Friday, November 18, 2011

Rolling in the Rain

It is always nice to get out, even when the weather isn't great.  No matter how big the base you are on, how much personal space you have, etc. there is something very visceral about the need to just get out and walk in a place not contained within walls.  While most people I know seem to share this feeling there are some who seem to have been vaccinated against cabin fever, and who are perfectly content to seldom or never go "outside the wire". In milspeak they are known as "Fobbits" (Hobbits who live on a FOB)

Bridge Over Troubled Water

While I have no desire to meet up with any bad guys, I am also very, very glad to have a chance to get out and see a bit of the country and talk to people in their own environment.  One of the most challenging things of the job is trying to make sound judgments and decisions with very little information. We take for granted how much information and context we gather just in doing our daily business, and it can be daunting in the extreme to try and contribute to efforts to say promote economic growth when you don't know from personal experience what products are sold in the markets, whether prices have been stable, or even what currency is being used (afghans often use Pakistani currency as well as their own). 

Anyhow, it was a cool and rainy day, but a good one, since it was a day outside - spent visiting USG funded projects.  First stop was hospital that is mostly complete - where we were checking on whether deficiencies noted before were being addressed correctly or not. The engineering aspect was outside both my skill set and interest, but I did have a very interesting conversation with some locals which helped explain that the surrounding village of perhaps 200 families had effectively no local employment, and was dependent on the young men who went to the bigger cities to look for work, most often in the army or police. 

Typical Middle Class Homes in Salang

This is typical for many places, and there were clear signs that while the village was not wealthy, it was growing and thriving - with plenty of kids running around (it was a local holiday). Using probably the oldest consular trick in the book, I paid particular attention to the quality of shoes, and by that standard, the kids were being pretty well looked after. On the other hand, it was a bit depressing that the main source of income seemed to be the oversized security forces of Afghanistan, which will be sustained through international assistance for a while, but which is of a size and cost that will make it hard to sustain in the long-term on the very small tax base of the Afghan state.

Not the Most Auspicious Lawn Ornament for a new Hospital...

As we left the hospital we took a moment to do some touristy things, like posing in front of an old Soviet tank that graces the front lawn of the hospital.  Then it was off to the hydroelectric plant I've mentioned before to check on progress there. It was great to see significant change (with significant work still left to do) and fun to stop by the old plant which looked like a set for Frankenstein with oversize transformers and WWII style lighting.

Old Hydroelectric Facility - Built to Last


1 comment:

  1. What a good reminder of our plush lives in comparison.