Livin’ the Vida Loca

Several people have suggested I write something about life in KAF beyond the DFAC. This post is all about the other exciting stuff that around here is called “Real Life Services”: accommodations, washrooms, and laundry. Hold on to your seat.

Let’s Go Camping!

Our “Street”

When our team first got to KAF we were in large tents called Weatherhavens. Our team of 16 had two of them. Imagine, if you will, 8 guys over 40 all sharing one tent. No matter what time of the day or night, someone was getting up to take a pee. And, the things pretty much smelled like ass. You knew it was a bad poo pond day if you walked into the Weatherhaven, sniffed, and thought “oh, that’s better.”

Interior Decorator Wanted

They weren’t really too bad in that we each had our own sectioned off area of about 6′ X 8′ (that’s 3 stone, tuppence X 2 furlongs, 3.7 fortnights for you Brits out there). They could be a little noisy, however. Almost nightly I was serenaded to sleep by the sound of one of my tentmates opening bags of assorted junk food. You know that sound someone makes in a theatre as they try to open their bag of candy quietly so they do it slowly and the sound just seems to go on and on? Well, that. Anyway, he would then usually start to fart occasionally. The sound of his snoring was a blessed relief as it usually meant the farting had stopped.

Our company was nice enough to provide us each with internet as well. The only internet we had access to here back in the day was not exactly fast but that wasn’t too surprising. For you geeks out there: the company that provided it just daisychained a schwack of switches from one tent to another. Some tents had three switches stacked up with the wires between the tents just laying on the ground….in the mud…through the puddles. Hell, the switches were stacked up on the floors of the tents…in the mud and occasional puddles. It went down a lot. The only reliable thing about the whole set up was that you could count on the guys at the service desk to give you an Indian head waggle and say “Yes Sir, yes Sir, we fix it right away, Sir”…which translates to “We’re the only game in town, pushy North American, so shut up and go away….muhahahaha”.

Luckily, the plan was always to move us out of the Weatherhavens “soon” after we got here. The plan made back in the boardrooms estimated about three to four months. The plan executed in KAF took nine.

At least it makes it hard to lose stuff.

Movin’ On Up

After a full gestation period in the tents, we moved into ISOs. I’m not sure why they’re called that but it could mean their size is determined by the International Standards Organization or it’s an acronym for Incarceration Single Occupancy.

The Dusty Deck

Our ISOs are arranged in our own little village and are each divided in two to provide us with individual rooms measuring 8′ X 10′ (.0267 X .0333 football fields for you Americans out there). We’ve built patios and put up cam net or parachutes as sunshades so by KAF standards, it’s a pretty decent set up.

Pretty, ain’t it?

Sure, the rooms are a little tiny but you don’t really need much stuff here. Every room has a desk, wardrobe, bed, night stand and fridge. It usually doesn’t all fit so things get stacked up.  Each bed came with the latest in chic designer blankets that, I assume, are all the rage in Pakistan where they were made. I really wanted the leaping dolphins motif but ended up with the very pretty rose instead. I don’t know how the guys who got the scary tiger blankets sleep at night.

What would a room be without a fancy pants Keurig coffee maker? Several guys here have these. I ended up with one because I’m a smartass but my lovely wife is smartassier. Our $30 coffee maker had died while I was over here. When I get home on leave, I find my wife has replaced it, not with another $30 one, but with a Keurig worth approximately 4 gajillion dollars. I made a few snide comments about it’s price but conceded that it made really good coffee. So, she goes and buys another one and ships it to my KAF address. I comment on the cost again and she says “What? You can have a fancy coffee maker in KAF but I can’t have one at our home?” Yeah, so now I own 8 gajillion dollars worth of coffee makers. But, they do make damn fine coffee. If you are cool enough to have one of these (not one of those low rent Tassimos), the best places I’ve found for ordering on line for delivery to KAF are Tweed and Hickory if you’re having it sent through the Canadian CFPO or Coffee Icon if you’re ordering through the American APO. See? Sometimes I put useful info in here.

All in all, we’re kinda spoiled compared to some others on the base.

How the Other 3/4 Live

Canada Town

Most people, civilian and military, who are not in tents, are two to a room here and the vast majority live in ISOs. They have the same amount of space as we do but the structure of their buildings don’t allow for separate entrances nor, of course, a separating wall.

The Canadian compound is pretty decent as it has a central square, Canada House for recreation and TV, the gym and, of course, Tim Horton’s. We may have a village but they have a small town.

The Projects disappearing into the distance

True to their go big or go home reputation, the newest American accommodations are sprawling masses of identical ISO buildings. They certainly lack the charm of our little village and the caffeine and deep fried dough of the Canadian town. It is, unfortunately, reminiscent of the “projects” in a big U.S. city. Now, I haven’t explored around there or seen in the rooms so maybe it’s a quaint collection of little neighbourhoods, but it is certainly lacking in curb appeal.Gypsy Town

It’s like the containers just fell off the truck and people moved in.

As promised in my summer blockbuster “Commute to the Northline” here’s a look at what we’ve dubbed Gypsy Town. We noticed it one day on the way to work and it looks like it was cobbled together rather haphazardly. It’s hard to see but there is a somewhat rickety looking walkway between two of the upper seacans and we strongly suspect people are living in there. Makes “the projects” look pretty spectacular. I would have gone in to get better pictures but I was afraid of getting grifted.

