Kabul is half a world away from home and, at 5900+ feet, a lot higher than even Denver. Each of these facts alone would wreck my sleep; combined, they've caused me a lot of aggravation over the past week. But I'm finally getting adjusted. I slept in until 3 a.m. this morning, which was a whole hour better than yesterday. Tomorrow, I'm shooting for 3:30!
Our group of intrepid volunteers arrived in Kabul on Tuesday of last week. We retrieved our bags in the airport terminal under an ad featuring a bearded smiling Afghan gent urging us to listen to FM 108, "For the Rock and Roll in all of us!". Then we were herded into our armored SUVs and hustled through Kabul traffic to the Embassy. Kabul traffic reminds me very much of, say, the Philippines, or Baghdad, or Bangkok, only with fewer rules. "Cut-throat" doesn't even come close. I'm glad I was in the back seat with plenty of heavy steel between me and the cars, trucks, and donkey carts outside.
We arrived safely and were quickly settled into our hooches, given temporary badges, and shown around the compound, our new temporary home. Over the next few days we went through a variety of training classes such as security precautions, medical, Embassy organization, our mission in Afghanistan, IED familiarization and so on. Meanwhile I worked to get a lot of nitnoid admin things straightened out. My travel account, for example, has duplicate entries for a trip I took from Iraq three years ago; one of these entries is marked "closed" and the other "open" for reasons that are impossible to discern. Another account is to be used to arrange travel within Afghanistan and, for some reason, they aren't letting me into it yet. A third account is to be used to arrange international travel and I have no idea where to even find that one. Meanwhile, I need to make some changes to my pay account, but they haven't given me a user ID and password. Ah, bureaucracy at its finest.
While in Iraq, I commented on the ubiquity of temporary buildings, especially those made out of shipping containers. They've taken it to a new level in Afghanistan. You would not believe the office and berthing complexes that can be built, Lego-style, with shipping containers. They can be multi-story edifices with large decks, long single-story rows surrounded by sandbags, stand-alone units, or anything in between. My particular hooch is a shipping container. It sits at a slight list to starboard and down a bit in the stern, but it has air conditioning and a functioning bathroom. We call this a "wet CHU". I'm happy to have it right now because in a week or so, I'll be in a "dry CHU", meaning the bathroom is in another shipping container somewhere outside. And a few days after that, I'm apparently going to be in someplace even more basic. More on that when it develops.
Over the past two days, I've been in contact with the unit that I'm headed to. I've talked to a couple of people who already work there (or nearby) and have learned a lot about my soon-to-be life. And I have to say, I'm pretty excited about it. The mission is challenging, the living arrangements extremely spartan, and the operational environment a bit more exciting than I'd prefer. But on the whole, it's a mission that needs doing and I can do it.
So in a few days I'll finish up the last of my training here in Kabul. Then I'll head downrange, visit with a couple of organizations that I'll be working with, and finally arrive at my assignment.
Maybe by that time, I'll be able to sleep the whole night.