Deploying to the MEAO - Day 29
Day 29: homecoming rituals
Today was our final day in the MEAO (Middle East Area of Operations) - tomorrow we start the trek home on a chartered A340.
One of the homecoming rituals is sorting through your kit and cleaning off the dust of Afghanistan. The laundry whirs as people wash and scrub everything so that it will pass the quarantine inspection. Some boots are too down-trodden to be taken home.
Another RTA (Return to Australia) ritual seems to be shopping at one of the colossal malls in Dubai. The CSU (Combat Support Unit, see day 27) organises free buses to take people to and from Dubai twice a day.
There are acres of designer shops and department stores, and an indoor
"traditional" souk, if you can't face the hot and dusty real souk (see Day 23).
If you get tired of shopping, you can go ice-skating, downhill skiing, or visit the aquarium - all inside a shopping mall!
As well as scrubbing the dust off boots and bags, Australian females who deploy to Afghanistan engage in another cleaning ritual. They book in to the 'Sisters' Beauty Salon for facials, manicures, pedicures, haircuts, massages... they say it takes weeks to expunge the smell of dust. The memories remain.
After working and travelling for 27 days straight, we had an R&R day in the mall. I was hoping to have the highest high tea in the world, on the 123rd floor of the Burj Khalifa, but our plans changed at the last minute. The view from the top was fabulous, but not as pretty as looking down on Canberra in autumn.
I think I'm ready to come home.
Twelve months ago I went to the Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO) with the Australian War Memorial. I was working on an oral history-photographic project. The core part of the project was interviewing and photographing 19 currently serving members of the ADF - from the army, navy and airforce - before, during and after their deployment in 2013 to the MEAO. In another 12 months time, you should be able to see the results of this work in an exhibition which will travel around Australia.
These blog posts were written while I was in the MEAO but were not uploaded to the AWM website at that time.
I am planning to upload one blog post each day, exactly 12 months on from the actual day I was on deployment. We left Canberra on 12 March 2013. This is the final blog post as we arrived home on 11 April 2013.