Laundry Elves

Et Voila!

Getting one’s laundry done here is a pretty sweet deal. You simply drop your laundry bag in the “dirty laundry” bin and two days later the laundry elves have returned it to the clean laundry bin. Some guys have complained that most of their clothes have turned the same brownish grey colour after several washings. As all of my clothes started out as a brownish grey, I don’t have this problem. I think they should stop whinging and be happy that they can now be as fashionably colour coordinated as I am.

It’s actually a pretty efficient operation over at the laundry. Washing clothes for about 20,000 people can’t be easy but in 2 1/2 years they’ve never even lost one of my socks. There is the great underwear mystery of 2010, however. On his very first laundry of his very first deployment with us, M got most of his clothes back. The only thing missing was all of his underwear. I’m not sure what may have made his underwear so attractive that someone would steal it and, frankly, I don’t want to know.

Now that’s service.

The clothes are always nicely folded in a plastic bag inside the laundry bag. You have to make sure to take them out of the plastic right away because, on rare occasions, they fold them up while still damp. Leaving them to moulder for 3 or 4 days is ill-advised. And, while they are folded, they are somehow still wrinkly. That doesn’t bother me though. If anyone comments on my wrinkly shirt, I just tell them it only appears wrinkly next to my baby smooth skin.

The Powder Rooms

“Houston, All Systems Are Go For Splashdown”

There are two basic types of washrooms here. Porta-potties, affectionately known as “rockets” and indoor toilets, usually in ISOs. When we were living in the tents, the rocket was our primary toilet as the flush toilets in an ISO were about a “block” away. The rockets are surprisingly not too bad smelling due perhaps to the magical blue liquid they fill them with or, more likely, my poo pond inured olfactory sense. The cleanliness of the rockets varies inversely with how public it is. The ones by the boardwalk are disgusting while the ones near our office in a secure compound are almost pristine. This is no fault of the maintenance company…it’s just that some people are messy poopers and pee-ers. I don’t know why, they just are. Putting the used toilet paper into the hole would be a good first step on the road to not being a fucking animal.

Spring is in the air.

Most peoples , especially those of us from Northern climes, have some unique harbingers of spring. At home, it’s the first sighting of a robin. In some places it’s particular breeds of flowers sprouting or maybe even just the first bit of green showing through the snow. In KAF, spring is also announced by a splash of green. This is when the handwash stations are re-deployed outside the rockets. They disappear between for December and January as the water in them may freeze so we’re stuck using hand sanitizer.

There’s one particular custom that I find rather odd. If god inexplicably demands that one’s feet be washed before one prays, isn’t washing them in the urinal thingy in a rocket kinda counter-productive? Even god can be grossed out, can’t he?

Gratuitous Shitter Photo

I am a little perturbed that the same company that maintains the rockets does our laundry but this is not near as disturbing as the fact that several of the DFACS are run by the company that provides our diesel fuel and AVGAS.

The indoor toilets and showers in our compound are pretty decent by KAF standards. The waste bladder sits right under the ISOs and after several months of complaints about the smell from our prima donas, the plumbers seem to have discovered what a good idea S traps are.

Shower grunge

The showers are exceptionally adequate although when De was visiting from the head office, he asked “Oh man, are all the showers like that?” He apparently didn’t mean it in a “Wow! Are you guys ever lucky” kinda way, rather, he was trying to convey the idea that head office folks usually prefer more marble and less unidentified grunge. I really have no complaints about them. Oh sure, every once in a while the water is a little iffy and a shower leaves you feeling sorta, oh, I don’t know, soiled, I guess. Otherwise, they’re fine.

Here’s a few pics of the whole ablutions set up for all you collectors of toilet pictures (yeah, oddly, they exist):

The Ablutions. Toilets on the left, showers on the right.

The Shower ISO

The Spa-like Shower Head (not suitable for HQ sensibilities)

All We Are Is Dust In The Wind

Self-Portrait in KAF

No article about KAF life would be complete without a mention of the dust. It settles on everything. Like poo pond odours, however, one becomes used to it so it is hardly noticed. If you pat your clothes, it comes off you in a cloud.

The air conditioning in both our vehicles and our rooms is constantly dusting up and losing its efficiency and, in 50C heat, you need efficiency. In keeping with my new penchant for state of the art multi-media, here’s a little crappy cell phone video of the dust that comes out of a room air conditioner.

Bottom Line

There have been worse war zones to work in.

“Any idiot can face a crisis – it’s day to day living that wears you out.”-Anton Chekhov

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6 thoughts on “Livin’ the Vida Loca

  1. This is great. It’s exactly the kind of thing I was interested in when you first went over there.
    Makes it easier to understand, and I like being able to picture where you are.

  2. Re: D from HQ who came to visit. He also apparently the shower head in the last stall, which was T’s favourite shower stall. AND, he did this just before he left to return to HQ……

    I also need to comment of the KAF dust. While I have not been lucky enough to head over to your pleasant little village, I have noticed that when I receive the regular monthly courier of work I am expect to do, that all the papers & envelopes in the package really smell. I’d like to know what the hell you do to them before sending the package….oh, wait a minute, maybe I don’t really want to know.

    • That’s De to you. We wouldn’t want to confuse him with D now would we? Yeah, he broke T’s favourite shower head in some fit of pique because he didn’t get a turn down service or something.

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