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...

Monday, January 10, 2011


Just past sunrise, my last day at Camp Eggers.

My time at NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan, and specifically at the Government of Afghanistan's Ministry of Defense, came to an end this past week as I began my trip homeward.  The end of it all seemed abrupt -- although that's mainly due to my tendency to continue working until the very last minute, and thus refuse to pack or prepare for departure in a timely manner.  Still, I found it exceedingly difficult to wash my hands of something that became my full-time work, and life, for the better part of a year.  The nagging feeling (Irish guilt?) that I just could have done MORE, or better, matter how counterproductive it may be.

The flags of Eggers with snowy mountains beyond.

My roommate Ken came to see me off...of course it took a Canadian lawyer for the camp to pair me with someone who took issue with our stubborn ways of doing business as much as I did.

As I've noted already, it's a bittersweet feeling to leave...and it honestly got harder with each passing day.  I almost lunged for yet another extension when it appeared that it would be in the best interest of my ministerial development team's mission, before deciding to press on with the (oddly, more difficult) course of calling it a day.  I can't easily describe this to those who haven't deployed, or put in a similar stretch of time and effort in a challenging situation in a distant land.  My brother phrased it as a form of Stockholm Syndrome, and he may be on to something with that.  I'll go with an extreme case of attachment.

Most of my team, aka my Kabul family: Qais, Pam, Dave and John. Not pictured: Joe (back in the States after his year here) and Esmat, who just couldn't bear my departure ;)

My chariot awaits. It was the first time I'd taken ground transportation from Kabul to Bagram, and despite the appearance of the huge hulking obtrusive vehicle, it was a smooth ride.

How is one supposed to gauge an experience like this, anyhow?  I was asked a few times in the past couple of weeks about what positives and negatives, achievements and disappointments, I can name...and found that I couldn't answer very adequately, because it's all a blur.  Due to the nature of advising, and building relationships, I stopped trying to see things in black-and-white terms of success or failure, and viewed what we were doing in terms of continuity of effort.  That's not to say that goals and initiatives were forgotten; just that the big picture -- of trust, and independence rather than interdependence -- took priority over checks in the proverbial boxes.

Ordered chaos: Kabul street scenes on my way north.

Even Kabulis know how atrocious the air quality has become.

The fact is that I don't know if I made a difference at all.  I know that I gave it my all, and that I still have some regrets about how I could have handled one thing or another, or how I could have suffered less stress over developments that turned out to be inconsequential.  I've done everything I could to restore faith in some Afghan partners that we stand behind them, even though uncertainty is certainly warranted -- how much of a stomach for very long-term nation-building do we really have?  I am positive that my outlook on this entire conflict will never be the same after the view gained from "the inside" of Kabul's most powerful ministries, and I'm grateful to the colleagues who let me in on the real story so much of the time.  It was often frustrating, sometimes hopeful, and always fascinating.

A Kabul hill dotted with homes, whose kids play in the dry riverbed below. This drought is so severe, and has gone on so long: heartbreakingly cruel for a nation which has suffered this much.

A peace-themed billboard features the late Ahmad Shah Massoud outside of Kabul. His legacy is often regarded as the only bond between factions which threaten still to split Afghanistan apart.

I'm not done blogging about this deployment just because it's ending...not by a long shot.  And unlike the last time, I hope to stick to my word on that.  If you think there is little sense in doing so, just remember that most posts were long after the events they covered anyway, so it's just more of the same.  There is a great deal that I did not have time to recap, from unauthorized social events to the incredible trip to Mazar-e-Sharif.  On the other hand, if you've had enough and think it should end now that I'm on my way out, voice it!  This blog could always stand to be more interactive...

Beautiful snow-capped mountains emerge from obstructed view 
as one climbs in elevation, heading north from Kabul.


Blogger melissa said...

...a wonderful post, as usual! I've really enjoyed your blog - you should definitely keep it up post-deployment!

January 10, 2011 at 5:28 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

My vote - keep blogging! I've truly enjoyed reading your blog for close to a year. I relish your sense of humor, sarcasm and Seinfeld-like observations. :) Take care!

January 11, 2011 at 9:35 PM  
Blogger 卷曲 (juǎnqǔ) said...

I second Lisa's and Melissa's posts. Safe travels!

January 12, 2011 at 2:18 AM  
Blogger Jami said...

Definitely keep it up! As long as you keep writing, I'll keep reading!

January 12, 2011 at 7:40 PM  
Anonymous Jeannine K. said...

From someone who wonders if I regret not taking the Kabul bound bus that once offered me an adventurous ride, PLEASE do write and post the pics! The pictures and stories are great. This is a great post...relating to your comments, I add only this...the impact of one's best effort in the hard fought, sometimes seemingly futile, messy battles of building, rebuilding, and forging ahead are never certifiably measured but are, without a doubt, never futile. Welcome Home - the battle always calls us back into the fray, wherever we are. And in that light, Semper Fi, Jeannine K.

January 12, 2011 at 8:42 PM  
Blogger lorraine said...

Do keep it up.

January 12, 2011 at 11:45 PM  
Blogger Me said...

I vote you should keep blogging, I really enjoy your postings. Would be a shame to stop now!

January 13, 2011 at 12:17 AM  
Anonymous Dave Beeksma said...


Thank you for your service and your friendship. You did good, Dan. I'm proud to have served with you. See you in the next exotic locale :)

Warmest Regards,

Dave B.

January 13, 2011 at 7:51 AM  
Blogger Me said...

I want to echo everyone else and definitely you should keep blogging :)

January 13, 2011 at 12:29 PM  
Anonymous Slapshot said...

Keep em coming, bro ... AT LEAST until you tell us all about these mysterious "unauthorized social events" you referred to!!!

And welcome back to a life of regular, authorized social events, too ;)

January 13, 2011 at 9:09 PM  
Anonymous Pat in MN said...

Please continue on with the stories and photos - don't leave us hanging like last time!

January 15, 2011 at 9:38 AM  

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