Gulf War Review
Copied from D’vorah’s FaceBook Page
TENT: SoulPad 5000-Lite. (http://www.soulpad.com)
Size: 16.5 foot diameter, 24″ high walls, 8′ high center pole.
Construction: Cotton roof and walls, plastic tarp floor, thin metal stakes, nylon ropes & sliders.
I bought a SoulPad 5000-Lite because it has a detached floor. The 5000-Ease has an attached floor, which is easier to set up but heavier to schlep; we went with our upper body strength as our guide. It rained our first night, and the SoulPad’s cotton kept us dry and happy. It didn’t keep us warm, but it did breathe more and keep us slightly warmer than a nylon earth-pimple did last summer at our first event; we’d have been fine if we’d brought more bedding. Akim, Tziporah, and I started setting up together. Akim had me stand in the middle and hold up the pole while he put the door frame in; after that, he sent us off to the grocery store for fresh vegetables. When we got back, the entire camp was set up; that’s how easy it was for Akim working mostly alone. He needed our help for a total of less than 15 minutes, and even then, we were mostly just being given something to do. Akim is not a large man (his persona is 6′ tall and powerful, but his portrayer is 5’6″ and of skinny-scholar build and strength), so clearly it doesn’t take much in the way of upper body power or athletic prowess to erect a SoulPad successfully.
Things to keep in mind when contemplating a SoulPad:
(1) Measurements, including weight, are in metric. 25 kg is NOT 25 pounds. It’s 67 pounds. Thou hast been warned. And yes, I’m the one who didn’t read carefully enough. I are a idiot.
(2) The ground ‘cloth’ is plastic tarp. I thought that would be a drawback, but after a couple of nights when we woke to frost on the ground which turned to mud, we were pleased to only have to wait for the floor to dry and then sweep with a whisk broom, rather than knowing we’d have to launder the floor when we got home.
(3) You can fit three people plus a respectable amount of gear in a SoulPad 5000-Lite or 5000-Ease. We would have been entirely unable to fit a fourth person in there and still have walking space to get into the cots. And to be truly happy, we’d have loved to put two people in there, plus gear, and then had a little more walking-around room.
(4) If your budget permits and if you have the skill to install it, get a wood burning stove for your SoulPad. I consider this of vital importance. I’d have cheerfully committed blackmail or murder to acquire some sort of heating device when the temperature at Gulf Wars dropped below 40… and it got below 30, if the frost on the ground is any indication.
One spot was very like another in terms of geography, but the amenities and proximities made all the difference. Al-Mahala was very close to two banks of port-a-privies, for instance, which helped a great deal, first thing in the morning. Not to be indelicate, but when I wake up, it’s usually because I have about 30 seconds to make it to the Necessary Room, so having the porto there was a lovely thing indeed. For all that I hate portos, I was grateful for their nearness every single morning.
We were about a 2 minute walk to the nearest bath house, behind the Green Dragon. Again, I don’t love the bath house experience — I keep myself covered, not even exposing my HAIR, so showering with insufficient curtains and having to dress out in the public room was painful for me — but nearness was a blessing. If I could have figured out how to use the camp shower that was less than 20 feet from my tent door, I would have, but I wasn’t smart enough, so I had to eschew it.
The camp kitchen, though… Whoever thought to bring running water into camp, and whoever made it happen, I love you. Tell me who you are, and I’ll find a way to cook for you. You made our camp a convenient one to live in, and you have my undying gratitude. A thousand salaams.
And finally, though I resist ghettoization in my ‘real’ (modern) life, I found it wonderful to camp with so many people who share my interests in my medieval life. I only wish I’d had more time to attend classes and get to know more of you.
FOOD: Plentiful, varied, tasty.
We were not on the Al-Mahala meal plan because I and my two campmates keep kosher, so we couldn’t share the group’s food. I smelled some of that food, though, and wished I could sample it. The smells were delicious and tempting. We must share recipes.
That said, our own food was also delicious. The three of us (Akim, Tziporah, and I) shared responsibilities.
