Friday, July 17, 2009

Life On Hold. In Texas.

I'm on a new adventure, and have been wondering how or what I'll blog about it. The adventure is this: for six weeks I am living in a hotel in Killeen, Texas. During the day I work at Fort Hood, available as a counselor to soldiers and their families. I've been brought here as part of a "surge team" to tend specifically to those who returned from Iraq within the last six months, because now's about the time when the honeymoon period wears off, real life kicks in, and memories aren't as easily kept at bay.

It's very interesting and rewarding work, and I'm the kind of person who sort of enjoys culture shock (I love learning new cultures - see all previous posts about my obsession with Ireland and the Irish language - and no, the Irish don't call it Gaelic, they call it Irish) and I'm getting a two-fold shock. There's Texas. That's a whole culture in and of itself, and I'm sort of glad that I'm stationed in a place like Killeen where the Texas in people is full-strength, as opposed to my current Emerald city of Austin, where people are a lot more like me.

When people say that everything is bigger in Texas, they are dead serious: so far I've noted that parking spots, bathroom stalls, portion sizes, and houses are all bigger here. Last weekend I had dinner with my sweet friend Barbara-Anne, at The Oasis on Lake Travis. This place is a study in Texas Big...and, probably, Texas oil money. The restaurant seats about 2,000 people. No, you read that right. It was crazy. I don't remember the last time I ate at a restaurant with a gift shop and crafts bazaar on the premises. In Killeen, if there is a tourist site it's probably the Fort. Or the mall. I imagine that the monster truck show is a big draw here, and I don't mean that at all tongue-in-cheek. It's a rough-and-tumble town, heavily and publicly Christian, with a fairly strong anti-Obama sentiment. None of that visits me at the Fort - political discussion is strictly forbidden there (it is against military law to speak out against a commanding officer or elected official, and Obama is both) and my focus is on my work, which is much more real, black-and-white, life-or-death than the latest Obama blunder. Kind of refreshing.

I've tipped over into the second culture-shock, which is the Army culture. I did not grow up in a military family or with any close military ties, so learning about the military culture has been fun, interesting, intimidating at times, and it will probably be many more assignments before I feel comfortable with my level of understanding. The soldiers here are fairly tolerant of me, but every time I make a mistake (such as when I called First Sergeant C. "Sergeant" on my way out the door) I know that it's a chance for them to dismiss me as ignorant of their life and therefore not a worthy person to open up to. It's a tricky balance, to be a civilian - but an educated civilian - on post.

For many reasons, I won't be able to blog about my work much. I need to maintain confidentiality not only of my counseling work, but I think there is an unspoken rule that what happens on post, stays on post. We are not allowed to take any pictures on post except at the museum; our contract holds us responsible for "proprietary information" that we learn on post, etc. So since I don't know what's okay to talk about, I'm going to revert to the subjects I usually talk about on here anyway: food, craft, love. And culture. Today I've done my fair share in the culture department, so I'll leave it at that. But I'll share what I have on the needles and in my fridge, and what it's like to be away from my beloved for an extended period of time. Be back soon.

1 comment:

Martha said...

Wonderful to hear from you, always, my dear! We miss you and love you, and look forward to communication and your return!