Monthly Archives: July 2009

The Green, Green Hills of Home

Ah, back to the green trees and blue sky of Washington State. It’s really great to be home.

There are things I will miss about Kandahar: reliable sunshine, the absence of the incessant media advertising assault, someone else cooking three meals a day, someone else doing the laundry, being able to do most of my daily needs and work by walking, the accents of an international working community, the sense of purpose, the uniqueness, the comeraderie.

There are also things I will not miss about Kandahar: the heat, the dust, the tactical vehicles (an MRAP convoy is like a string of motorized elephants), the starkness, the periodic rocket attacks, the absence of liquor apart from the monthly Beer Call.

But I’m glad I went. This was a very interesting experience. What’s happening in Afghanistan (and Pakistan, and Iran) will affect us for years to come.

But this chapter, at least, is at an end.

In Transit – Finally!

After a week’s delay, I’m finally on the long road home. It’s hot and sticky here in Dubai. How hot and sticky, you ask? Try 135 degrees and 100 per cent humidity. The air is so thick, visibility is about a quarter-mile. But I must admit, they do have green grass and green palm trees.

Maybe in a day or so green won’t look so … out of place.

There was a very nice going-away dinner last night for the several of us rotating out. Everyone was asking me when I would be back. I suppose that’s a good sign, that they would be asking. Of course, I have no idea. But I wouldn’t rule it out at some point.

But the home fires need tending first. See you guys soon!

Sunday was a Hard Day

Casualties are mounting up here. For the US forces in Afghanistan, 51 so far this month. Sunday morning, one of the contractor-operated Russian cargo helocopters crashed on takeoff here at Kandahar, with 16 dead and 3 critically injured I think. A week ago, the same firm had another crash-on-takeoff at a Canadian forward base; we sent the two Canadians home earlier in the week, and the 6 Russian civilians we sent home at a ramp ceremony Sunday evening. At Sunday service (I’m still attending the UK service), the chaplain said he’d been at the British forward base on Monday for a ramp ceremony for eight British soldiers. Last week, a Chinook (US cargo helocopter) was shot down in the Helmand. And USAF lost an F-15E fighter with its crew of two over the weekend.

Another Book for Grace

So the Book Group at Grace read The Shack, which had its pluses and minuses. Today I spotted an advert for Which One of You?, which is available from Amazon but is not yet out on Kindle. The publisher’s site, http://www.chbmediaonline.com/, is interesting and thought-provoking.

Unthinkable

Do you have your copy of Josh Ramo’s Age of the Unthinkable yet?

What are you waiting for, Christmas?

The Daily Grind

The end is in sight: hallelujah! I’m certainly ready for this play to come to an end.

The hardest thing about this gig has been the harshness of the environment. I truly not a desert person; but even Las Vegas or Phoenix look scenic compared to the brilliant sterile monotony here. (They also have grass and palm trees.)

Have you ever seen a dun-colored horse? They must have come from around here. Everything is dun-colored. The dirt. The (dirt) roads. All roads, in fact, since dust soon obscures the once-fresh asphalt. The buildings – even if they don’t start out dun-colored, the dust accumulation soon makes them that way. The clothes – even those of us not wearing camoflage uniforms try hard to blend in by wearing similar shades. The vehicles – even the navy blue ones end up dun-colored. I’m surely looking forward to seeing colors again.

How bright is the sun here? Let’s just say that even with only 10% transmission factor on my sunglasses, I’m still squinting. One never goes outside without sunglasses. Ever.

This base is not all that big, about the size of Bainbridge Island (the runway and hangers take up at least half the real estate). But the speed limit is 20 KPH (about 12 MPH). Basewide. So we never get out of second gear (all vehicles are stick-shift). Can you imagine driving around Bainbridge only in second gear? It would take a while!

Afghanistan Photo Essay

This is the best photo essay I’ve seen on the fight this week down in Helmand province.

http://blogs.denverpost.com/captured/2009/07/02/marines-pour-into-afghanistan/

The Washington Post carried a few of these earlier in the week (I still want to hear the story about the dog I see here). For the record, the area you see in the background is a hundred times greener and more scenic than here in Kandahar.