Friday, September 10, 2010

520 AM

Its 5 AM here and I just spent the last 7 hours sorting through hundreds of files on my computer. I had 8 or 9 CDs full of information about our ANA partners- training, cultural, logistical, weapons, maintenance procedures.  Some of the discs had duplicate files on them, so some of what I was doing was sifting through and getting rid of older versions of duplicate files. Im about 90 percent there, now, and I intend to finish the work later this morning, after I sleep.

The Afghans we usually work with were not at work today, as Fridays are the equivalent of our Sunday.  They call this day "Juma". They dont come to work on Fridays, even in the middle of a war!  I therfore took the opportunity to organize some of my papers (I have, ahem, a lot of papers).  I did a load of laundry tonight as well, which was interrupted when the power on our base went out at midnight.  This happens 2-3 times a week and is very annoying.  You will be sitting at a computer, ordering your files, getting stuff done, seeing daylight at the end of the tunnel, when it just wirrrrsssss down, and then the lights go out.  The blackouts usually last 90 minutes to 2 hours.

I am working on getting some more pictures of the Afghans I have worked with here. In June, I was in Kabul for three weeks with a team of our Soldiers, training with one of our partner units.  After their training was completed, I and several of our Soldiers convoyed south to Kandahar with the convoy, a distance of close to 400 miles.  It took us 9 days.  I kept my notes from the trip and will post a blog from that time shortly.  We had some adventures on the way south.

I am headed out to one of our bases for a rehearsal tomorrow. Not sure if I will be back in time to post, but I will do my best to post again soon.  I sort of like this.

                                         Some of our Soldiers at the terminal the day we deployed

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Return from Kabul

I am back at Kandahar now, after a return flight from Kabul that got in around 8 pm.  We made good time; usually the flight takes about 80 minutes.  By my watch, we landed after being in the air for 68 minutes.  At the airport, we saw two Australian officers I work with, LTC M and MAJ S.  They had accompanied an Afghan General to Kabul and were now returning back to Kandahar as well.  During the flight, LTC M showed me the book he is reading - The Book Thief.  I read the back of it - it looks wonderful - and he said he would let me read it when he was finished.  While I looked at his book, I passed him the book I have been reading - Beyond Culture, by Edward Hall.  It is an older title - from 1976, but I find it very helpful in my efforts to understand -maybe that is the wrong word - maybe it is not possible to understand a culture so different from ours - in my efforts to come to terms with the Afghan culture.  They are very different from us americans!

After we landed, the five of us went to the dining facility on the base to eat.  I was very hungry and enjoyed a meal of beef stroganoff, peas and some pasketti.  I had orange soda to drink.  I rarely drink orange soda, but this was one of the times.  Then, I rode with AfghanTim - my colleague and co-logistician- back to our base.  After putting my stuff in my room, I went to the office to check my e-mails.  I had about 250 e-mails waiting for me.  Happily, most were not specifically for me but were "distro" e-mails I had been included on.  I have alot of catch-up-reading to do tomorrow.

I have followed the news of the evangelical church that plans to burn a Koran in Florida in the next day or so with much dismay.  If these people REALLY had the courage of their convictions, which it seems is to send a message of defiance and to provoke the fanatical islamists who were responsible for the horrors of September 11, 2001, then I would think they would hop a plane and come over to Afghanistan where their message could be appreciated IN PERSON.  I doubt they will do that, however.  They will fan the flames of intolerance and fanatical reaction from the safety of their church in Florida and leave the Coalition Soldiers over here - the Americans, British, Austrailians, Dutch, French and other allied countries - to bear the brunt of the rage produced by their intentionally insulting gesture.

Well.  That is enough for tonight.  To sleep.  The picture I am posting is of a small garden that was on the base we stayed at in Kabul.  The translation is "Begin with the end in mind." 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Last day of the Kabul Trip

Today was the last day of a four day trip to Kabul. I arrived three days ago with five other officers, all logisticians like me, all working with our Afghan National Army partners to ensure they have the supplies they need. My fellow logisticians consist of two Austrailian officers, two Canadian officers, and another American. The first three days of our visit were extremely productive. We met multiple American Air Force and Army mentors who are working with the Afghan Army and received great information on how the Afghan logistics system works. This was important because the Afghan logistics system is complicated and messy.

This afternoon, on our way back to the Canadian base where we have been staying, we were stuck in a huge traffic jam in downtown Kabul. It was quite an expereince to see the Afghans walking right next to the windows of our vehicle, the women wearing their blue burkas, other women with their children sitting in the middle of a huge pothole in the road, begging. On the other side of the road, a coalition convoy had blocked off the road sending all of that traffic over into our lane.  This being one of the last days of Ramadan, I imagined many of the people surrounding us were hungry.  It was also hot, and here were these coalition dudes clogging up the highway.  It seemed like people were short tempered.  One Afghan guy walked right in front of our vehicle as we crossed the intersection and flipped us the bird.  We all joked about it in the car, but we also all knew we were not in a good place, hemmed in on both sides by afghan cars as far as the eye could see, not moving, on a road that has seen multiple IED attacks during 2010.  Someone in the other vehicle - we had two vehicles in our convoy - saw an Afghan throw a rock.  Dusk was falling and I thought the sooner it got dark, the better, as then we would just look like another SUV among thousands of others.  When finally we began to move, after about 90 minutes, we were all relieved, and when we finally returned to our base, after taking two hours to cover 8 miles, we were relieved again.

Tomorrow we all return to Kandahar.  I return with the fruits of our trip...lots of great information on how to get supplies for our Afghan partners, and the memories of a shared adventure with my Australian, Canadian and American friends.