The Cats play the Cards tonight.
Here’s to VICTORY!
The Cats play the Cards tonight.
Here’s to VICTORY!
On Joy and Sorrow
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater thar sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.
We flew from Bangkok to Cairo on the 21st of September. On the first day, we tripped around to Giza and the City of the Dead. Later that evening, we took the train to Aswan. Along the way, we stopped at Abo Simbel, Luxor, Karnak, Philae, Deendeera, Abydos, Hurghada and finally flew to Alexandria. We spent two days touring Alexandria. Taking in the new Library of Alexandria and Fort Qutbay as well as the Greek and Roman Catacombs under the city. We drove from Alex. back to Cairo where we toured the city in detail (Muhammad Ali Mosque, the Giza Plateau, Pyramids and Sphinx, Saladin’s Citadel, etc). We also took in Sakkara and Memphis and viewed the Red and Bent Pyramids as well as the Alabaster Sphinx and the Statue of Ramses II along with the Ziggurat of Zoser and the surrounding pyramids.
Then we were off to Israel. We spent about 5 days in Jerusalem viewing the old City and took day tours out to Nazareth, Akko (Acre), Ceaserea, the Dead Sea, the Jordan River and Masada. We met an old friend (Mali) from my days in the MFO in the Sinai. And we got the excellent airport treatment for which Tel Aviv is so famous. But that’s a story for another day.
Finally, we were on to Turkey. I wanted to see the Hagia Sofia. Primarily. That said, I was a bit anxious about Turkey. I’ve been to quite a few Muslim countries and Islam hangs over them like a pall. I don’t particularly care for it. It’s quite heavy and puts a damper on things. Israel did not have this except in the Palestinian areas of the Old City in Jerusalem.
We arrived in Turkey and I was quite pleasantly surprised. Islam is an undercurrent in Istanbul. They’re Muslim. You know it. They know it. No one gives a damn. I like that. It’s how it should be with all religion and it’s how it is in most non-Muslim places.
It was refreshing. I don’t think I saw but 10 Chadori/Hijab wearing women and they all seemed to be tourists. Nothing oppressive in Turkey about religion. They seem to all get along. I met quite a few Nestorian Christians and they had the same attitude. We’re Christians. So what! There’s none of the demand that their religion be respected at all cost. I like that.
Turkey was clean as well. That’s another thing about Muslim countries. They’re dirty and run down. Even newer places. It’s as if Allah has declared that “thou shalt not do maintenance.” lol Cairo is the worst. They built the city hundreds of years ago atop ruins. They didn’t remove anything. They cleared no land. Just started building atop the rubble. When those buildings started falling apart, they just built around them. And the dirt and grime. It’s everywhere.
Not so in Istanbul. It’s a beautifully maintained city. Clean streets.
And the people. Everyone was so nice. And they smiled. Very few mean spirited folks or scammers around. As a matter of fact, I can’t remember anyone even attempting a scam on us. We asked directions when we were lost and we were simply given directions.
The food was great as well. They had these pancakes with beef or veggies or jellies. Whatever you wanted. AND THEY WERE DELICIOUS. Of course, the Lamb Kabob was excellent. I ate so much kabob, I thought I was going to explode.
The Hagia Sofia or Aya Sofia was wondrous. Incredible. Amazing. It was gargantuan. The famous religious depictions were beautiful. Centuries old Art.
The Blue Mosque or Suleimein. One of the most beautiful structures I have had the pleasure to visit. More lovely inside than the Mohammad Ali Mosque in Cairo. Insanely intricate and well maintained as well. Simply beautiful. Can’t say it enough.
We walked around the city several times. Stopped by a few museums. The Istanbul Archaeological Museum was huge. Relics from Troy, Persia, the Ottomans, the Greeks, the Romans, and everything in between. It was amazing.
Then we went up the hill to the Topkapi Palace. I didn’t know much about it. I knew it was supposed to be gorgeous and historical. I hadn’t researched it. We almost didn’t go. Huge mistake. If you make it to Istanbul, you must go to the Topkapi Palace. Aside from it’s beauty and historocity. It has what are called “The Sacred Trusts.”
The Sacred Trusts are actual artifacts handed down (or stolen) from Empire to Empire from the time of Mohammad. His clothing. His water bowl. The plates off of which he ate. And not only Mohammad. There are relics from Fatima and “the Companions.”
That is some serious history.
There are also pieces of the Kaba’a from Mekkah and old keys and locks to the Kaba’a and the Grand Mosque there in Mekkah.
