Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kabul, Outbound

My checkout at KAF went pretty well.  I had been told to spend 3-5 days there.  Turned out that my official duties consisted of turning in a badge and telling the IT guys to turn off two email accounts.  The rest of the time, I was packing up a couple of boxes to send home, deciding which shirts to throw away now and which to keep for a few more days, and meeting with old friends in the office or for lunch or dinner or just to shoot the breeze.  Contrary to popular opinion, there are a lot of really cool people out here who are working their asses off, trying to make a difference.  

Last night, for example, I met with Ahmed and Patrick, two guys that went through training with me a year ago.  One has extended for a year, the other for six months.  One is a doctor with an amazing breadth of experience in bottom-of-the-ladder countries like Libya.  The other is an inveterate prankster who is nevertheless a consummate professional.  Our discussion started with "whatcha been doin'? and wound up going over the recent activities in Libya, segued into an incredibly well-informed and in-depth discussion of Egypt (well-informed on their part, complete ignorance on mine), compared both countries to what we're seeing in Afghanistan, wandered over the significant differences in cultures between a variety of seemingly-related countries, and wound up with "is there any ice cream left?"  It was great to have the opportunity to work with people like that: smart, witty, dedicated, and with experience that comes from being out in the international community.

This morning was The Day, though.  Up early, breakfast, finish packing my bags, and head out to meet up with the transportation to the flight line.  There was a big crowd heading to the State Department flight line and then on to various places.  I got to see a bunch of other friends out there and say goodbye to them.  My flight was called early and we were off.  Our route took us up over the Hindu Kush, which is the name for the steep mountainous region over central Afghanistan.  A spectacular area, almost uninhabited except for pockets here and there.


Before long, we were coming in over Kabul and heading for the airport.  Kabul is a huge city, mostly jam-packed into a too-small area.  Which basically describes most cities such as New York or New Delhi, but here many of the buildings are made of mud brick.


We were met by a vehicle from the Embassy and driven into town.  I am forever grateful that I was not stationed here in Kabul and did not have to drive on these streets.  Drivers here make Italians look prim and proper.  Roundabouts are the worst: you just dive in and cut off anybody who might get in your way.  In the short drive from the airport, we came across two fender-benders, both parked in the middle of the road and (in a sign of the typical Kabul road chaos) not slowing traffic down one bit.

I quickly settled into my room at the Embassy and discovered that one of my two roommates was also one of my fellow students during training a year ago.  I walked out into the lounge and saw four more.  Over at dinner, I ran into somebody I knew in Iraq.  It's like old-home week, meeting with my peeps.

The checkout process probably won't be too arduous, but it looks like I'll have to deal with typical bureaucratic stupidity at times.  For example, one guy today didn't want to sign my sheet because my record showed that a set of travel orders was still open.  Well, since they're for the trip I'm still on, I'm not too surprised about that.  The lightbulb finally went on in his head (it was a 25-watt bulb) and he signed off.  One item down. 

So the journey continues.  Tomorrow will be a big push.  I've got plenty of time, but I want to do as much as possible as early as possible so I can take care of any issues (like today's) before they become Problems.

And I'm looking forward to seeing some more old friends.

1 comment:

Debbie of Boise said...

"The lightbulb finally went on in his head (it was a 25-watt bulb)" LOL! Love your blog.