Filling a sandbag was a prerequisite for dinner tonight. Filling a sandbag has been a prerequisite for many a meal since I’ve arrived. The base is attempting to cover many of the buildings, especially the messhalls, with copious amounts of protective sandbags. The attack at Camp Bastion last September is still fresh in many people’s minds, especially the individuals who live and work on the flightline.
I don’t enjoy having to fill a sandbag before I eat, but it is a bonding experience with my Marines. I happened to walk to dinner with three of my Marines this evening. The sun was just setting. They were happy and unwinding after a good day’s work, relaying their stories of the day. I smiled to myself, enjoying overhearing their conversation.
Sometimes, my Marines, or the Georgians who also live aboard Camp Leatherneck, stop me before I start. Whether they stop me because I’m an officer, or because I’m a woman, I’m not always sure. Either way, I try to fill my own sandbag before eating. Sometimes I am successful; sometimes I am not.
But there are greater culinary expeditions to be had nearby! “Welcome to Bastion” is the term Marines have used when takeing me to some new and amazing place on the British side of base. (Camp Leatherneck and Camp Bastion sit right beside each other) My first experience on Camp Bastion was the British messhall. Wow. How can our food be so mediocre and the British so good? Maybe it’s just perspective. Perhaps their food gets repetitive and boring as well.
Fortunately for us, U.S. forces can eat in the British messhall; we just need to sign in at the front door. The line of food began with a gentleman carving some lamb under a hot lamp, followed by rice, and what looked to be freshly steamed green beans! All sorts of curried meats were in the middle. It all looked and smelled beautiful.
The tables had plastic, red-checkered tablecloths and little vases of fake flowers.
The best was yet to come. The British obviously take their dessert very seriously. A long line of desserts graced the middle of the facility. Chocolate mousse, bread pudding with vanilla sauce, crème puffs, ice creams and cakes and pies lined up to tempt us. I had a hard time choosing. OK, I really didn’t have a hard time choosing. I just say that to make it seem like I actually took some time to decide on my dessert (because I had to indulge!). I had some bread pudding with vanilla sauce, and a chocolate covered crème puff. “Oh my goodness” kind of good.
That was just the beginning. I had connected with a former commanding officer (CO) of mine before I got out here. He’d been here for a year, and was getting ready to leave as I was arriving, but we found an evening to catch up. He took me to one of the pizza places (there are two) on Bastion. Shocked to my core, I walked into a restaurant with booths, décor and a fairly extensive menu. We ordered a BBQ chicken pizza, took our number and went to sit down. I had a great time catching up with my old CO. We had not seen each other since I was a second lieutenant (talk about a blast from the past). The Marine Corps is a small place, and you never know when or where you might run into someone.
Back to the pizza – it was delicious! There was nothing fake or suspect about it. I ate more than I should have, and enjoyed every bite. Bastion was really beginning to grow on me. I had one more stop to make on the Bastion tour.
The outgoing company commander (the one I replaced) took me to the “orange juice/coffee shop” as our final turnover session. This coffee shop has the cappuccino/latte machines that you see everywhere you go in Europe. It also has pastries, bunches of books lining the walls, free Wifi and some lovely surroundings. This is a coffee shop you would enjoy visiting even back in the States. However, the highlight of this particular establishment is the orange juice. Freshly squeezed right there in the shop, I had heard about this from at least three different people before I got to go. You should have seen their faces light up when they talked about it. This OJ elicited expressions of joy everywhere I went. So when presented with the opportunity, I had to try it. The proprietors had it going through a slushy machine on that day, so it was ice cold. I couldn’t think of anything more wonderful in the world at that moment. Every sip was heavenly.
As you can see, Camp Bastion has completely won me over. Not especially convenient, it requires either a vehicle or taking a long, circuitous bus. So I will not be making it over to the British side that often. But it’s worth the effort!