Category Archives: humor

I’ve Finally Arrived!

I’ve Finally Arrived!

So here I am finally in my first week on the base I’ve been trying to get to for what feels like a month, but has only been a couple weeks. The road threat levels eased up for a day – just long enough to give me 20 minutes notice to pack up my three bags, throw them in the car, make sure to put a scarf over my head because we were going off base, and zoom off into the great city of Kabul. When you’re stuck on a military base, you forget about bustling life going on just outside the gate…it’s all some imaginary world…so driving through the city was a whirlwind of new stimuli with different people, clothes, architecture, and colors. I guess I pictured the city would be nice because it’s the capital of the country, but for the most part it looked like it had seen better days – much better days. Lots of decay and years-old trash piles, roofs caving in on teetering buildings that looked like a small wind could knock them over. We wound through streets – traffic laws just a mere suggestion – it seemed to be the car that got to go was the one who wanted it more. I think traffic alone was probably more dangerous than any bomb threats!

Then the moment had arrived – I finally got to see my new home, the base I was going to be living at for the next year. It was like the scene in A Christmas Story where the little boy is anxiously ripping open the present thinking it’s going to be the Red Rider BB gun (I’m sure guys can correct me on the exact gun in that movie), and lo and behold, it’s pink bunny pjs. Only this wasn’t quite as nice as pink bunny pjs. It’s a TINY base with no pavement anywhere – just gravel all over the place surrounded by a big barbed wire fence. It was the tiny size of the place that was most alarming – I see some potential for boredom. BUT I will say that as I’ve poked around here and there this week, there are plenty of little nooks and crannies to find things to do – a place to watch movies on a big tv, a gym, a crossfit slab of concrete which a Canadian guy had to actually raise money to build because concrete is just not a thing here. I’m also really glad that the previous living tents were recently changed to metal conex boxes…and the best part…I have my own room! It’s about 10ft by 10ft and barely holds a bed and a dresser, but it’s all mine! I finally get to unpack and set up shop…starting with a little frame of my adorable niece right on my desk by my bed…hint hint…could use more pictures!

The best story of my week, though, happened on my first day. People were all talking about a base run the next day out on the track out side of the base gate, so I decided to be proactive about getting involved in base activities and signed up (for the 5k, not ready for the 10k yet because we’re a mile high and my Hawaii lungs are still adapting). In any case, women are always warned not to go outside ANYWHERE alone – let alone without a head scarf and bare arms – and HEAVEN FORBID you do sports of any kind. I wanted to run on the track though because the run was the next day and I wanted to see what it was like, so I found a nice Turkish military soldier to walk with me out to the track…which by the way is surrounded by astounding views of old Afghan palaces on a tiered hillside complete with a beautiful mountain backdrop (picture above). When we got there, he said he was walking, so I set off ahead running. I passed him a few times, but the track is pretty big – 1k total – and after about half an hour I saw I was no longer passing him – in fact I couldn’t see him anywhere. Hmmm…this was a quandary…I suddenly found myself off base alone with no covering and looking very sporty. I knew the gate was pretty close, so I just decided to walk with my head down and go straight to the gate. (Mom, maybe you shouldn’t read this…just know I’m fine now!) Well, the keeping my head down part backfired because I walked right past the narrow turn-in to the gate and kept walking on the main road out toward the Afghan base right next door. Finally when I realized I was quite lost I asked a couple men who looked as me like I was a three-horned unicorn…or tricorn rather…and I asked them where the gate to the base was. They asked me back in English which base (I didn’t know there was an Afghan base and that I was now right outside of it). I said American base, and they both continued to look confused – probably more at the fact that I was even out there talking to them alone – and then one of them finally pointed back behind me and said, “American base!” I looked back and saw the gate guard quite a ways back waving his gun at me in a motion to come back NOW. Oops!! On my way!!

Incidentally, I ended placing third overall (first girl – though there were only three of us) in the 5k the next day, and I attribute it to my track familiarization. My placing won me a little popsicle stick with the number 3 on it, as well as apparent base-wide notoriety after the places and times were announced in a all-base email. Suddenly everyone was smiling and saying hello to me and I’m meeting people from Canada, Turkey, Romania, Czechoslovakia, England, Germany and of course the US. So my first week has been a good week. I’m getting into my job, learning my way around, meeting people, learning a few local sayings like “good morning” and “thank you,” and curling up in my very own space at night…I have arrived!

