A young man's strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk...and apparently, back again.

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Location: Denver, Colorado, United States

The details of my life are quite inconsequential, really. Summers in Rangoon...luge lessons...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

History crisscrossed.

While watching the World Cup final match in Pashto (on Negaah TV) and burning the past-midnight oil once again, I thought I'd take a moment to reaffirm that the 'war' marches on.  I use 'war' in a bit of self-mocking jest, as it normally seems anything but that in the relative safety (and even occasional shade) of Kabul.  To answer one typical question I recieve often, it is pretty hot here but it sure as hell isn't Kandahar...which is often described as Hell by those who've been.  Most days in this part of the country are incredibly bright, and the sun burns strong enough even at 6000 ft to hit upper 90's daily and often the low 100's.  They are sticking it out in at least the 110's down south though, God bless 'em.

Since I still can't post pictures, I wondered what to try and describe when I next sat down to write.  Do I write about the unforgettably unreal moments -- the speeding police or army convoys through the city center (with Kaleshnikovs bristling from each door seat of the vehicle); the impromptu invite to an Afghan wedding; the dinner with new friends (and glimpse into the the Kabul expat life) at a nearby guest house?  Do I write about the frustrations of working for too many chiefs -- the "good ideas" which manage to take too much effort and energy away from our mission of building Afghan capabilities, all to make someone or other look good? (Nah, I'll stay away from that one, thanks.)  Or do I write about the everyday and the not-so-everyday...the Dari lessons led by an enthusiastic and undaunted 'facilitator'; the Camp Eggers Fire Brigade (yep, I joined...I am my grandfather's grandson); the walk through a stretch of Kabul neighborhood back to the base the other day with one of my translators?  That was emblematic of the moments I wish for more of here, actually: shunning the body armor and unnecessary vehicle transportation for a stroll, buying naan along the way and greeting schoolkids, while the occasional up-armored SUV rumbled by with its tinted windows and puzzled expressions from the untinted ones. 

Here's the thing: We're not going to win by insulating ourselves even more.  The result we're going for is a successful transition, and that only begins to take root when far more personal connections, relationships and friendships are forged.  To peel it back further, those only come about through contact...through sharing the risk, through seeing the endemic problems up close, and through shouldering the burden (Shohna ba Shohna, get it?).  Policies which stress a maximum of force protection make sense for those stationed/operating in the badlands, and slogans like "Safety is our #1 priority" are just swell for bases in the States.  But for here, some adaptation would be would go a long way toward showing that safety and security for all, not punching the clock on our respective tours, is the goal.

A shout out to our Mongolian brothers today, as they celebrated their national holiday with a truly impressive demonstration in our camp.  A lengthy and complex drill routine was followed by a series of close combat demonstrations that blew us all away with their ferocity.  Running attacks met with acrobatic defensive moves, and grapples ended with bodies thudding to the rocky ground and punches and kicks landing with force.  Then, my fellow Seinfeld fans out there, came the 'Feats of Strength'!  Yes, poor and unsuspecting wooden blocks, brick and even some concrete met with their demise at the hands of our lethal guard force.  Here is a brief writeup and photo from one of the resident journalists on it...

Coalition Forces celebrate Mongolian National Day

The Mongols, incidentally, have been here before...or more accurately, their forebears have.  As have the Macedonians, who also provide guard forces here, and whose ancestors made it across the miles the hard way a few thousand years back.  The British, of course, have been booted from Afghanistan not once, not twice, but thrice before, and yet they have provided a major component of this Coalition for most of the past decade.  The Turks are here too, as are the every group that ever mixed it up in the Hindu Kush simply determined to keep coming back for more?  Or is there a sense to make up for it now?  These are the things I smile about and shake my head over as I contemplate this fascinating land.


Blogger Ky Woman said...

Is it bandwidth problems thats preventing the pixel upload?

You might want to try to edit your blogger profile to allow emailed post. Then insert the re-sized picture in body of email along with your text.

Eh, it might work.

July 11, 2010 at 3:36 PM  
Blogger John Cocktoasten said...

Wow. Afghan television sounds kind of racist...

Kidding. Nice write-up.

July 12, 2010 at 12:44 PM  
Blogger Puertorican girl in Brussels said...

You narrative transports me to Kabul... I completely agree with you. As a military, we are behind culturally, we do not encourage our young Marines to be culturally engaged and our conservative military leadership still thinks it is all about "bustin' some caps". Looking forward to some pics! Bisous de Bruxelles!

July 20, 2010 at 8:05 AM  
Anonymous Slappy said...

This post didn't need no stinkin' pics, bro. Excellent prose, as always (and a Festivus reference to boot!) ...

July 22, 2010 at 2:59 PM  
Blogger yomistast said...

as well as the hilarious "hindu kush" mention.

Why don't you let george do it?

July 24, 2010 at 8:27 AM  

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