Monday, September 12, 2011

The Greatest Thing

I've figured out the greatest thing about Dubai and the Dubai Airport.
At the McDonalds here, they still serve the original apple pies!!!
The fried, crispy, wonderful apple pies from my youth!

I have about 11 hours to kill here, I may try to eat one per hour...MMMMMMM!!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Last Week

A week ago an Engineer working with the Corps of Engineers here in Kabul was murdered. It was a pretty quiet story as there was/is an active investigation going on to try to determine what happened...most of the major news outlets carried the story, but it was a short story as there were very few details. Most people don't even know that it happened. I don't know many details, and can't really talk about what I do know, but I know that his death was totally senseless. We had a memorial service here on Friday. It was both somber and sobering. Sobering because some forget that we are in a combat zone and seen as unwelcome occupiers to many people in this country.

Today is 9/11. To commemorate this anniversary, the soldiers are holding flag flying ceremonies all day long. They say that the greatest honor that can even bestowed onto a flag is to have that flag flown over a U.S. base in a foreign land. Today about 200 flags will get this honor. They won't be flying over the base for a long time as the color guard has 200 flags to push through...but the color guard raises the flag, salutes, and then lowers it, folds it, and presents it to the person that requested to have the flag flown. The flags can be flown in honor of someone else...or for someone else...and the Commander signs a certificate for each flag. As it is an honor for the flag, it is also an honor for those involved in the ceremony. Most of the military members on this base will rotate through flag duties today. Until I got here, I never really thought about the flag, what it means, and all the people that have died serving under it. It is a bit different now because of my experiences here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

video

Another bad day.

The current events related to Afghanistan are deeply saddening. I'm not allowed to speak about anything that has happened, so I won't. But this much is very clear: despite of all the time, money, personnel, and effort that we have invested in this country, there are still lots of people in this country that don't like us.
It is really too bad.

In news that is not a complete downer...my kindle has been broken out of jail!
I found a website that shows how to apply a "jailbreaking hack" to my kindle so that I can load my own screensaver pictures onto my kindle instead of having pictures of old-lady authors on there when I turn it off. Below are some of the pictures that I've added.






There are about 20 more pictures that I loaded up...it is so awesome!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Cigars

Today on our compound was a meeting of the Tali-banned Cigar Aficionado Club; I went.

It is a group that was founded in Kabul in 2009. They have patches, shirts, coins...you name it. A picture of their patch is shown below.

They have almost 500 members worldwide. You become a member by attending a meeting held here in Afghanistan and paying your lifetime membership dues of $50. This gets you a shirt, a patch, and a free cigar at every meeting. Then when you go somewhere else, you can start your own cigar club and you'll still be under the Tali-banned regime.

They now have about 6 clubs in Afghansitan, a couple in the states, and a couple in Europe. They enjoyed meeting at Qalaa House as we actually have some trees and shade. Most of the time they're sitting in the sun trying to enjoy their cigars.

I didn't join, but I did have a cigar with the group.

They usually meet twice a month at ISAF or at the US Embassy, but they voted to start a chapter at Qalaa House to cover the other 2 weeks in a month. They even voted to give the new chapter $1000 to start buying shirts and cigars.

During the "meeting" they provided some tips on how to properly smoke a cigar. The guy said, "...it is acceptable to put down your cigar to take a drink of your favorite beverage. Here in Afghanistan, that beverage is water." A large number of good-natured "boos" erupted from the crowd. It was a decent way to spend an afternoon.

Getting shorter ever day...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Getting short...

From what I understand, some military terms never change. Most of the people at Kristi's office know that I'm deployed over here. Some older guy that Kristi doesn't really know stopped her in the hall the other day and asked when I was set to return. She told him I would be back in just a couple of weeks and he responded with, "Oh, he's getting real short now!"

That's the term. When your time over here is winding down, you're "getting short". I've asked a couple of other people and they said the term has been around forever. Just another thing about this deployment that makes me feel like I've become part of a special club. A special club where random people can talk to Kristi about deployment and their concern for me/us is genuine...because either they've been there or they've had family who have.

