It is time for another update. I am happy to say I am now 2/3 of the way through my adventure in Afghanistan. Unlike the last letters, in which time blended together in a Groundhog’s Day-like gumbo, the last few months have been eventful and full of interesting times, especially the latter half.
September to October more or less followed the routine of the months prior, as days were days were days. Typical of most of my time here, month seven disappeared under the normal routine of work, sleep, and food, with a consistent smattering of gym time mixed in, which I am actually quite proud of. I have been notoriously poor at maintaining a regular gym schedule over the last few years, so to have gone every Tuesday and Thursday through August and September is something I am hanging my hat on.
(Unfortunately, my co-workers typically didn’t share in my athletic accomplishment, as many were fitness buffs who attested to never miss gym days in years. To each his own, I guess.)
On a positive note, month seven also saw my account of my poor attempt at comedy get published on one of the most popular comedy blogs on the web
. Once I get settled back in the states, I definitely want to get back into the comedy thing, so to have a post on Splitsider is a big deal. And as compensation, many of my friends or fellow Tampa funny people said they enjoyed the jokes I cited in the article.
Whereas the gym and getting published were the highlights of month seven, such accomplishments were small potatoes in month eight. Month eight was the most exciting, fun month I have had since I started this journey way back in March.
Two days after my eight month started I left on vacation for the states. My goal was to traverse the globe, going from Kabul to Dubai to Atlanta to Washington, DC for my cousin Jill’s wedding. And as an added bonus, I planned to surprise my parents and brother, who were also going to be at the wedding. Mid-way through my trip, however, I hit a slight snag, which despite my initial worry actually turned out to add excitement to the trip.
Due to a horrible 5.5 hour delay getting out of Kabul on a civilian airline, I missed my initial flight from Dubai to the US. Having to wait 24 hours before the next flight, I spent my wasted day sightseeing in Dubai. From what I saw, Dubai is an impressive city, part Las Vegas and part Miami with an Arabic flavor. Having missed my original flight, it was “en shallah” (God willing) that I would make the next flight out of the Middle East. Fortunately, the fates were on my side and I did.
(Check out my pictures of Dubai here.)
After a change over in Atlanta, I arrived in DC a few hours before my parents. I was told what hotel they were in, so of course I got a room in the same place. A few hours after my arrival, I went to the front desk to ask what room they were in. With the hotel clerk escorting me, I went to their room for the big surprise.
The surprise worked like a charm. They had absolutely no clue I was arriving. My brother let out a “holy shit, my brother is here” and my mother gave me a huge hug.
Following the surprise, the next few days were a whirlwind of wedding bacchanalia and shindiggery. The Monday following the wedding I flew to Orlando to spend the second week of my vacation in Florida. I surprised my little nephew (“What the heck? I thought you were gone!”) and spent a day with my grandfather. Then it was off to St. Pete Beach for a few days to see some friends, see a hip-hop concert, and stay in a relaxing beach resort before flying back to Afghanistan.
(My pics of St. Pete Beach.)
If you measure a vacation by its time, you will always come up short. But if you measure it by the goals of seeing people and doing things, then my only-13-day vacation was absolutely perfect. I did what I wanted and saw who I wanted. Of course, I would have loved to spend more time in the Tampa/St. Pete area and see everyone I know. But in order not to spread myself too thin and actually decompress, I had to cut corners in who I saw, which meant leaving a lot of good friends without seeing me. But March is right around the corner and I will be home before I know it and with that comes the ability to see everyone.
Just before I left Afghanistan, I was told another office on another base needed my services. Because I had planned my vacation months in advance, the military leadership told me to go and enjoy myself and worry about the new position when I got back. So when I returned to Afghanistan I didn’t even unpack. I packed my other belongings and within two days was whisked to another base where I will spend my final now four months in Afghanistan.
(Here are my pics of my old base.)
Having been here two weeks already, I’ve learned this base is far different than my previous home. This is a predominantly American base with US military personnel, whereas my other base was a majority international. In two weeks I have yet to say hello to anyone in any other language but English (I fear my Polish and Dari will get rusty soon!).
Working with the US military also means remembering rank and proper protocol. In the international environment, with the many foreign ranks and hierarchies, everyone called everyone by their first name. In a solely US-locale, rank becomes a much more important guidepost for social structure and interaction.
Although I’m going to miss working with my international colleagues, my current base is much larger and has much more amenities and things to do. So it is different – not better, not worse, just different. And its "home" to the second part of my Afghanistan adventure.
On a final and sad note, I learned my other grandmother passed away last week. I should have a tribute up to her soon as I did with my other grandmother who passed away in May. It's hard to believe I came out here with three living grandparents and will go home to one. But as I mentioned, I did see and spend time with my grandfather and that's what counts. Not the quantity of people left, but the quality of time you spend with them.
Now that we wind down the year, I know the days will go quickly. Thanksgiving is right around the corner, then Christmas, then New Year’s, and with any luck, I’ll be home on or around St. Patrick’s Day. Suddenly, that doesn’t seem so far away.