Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I finally get a CLU

I know a lot of folks will be waiting for accounts of life "outside the wire", and please be assured that I'll spend a lot of time on the topic.  To this point I've been out about 4 times, most recently to meet our French colleagues at Bouchard - the French military hospital - and it has been interesting each time.  I thought I might start with Camp Lemonier life first though, as it is the area I know best currently.  Write what you know, right?

Well, of course, the most interesting items to any sailor are berthing and food.  I'm happy to report that both are as good as might well be hoped.  I know my colleagues Dave and Krista spent their days here in a camp composed chiefly of tents and few hard structures.  Almost everything here is now based on the "CLU" - the Containerized Living Unit.  I 'll attach a photo of course, but imagine something like the conex  boxes you see hauled around on ships, trucks and trains.  Now add a door on one end, with a window and overpowered air conditioner beside.  Append a bathroom with shower to the other end with a wall and door separating from the main compartment.  Now add white wall panelling - like drywall, but sturdier - and a linoleum floor,  a bed, a desk and a sea chest, throw in about 4 220V outlets and run wires for internet and phone and you have it.  A bit spartan although of course the actual Spartans would think it the height of sybaritic luxury.  Can't complain too much I reckon.

These CLUs form the basis for all the living quarters, and the majority of the office spaces (although those are called "CHUs" - maybe it should be "CHOO"s as they are often pinched and uncomfortable no matter how stylish).  I live in a cluster in a compound affectionately called the "White House", after the original structure on the site when the US forces assumed control of the base.  There is another small cluster not too far away, but by far the majority of our folks live in "Clu-ville", a collection of white metal living boxes that stretches away almost as far as the eye can see to the east of the camp.  It looks like an odd amalgam of those rental storage facilities one sees on the outskirts of many cities, and of an Arizona trailer park.  They present an orderly if charmless vista, baking away there in the noon time sun, but they give our folks a modicum of comfort and privacy, and sure beat staying either in a 40 man tent or even the berthing spaces of most Navy ships.  

As to the food...well as much as I would like to regale you with tales of hardships suffered and miseries endured, it may be the best food I've seen regularly  served in my 20 years in the military.  The dining facility is named the "Bob Hope Galley", and I think that Mr. Hope would be happy to have been associated .  The food is fresh, abundant, diverse, well prepared on balance, and of course free!  It is a common trope that you can either come back from Djibouti bench pressing 300 pounds or weighing 300 pounds.   I'll send a picture in 6 months and we'll see which way I roll.

Tonight we (the medical team) are off for dinner at La Terasse,  a spot frequented by folk from the French base and located about half way between the US and French sites.  Tomorrow (or next posting) more about the city of Djibouti, the French Hospital and events here.

A la prochaine!

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