I still have 2 weeks here but but I'm already "chomping at the bit" to get back home. The other night, I had a hard time falling asleep as I was planning my first 10 days or so at home. All the things I want to do with, and for, my family: family pictures, backpacking, canning peaches, projects on the house, etc. It is going to be a full 10 days but I'm really looking forward to it.

Getting shorter every day.




Sunday, August 21, 2011

My Brain!

When the boys were little, whenever they bumped their heads we would always ask, "did you smash your brain?"

The other night at t-ball, Matty fell down in the gym and bonked his head so he was sitting out for a bit. Sam yelled for him to come play and Matty replied with "I'm taking a break because I smashed my brain!"

How great is that?!?

I can't wait to see those boys...only a few weeks left.
Fingers crossed that it goes by quickly.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Amazing.

So I'm back in Kabul now...no more Wardak for me. I'm actually a little bit sad.

Last night, my Wardak team announced that there was a "farewell dinner" for me at the DFAC. I thought that this roughly translated into us all going to dinner together, nothing more than that. I was wrong. When we got to the DFAC, the DFAC staff had arranged the tables and covered them with linens. Atop the table was a big RESERVED sign. I've never seen this before and I said to myself, "wow, there must be a big-shot here tonight" but then I saw some of my coworkers sitting down at the tables. Apparently, I was the big-shot. I was surprised and very touched that they went to the effort...I had only worked with them for a couple of weeks?!?

The Commander and his XOs came and sat with us. I got to spend about 30 minutes having a very nice chat with the Commander about family, kids, and life. It was really wonderful. It may be a hard to understand, if you haven't been in an organization like ours over here, but the Commander is in charge of hundreds of soldiers and a base in a very kinetic part of the world...he is a pretty busy and important guy. For him to take the time to get to know me personally during my time there, even though I was just passing through, was very touching. When dinner was finished, my Captain said some really nice things to close it off. Everything was perfect and totally unexpected...I was touched.

My time in Wardak has been the highlight of my deployment. I really felt like we were doing work that could have a large impact on the people of the Wardak Province. It was a rough couple of weeks, though. The helicopter crash, IEDs, and some recent kidnappings and killings were all relatively close to our base. It elevated the stress a little but I had confidence in the soldiers that went out with us. It is a unexplainable feeling to go out on a movement, site visit, or walk and have someone designated to cover your butt. The soldier in charge of the movement would say, "so-and-so, you're watching out for Engineer Hace!" As we walked the sites, the designated soldier was never more than a stone's throw away. It is surreal putting that much trust/faith in other's abilities.

Most of TF Slugger only has a few months left in Afghanistan. During this time,as I read news reports that flow from that province, I will likely hold my breath a bit until I find out that my co-workers are safe. I wish them all the very best, I really enjoyed the time I spent with them at Forward Operating Base Airborne.

The stress was higher out there, but the rewards were much higher also. I actually miss it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Helicopter

So it has been a few days since the Chinook was shot down.
It is truly heartbreaking.
Most of us here haven't read very many of the news reports as it is a little too close to home for some of us. The crash happened only about 15 miles from our base.

Equally tragic, however, are the soldiers who are killed and not recognized or mentioned in the news, like the 2 killed when the IED hit their MRAP last week. Even the engineers in Kabul didn't know about this. It is really sad that we have gotten so accustomed to soldiers dying and such that it takes an incident of this size to make the news.

Things are fine for me here in Wardak. I'll be leaving here in just under a week to go finish my tour in Kabul.

Today we went out on movement for a meeting with the DAIL, department of agriculture, irrigation, and livestock. Our agribusiness team is working with the DAIL to set up seed associations and a variety of other agri-business programs throughout Afghanistan, it was an interesting meeting. They needed a quick structural evaluation of a building on their site, so they brought me along.

