Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Our trip to home was even more circuitous as time went by. Due to a heavy snowstorm in Baltimore, our transatlantic flight diverted to JFK airport in New York. We had a night in a hotel nearby and completed our journey to Baltimore the next day. Eleven hours after that and two additional flights later I landed at the nearest airport to our home. I was struck time and time again at how many people would stop and go out of their way to thank us for our service in the airport. It was a humbling experience.
Now that I am home and have started the process of packing away my gear and reintegrating with normal society I have had a little time to reflect on this long journey. I have learned a great many things during this past year. Travel always allows for that. Ours is an incredibly blessed country with a sound government and incredible natural resources. Afghanistan is a country plagued by decades of war with few natural resources other than the hard work of its very poor population. It is altogether right that we along with our Coalition partners do all that we can to allow the new government of Afghanistan to succeed, for the betterment of the people of Afghanistan. I am satisfied with the small but measurable accomplishments I have been a part of in Afghanistan. I hope that the people of Afghanistan will be better off in the long run for my efforts there.
I have also learned a great deal of personal things. In many ways my seven months in Afghanistan was like a seven month self improvement retreat. I was able to exercise regularly. Through study and worship I have attained a closer walk with God. I was able to learn some Dari, customs, and another different perspective of the world. Although time and distance are significant challenges, I think the last year has actually strengthened the bonds and commitment of several of my important relationships. The time I spent deployed also allowed me to firmly establish my priorities in life. Priorities I intend to not only list, but live from this point onwards.
With that in mind, this will be my last blog entry for this journey. Originally this enterprise was established as an effective way to reach and inform my family, friends, and co-workers en masse. With the outpouring of feedback and dialogue from those of you who have written emails, sent letters, packages, and provided support to me and my dear family it has transcended beyond the original intent of this project. Thank you so much for your support and dedication during this trying year.
I have enjoyed writing these entries over the past year. Truth be told, it was very therapeutic at times. I certainly learned more about specific aspects of Afghanistan with my limited research into various topics. Each time I sat at the MWR computers at Camp Spann it was almost like writing a timed short story, since we are limited to 30 minutes of time per session. It also gave me a sense of the passage of time and another scheduled task to perform which kept me sane. Nonetheless, it is time for this forum to be retired so that I can invest my time into the priorities to which I am dedicated.
While it is entirely possible that there may be another adventure to report in the coming years, since I do still wear the uniform of our country, I bid you farewell and thank you for travelling with me.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Sunday, January 24, 2010
They have a nice gym here, and I must say that the food here is really good. I spent part of today packing and repacking the remainder of the stuff I have here. Hopefully I can smush it down to one seabag and a carry on. I still have to do some heath screening and then we can start the travel portion of this program. That will be my favorite by far. I so look forward to being home.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Sunday, January 17, 2010
As indicated in a previous post, today I will go over my experiences with Afghan foods.
Naan is the most basic of these foods. In Dari the word can be used as the generic term for food. When talking about bread however, most Afghans use the term "Naan e Khushk" which translates to dry bread. Afghan naan is thicker than its Indian cousin you may have seen in restaurants. It is the staple with and by which an Afghan meal is eaten. In a traditional Afghan meal the food is eaten with the bare hands or pinched between a small piece of naan. I really enjoy the naan I have had here. Most naan I have seen or eaten in Afghanistan has a circular imprint like it was pressed between two hub cabs.
Palau is a small island country in the Pacific Ocean, but in the context of Afghan food it is something entirely different. Spiced rice with bits of almonds, raisins, occasionally carrots or meat is palau. The Afghan people eat palau almost as much as they eat naan. When not using naan e khushk to eat palau it is picked up with 2nd, 3rd, and 4th fingers in a trough like configuration. The thumb is then used as a piston to drive the palau into your mouth.
Kebab is another main food group. It is prepared on metal skewers. Sometimes it is all meat(goat, beef, or sheep) and other times I have seen large pieces of fat placed between the pieces of meat. I ate the fat a few times when offered a skewer of kebab this way until I observed my interpreter pull off the fat and set it to the side. If only I had known earlier I could have done the same without offending anyone! All the kebab I have ingested has been well cooked and tasty. You can either pull the meat off the skewer with your hands or with some naan.
As with most things, salad is different here. There are most of the same basic ingredients: leafy plants, carrots, onions and cucumbers. The main difference is the preparation. Most salads here are minced to the point that they may even appear to be pre-chewed. Generally it is served with oil and/or vinegar already mixed in.
Meat or gusht can also be served in a gravy sauce. The color is almost always brown, of course. It is good and goes well over the palau, or along side. The naan dips nicely into the gravy as well.
That covers the major food groups, but what about snack foods? Any meeting with an Afghan will involve at least a little snack food and chai. The main snack foods I have seen are dried corn kernels, almonds whole in the shell, raisins, and small dried noodles similar to dried lo mein noodles found in a can in most US grocery stores. To be polite you must at least try some of the snacks offered.
Then there is the chai. Chai is tea. There are both green tea and black tea versions I have sipped in Afghanistan. It is usually boiling hot when served, so taking your time to let it cool and sip as you converse is the best option. It is most fortunate that it is served so hot, since the cups in my experience are rarely washed. You may find bits of leaves or twigs in your tea, which is considered normal as well. Overall it is warm, refreshing and a welcome beverage in Afghanistan.
I have really enjoyed the Afghan food I have experienced and despite all the bad publicity about illness. I have never had any GI problems due to Afghan food. In fact it is possible I may be able to have an Americanized version of it when I get home, assuming I can find some extra hubcaps.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Sunday, January 10, 2010
There are numerous challenges, but the most problematic is just being here. The Navy has mandated a 3 day Warrior Transition Program at Kuwait. Too bad I will have to wait 2 weeks in order to get to this 3 day program. It is overbooked for the entire month. At this point I am just ready to return and start to readust to life back home. One thing that is truly amazing are the lines. Lines for the phones, computers, food, beverages, toilets, ATM machines, and anything else you can think of. Maybe this is a final dose of deployment just to make me even more appreciative of life at home. I doubt that is possible though.
Friday, January 8, 2010
One of the things I am considering is Sustainability. In particular how will Afghanistan be able to sustain what has been started. In general the best approach to most issues or problems is to find a low cost-high return solution(IE not always the way we do things in the US). There is much effort being placed on Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) force generation and infrastructure development. What I have not seen or heard about is economic development or income programs for the country of Afghanistan.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
So I today I present to you a collage of the more mundane aspects of life on Camp Spann.