I could scarcely believe my eyes when I walked in this room. When I laid my eyes upon the Sword of Mohammad, I thought I was seeing things. I had to rub my eyes. Take my glasses off and clean them and take a second to let it sink in.
Imagine finding the sword of Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great. Imagine finding the actual clothing that Jesus wore or the actual cup and plate from the last supper.
I’m no believer in any of these religions, but, I have a keen interest in history. As a personality from an earlier age and a great historical interest, I have much respect for Mohammad. He built an empire from nothing. He created a religion and a culture which has lasted for over 1300 years. It’s not his fault that his religion and his culture has been hi-jacked by complete asses like Osama bin Laden, the House of Saud and the followers of al Wahhab. That’s not to mention the Iranian fools. And, still yet, it doesn’t take into account the idiotic Apologists in Europe and America who sell their lies to an ignorant populace.
At any rate, it was a singular experience for me to be able to gaze upon the Swords that Mohammad and his companions used to rise up out of the desert and plant the seed that created one of the worlds greatest empires.
I was awe stricken.
After Istanbul, it was on to Ephesus to see the Greek Ruins, the House of Mary where Jesus’ Mother supposedly lived out her last days and the Temple of Artemis. Next day it was on to Pammakule. These places are so full of history and culture that there is no possible way for me to do them justice. The Temple of Artemis is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
In this trip, we’d been fortunate enough to visit 3 of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. The Temple of Artemis, The Pharos of Alexandria (Fort Qutbay) and the Pyramids at Giza.
In my estimation, Abo Simbel is a great worthy of this acclamation as well. Abo Simbel is a wonder of any age much less to marvel that it was built thousands of years ago. But then again, Egypt is full of wonders that defy description, dazzle the eye and boggle the mind.
From Cairo to Istanbul in 28 Days. This was a great trip and we all very much enjoyed ourselves.
Hope you enjoy the pictures…Dave
(some of the pics in the slideshow are from earlier trips to Paris, Rome, Athens, Santorini, etc)
A little something that Habibi painted. I slightly altered the lyrics…lol
Spent the past week in Laos on my Visa run.
Had a great time with Unny. Can’t wait to do it again. It’s so cool traveling with her. Everything seems more enjoyable to me.
We spent a couple of days doing the backpacker gig. Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Vientiene. Kayaking and drowning in the Nam Khan! Then we flew back home and the plane damn near kills us…well, the pilot or the wind
But we made it and I laughed my ass off while the girl next to me puked her guts out!
This little bugger invaded my Condo last week. Evil looking little sucker. Those claws look like they could be used to filet an elephant!
Damn thing flies, too. Startled the hell out of me. It was all I could do to not scream like a school girl when it took flight and headed for my head. lol Don’t get me wrong. I got out of it’s way. Those claws are scary. Used a pair of tongs to pick it up and throw it off the balcony. Felt like it weighed a good 10 or 12 ounces. That shell protecting it’s wings and body was hard as rock.
Those claws and pinchers. I had no desire to test their tensil strength.
Grabbed it. Ran for the balcony and tossed it as far as I could.
No idea how it got up that high. We’re on the 15th floor. Must have been a good gust of wind that pushed it up to us.
Damn thing gave me the heeby jeebies. haha
I walked over the bazaar to say a final farewell to a friend. Hossein sells bootleg DVDs at Coalition Camps all over Herat. I’ve run into him all over the place. Primarily at the RTC, Camp Stone and Camp Arena. I’ve seen him tooling around downtown Herat once or twice as well. We struck up a friendship of sorts over the past couple of years. So I stopped by to say farewell.
While I was doing that, I ran into the Tea Pot. Unny wants to have a small cafe in Bangkok. So I figured it would make a nice piece to display at such a place. I picked it up for her. It’s inlaid with turquoise, lapis and some kind of red stone. I like it. It’s a nice little piece that I think she’ll like as well. It’s decorated with figures from Hindu and Buddhist mythology which ties in nicely with Thailand. Garuda is front and center in the picture.
The other pics are just random shots taken as I waswalking about the bazaar area and the camp.
It was the last time that I’ll see them. A bittersweet moment that left me feeling a bit melancholy.
I drove over to the RHQ to see them one last time. I pulled in and saw them sitting out in front of their little store. We waved to them as we passed into the RHQ. I had a little bit of business to conduct inside the RHQ. I wanted to get some Certificates signed by General Ak to present to my guys on Thursday when we have our little Hail and Farewell. Shoaib and I sat with the General for a bit. He signed our Certs and we chatted for a bit. He told me that he was going to get me a gift for Thursday. We joked a bit and then said our farewells.
