Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Fuel movement

This week we have a pretty big mission. We're going to provide helicopter airlift to the President of Honduras, the American Ambassador and a variety of other dignitaries. We'll be flying out to the eastern part of Honduras, and it's going to be pretty far. There isn't a lot in eastern Honduras, especially important... there are no refueling locations. Last week, we took 2 blivets of fuel to where we're flying so we can refuel ourselves. This is a picture of the helicopter sling-loaded with 2 blivets (each carries about 1,000 lbs of fuel I think). This is a CH-47. I thought it was a cool picture!

My job is to monitor the movement and coordinate details for missions like these.

Carpetas - part 1

Semana Santa (Holy Week) is very important in Honduras. In fact, Thursday and Friday before Easter are national holidays. In Comayagua (the local town; it was capital of Honduras until the mid 1800s), they are famous for making "Carpetas." Carpetas are intricate sawdust pictures made on the street. They start at midnight on Good Friday and finish by 10 am when they do the stations of the cross reenactments. Part of the reenactment includes walking across the Carpetas.

I went down to see the Carpetas with a group from work. These are some of the pictures from our trip. In another post, I'll publish pictures of the carpets.

The first picture shows me and my friend, Jana, taking pictures. There were ladders between many of the carpets to enable picture taking.

This is one of the carpets. It's hard to believe you can make saw dust this colorful! This is part of our group.

This is the J3 team plus our commander. It's a great group of guys!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Helicopter movement

This was an interesting weekend. Last week we were notified to deploy 3 helicopters, plus support and command/control, to Haiti to provide an air mobile asset. (Mission would be movement of distinguished visitors and troops, aerial assessment of damage -- likely important in rainy season -- and medical evacuation.) Haiti is pretty far from Honduras, and sending the helicopters on their own would have taken several days. We requested, and were granted, strategic airlift.

On Saturday, 2 C-17 airplans arrived at Soto Cano Air Base. Saturday's activity was to load the aircraft. One C-17 had to carry 3 UH-60 aircraft. The helicopters had been prepared for the movement by folding the blades and taking off the tail lights (reducing height). A C-17 can hold 3 UH-60 aircraft, but it's really tight.

They load the helicopters by lowering the ramp of the C-17 to be ground level, pushing (with a tractor) the helicopter to the edge of the ramp. Next they attach a winch to the helicopter. If the helicopter is going in forward, then the pilot steers and people guide the rear tire with a tow bar. When the helicopter is backed in (the 2nd one), then a tow bar on the rear wheel is how the helicopter is steered. There's almost no extra room when you have 3 helicopters on the C-17, so it took quite a while to get each helicopter into place. There were several scary moments when the helicopter wasn't going exactly the right way... but by the end of the day, all 3 were on the C-17. It was amazing to watch and I was really proud of our military for the teamwork that took place to get the helicopters to move.

As of today, the helicopters have moved and are operational!

Copan Ruins (Ruinas Copan)

In February, I visited the Mayan ruins in Copan. These are some of the things I saw. I still am amazed at the ability of the Mayans to carve in rock these images. And they've last for thousands of years! Amazing. First, is a turtle. The next is a jaguar. The Jaguar is carved into the wall of their collesum. Mayans would pair a warrior against a jaguar much as the Romans paired prisoners against lions.

This next image is part of a parrot face. The parrot is a very important animal to the Mayans. This was inside the temples. (Every so often -- 52 yrs I think -- the lunar and solar cycles align and the Mayans would rebuild their city, so this is much older).

Next to the parrot is a picture of part of the wall of hyroglypics. The hyroglypics wall is about 4-5 stories high and I think is one of the biggest discovered.
The picture with me and Maj Jana "Diva" Nyerges is in the collesum.

There were several statues like the one here. The square is an altar, and each of the 16 Mayan rulers is depicted on the outside. One of the rulers was 18 Rabbits. His pictures always have the number 18 and a conejo (rabbit). He's the 2nd from the left.

This is a picture of one of the buildings (there were about 2 sq miles of ruins... a number of buildings but also some fields and statues).
It was a great trip. I learned a lot. Now I think I'll need to pick up a book on Mayans to be sure I really understood (our excellent tour was in Spanish) the nuances.

