AfghaniDan

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...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What war?


Some of us learn to levitate while we're here.
And where better than in front of Disney-looking rocks?

As I felt it necessary to write the other day about the tragic, the sad and the seemingly hopeless happenings here, tonight presents a good chance to cover the bizarre, the mundane, the silly and even the hopeful (the above photo represents some 'silly' - but it is NOT altered by trick editing!).

A ban on saluting I can fully understand...
But what does anyone have against flowers??

Our meetings are all pretty much indoors again, so I miss the occasional "huddle" under the vines, with its unusual meeting moments of speeches from the fire escape balcony, counting the grapes above your head when things get really interesting, and showing up one day to learn that a massive wooden (execution-style?) platform has been erected above the former fountain.  This may also be the only place where you can learn in a daily meeting that the recently inspected and certified slaughterhouse butchered its first camel today.  Seriously...a camel.

Gazing at the Deco...

"Thrilled to be here," say the Brit, Yank and Canuck.

Mussolini, as played by a Western prospector.

Since expanding our 'footprint' here is the norm, the tiny Camp Eggers continues to pile stories upward and squeeze another connex into each possible crevice.  So lost but not forgotten are the flower garden, apple tree and gazebo (can it be called a gazebo if it's rectangular and not octagonal?) outside our office, replaced now by the deafening noise and dusty chaos of construction.  One of the last remaining spots to hold a meeting, take our meals (the chow halls are beyond overcrowded, through all hours) or read something away from the hectic office will now be triple layer of connex boxes...not to mention one more piece of a once-great neighborhood destroyed.  Aren't we supposed to hand these places back to Afghanistan sometime?  Apparently this HQ is somehow still not large enough at the top.  There obviously need to be places to work and sleep for all who get assigned here, but whether that's even done efficiently with those already here is highly in question.

In happier times...
Apples began weighing down the branches in June.

 Roses even blossomed...

 ...and the garden was ideal for interviews, as Brig. Levy demonstrated when taping one with Wolf Blitzer.

I realize of course that it's somewhat ridiculous to be crying over a demolished spot of green when lives are lost, or irrevocably altered by injury, and people are suffering all over this land.  But what can I say...you see what you see every day, and when what I see is one small place of decent solace and incredible utility taken away for another triple-stack of shipping container, well...it just sucks.

Last known photo of the intact landscape and gazebo.

 The executioners make their plans...

My friend Felisa and I enjoy the last tomatoes salvaged.

As the garden is dug up for a deep septic tank pit.

Gloriously tall trees, survivors of many a hard era, will be next.

Check out a good man's blog post on making the most of our resources, below.  He took a buzzword of the moment and actually examined its applications here, and anywhere we are guests.  People shouldn't need to be told not to throw away half-full water bottles or lie about having a roommate when they don't...but trust me, they do need to learn those things in a place such as this.


This last bunch of flowers, seemingly safe when work began, is now trampled too.

That's one deep hole, boys. 
No showering dirt on each other now...

Where once a garden stood.

"Peter, let's talk about TPS reports."  Now just substitute PAI for TPS and if you're a fan of Office Space, you already get the picture.  Only it's sadder than that.  It turns out that the long-employed and incredibly useful method of tracking accountability known as the "morning report" is not in vogue here.  So instead of a command knowing where its people are each day -- like, you know, a military might do -- they conduct here every couple of months a sort of census called the Personal Accountability Inventory, in which you are instructed to make your way to a designated table at a designated location in camp, and sign that they actually have your name, SSN, and service branch correct.  And if your status is something other than military, good luck!  They will never enter the information correctly, no matter how many times you straighten it out.  I'm not sure if this is what passes for keeping accountability in the rest of the big Army, but I'd never heard of a PAI until now, and laughed incredulously when I did.  Now I just cry when it comes around again...

"Say Joe, have you seen Sgt Whatzisnuts?"
"No Sir, I haven't seen him in weeks."
"Has anyone seen Sgt Whatzisnuts?"
"I saw a guy who looked like him in the gym last week, but I'm not sure."
"Hmmmm...well, I know how to track him down!  Was he here in August when we held the last PAI?"
Mind-boggling.

At least for now, a tree - now Autumn brown - still branches out in the middle of our rooftop.

It's not all gloom and doom, though -- I am cheered by the sight of the Afghanistan Cricket Board, located nearby my "other office" (that's what General Azimi told me to consider his spacious digs, so why not?).  Actually it's located closer to the Garnezun (or Garrison) compound, where the media center holds some of my other advisees.  At least going there provides a glimpse of life outside the wire when work and rules are confining me to the same couple of tightly fenced-in places.


This brings a smile about, because I had the opportunity to catch a screening of 'Out of the Ashes,' an outstanding doc on the Afghanistan national cricket team.  Their story -- from a few refugees picking up the game on hardscrabble lots in Pakistan to a team suddenly crashing the world's elite -- is nothing short of astounding.  I've become a huge fan of the team, and bet that anyone else who manages to see the film would too.

There are so many funny, touching and nerve-wracking moments that I'm in complete disbelief that the major film festivals haven't added it yet.  I hope the filmmakers keep trying until they do.  The first international trip takes them to Jersey (the island off of England), which alone creates hilarious conversations about where they are going...yes, my NJ peeps, our beloved state is mentioned.  They decide that it must be donkey meat on pizza, they lecture each other about obeying traffic lights, and they struggle to adjust to unfamiliar people, places and rules while giving their all on the pitch.  It's just incredible.



Since two of the creators spoke about the push to spread the sport to all of the country in the wake of the national team's emergence -- it's currently played mainly in the East -- I was thrilled to read today that there is a plan, and funding, for that to happen.  Sometimes only in sport, as so many have commented over the years, are some fierce differences overcome.  Why not try it in Afghanistan?

3 Comments:

Blogger yomistast said...

I want an official afghan cricket team hat or shirt. Maybe they can replace the mets?

October 24, 2010 at 8:13 PM  
Blogger yomistast said...

apparently, they have a lot against flowers....

October 24, 2010 at 8:14 PM  
Anonymous Slapster said...

... so THAT's where the Prospector we spotted in Scottsdale wound up!

And great tip on the flick -- I'll see if I can get it via Netflix :)

November 2, 2010 at 9:09 PM  

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