I’d marinated some lamb and beef riblets for the barbecue competition; but because we didn’t arrive at camp and get ourselves set up until the competition was starting, we didn’t get to enter it. I’d love to know who won. I’m of the opinion that if we’d entered, our meat would have gotten an honorable mention, though we probably wouldn’t have won. I’d have preferred to be there Monday and begun the long slow smoking process then, but… oh, well. The results were delicious even if we didn’t get to share them in the competition format. We supplemented the meat heavily with roasted vegetables. Dessert that first night was baked apples with jaggery, ground nuts, and a sweet spice mix (cinnamon, clove, mace, nutmeg, cardamom).
Each day, we breakfasted on homemade, gluten-free, nut-free granola with almond milk, as well as boiled eggs for protein. Our lunches were leftovers from the previous evening, plus additions such as more/different roasted vegetables, egg salad, injera, baba ghanouj with cucumber slices for dipping, and the like. Dinners included roasted za’atar chicken, vegetarian dahl, vegetarian chickpea and almond pilaf (which we mixed with the dahl and gave to the hospitality table for sharing), and so on.
We didn’t stick to our original menus, because there were some ingredients that we didn’t have room to pack in the car and couldn’t find available in Lumberton. We also had to emergency-use-up a lot of our supplies and/or find people who could use them, because we left early — more on that later. But what we did make, whether planned or improvised, satisfied us in terms of taste and nutrition. And while we didn’t do a single speck of intentional research on period-authenticity of our food, we did know that the ingredients were available in period; and we knew that we were like many private families that cooked what sounded good together, rather than preparing a feast from set recipes for a calif’s or sultan’s table. We felt good about our dishes, as did those who came and ate with us.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Al-Mahala ROCKS.
There probably aren’t too many places we wouldn’t have thoroughly enjoyed our neighbors, but for our first Gulf Wars, we definitely picked the right set. Al-Mahala folk were universally kind, welcoming, and friendly. We felt immediately enveloped in their Near Eastern hospitality.
When we (stupidly) used fallen wood to build a fire, we accidentally smoked out some of our neighbors. They let us know, and pointed out better fuel sources, so that we wouldn’t torture them again. We felt like jerks, but they handled us gently and forgave us readily for our error.
The nightly drums chanted us to sleep. The first night, drumbeats faded into raindrops on our tent, a musical and magical experience that helped us to more easily put up with the cold for which we had not adequately prepared. The next night, dancers demonstrated their athletic prowess and their great artistry and control. Of particular note, an incredibly skilled and captivating fan-veil dance and a flame-haired young lady that moved like a graceful bird. If I hadn’t had 4 AM watch duty the following morning, I would have loved to stay later and see more. I’ll take the memories of those whirling, flashing movements with me into the future. They made me wish I could dance, too.
People came by at all waking hours to chat, to offer helpful comments, and just to spend time. I didn’t get every person’s name or contact information that I wanted, so I hope that my wonderful new Al-Mahala family are reading this and will message me. Lady Amina, Lady Edwina, AJ, Natasha, Renda, Ursula, Mad Dog, and others whose names I didn’t get (or can’t spell)… come eat at my fire any time you like.
Someone let us know how to spot areas that would become rivers when it rained. Someone pointed out that the wind direction when we were setting up was unusual, and told us where the prevailing wind would come from, so we could set up our camp in a better way. Someone loaned us salt when we forgot our own. And everyone who wasn’t already stuffed with delicious Al-Mahala meal plan food came by to sample ours and gave us generous compliments to help swell our egos. Thank you all. You are amazing. You’re the reason we’ll try to make it to another Gulf Wars soon, rather than going out to Estrella or An Tir/West War after the obligatory Pennsic pilgrimage — maybe even before we try for the closer-to-us Lilies War.
VOLUNTEERING: Mixed success.
