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Aloha from Iraq: Wish You Were Here!

My jaunt around the Middle East eventually landed me in Mesopotamia (i.e., Iraq) at Contingency Operations Base (COB) Adder. After playing an Army grunt for the past 2 months, I found being at war quite soothing and relaxing. Before I get into my life there, it really pleased me to know that so many of my friends back home paid closer attention to their hydration status. I thank them for sharing their experiences urinating, suggesting new techniques to measure hydration status, and providing thoughtful analyses on the different colors of urine they produced.

It gave my Iraqi excursion more meaning to know that, as a result of me being there, people built happier lives through hydration. Meanwhile I consumed water as if it was going out of style. The downside to my near continuous water ingestion was that I peed about every 30 min. My coworkers were convinced that I had an overactive bladder condition and/or a raging urinary tract infection.

It was a very unusual feeling when I finally stepped off of the plane and realized that I was in Iraq. The landscape was littered with rocks, sand, and dirt stretching to the horizon. This created a mosaic of every shade of brown and gray imaginable. As the outgoing psychiatrist eloquently stated, “It’s as if God had used all of the pretty colors for the rest of the world and rushed through Iraq with the crap that was left over.”

COB Adder was split into two parts (similar to post WWII Berlin): an Air Force side and an Army side. I lived on the Air Force side and worked on the Army side. I nearly soiled myself when I saw my living quarters. I lived in a trailer and had my own room with a full-size bed, a bathroom, and a television. It was actually better than my apartment. All the officers received similar living arrangements.

The poor enlisted guys shared tents and bathrooms. Needless to say, they were a smidge bitter. Their acrimony manifested itself as snide comments veiled as funny quips. “Hey Major Joshi, did they forget to fluff your pillows last night?” “Hey Dr. J, were you disappointed that the mini bar wasn’t stocked?” “Oh Dr. J, were you upset that the jazz quartet lullaby ensemble had to cancel?” My standard retort was “No, those things don’t upset me. What upsets me is that I have to ring a bell for my attendants to come wipe my ass. I mean, really, I shouldn’t have to ring a bell.” Only in Iraq was living in a trailer considered bourgeois.

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