After that, we went and visited with COL Zahir for a bit. He was all harried and had a cold. So he was cursing everything and grumpy until everyone left his office. We chatted for a bit and laughed and joked for a bit. Then I had to get going. I told my boss that I’d not be long out and about.
Funny thing. Jonathan called me while I was there and cursed at me for being out so close to departure. He doesn’t want to party alone in Dubai. haha
Finally, it was time to see the kiddies. We drove out of the RHQ and turned left into the parking lot where there family store is located. I jumped out. As I was pulling the bags out of the back of the SUV, Ali and Jalil came running over. Nahida, reserved as usual, stayed by the door of the mud brick store which her father built. I grabbed everything out of the SUV and carried it to the store. I held out the Kangaroo bag and the Mickey Mouse bag to give the boys a choice as to their preference. Ali chose the Kangaroo bag. Ali picked the Mickey Mouse bag. Next, I opened the big bag with all of the girl stuff that Unny, Orawan and Emmy had sent.
Odd to think that these items came from so far away. Bangkok and Australia. Such distance and worlds that couldn’t be more different than Afghanistan.
I took out the things in the bag and showed them to Nahida. Her eyes lit up as I showed her the sandals that Unny sent. She seemed to love the pajamas that were sent by Orawan. The favored item, though, was what I’d forgotten in the SUV. As I was showing her all of hair thingies, I remembered the Barbie Doll that was in my back pack. I walked over and pulled it out. The biggest smile I’ve seen on Nahida broke on her face. I think that one really made her happy. The pajamas ~ she loved them. The shoes ~ Nahida didn’t want to hand them back to me so that I could put them back in the bag. The Doll, though, she lit up and her smiled beamed as bright as Polaris. It was a lovely moment.
Nahida doesn’t smile a whole lot. She’ll break in a smile, but, it quickly goes away. A flash of brilliance just as quickly vanished. Seeing that smile come out for the Doll really made my day. As I’m sure the Doll and assorted other goodies made her day.
As you can tell from the pics, I tried to get them to do that John Wall dance. lol Not too successful there. But it was cute.
After we talked for a bit. I told them that this would be my last visit. They didn’t understand at first because Ali asked me when I’d be coming again. So I pulled Shoaib in and told him to make them understand that I was leaving Afghanistan. It was a little emotional I knew I’d get a little emotional once I got to that moment. I’m a little girly like that sometimes. lol I didn’t, however, think that I’d damn near start to cry. It was funny for me. Shoaib made fun of me a bit. He teased me for looking like I was going to cry. I told him; “Hell, I couldn’t help it. I’ve grown close to those cute little bubbas.”
I’ve been asked by a couple of people about adopting Nahida or Jalil or Ali. The subject has been brought up with the father. I asked about taking Nahida to the States to put her in school. A fairly affluent couple from Scandinavia asked about adopting or simply sponsoring Ali and Jalil for European citizenship/schooling. The Father will not do it. It’s a shame. Those kids could have a great life and excellent opportunities if their Father would allow it. He said that he wants to keep his family together. Who can blame him. Not I.
The other side of that is that families are economic units in Afghanistan. All of the children are earners of some sort. Whether it be bringing in money for odd jobs or working the shop that their father built or begging on the streets. They all bring in money to the family. Lose one and the whole family loses money. To lose three would be a fairly large dent in the family economic situation/ability to earn. Even so, I know that he’s been offered money to allow the children to go outside of Afghanistan.
Whatever his reasons, Baba jan wants his family to stay together.
Last note. I think Nahida thinks that Unny is as beautiful as I think she is. She asked me for another picture while I was there. So I gave up my last pic of Unny to her. I’ll have to get more printed. I like to look at Unny from time to time and see her brilliant smile. I think I’ll take all of the pictures on my wall and have Shoaib take them to Nahida. I’ve got them posted all around my room. I’ll not need the pics for much longer as I’ll have her.
I hope the Gods watch over my little children here in Afghanistan. I know I’ll think of them from time to time and wonder how they are. I wish there were a way to keep in touch. I will always feel blessed to have had these little people in my life. Even for so short a time. As I left, I gave the boys a big hug and swung them around one last time. It’s taboo to do such a thing to Nahida, so, I just shook her hand. I told them to take good care of themselves and to be brave and strong in life.
Khoda Hafiz Nahida, Jalil and Ali…
Since the Larry Vaught article a few people sent messages via email that they were sending gifts for my kids. The first box arrived on Wednesday night. I called and asked the military for a ride to the RHQ and took the gifts to Nahida, Jalil and Ali. They were so excited to receive the toys and other items. It was a cool day for all of us.