The interesting part about our trip was that it was all on foot. We took 12 soldiers, 2 civilians, and 2 interpreters and walked from our base through the village to our meeting site. It was hot and we were in our full battle-rattle. I sweated through everything...it was hot. It was a pretty interesting walk...a little "higher speed" than I'm used to because you never know who is a friend and who isn't. Additionally, we planned our route before we started moving but as we were walking we turned down a street and it was full of locals working on the foundation for a wall. We had to walk by over 50 people to pass through this street...it is tough on the nerves because I don't have the experience to tell friend from foe. One of the men that we passed yelled something derogative about the women in our group in Pashtu...our interpreter told me. Our interpreter informed the man that language like that was not OK during Ramadan and that he should shut-up.

There is talk that the locals don't really like us, but I'm glad nothing more happened today.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Bud Lite

I went outside the wire again to inspect the masonry wall that surrounds the agricultural institute. The work we saw that other day was really poor and we had the contractor in our office so that we could explain all the deficiencies.

We went out today to see if he's figured out how to correctly build this wall. While we were out there some of the soldiers made up a "real American hero" jingle about me. If you don't remember, google "bud lite real American hero" where they would make a commercial about those with really mundane jobs.

Mine went.
We salute you, Mr. Aghan-Wall-Inspector-Man.
You walk this crappy wall under the hot sun.
guy singing in the back ground, "oooo, it's really hot out here"
You tell the contractor that his masonry is not very good.
guy singing in the back ground, "oooo, the wall is really crappy"
...I don't remember the rest except for "So, here's to you Mr. Afghan-Wall-Inspector-Man."

It was pretty funny...

The other day wasn't so fun, though. A patrol from a COP (Combat Out-Post) that is a few towns over from where we are, hit an IED while they were driving on their patrol. They were in an MRAP but 2 soldiers were still killed in the attack and another 2 were wounded. They soldiers were from the same brigade or company as the ones that I work with. It was weird to be in the office when someone came in and announced that, "We lost 2 today and they're bringing in 2 wounded." The people I work with didn't really know the soldiers but you could tell that they felt the loss of their own.

I also found out that I may be moving back to Kabul sometime soon. I guess they found a permanent replacement for me that should be arriving this week.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Wardak

So I'm working over here in Wardak Province on Task Force (TF) Slugger. It is pretty sweet being on TF Slugger...it just sounds cool. On thing that the Army does quite well is come up with team names. I'm convinced that corporate team cohesion could be created with some great team names.

"You have a question about your bill? That is handled by Team Ripcord, I'll transfer you now."

"You'd like to speak with marketing? Transferring you to Team Thunder."

I'm going to push for our structural engineering team back home to come up with a better name: TF Blackbird, TF Dagger, TF Tank, TF Hat-Trick...all good names.

We went out on movement today. 4 MRAPS chock full of soldiers and me. We had to go look at a potential bridge project, inspect a wall, check out a building, and meet with the provincial engineer who works for the governor. It was pretty sweet...MRAPs are nice rides! I may have to get one when I get home. Not sure if I want to get the one with the 50 caliber machine gun in the turret or the grenade launcher. We had one of each out today.

Here is a picture of the bridge project we went to see. As you can see the current bridge is having some difficulties. The river bed is dry, but in the spring the snow melt turns this dry river bed into a raging torrent. So raging, in fact, that it has caused the damage to the existing bridge.

Today I felt like I was doing the work that I came to Afghanistan to do. I was working on projects that can really make a difference for Afghan civilians.

The wall we inspected is one of the last pieces of an Agricultural institute that will help teach local farmers about different techniques to maximize their crop yield, irrigation techniques, as well as ways to store crops to prevent spoilage. The area around here is a high apple producing region and part of the Army's initiative here is to teach the locals what else can be done with apples: saucing, juicing, etc. A number of cold storage sites have been built in the last few years and more are planned to prevent this resource from going bad.

Slugger is also working towards procuring ambulances for the 11 clinics that have been built in the region. They are working with various NGOs, and USAID, and others to to figure out how to make this happen. Purchase should be finalized in the next few weeks. It is pretty amazing to watch as the Commander doesn't say "how" to do something or "who" to talk to, he just says..."there is a need for 11 ambulances, get it done"

And the best part about the day...nobody try to shoot us!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Airborne

First things first, here is a picture of the MRAP that was on the compound the other day.