I signed up for two 4 AM shifts at the Watch Point, Wednesday and Thursday mornings. That was under two assumptions, the first of which was that we would get to the GW site around 1 PM Tuesday, so that I could leave Akim and Tziporah to set up camp while I checked in and found out where to go. Instead, we arrived at about 4:30 PM and I had to QUICKLY run back to town to pick up charcoal. That took an hour and a half, so there was no one at Volunteer Point who could tell me where to go in the morning.
The second assumption was that Akim’s iPhone would ring loudly enough for me to hear and awaken at 3:30. Instead, the phone got bumped in such a way that it flicked over to silent mode. We didn’t wake up until 7:30 that morning, at which point I heard Akim muttering, “D’vorah, 7:30.” My immediate response was, “My duty devolved onto someone else.” I felt horrible.
Later Wednesday, I went to Volunteer Point, who showed me where Watch Point was, so at least I’d be going to the right place on Thursday morning. We also re-set the alarm and its volume, so that it wouldn’t fail. It didn’t. Thursday morning, 3:30, I heard the iPhone’s happy little church bells (closest we could come to a period/peri-oid sound), and I hustled myself down to the Watch Point.
The duty wasn’t hard to do, and I got to spend the early morning with Lie du Bosc, a kind and entertaining second-generation SCAdian. She mentioned her volunteering as if it was nothing, but it sounded huge to me. I’ve no idea why she doesn’t have a Pelican elevation yet, let alone a Pelican mentor/master or even an AOA. She apparently volunteers for the ‘invisible’ duties, the things that happen while others are asleep, so she doesn’t really get noticed. Well, I noticed. I get the impression that while Lie doesn’t do anything for the sake of recognition, and might be embarrassed by recognition, it would be an embarrassment she’d enjoy, and it would do a lot to keep her enthusiasm for volunteerism. Please, someone in her kingdom, point out what she’s done and recognize her for an award she’s waited 20 years for. If Lie du Bosc doesn’t have that award by next Gulf Wars, I will be very disappointed.
I wish I’d volunteered for more shifts. I wish I’d awakened in time for that first shift that I missed. I wish… but I didn’t. Now I know what it is to have regrets about an SCA experience. I didn’t give nearly enough to others. I feel unsatisfied with this part of my War.
SUMMATION: Mixed success.
We’d have stayed longer, but I caught a nasty flu and my campmates decided to bundle me off to a hotel with a cushy warm bed and a hot shower, for which I’m eternally grateful. I was feeling bad from about Wednesday night onward, but didn’t speak up until Thursday night. I’m glad I gave us that extra day to be there, but I did suffer for it, that last night. Part of me wishes that I’d spoken up in time to leave Thursday night instead of Friday morning, because Thursday night I barely slept, froze my yarbles off, and was generally miserable. I’m sure my snuffling and sneezing kept my tentmates and other Al-Mahala denizens awake, too, and for that I’m extremely apologetic.
I missed out on shopping. Wednesday I went out with Tziporah and saw maybe ten shops in all before we had to get back to camp so Akim could go to a class. Then Akim and Tziporah wouldn’t let me go out and see more merchants on Thursday, once I let them know I didn’t feel good, so I missed out on a good 3/4 of the shops.
I was upset that we didn’t get to cook more of the food we’d planned, shopped for, and spent money for. We wound up leaving most of our meat and vegetables with others, rather than sharing our creativity and skill with them as we’d intended. We never got to open our Sabbath table to our new friends, and that’s my biggest regret.
I also felt terrible that we’d paid to stay Tuesday to Sunday, but had to leave Friday morning instead. I’d have really liked to be able to pay a per-day rate instead of paying “from arrival to the end of it all,” though I understand the bookkeeping hassle that would have been necessary for day rates. We only made use of half of the time we paid for, though, and I kind of itch when I think about that. Still, out of that three-instead-of-six days, we made a SCAdian convert, and I’m willing to bet she’ll eventually convert the rest of her family, too. Another family, five more Children of the Dragon to enrich the Middle Kingdom and the Society. I’m looking forward to that.
The time we spent there was wonderful, even with my influenza. I will consider Gulf Wars a home from now on.