This particular box was from a friend from WildcatNation ~ PsychoCat. Thanks to PsychoCat, I was finally able to give some real girly stuff to Nahida. Like I said earlier, I’m clueless as to what a girl might want. Nahida loved the gifts and so did the boys. We played frisbee together for about a half hour and then I watched as the boys wrestled and tried to go all John Cena on me. lol Their words, not mine. I barely know who John Cena is…
I want to get these pics posted and I’m tired. So since a picture speaks a thousand words…
Nahida is so much more vibrant in person than these pics portray. She’s just super shy. A lot of it is cultural. I showed her a picture of my girlfriend Unny and told her that Unny said hello and that she (Nahida) was “such a pretty little gal.” You should have seen her smile when I told her that. So cute. She seemed extremely reluctant to give it back to me. So I gave it to her. She kept looking at it. Then she’d put it in her pocket and then take it out again for a peek. She asked Shoaib to tell me that Unny was “besyar makbullah.” I laughed and smiled and told her that I agreed.
Christmas Eve 2009
Unny and I explored the Forbidden City and wandered around Tienanmen Square.
Don’t have a lot of time to go through and edit pics and such. Trying to get out and see the Terra Cotta Warriors and such.
So here’s a quick pic of Unny at the Gate of Heavenly Peace with Mao Zedong.
1417 1417 – Tiananmen (Gate of Heavenly Peace) is a symbol of China. It was built in 1417, originally called Cheng Tian Men (Gate of Heavenly Succession), meaning that emperors obeyed the order of Heaven in ruling the country.
From China Travel Service-Destination beijing tour beijing guide beijing travel … – Related web pages
1651 1651 – An impressive 110 feet tall, Heavenly Peace is the main entrance to Forbidden City, which has been renamed the Palace Museum. Once the walled estate of emperors, only the Emperor himself was permitted to use Tian An Men — guards kept everyone else out.
From GameFAQs: Mario is Missing! (SNES) FAQ by Raging_DemonTEN – Related web pages
1919 May 4, 1919 – sity on May 4, 1919, to discuss a course of action. What could be done about their government’s unpopular decision to cave in to the Treaty of Versailles? Naively, they expected the Western democracies to respect the sovereignty of their nation rather than indulge …sity on May 4, 1919, to discuss a course of action. What could be done about their government’s unpopular decision to cave in to the Treaty of Versailles? Naively, they expected the Western democracies to respect the sovereignty of their nation rather than indulge in Great Power scheming. Determined to express their frustration at their government’s capitulation, about three thousand Beijing students assembled in the large forecourt of the Forbidden City directly north of …
1949 Oct 1, 1949 – Mr Li, then a relatively junior reporter, joined several hundred of the most influential figures of 20th-century China on October 1, 1949, to climb Tiananmen — the Gate of Heavenly Peace — at the entrance to the palace of the emperors. Mr Li, his skin mottled …Mr Li, then a relatively junior reporter, joined several hundred of the most influential figures of 20th-century China on October 1, 1949, to climb Tiananmen — the Gate of Heavenly Peace — at the entrance to the palace of the emperors. Mr Li, his skin mottled with age and his white hair combed carefully back from his temples, is so slight that he is almost engulfed by his armchair. He pulls himself to his feet to greet a rare visitor to the sprawling apartment that was given to …
1966 Oct 2, 1966 – Many of those standing proudly on the tribunal under the arching eaves of the Gate of Heavenly Peace must have trembled a little at the harsh tones of their new master. They had come a long way through many battles and over many weary roads to be thus denounced in pub- lic. …
From Lin Piao Stridently Dominates Bizarre Peking Celebration – Related web pages
1976 Feb 24, 1976 – PEKING – An old campaigner far from home pressed the flesh of the proletariat in Peking today. Richard Nixon swept through the Gale of Heavenly Peace, shaking hands, tweaking babies and inviting one and all to come visit him in America. what do you want him to be when he grows the …
From Nixon politicks at Gate of Heavenly Peace . – Related web pages
1989 May 27, 1989 – Article: Battering at the gate of heavenly peace. (Tiananmen, includes related articles on economic reform, Chinese army, 1919 revolution and reaction in Hong Kong) … find The Economist (US) articles. Battering at the Gate of Heavenly Peace WHATEVER its resolution, the drama that has …
From … : Battering at the gate of heavenly peace. (Tiananmen, includes related … – Related web pages
1995 Oct 13, 1995 – The most objective study so far of the political storms that swept across China in 1989, “The Gate of Heavenly Peace” has drawn fire both from both the Tiananmen Square dissidents (who say it discredits the movement) and the Chinese government, notes reviewer Emily Mitchell. …
From MOVIES . . . THE GATE OF HEAVENLY PEACE – Related web pages
1996 May 18, 1996 – By KEVIN THOMAS TIMES STAFF WRITER. In watching Richard Gordon and Carma Hinton’s superb three-hour documentary “The Gate of Heavenly Peace,” you have to wonder whether Mao Tse-tung would have created Beijing’s vast Tiananmen Square if he could have foretold the bloody massacre that …
From The Gate of Heavenly Peace – Related web pages
1999 Sep 27, 1999 – By MA FENG. In my wildest dreams, I never imagined that I would be on hand to witness the founding ceremony of the People’s Republic of China. I had arrived in Beijing from Shanxi province in April 1949, two months after the city had been “liberated,” to attend the first national youth …
From TIMEasia.com | Visions of China: Gate of Heavenly Peace | 9/27/99 – Related web pages
We awakened at O’dark thirty (0500). I know that’s difficult for some to believe. Our driver arrived at about 0620 to pick us up from our Hostel–City Walls. We met up with another group and switched buses. Then we were off. It’s about a 3 hour drive out to Jinshanling. We arrived a bit before 10 AM. When we got off the bus, it was C O L D! The wind was blowing hard. I thought to myself; “Dave, was this a mistake. You are cold already and you’re only ten seconds off the bus. ” Time to suck it up. Poor little Unny was vibrating. She was shivering so hard.