Still Stuck

Still Stuck

Stuck here on day three at the airport base in Kabul because of motorcycle bombs right outside our base. I just heard that Camp Leatherneck in the south where Prince Harry is based (that’s for you, Mom) was infiltrated and two Marines were killed last night, and a base here in Kabul was hit early this morning. I have to say that it feels a bit like I’ve moved to a crazy inner-city in some futuristic movie where all hell has broken loose…oh wait, that IS where I am!

But inside this base, there is a sense of “normal”…once you get past the constant rotten egg smell and the crazy diversity of nationalities because it’s a NATO base. There is an internet cafe (where I’m at now), a rec-”center” with pool, ping pong, and Xbox; a gym; a bazaar selling electronics and rugs and jewlery and such; restaurants (though I’ve been warned that the “Steak House” has made many people sick and that they’re not even sure it’s actually steak); and even a “bar” with music at night. They sell the non-alcoholic beer and pump up the dancing music at night – last night was salsa night and tonight is club-music night…I’m assuming that’s like pop and stuff. Just keep in mind that all of these places are in big tents – buildings seem to be a rarity. It was cool watching the salsa dancing last night because soldiers of all nationalities were in their uniforms just dancing away with each other…instead of peace talks I think we should have peace dances…dancing makes everything better! There were Italians, French, Portugese, US, Romanian, South Korean, Canadian, and Australian soldiers there last night…all getting their sober salsa on!

My main challenge seems to be my gender…which I was sort of expecting. I definitely don’t blend in like any other male contractor walking around in civilian clothes (which is usually khaki pants and a collar shirt). And the NATO soldiers don’t hide or make subtle their acknowledgment of this difference…they rubberneck it like I have a cleaver sticking out of the side of my head. This morning I went to the cafeteria alone and it felt like a scene in a movie where I was naked and the record screeches and everyone stares as I awkwardly walk with my tray through a sea of staring, camoflaged men to find the nearest open seat. I know it’s because I’m a girl, but it doesn’t make the trip from the food line to the seat any less uncomfortable! The key: look straight ahead and know where you’re going so you can walk with a semi-appearance of confidence and purpose. What’s difficult is that I’m an uber people watcher and I love seeing all these nationalities in one place. On the inside I feel a bit like the open-jawed tourist wanting to see everyone, but I have to keep a straight face and at least look like I know what I’m doing. Hopefully someday soon I actually will!

Every time I hear about a soldier dying at the direct hands of terrorists, I know that this fight has to be fought and has to be won. Many of my friends (Hawaii, you know who you are!) don’t think we should even be here and think we should just leave and let this country implode on itself…but the emboldening and empowerment that would inevitabley be given to the terrorists here would have immeasurable impact for our own country and all the innocent lives there. No. Keeping the fight over here and treating the terrorists as enemies who we need to be overcome instead of inconveniences we need to ignore is the only answer. I am so honored to be a part of this – ok well not yet because I’m just getting paid to write blogs and go to the gym, but hopefully one of these days!

I love you family and friends!

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche

Incoming!

Incoming!

Day three here in Afghanistan. I posted a map because people keep asking me where this country is…which makes me smile because it parallels how bad I am at US geography – I’m pretty sure I couldn’t fill in all the states if given a blank map. I’ve been in limbo in the southernish part trying to get to my base where I’ll be working a little north of here, but flights keep getting cancelled due to the violence going on there right now. (Mom if you’re reading this, I’m fine!) Again this morning I got up early to pack up my three big bags and have them outside to be picked up by 6:30…or 0630 in militaryese. No sooner had I unloaded everything at the airport did the announcement come on that yet another flight was cancelled and that I would have to wait a minimum of two more days. When someone tells me my flight has been cancelled because a helicopter was blown up yesterday at the base I’m flying into, I don’t try to argue back. I say, “Sounds like a plan! I’ll get more iced coffee and write a blog!”

