. It is an ancient temple that was built over 4,000 years ago. Over the last 90 years it has undergone some reconstruction. There was no tour guide on this trip, so it was a challenge to try and distinguish between the original structure and the parts that were repaired. Myself and another educated soldier from my company were as close to tours guides as we could get. By the standards of most Americans it's not much to look at. This was easily seen as many other soldiers walked around looking bored, lost, and confused about all the hype. Many soldiers had no clue that they were walking on top of one of the oldest man made structures on earth.

For me it was quite the opposite. I am amazed that I was privileged to experience this world wonder. I could have spent all afternoon out there. I sacrificed 4 hours of sleep to see it, and I would have given up 4 more. I knew it would probably be my only chance to see this ancient temple. It was surrounded by ruins of the ancient city, but they were off limits. I would give away my air conditioner for one month to have a day in those ruins with an archaeologist!

It was difficult to find a lot of background info on the ziggurat. The online sources are limited, and have inadequate citations. This site seems to cover all the main points. It isn't well written, and I am sure most of it is plagiarized, but it will give you some of the basic facts about the Ziggurat of Ur.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Just After Dawn, Right Before Bed

I walk into the rising sun on my return from the gym. This morning I am early and the sun is just above the horizon. It is an unusually cool morning. The mercury must have dropped below 85 before dawn. The wind is at my back edging me towards the place I now call home. I am reminded of my real home as the subtle shades of pink and orange play around the feather light cirrus clouds in the sky. My legs feel long today, my strides are powerful.

I must cross a barren dirt field to reach my living area. If death has a color it is the color of the earth here. As I near the other side of the clearing I see some movement. A squad of soldiers is preparing for the day's mission. It is a scene I have witnessed many times before. The sounds and movements are familiar. More than half way back.

As I close the distance between the soldiers and myself my attention is drawn to their vehicles. It looks like they have used old cans of black and green spray paint to create a camouflage pattern on the Humvees. The effect has made the trucks look like steel cows. Large, boxy, ugly cows. Close enough to see into their eyes now.

As I pass the soldiers take little notice of me. I barely glance at them. I am more interested in the bird shape on the door of the third Humvee. I wish I had looked at it closer. I must twist around and look behind me to see it now. Like finding animals in the sky. I don't want them to think I am strange, so I do not look back. Only 100 feet from the entrance to my living area.

A soldier from the group runs past me. He has forgotten something, I assume. There is always one that isn't prepared. As I am about to pass the concrete barriers of the living area I take one last look at the group of men. I am suddenly wondering how many of them will return at the end of the day. Are they thinking the same thing? Will the bovine trucks be there tomorrow? Was that supposed to be a bird? Would I notice if one of them was missing? The gravel shifts awkwardly beneath my feet.