Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Catania, Sicily


I spent a grand total of ten hours in this wonderful city. We arrived here on the first stop from Qatar to the United States around one in the morning. Then we spent the next hour and a half looking for the Best Western smashed between several high-rises on an unnamed, one-way street lined with cars on both sides. We were in a gigantic school bus also. The up side to getting in so late was that the streets were completely deserted and there were no drivers anywhere. A little strange...
After making sure everyone was checked in and paying 80 euros (~160.00 US) for a few hours in a hotel, a few of us decided we were too hungry to sleep and went outside. Every window of every apartment was covered with a metal, most likely bulletproof shield. The locals did an excellent job of ensuring every building had its share of graffiti and trash to go with it. The only ATM for several blocks was broken. Darn. By some miracle there was a cab waiting outside the hotel, and by an even greater miracle he understood our Spanish, "comer comida." So off we sped through the overcrowded streets ending up in a plaza with three street vendors and their carts...and an ATM. The vendors were rude and the two we didn't buy anything from made us feel guilty by looking sad. The one we did buy from changed from rude to hurried and yelled at us to choose what we wanted. The food was worth it - some sort of weird pita bread thing with strange toppings. And basically that was Catania...a pita bread thing and graffiti.


After removing the bulletproof shield from my window, I was greeted with this view once the sun rose. Notice the graffiti on the lowest level. Also the one way street lined with cars on either side. You can't hear them but they're honking at each other and shouting in Italian to hurry up.


Once again on the bus back to the airport. Canon's seven megapixels make everything look so pretty and clean. This is Mt. Etna, the most active volcano in Europe. It's smoking...possibly because Catania found a place to store their garbage....or possibly because it's about to destroy everyone.


Taken from the hangar at NAS Sigonella, just so you don't think the entire island of Sicily is a dump. The outskirts of the city were actually pleasant and scenic and looked like something out of the World War II era - complete with abandoned farm houses and tanks, minus the tanks.


Goodbye Sicily. Hopefully I stay in another one of your towns the next time I come through.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar


After stepping off the plane and looking around I couldn't help but laugh. Seriously? The sky and the dirt are the same color? No plants anywhere, no water, no life except for an occasional desert fox slinking around. So this was home for the next two months. For the most part the days were spent sleeping with the nights reserved for flying missions, which was nice because the night sky looks the same wherever you are.


The base sits in the middle of nowhere about thirty minutes from the largest city in Qatar. It's an Air Force base which means it comes with a lot of stupid rules. Here are some of the award winners: shirts must be tucked in to shorts at all times...including when working out, a spotter is required when backing out of parking spaces, and best of all - reflective glow belts must be worn during hours of darkness. It's not like we're in a warzone or anything...stupid Air Force.


Here are some pictures of the base. How majestic. Below are the trailers we lived in for the two month stay and me with a mustache that you can't see because I'm Asian.


Sunset - the only time you see a color other than dirt.


Overall it wasn't a bad experience. Free food, no taxes, no bills, no washing dishes, no chores, just sleep, eat, study, fly, eat, sleep x 60...not to mention the ridiculousness that went on during the combat missions.