• Chapter 17: Happy New Year from Saudi Arabia!

    December 31, 2015
  • Friday the 28th Through Monday the 31st

    We landed in Saudi early morning of the 28th which was a Friday. I didn't get around to writing a letter home until the following Sunday which was the 30th, so I'm including the entire weekend plus a letter I wrote on the 31st in one post.

    It was a very long trip from Camp Lejeuene, NC to wherever the heck we landed in this God-forsaken desert. My best guess is that we landed in Dhahran. There is an air base there and it would be an hour away from Al Jabayl where you will later hear me talk about spending several days guarding the port while our equipment and vehicles made the trip over by ship.

    Anyway, from the time we left Cherry Point, N.C. till we landed in Saudi, the time on the plane was a total of 18 hours, possibly a little more. I like flying, but that's too long to be on one airplane.

    Once we got off the plane, we located our bags and loaded them on shuttle buses. The whole process took longer than it should have. I'm not sure if there were buses that were late, or maybe they had to check them out for bombs or something, but we finally got off the plane and on to the buses right about the time the sun was about to rise. It was a long day and we were all tired from lack of sleep and jet lag. But there would be no sleep that day.

    A letter I wrote to my grandmother dated 12-30-90 at 1:15 pm says:

    "Hi grandma. Guess who? It's our third day here in Saudi Arabia. I think it's pretty neat here. I took a picture from the bus window of a street sign on the way from the airport. We landed about 3:30 am Friday morning our time. We're nine hours ahead of Dallas.

    We're living in tents and sleeping on cots. The first day here was real cold all day long. They (marines that were here before us) say it was the coldest it's been so far. Normal winter days, like today, it's cold in the morning about 35-40 degrees and warm in the day about 70-80 degrees. We're close to the Gulf also which makes it colder when the wind blows."

    Once we got to our home away from home, we filed into a tent and started setting up our cots. Our bags would either go under our cot or at the head/foot of it. We had no foot lockers or any way to secure our belongings. We had to trust each other that no one would steal anything. They make sure you know that Marines don't steal, lie, or cheat. They ingrained that into us in Boot Camp. If you can't trust a marine, how can you go to battle with him?

  • Culture Shock

    I remember the first time we had chow. We walked through thick sand to get to some buildings that was at least a mile or two from our tent. If you weren't hungry when you left, you would be by the time you got there. But the food was a little disappointing. It was bland and tasted terrible.

    Breakfast for day one involved cereal ,but I don't remember what else I had. I couldn't help but think they were giving us goat's milk. Who know's what they are really feeding us. But it was chow and you either ate it or starved. Starving wasn't much worse though.

    I continued in my letter:

    "There's sand everywhere. The food 80% of the time is no good. Of course, we have no ham products (so much for having bacon and eggs for breakfast). I was surprised to see food here like cereal, chips, sodas with Arabic writings on them. I didn't think that Saudi Arabia had Pepsi or Frosted Mini Wheat. It has both English and Arabic writings. I'm sending a package home to keep for me. These Ringos were made by the United Arab Emirates. They tasted terrible.

    We've got a few radio stations to listen to, including numerous stations in Arabic on A.M. Sounds kinda funny."

    I can't remember when we tried sleeping that night, but I remember our sleep schedule so out of wack. It took a few days to get adjusted. Sleep deprived, jet lag, and culture shock were all taking its toll.

  • Happy New Year!

    A letter written to my sister at 9 PM Saudi time on 12-31-90:

    "It's New Year's Eve. There's no place to be like Saudi Arabia. Or should I say, there's no place to be but Saudi Arabia, for me anyway. I'm doing all right so far. The food is terrible. It doesn't look like it's going to get any better either. I'm glad I've got extra food with me.

    I took a shower today (Monday). I haven't taken one since Wednesday. I wrote to grandma yesterday. As I told her, we landed here about 4:30 am Friday which would be about 7:30 pm Thursday your time. We're nine hours ahead of you. When you celebrate New Year's at midnight, it'll be 9 am here.

    Everything out here has English and Arabic  writing on it. I sent grandma an empty package of chips. I'm going to send you an empty candy bar wrapper. Keep these things for me."

    I've included a picture of the candy bar wrapper. It was called Bounty. It resembled an Almond Joy but without the almond. Or better yet, a Mounds bar but with milk chocolate instead of dark chocolate. Only it wasn't as good. Something was wrong with the coconut. I didn't get any more of those.

  • What's Worse, the Food or the Weather?

    I go on to talk about the weather and where we are living:

    "The weather is a bit awkward. It's cold in the morning and hot during the day. We have to sleep in big tents. There must be hundreds out here."

    We called this place "Tent City" and there were several "Tent City" locations scattered all over the place. I'm still not sure which one I was stationed at. One of those tents had been constructed for indoor plumbing so that we could take showers there. At the time it was cold water only so you had to be brave. I couldn't do it every day but when I did build up enough courage, it was a short cold shower.

    "Every morning at 5 am you can hear at a distance Arabians bowing to the west and praying. It sounds more like Tarzan singing an opera song. I call it the Arabian Reveille." Yes, the call to prayer was over a loud speaker every morning like an annoying alarm clock, only you couldn't hit snooze or even turn it off.

    Cold showers, detestable food, Arabian Reveille, cold mornings and hot days. This was only the beginning.

     “Go to heaven for the climate and hell for the company.”

    Benjamin Franklin Wade