We walked up to the entrance and gave them our tickets. Then we started our climb. Immediately, it’s a grueling climb. Stairs and pathways and causeways that are half ruin. Climbing straight up at almost 90 degree angles at some points. We took the first rise and were met by an amazing site. The wall stretching off into the horizon. On one side is inner Mongolia, the other side is China proper. China now claims inner Mongolia as her own. Only outer Mongolia is part of the nation.
It was hell and exhilarating. It was cold and windy. The temp was around 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit. Even so, by the time we were finished I had sweated through two layers of shirts and made all of my electronics (iPhone and iPod) soaking wet.
I decided to make this my birthday present. To climb that portion of the great wall. It’s about a 10 kilometer hike up and down some serious mountains and hills. At one point, I thought that maybe I should just lay down and let them bury me with the peasants who had been buried under the wall as it was being built, but, Unny kept going. So I followed her lead.
She’s a tough little gal. It was her first experience in the cold. She toughed it out. Impressive.
There are several sections of the Great Wall. The most famous being Badaling. Badaling is where all of the tourists go to see the wall. If you want to see it in various states or disrepair or a more authentic part of the Great Wall, you have to get out of Beijing and hit Mutianyu or Simitai or Jinshanling. I’d done the Badaling thing back in ’06. This time, I wanted to see the “real” Great Wall.
I froze up there and I think my legs are going to fall off in the morning but it was well worth it.
I tried to call my Momma but no service out there in the wilds.
It was a great birthday present and as is my habit, I took hundreds of pictures.
What a cool day. I loved it. I am happy as can be with this day.
High Temperatures Low Temperatures Precipitation Wind Speed
High not valid after 2pm
Unny gets cold when it is 80 degrees fahrenheit. I can’t begin to imagine how she will react to these temps. It’s gonna be funny to watch it, though.
Spent last night on the New Kabul Compound. Yep! After 5 years, it’s finally open. Not finished yet, but, it’s open.
I arrived last night about 5 PM and called Jonathan to meet me. Wound up walking around the whole compound to find him. Took all of 3 and a 1/2 minutes.
Passed a sign that says “Sniper, Begin Sprint.” Then another that said “Safe, Walk again.”
The Army has a sense of humor. lol
Apparently, someone thought that there were snipers along Airport road. Fuckin ‘ Newbies! I thought the Army was supposed to be brave and on top of that kind of thing. Those hills were cleared out back in 2004. I guess it feels tougher if you can tell yourself that you’re braving sniper fire daily. lol
Jonathan and I spent the night hanging out and talking over cold sodas, beef jerky and potato chips. All the while dreaming about having a Jack and Coke and wings.
The Army and General Order #1. The downfall of good times in a war zone. Meanwhile, the Italians, Brits and French are drinking heartily over on ISAF HQ and hundreds of ISAF bases around the country.
God Bless America! Home of the Tali-Baptists and Fundamentalists Extremist Protestants who love to send their kids to war at the ripe old age of 18 and 19 but GOD FORBID they have a @#$%^&*@! beer!
Can you say RE-TAR—–DID!!!! (p.s. yes, I know that’s mispelled…lol)
Good times anyway…thousands of miles from home in a safe and cozy little war zone with my little Bro.
Gotta love it.