Editor's Note: Linda Raines submitted the following letter from her stepson, Tracy Cook, who is stationed in Kuwait with the U.S. Navy and keeps in touch with relatives through "Tracy Updates."
I hope this letter finds you all doing well ... I hope you had time this summer to go to the lake and go camping.
Not much has changed (for me) so I decided I would try and come up with 100 things that are different about my life here versus at home. Here is the first batch. Please don't take these as complaints as I have grown used to most of them and they are just a way of life - not saying one is better or worse than the other, just different.
? The first one is first because I think it's awesome and should be done at every theater in America. Before the movie at the theater starts, every person stands, uncovers (takes their hat off) and they play the national anthem to a video on the screen. After the anthem is played you sit down and watch the previews just like in the States, get a safety commercial, and then you see the main feature film.
? No cold water - In the States, water coming out of your tap is about 40-55 degrees, and water out of the hot water heater is whatever your heater is set at - about 120 degrees in most homes. Here in Kuwait water out of the tap is the average of the recent outside temperature currently that has been about lows of 90, highs of 120, but its only 90 for a short term so the average is up to about 104. So you have hot water of 115-120 and cold water of 99-110.
? Silverware and dishes - Unless I go to Zone 1, which is a rarity, I have no real silverware or dishes to eat my meals on. Water is a precious resource so it's better to throw away plastic silverware and plates than to wash dishes besides it's not our environment over here. It's almost a treat to go to Zone 1 sometimes and eat off of a plate with a metal fork and knife; on steak nights I always get three forks because I always break at least one.
? Speaking of zones, you break your residental areas into named areas. Portland has Chinatown and the Grotto, and Prairie City has downtown and everywhere else (LOL), but we have zones. I live in Zone 6 work in Zone 2 and go to Zone 1 if I want to eat off of a real plate.
? Weapons - If you were in the States and saw someone with an M-4, M-16 or a pistol inside Subway, Starbucks or Hardee's, you would run for cover, call 9-1-1 and pray, here you just say "Hey, how is it going, you order yet?"
? Getting away from it all - At home I jump in my truck and drive out into the woods, or go to Redmond for a beer and check out the sporting goods at Big R. Here I have to run a special-request chit, get a letter authorizing me to leave the base and if that actually happens I can only go to another base and I must have another person with me, a weapon and communications. I never jump through these hoops.
? Talking to my buddy Rich - At home, I have to send him an e-mail or call him on the phone; here I just open my curtain and say, "Hey man, you still sleeping?" and then proceed to talk., when I am done talking at home I say goodbye; here I just close my curtain.
? Bedtime - at home I usually look at a clock or when I get tired I go to sleep. Here we have a roommate that works day shift; when he gets up to go to his morning physical training, it's time for me to be thinking about heading to bed.
? Mail - At home I walk out to the mailbox and see if there is anything in it. Here I wait by the computer for a mail list to come out; once the list is out, if I am on it, I have to get time off of work, catch a bus to another zone or find alternate transportation, get my mail and come back, or get up in the middle of my night - between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. - to go get it.
? Roads - at home we have great paved roads with painted lines, bike lanes and driveways; here all the roads are paved with no lines, or dirt roads. We just got a road in (one place) that has divider lines and a bike path. It's awesome .
? My bed - At home I have a king size bed that has plenty of room for Wendy, myself, four weenie dogs and an occasional munchkin; here, I have a bed smaller than my son's twin bed. I either hit my head on the top, or my feet hang off the bottom. And my pillows are always falling on the floor.
? Inspections - At home Wendy and I decide if our house is clean and safe enough. Here we have some disgruntled Army guy on a stop loss who probably couldn't hold a job as a Wal-Mart greeter who comes through once a week and rips us apart mostly because he doesn't like Navy people.
? Laundry - at home you either buy a washer and dryer and do your own laundry, or you take it to a Laundromat that you have to pay for, or you take it to a cleaner's you have to pay for. Here there are free washers and dryers for self use, or you can go the lazy man way (my personal favorite) and let the TCN's wash it. You drop it off, two days later you pick it up, your uniform is ironed, and your clothes are all clean folded and ready to put away.
? Walking into the office - At home you most likely walk into the office with your lunch box, a gym bag, or backpack, and say hi. Here you stop at the desk, show your security badge, have them go through any bags and files you have; state to them that you have no cameras, thumb drives, or digital recording devices, and then you are granted permission to go to your desk and work. When leaving, same process.
? Riding the bus - In the States you get on a bus and go to the next town, here you have to have an armed escort vehicle lead or follow the bus to its destination.
? Beer with alcohol - At home go to fridge get a beer. Here its a dry country and I mean DRY.
? Street lights - At home we have street lights that come on when it gets dark, here there is an Army guy with a 4 wheeler that drives around the base and starts the generator for each individual light, he has to start about an hour before dark to make his rounds. In the morning, he has to go around and turn them all off.
? Guns at work - Home, fired. Here, just part of the job - in some cases you get in trouble for not having a weapon at work.
? Too sick to work - At home, you call in sick. Here, you get up and go to the team corpsman, tell them you're sick, they will send you to departmental medical to tell them you are sick, they will most likely send you to base medical tell them you're sick. They check you out, give you a SIQ (sick in quarters) chit and send you to your barracks at which time you have to call your boss and tell him you're sick. It's a lot easier to just go to work.
Well I hope you have found some humor to brighten your day in this. Take care.