What’s really struck me is that despite that fact I’m right here where all the news is coming from, we find out very little of it until at least a day or more later. The internet suddenly got shut off here yesterday for a few hours – then I found out today is was because of bombings up in Kabul and they were putting a stop on information leakage. It absolutely broke my heart to hear that the victims of one of the bombings yesterday were children…children! What kind of savage, numb-hearted animal do you have to be to intentionally kill children? That’s a rhetorical question, because that’s the sort of enemy that we’re facing and the sort of future we cannot allow to affect or get anywhere near my future children.

We’re three for three for the incoming enemy fire (IDF=indirect fire) for each of the days I’ve been here. I’m starting to get used to the sound of the sirens and alarms sounding out over the whole base. Yesterday’s was a bit of a dilemma though because I was in the shower when the sirens went off. My thoughts: “Hmmm, so I can either go out naked in my towel right now to the bunker sitting with lots of other female-starved men, or I can dry off and quickly put clothes on and then go to the bunker – but by that time the incoming fire will have already impacted somewhere, in which case I’d already be hit by the time my clothes were on if it indeed landed near me.” I chose to stay in the shower and hope for the best…if it got me, at least I’d be clean. So I guess I learned from myself that if it comes down to it, I’d rather be clothed and dead than alive and naked. I never knew that would be my line in the sand (plenty of that stuff around here) until yesterday. Lessons being learned every day here!

In the spirit of my love for quotes, I’ll end with this one:

“Never tell your problems to anyone…20% don’t care and the other 80% are glad you have them.” ~Lou Holtz

Some Funny Moments

Some Funny Moments

I need to remind myself of some of the more amusing moments I’ve had since I moved back to Hawaii a month ago.

Coffee Kerplunk. Over morning coffee this week, my auntie was showing me all her favorite shells she had collected on the beach for an art project. She hadn’t washed them yet, so they had salty sand and fishy smells all over them. She held up her favorite among the bunch admiring it. I asked if I could look at it closer, and as she handed it to me, I accidentally dropped it…right into my coffee. I’m not sure I’m quite an addict, but I really enjoy my morning coffee – to the point of not wanting to wash down the current cup and drank on with what I could swear was a slightly fishier salty taste. When I was nearly at the bottom, I finally saw the seasoning shell to dig out. One less shell for auntie to clean!

Bathroom Privacy. Sometimes when moving to an island far away from your cars and stuff, you have to find immediate quarters, and often that is with a friend with an extra room if you know someone there. In our case, it was with my husband’s Army buddy Peter. His house, his rules…or so I’ve learned. I’m a relatively private person, so it caught me a little off guard when I was brushing my teeth in the bathroom one evening, and Peter burst through the door, and started peeing into the toilet right behind me. I almost choked on my toothpaste. The thing is, he really could care less – I’ve come down the stairs a few times now where the bathroom door is open and he’s peeing – yep, right there at the bottom of the steps, impossible to avoid. At least I’ve learned to lock the bathroom door!

Bathroom Privacy II. Ala Moana mall is the high-end mall on the island complete with Gucci, Prada and Tiffany’s. I was coming from Apple store buying a computer battery when I popped into the Loo. While sitting there, in the most fancy of shopping centers on the island with millions of dollars of products just feet away, a giant ugly cockroach eased its way across the bathroom stall wall beside me. I tried to jump away but I was not quite finished, so I sat there motionless waiting for the moment to end and I could make my escape. In hindsight I could have just hit the thing, but then it could have fallen on me. Nope, I did the right thing.

Bathroom Privacy III. I have to add one last story because it just happened last night. I was in the taking a shower and had just lathered up my hair when out popped a giant spider on the wall right by the shower head…and by my head. The place I’m staying in has a solar water heater, so there are only about 2 showers of warm water a day…and one was already gone…and I HATE cold water, even in Hawaii. So the warm water trumped my spider fear. Let me add that this was no small daddy long legs or little spider – it was about the length of my fingers…sliding on the wet shower wall threatening to fall to the ground by my feet. I turned my back to the creepy crawler and quickly rinsed out my hair, talking gently to it convinced that my telling it to stay put would be obeyed if I said it nicely. I washed my hair out without incident and jumped out of the shower as fast as I could…then ran up the stairs naked and wet to grab my phone to get a picture for proof. I’m lucky that Peter didn’t happen to walk in at that moment!