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Kuwait City

One month since the day I arrived in the Gulf, and one month since the ceasefire. A short month, only 4 weeks long, but time for a status report.

The water has been running here in the hotel continuously now for the past twenty-four hours. It's supposed to be a full-time luxury from here on out, but just as a precaution I keep a bucket filled as an emergency supply. When it starts running hot, too, that will be something to report. But at any rate, a cold shower beats none at all.

the hotel entrance
Traffic outside our Kuwait City hotel
The hotel also continues to serve a hot buffet every evening, and it improves every day. Mostly it's stew over rice; tonight it was veal, last night curried shrimp, turkey before that. No fresh fruit or veggies, but six different kinds of olives. And a considerable improvement over canned chili and tuna fish. The price is an indication of what to expect from a post-war economy: twenty-five dollars, and limited to hotel guests. While this is steep, it's no problem for CNN staff because the company is picking up the tab. And it doesn't come out of our $45 per day meal allowance, either! In the 17 days since I got to Kuwait, I haven't spent one red cent on anything. The food and gas are free, and there's not much else to buy, or even any shops open. However, the new currency was released this week, the old dinars are being exchanged, and I predict a runaway economy as new money starts chasing too few goods.

Another shining beacon in the darkness, the street lights are coming back on! I hadn't even noticed it until someone in our car pointed it out Monday night. The electricity is still spotty around the city, but I understand our hotel is off the generator and on the power grid full time. Again, we can only wait and see how long this lasts.

Now here's a mixed blessing; At&T established international lines yesterday. The good news is that it means regular phone calls home, a sure-fire morale booster. The down side is phone calls from Atlanta, and all the headaches that brings. Towriss reveled in being off the leash and free to cover the story as he saw fit, presenting the network with the news accompli. Now, it's Atlanta that will be calling the shots. And worst of all, the infernal computer is back on line and our producers are already flitting around it like moths to a flame. At least I can message my bureau and check on what they're doing--if I can ever get any log time.

Towriss left this morning, his long tour of duty coming to an end. I bade him goodbye and invited him out to San Fran; he complimented my work and said I had the right temperament for the job. I told him next time he took the show on the road to ask for me by name, and he said he certainly would. Leaving in a few days will be the two veteran reporters, Dulmage and Blystone, both of them pretty burnt out. In their place will be Gene Randall out of D.C. (another computer dweeb), and my old pal Don Knapp from the home office (in San Francisco-ed.). I've assured everyone that Don's an old pro and a good guy, so they're ready to put him to work. Hopefully he'll arrive before I take off. Also finally scheduled to rotate in are Rob and Chester. With the pace we've been working here, several crew members are ready for a week of rest and hot baths back in Dhahran.

So the job here one month later has slipped into a routine of watching the pot in case something starts to boil. Each morning one crew heads south to the oil fields to see the latest on the firefighting; they come back greasy and fouled inside and out. The second crew heads north to the border and our "Safwan bureau" to see what's coming out of Iraq. The third and last crew has town patrol, covering the press conferences, photo ops and b-roll shoots. Life is looking pretty regular around here; no one's checked a car for booby traps in the past week.

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© 2011 Chuck Afflerbach for The Hick Town Times