Best day

About 3 weeks ago, I got the opportunity to travel to DC. I got into DC late on a Monday and had an important meeting on Tuesday. That day -- Tuesday -- was one of the best days I've had in a very long time.

I got up early in the morning with my beautiful girls. We got dressed together then I took the girls to school. After dropping Emily and Margaret, I had about 20 minutes with just Sarah. We went to Starbucks (got a latte... it tasted great!). We sat at a table by the window and found a fly who must have had a broken wing. The wing would climb half way up the window and then fall down. Sarah and I spent quite some time predicting how high the fly would get before falling. We also got to chat. After dropping her, I went to the Pentagon.

I got to see friends and had several very successful meetings. My work day ended about 2:30 and I picked up the girls. We played together fora bit then we had a date night.

We went to our favorite restaurant -- Bamian. It's an Afghani restaurant. We loved our waiter who kindly took care of us. We loved the soup. In fact, the girlsl loved the soup so much that they asked the waiter how to make it. He took them back into the kitchen to meet the chef. Chef didn't speak English, but the wiater translated. We toasted each other and laughed all night. Sarah told me I should date the waiter... I told her he was too young for me and too old for her. We laughed more.

After dinner, we went to see Sydney -- our dear friend -- and her family. It was great to visit with dear friends. I miss them a ton!

After the visit and dinner, we went back to Abuela and Abuelo's house and everyone got to go to sleep. I slept with Emily and Magie that night (had slept with Sarah the night before).

I also got to see my brother and his family as well as my parents. It was lovely... and the best day I can remember having for a while.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Copan Zip lines

Recently, I went to Copan (very close to the border with Guatemala and site of a set of Mayan ruins). It was a lovely town -- cleaner than most and more pastoral. The school was well kept and had new playground equipment. there were a variety of houses... it even looked like there was a middle class. We found some lovely restaurants, cute cafes, quaint shops. There was a festival on the Saturday night of our visit. Our hotel was on the town square and our balcony faced the square. We heard marichi music all night long!

One of the cool activities is to go zip lining. They drive you to the top of the mountain and you go on 15 lines down to the bottom. Some of the lines were VERY long... all were over the trees, some over valleys, one over the Copan river. The boys (they couldn't have been more than 20) who ran the tour were very experienced and took the pictures/video I'm attaching. They have a lot of experience with this. They went down the lines backward and hands free... they were like monkeys! I tried to take the guide out on one platform... oops! I just didn't get that you pull down to slow down and I came in pretty close to full speed.

It was a fun morning!

This weekend, we went to the orphanage again. We brought peanut
butter and jelly sandwiches, milk, and popcorn. (We made 230+ pbj sandwiches, popped 50 bags of popcorn and took 10 1/2 gallons of milk.) The food was gone in about 45 minutes. I served sanwiches... so I was covered in pb and j! After feeding the kids, we had about an hour to play.
My parent's church, St George's Episcopal Church, sent a bunch of things for the kids. So, I put together a bag of toys to bring with us on our visits. The bag had matchbox cars (most went into pockets, but you can see this boy loved his ambulance!), a jump rope, sidewalk chalk, an ipod with speakers. I got to jump rope for a long time with a set of girls. Others listened to music. (The older girls think there should be a dance contest next visit... but we need to bring prizes. They think good prizes would be make up, perfume, or milk. They don't normally have milk so they have to have bean burritos or eggs for breakfast... and they'd prefer cereal with milk. They laughed when I explained that in my house it was the treat to get a hot breakfast!)
One of the girls turns 18 soon and will be leaving the orphanage. She plans to go to Tegucigalpa (capital of Honduras) to study to be a billingual secretary. Now, when I see her, I'll only speak English because she needs to practice.
We plan to have an Easter celebration with the kids in about a month. We'll have a longer visit and we'll organize games. I think we'er going to to 3-legged races, sack races, etc. We're considering playing some sports, but we're likely to avoid soccer as we'd get beaten very badly! :)
One of these pictures is of one of my co-workers with her favorite little girl. The third picture is of one of the older girls from the orphanage with a baby. She had him posed in a funny way... he looked very serious in his sleep!
It was a fun visit.