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...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Kristmas Eve, Kabul

Official holiday design of Nato Training Mission Afghanistan.

There are odd moments that become fully realized as odd in the mind later, and then there are those that strike you when they first appear.  Christmastime in Afghanistan brings out quite a few of the latter, I've found...

Odd moment from earlier in the week:
Meetings interrupted by an ornery peacock.

Those who know me know that I am not the type that gets particularly excited for this season anyway, mainly because of how overwrought and stressful it can become.  So spending one in a 'break' from the frenzy isn't that bad...or wouldn't be if I had two seconds here or there to enjoy it!  And of course, it would be nice to have the option of dropping in on my family's gatherings, and those of close friends -- wherever the celebrations happen to be.  On the other hand, not getting shot at is a Christmas blessing, too...

Press conferences in a lavish hall in Kabul: Always odd.

The "Holiday Afghani'stache": Odd, or oddly alluring?

So tonight, Christmas Eve, was just another night here for me until I had a chance to seek some meaning in it.  I had returned to my cramped office from the lengthy Advisors' Council meeting, which eats up a chunk of the one Afghan off-day each week, to answer a flood of e-mails while keeping an eye on Tolo TV news (in Dari -- and no, I still can't understand much, but like to speculate about the rants they must be on), was anxious to get to the gym at some point, and of course breathing in the smoky dust air that is Kabul's extra layer of atmosphere all winter.

The chow hall likes to shove Christmas hype in my face.

Nothing's in them...I checked.

I found that the occasional reminders of another world had multiplied in the past couple of days, like the holiday music played from someone's computer...if I'm not in the mood to say "Turn that s--t off and quit reminding us of home!" (hey, there's no crusty gunny around here, and somebody's got to play the role).  There has even been the occasional greeting from an Afghan colleague -- I had to give a big hug to Col. Ibrahim when he said a perfect "Merry Christmas" to me the other day.  The TV is full of odd moments, of course, like the mandatory season's greetings from every commanding officer and sergeant major of every military organization in Europe and Asia on AFN.  I mean, dude -- when you and your wife are striving for perfect-family perfection, maybe the two boys looking a little old for argyle sweaters and Santa hats have psychotic grins on their faces for good reason!  That one scares me. 

Christmas spirit, Camp Eggers style

Who knew water bottles could make a kick-ass tree?

There are the random strands of light here and there around camp, and there was even a midnight mass tonight in the clamshell (a type of large reinforced tent)...which I thought would be a cool connection to my ancestors in exotic places like the Bronx.  Alas, there was no feast fortified by copious amounts of booze to follow it.  Can't I get an Irish cultural waiver on something like this?

Midnight mass, Kabul

A brass section played carols the other day around camp...
Though they ignored my request for James Brown's "Hot Pants"

Today (you know, the 25th), it is back to the advisor grind.  Which I hope means nothing like Thursday did.  Since almost all of the government and my ministry would be off, I was hoping to work just a few issues with some colleagues who'd be in, make up a little lost ground on stalled initiatives, and if all went well, mayyybe even send a few more scarves to my sisters and nieces, or start to pack some of my own stuff to send.  Instead it was the longest day (and part of a night) I'd yet spent at the Defense Ministry, working a press release with the head cheese himself, and a stressed-out general I advise, and one of our own generals, and some beat-up advisors, and a staff of Afghans who haven't bathed in some time.  Only to come back to  base at night and stare at all the work I was HOPING to do that day.  C'est la vie.  Still, there was a moment there, discussing wording with the Minister -- a larger than life figure -- when I thought to myself, "Yep...this is odd."

Defense Minister Wardak

Mostly though, I've thought this week about the hundreds of families who received a casket instead of their loved ones, this year alone.  And those who've gone back to a changed life, one of struggle to recover from debilitating injuries.  I was struck today by a CNN report showing wounded warriors in recovery in the States, all with prosthetics and other various injuries, who wanted only to express their support for their buddies still in the fight.  That's such utterly tremendous loyalty, overcoming the very human tendency to look inward and dwell on the pain, so that comrades can take heart.  To spend a Christmas even in the same country as heroes like that is an honor.

Merry Christmas to all of you, from your ever-dedicated rambler-in-servitude, the AfghaniDan...


Blogger Brian said...

Dear Dan,
Merry Christmas to you as you wrap up your most important work.
God bless and we look forward to seeing you soon,
aj and ub

December 24, 2010 at 6:34 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Dear Dan,
We thank you for all your work on behalf of our country and Afghanistgan. Look forward to seeing you in the new year.
aj and ub

December 24, 2010 at 6:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting that, Dan... especially the last part. We should all feel blessed to share this world with such selfless people. I really like being privy to all your insight and adventures! Your life is so different from most of ours, so although I'm sure it's frustrating and lonely at times... embrace it, you're having some very "unique" experiences that we all enjoy hearing about! I miss you, friend and am thinking about you this Christmas! God Bless you and your comrades over there! It's cool picturing you in Kabul... the place where one of my favorite books "A Thousand Splendid Suns" takes place and was described in such detail. Just crazy to think you've been living there for so long. This Christmas I wish for you to stay safe and happy. :) - Jenny

December 24, 2010 at 8:18 PM  
Blogger Ky Woman said...

Merry Christmas!

Just know that we've not forgotten any of you who are far from home as we keep you all in our thoughts and prayers.

December 25, 2010 at 3:52 AM  
Blogger Jami said...

I think it's hilarious that you checked the presents under the tree! The tree made from water bottles is awesome and such a creative way to recycle.
I agree with Jenny--thanks for that last part. You put it so well. We are all fortunate to have such selfless people in the world.
I hope you have a Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2010 at 1:32 PM  
Anonymous Sully said...

A belated Merry Christmas Dan. Always an eye-opener to read these posts. Helps keep us humble to be reminded of those who are having a much tougher holiday than us. I'm sending this while trying to avoid any coverage on the awful Giants and while the streets are being cleared from the blizzard that just passed through NYC.


December 27, 2010 at 9:01 AM  
Blogger Major Dan said...

Thank you all for the comments, for the love and support especially during this season. Hope to see many of you on an epic tour sometime soon after returning!

December 29, 2010 at 10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the bottled water peddler in the family, I, too, approve heartily of the creative "holiday bush" recycling effort ...

January 5, 2011 at 9:15 PM  

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