I moved...unfortunately, though, it was not by helicopter. I just got a ride in your run-of-the-mill armored 4-Runner while wearing body armor...just another normal day.

I'm at forward operating base (FOB) Airborne. It is SW of Kabul by about an hour. It is a mountain base, we're at about 8000 feet.


The drive here was pretty crazy. It was a 2 lane road, drive as fast as you want, pass whenever you like. One of the vehicles that is pretty common around here is the old toyota minivan that was a bit boxey...don't remember what it was called. But they are taxis here and everywhere you go, you see about a dozen people crammed in to them. The side doors are always open so they can get some ventilation into the van. We passed one that only had about 5 or 6 people in it, but it did have 2 full-sized goats in the back taking up the extra space.

One of the things that I'll never get used to is the over-whelming poverty here. On the drive yesterday, we were stuck for a bit in a traffic jam and there was a little boy, probably about 11 or 12 years old, walking between the cars with a brush in his hand and a big water jug strapped to his back. He was offering to wash the windows of anyone stuck in traffic. It is sometimes very hard to see. But several times during the drive, I did see kites being flown. Kites were out-lawed under the Taliban...so it was nice to see them being flown.

So for the next month or so, I've been loaned to one of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT). Everyone on my team is part of the military, mostly reserves...except for me. I sat in on a daily briefing the other day where we briefed the Colonel on what everyone on the team was working on. This team is focused more on making positive changes in the lives of the local Afghans. They are building bridges that can link communities and economic opportunities. The commander spoke about wanting to connect villages so everyone can have access to the centralized provincial government. He also spoke about doing things to model democracy. One of his ideas is to have some of the different offices hold weekly staff meetings in one of the nearby villages so that Afghans can see what democarcy and open governance can look like.

It is very different here from back in Kabul where our focus was primarily on building things for the Afghan Army and Police. Here it is about bridges, OB/GYN clinics, schools, highways, and governance centers. It is different work and I'm looking forward to having a few weeks here to help in any way that I can. It should be interesting.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Petting Zoo

Today at lunch we are having a petting zoo!

Slightly different from your conventional petting zoo, this is an opportunity for us to get up-close and personal with IEDs (improvised explosive devices). It is a seminar about how IEDs have evolved over the years here in Afghanistan. It also gives us a chance to see what the enemy is using as a means of attacking US soldiers. Should be pretty interesting. I'll take some pictures.

They are bringing in an MRAP for us to check out, too...which should be really cool. MRAP stands for mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle. Here is a picture of a typical MRAP.

It should be one of the more interesting lunchtimes I've had in awhile.

Monday, July 25, 2011

7-weeks to go

The countdown has officially started.

2 things that I wanted to do while I was here is shoot a machine gun and ride in a helicopter. With only 7 weeks to go, the odds weren't looking good.

But...it appears that things may be looking up in this area.

I may be heading out for a little while to assist the army with construction assessments at one of our bases in Afghanistan. From what I've been told, everyone that gets to this base...goes by HELICOPTER!

I may get that helicopter ride afterall. I'll keep you posted.

Maybe when I'm there, they'll have some spare machine gun ammo for me to burn. Fingers crossed! Either way, the countdown has started for my flight out.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

National Sport

Recently, they started sending out emails to those of us working on our compound that have a Dari word of the day and something about life and culture in Afghanistan. Here was today's, about Afghanistan's national sport.

Afghan 101: Buzkashi (بزکشی)

Buzkashi, meaning "goat-killing" is the Afghan national sport. It is team sport played on horseback where skilled riders grab a goat or calf from the ground while riding a horse at full gallop. The goal of a player is to grab the carcass of a headless goat or calf and then get it clear of the other players and pitch it across a goal line or into a target circle or vat. Competition is typically fierce. Prior to the establishment of official rules by the Afghan Olympic Federation the sport was mainly conducted based upon rules such as not whipping a fellow rider intentionally or deliberately knocking him off his horse. Riders usually wear heavy clothing and head protection to protect themselves against other players' whips and boots. The boots usually have high heels that locks into the paddle of the horse to help the rider lean on the side of the horse while trying to pickup the calf. Games can last for several days, and the winning team receives a prize, not necessarily money, as a reward for their win.

