Friday, June 29, 2012

Welcome Home - or not

Today ended a travel odyssey that involved far more time waiting for transportation than I care to recount. Suffice to say that plans for a 4 day outing ended up in a 12 day voyage. Naturally I did not pack (nor do I possess) sufficient pairs of undergarments for this eventuality. Fortunately for me, one of the various luxuries that our Embassy in Kabul offers are washing machines, only problem being that on the large bottles of laundery detergent were available, and there was no room in my backpack for it, so my Tide joined my running shoes strapped onto the outside of my backpack.

Local Market (random photo)

At any rate, I was anxious to get home not only to clean up and replenish my iron levels (I get FAR more green veggies here), but because I had a VIP coming in. After all my cancelled and missed flights (which is to say ones which flew, but did not have me on the manifest...) I decided to travel the old-fashioned way - MRAP.  We had a smooth trip over, and I got out at the front gate, anxious to at least drop off my Tide backpack before my bosses boss showed up. Also, having been away from the office nearly two weeks I couldn't remember if I had left it littered with half-empty cartons of banana soy milk, and the remnants of the last care package...

A Unique Educational Environment...
but its' fun to see kids "at work"

Accordingly, I waved to the new guards at the gate who was busy talking on the phone and tried to let him know who I was. He didn't respond, but he also didn't stop me, so I kept moving, waving to guests and guards as I went. After I made it almost to the next checkpoint I saw him chasing after me, signalling to stop. Between him being totally out of breath and neither of us speaking a lick of the other one's language, we were at a bit of an impasse until another guard came down to translate. I had to wonder what kind of threat assessment they were doing on somebody who they had watched step off of a US convoy, speaking english and not carrying any weapons. Maybe it was the Tide bottle that had them on edge?

After repeatedly explaining who I was, and that I have lived on the base for nearly a year, the guard escorted me up to talk with his commander.  Meanwhile, the deputy director of the PRT - a Korean civilian was within sight, at the third checkpoint - which he was not allowed to cross since he wasn't in body armor. Eventually I made the acquaintance of the 8th or 9th gate commander I've known during the past year, and apologized for not calling ahead to let them know I was coming.

Eventually I was released, though I didn't have time to ditch my bags, change or shower before heading to meet my guest. As it turns out this may have been a blessing in disguise (more on that soon).  Luckily, the helo was late, so I was there in time (side note: it occurs to me that I the timely arrival - or lack thereof - of a helicopter has become no more noteworthy than whether there is heavy traffic on the beltway).

Anyhow, the visit went fine, and I nodded my way through a tour of facilities that I have done at least once a month for the last six months. Depressingly though, while the base will continue to be used when we pull back at the end of the year the vocational school will be closed, and the medical center may follow suit.

After a charmingly Korean meal where my guest charmed the pants off the Koreans (he has the unfair advantage of being married to a Korean) I packed him off and recovered my bags. Heading straight to my room to clean up I decided that cultural correctness or not, my beard had gotten waaay to itchy and had to go. My beard trimmer had taken just about 50% off when it reminded me that it hadn't been charged in two weeks, and it went on strike. Naturally, the charging plug was in my office. Not to worry, I could do things the old-fashioned way, but first I needed a shower. Happily shedding my sweaty dress shirt and slacks I hopped in the shower and turned on the water. Except, no water came... So I checked the sink, where I had planned to finish shaving... and got no water there either.

Local Mosque

Luckily I had some water in my room - unluckily all that water was in the refridgerator, which of course was working quite well thankyouverymuch.  I tried to imagine myself in a crisp alpine stream, and succeeded brilliantly, down to the hyperventilation and strategic decision that a quick scrubdown was fine for now, and the shampoo could wait another day.  Shaving was another exercise in expediency, and I settled for taking off the bushiest part of my beard, but leaving scraggly stumps on my chin until either a sharp razor or warm water was available.
All the same, I was glad to be back where I could sleep in my own bed with clean (and warm) clothes on after catching up on things in my own office, except for that during my absence my computer connections had gone down...

No comments:

Post a Comment