This year Thanksgiving coinicided with Eid Iftar and an increased threat of kidnapping. A specifTic threat was made against NGOs; militias are looking to kidnap NGO workers to exchange them for detainees from the Charge of Knights, an offensive launched by the Iraqi Army to drive the Mahdi Army milita out of the city. The operation was the first major operation to be planned and carried out by the Iraqi Army since 2003.
The threat was specifically made against Medicins Sans Frontiers and they pulled back all their expats from the city. We also brought our expats on base for several reasons, security, the office was closed for Eid and to celebrate Thanksgiving. Because we get R & R we don’t get any holidays, so I was in the office in the morning and I planned to pick up my colleagues from the airport at 11:30 a.m. We had some difficulties getting into the gate because one of my colleagues did not have a badge, so we had to be escorted to the badging office by the Military Police.
We had to walk up through the mud to Delta Gate, the water was so deep in some places I had to cling to the fence to not get my feet all wet up to the ankles. We finally got back to the badging office and they issued a temporary badge, then said they had an interview spot to get the process for a permanent badge started at 1:00 p.m. so I took them out to the camp where we had billeted them, and we couldn’t find the guy to get them checked in. So we headed back to drop my colleague off for her interview, dropped the other two off for lunch, gave them the car keys so they could run some errands, then had a Skype interview for an M & E position in Sudan at 2:00 p.m. Right as I was finishing my interview the gang came back, so I drove them out again to see if we could get them checked in and once again the guy in charge of billeting was nowhere to be found, so finally after about a 20 minute search we tracked him down, got them checked in and then I dropped them off at their hootches. It’s been raining in Basra since Tuesday and it has become a huge mud pit. So we were all running around in about two to four inches of mud.
I was supposed to meet my friends the Majors, Jennifer and Kim for Thanksgiving service at 3:45 p.m. and I would have made it had the billeting guy not been out to lunch the two times we went to check my colleagues in. In addition, one of my colleagues wanted to take part in the Thanksgiving dinner at the DFAC so I needed to go to service and then come back out to pick her up. The REO compound where they are staying houses the State Department people, the UN people and the Provincial Reconstruction Team and it is out in the boondocks compared to where the rest of us live.
In addition, I needed to stop by my trailer to change my shoes, I had been running around in the mud in my Birks and I had to have closed toed-shoes for the DFAC, so I made it to the service by 4:10 p.m. The service was multi-cultural we had a reading from the Torah, a reading from the Quran and a reading from the Bible, in addition, they had a couple of soliders tell what they were thankful for, the first woman was fairly brief, the second man went on and on and on, Kim said it sounded like he was practicing for his retirement party. I was just thankful when he was done. The best part of the service was the COB Basra Gospel Choir, they were awesome.
After the service I drove out to the REO for the third time and picked up my colleague and we went to dinner. There was what I thought was a long line when we arrived at around 5:30 p.m., but it got longer and longer by the time we got out of their at around 6:30 p.m. Dinner was GREAT, they had ham and turkey fixed all different ways and the roasted turkey was tender and moist , the mashed potatoes were seasoned and probably the best I’ve ever had, I also had a roll, green beans and stuffing. The stuffing looked a little suspicious, but it was great. The DFAC really did a great job, they even had eggnog and sparkling cider.
The one disappointment came at dessert. Jennifer was taking our pie orders and I wanted pumpkin, she and Kim wanted pecan, and all they had was apple and cherry. I whined a little bit so Jennifer went off to see how she could fix the situation. While Jennifer was off getting pie, Kim leaned over and said, o.k. when Jennifer comes back lean over to me, pretend I’m her Mom and you’re her sister and ask “So Mom, what are we doing for Christmas?”
Jennifer came back and started to place a piece of pumpkin pie between me and Kim, I took one look and said, “Where’s the whip cream?” She rolled her eyes picked up the plate and returned five minutes later with the pie, topped with whip cream. Setting it down she said, “It’s frozen, but it’s pumpkin. And you guys have to share a piece because after he brought it out the other vultures got the rest of it.
I leaned over to Kim and said, “So Mom what are we doing for Christmas?” Jennifer’s face lit up with a big grin and she said, “We aren’t even done with Thanksgiving, let’s finish one holiday before we move onto another.” We all laughed. She explained that every Thanksgiving she has a fight with her sister; so now her Thanksgiving was complete.
The British Consulate had their dinner in a private room and as they paraded out I looked up to see one of solidiers holding his pumpin pie point down by the crust. It was still good, but I’ve never had pumpkin pie freeze my teeth before. In the end Kim also got a piece of pecan pie. I dropped the majors back at work, then headed out to the REO for a Thanksgiving get together. It wasn’t Grandma’s, but it was good.