Sunday, August 19, 2012

Back In Maiwand Again

Hutal, Maiwand District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan

I arrived back in Maiwand this morning.  It was a long trip.  I left Asheville on Monday evening.  The flight was delayed a bit by weather, but I still got to Atlanta in plenty of time to catch the flight to Dubai.  Some of my friends have recently had some bad experiences with United (lost bags, cancelled flights, and don't-give-a-hoot crews and representatives) but Delta has been pretty good for me.  Our flight was packed with lots of US civilians obviously heading to Afghanistan.  How did I know?  They had this certain look to them, of men who had done hard things in difficult situations for long periods of time; calm, competent, no-bullshit carriage.  That, and the military-issue backpacks.

The 14-hour flight was as long as it sounds, but surprisingly, I was able to get some sleep.  Waking up at the 6-hour mark and realizing that you still have 8 hours to go is not much fun.  Dubai passport control is efficient and I was soon at my hotel.  Had a long soak in the tub, followed by a great dinner on their terrace (burger and draft beer), and in the rack for the night.  My body clock was so confused.

The next day, it was on to Kabul.  The seats on this plane were even smaller than Delta's and every single one was taken.  In other words, sardine city.  After Dubai's modern airport, Kabul's was really ramshackle.  But the passport control was quick and efficient, and I didn't have any checked bags, so I was through in no time.  After getting to the Embassy, I got settled in my room and started taking care of business.  Good thing I did, too, since they'd lost my flight request for the next day to Kandahar.  I ran into several old friends while wandering around the compounds, which was cool.  The Embassy is a massive construction project right now.  Eight hundred million of your tax dollars are building a huge new compound, and as a result, getting from one office to another is a challenge.  Hell, even finding the office is a challenge.  Is all this necessary?  A lot of us think not.  It is too much like the monstrous embassy in Baghdad that is now way under-utilized.

The next day, I flew down to Kandahar and checked in with the offices that we work with on a daily basis.  I got caught up on news and gossip and checked my three email accounts.  When you have 1400 emails in the queue, the "delete" button is your friend!  Sleeping at night was still difficult: I'd hit the rack around 9:30, wake up later feeling like I'd been down forever, look at the clock, and it would be 12:45 in the morning.  Ugh!  I had some over-the-counter sleep aids that really helped although they left me a bit groggy first thing in the morning.

Today was the last leg.  I was the sole passenger in an ancient Huey helicopter heading from KAF to Maiwand.  I rode sitting sideways, looking out the great gaping hole where a door would be if a door had been installed.  It was better than any amusement park ride.  We thup-thup-thupped our way across the desert and swooped down on Hutal (top picture).  A cloud of dust, a final bump, and I was back at my little base.  It's so small that I was almost back to my hooch before the bird lifted off.

I've spent the rest of today getting caught up on the happenings here.  There have been some personnel changes, some politicking over at the District Center, and other things that I needed to know about.  Things haven't really changed, just more of the same.  It's back to the grind.

Oh, and lunch today?  MRE's.  Yes!  Looks like I'm going to be losing all those pounds that I gained while on leave!

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