It's a beautiful day in Kabul. The sky is a clear cerulean blue, with a light haze near the ground and not a cloud to be seen. The temperature is around 70 with very light, ghosting, puffs of breeze. The city is very quiet today. It's Friday, the Afghan weekend, so there's no construction and traffic is at a minimum. I can hear compressors from chill units here on the Embassy compound, a few birds chirping, and a little light traffic noise from out in town.
I'm sitting in a picnic area under some kind of tree that has round leaves. You can tell it's had a rough life: branches have been sawn off or broken off and the trunk has a tortuous wrap to it. The tree and I are surrounded by CHUs. These are the shipping containers that have been turned into housing units. The CHUs are wrapped and topped with sandbags, all covered up neatly with heavy tan canvas, in order to protect their people from incoming rockets, mortars, and small arms fire. Most of these containers are divided into two living quarters, each housing two people. Each one is equipped with a bunk bed, dresser, TV, tiny desk, tiny refrigerator, locker, and a bathroom with a sink, toilet, and shower. This is pretty primo quarters, too. Most CHUs in Afghanistan don't have running water. I'm hoping that (a) I get a CHU at my assignment and (b) that it has running water. I'm probably dreaming.
I've been to two nearby military compounds in the past couple of days. As I noted previously, military forces are using shipping containers as their building block of choice for expeditionary construction. I've seen some very large barracks - 3 stories tall, 10 units deep, 2 units wide - built entirely out of shipping containers. You want office space? No problem: plop down six or eight containers, plug in electrical power, fire up the air conditioners, open the doors, and you're in business.
Americans aren't the only ones using containers. Afghans are, too. On the road to another base, I saw lots of containers housing small stores, rug shops, gas stations, offices, you name it. Afghans don't stack containers like Americans do, but they're just as imaginative in devising new uses for them.
As in Iraq, Fridays are the weekend. That accounts for the quiet on the streets outside the Embassy compound. The Embassy and international military forces stand down, too. Over at the ISAF compound, soldiers from a variety of nations are playing soccer, sitting in a restaurant, or checking out the bazaar. It's pretty cool to walk around and see all the different uniforms. Germany, Italy, Macedonia, the Netherlands, and more. The merchants running the stores and restaurants come from all over as well. You can get a good Italian pizza made by a Chinese couple, or order Mexican burritos from an Indian. An Afghan gent will be happy to sell you a variety of electronic gizmos as long as you pay in Euros. Yes, Kabul is quite the international city.
I'm enjoying a bit of rest today while I can. Things are going to change very shortly.