The game consists of two main forms: Tudabarai and Qarajai. Tudabarai is considered to be the simpler form of the game. In this version, the goal is simply to grab the calf and move in any direction until clear of the other players. In Qarajai, players must carry the carcass around a flag or marker at one end of the field, then throw it into a scoring circle (the "Circle of Justice") at the other end. The riders will carry a whip, often in their teeth, to fend off opposing horses and riders. Horsemen are frequently carried away and in their excitement they will bump, hit and jar opponents. When they return, they are usually bruised or have a broken limb. Sometimes, they choose a site for pitch near a river and a few horsemen conspire to drown their opponents. The Afghans play for very high stakes and take the game very seriously. It is not uncommon for riders to continue in the game with cracked ribs, broken limbs and various head injuries

Buzkashi is often compared to polo. Both games are played between people on horseback, both involve propelling an object toward a goal, and both get fairly rough. However, polo is played with a ball, while Buzkashi is played with a dead animal. Polo matches are played for fixed periods totaling about an hour; traditional Buzkashi may continue for days, but in its more regulated tournament version also has a limited match time.

Buzkashi continues until a team is announced the winner. At the end of the game, a horse race is arranged which is known as 'paiga' . Horses used in paiga races are different from those meant for Buzkashi. Younger boys are not allowed to participate in such races because race horses are not saddled. Some ride their mounts bare-back and others use a thin saddle blanket.

Pretty interesting, huh? I'm starting a league when I get back to Portland.

Monday, July 18, 2011

I'm Back!

I'm back in Afghanistan...but I'm in a great mood!

I have less than 60 days until my deployment is over. It is a great feeling. I know it is getting close because I already have to start filling out paperwork to leave. There is light at the end of this tunnel!

I got back from R&R a few days ago. This time, adjusting to the 12 hour time change was a little bit rough. I had a couple of sleepless nights. Finally, the other night I popped a few Benadryl before bed and was out for the count...all night long.

One weird thing, I went on R&R as a 36 year old and came back as a 62 year old. I have to get up to pee at least once every night! It is really annoying.

R&R was great! We had a wonderful time in MN and WI. I can honestly say, I hardly thought about Afghanistan. It was very relaxing. We swam almost every day and had a great time seeing family and friends. I cannot imagine a better way to spend a vacation...it was really wonderful.

But, I'm back in the promised land for just a couple more months. What I've been promised is mountains of work, heat, and sub-par food.

But, nothing could sour my mood today...I'm planning a backpacking trip for me and the boys for a few days when I get back. I'm pretty excited to be done.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

R&R

I have a ride to the airport.
I have a flight out of Afghanistan.
I have a flight that brings me back Stateside.

It all starts tomorrow morning, I can't wait!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Water Update

So we performed our experiments.
We put 2 thermometers in the freezer overnight, nestled between 2 water bottles.
This morning, the thermometers both read 23 degrees. That is not a typo...23 degrees.
And the water in the bottles was not frozen.

We were able to take a water bottle out, un-cap it and it would stay liquid. We put in a thermometer to check the temperature of the water and crystals immediately started forming on the thermometer...but the water was at 23 and then started climbing when crystals started forming. The thermometer wasn't at a different temperature than the water, but the introduction of the thermometer was enough to disturb the fragile state of the supercooled water and start the crystal growth.

So 32 degrees is not the freezing point of water! I did a quick internet search and found out about some "scientists" in Israel that were working on this.

www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123376191

Scientists in Israel?!? A bunch of morons in Kabul did the same thing.

I'll be in MN in a couple of days, free to take meetings with any scientific institutions that are looking to add this big-brain to their staff. Nothing less than a senior management role, of course...and stock options.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Nerds and Water

Ok, this is going to get really nerdy, really quickly...fyi.

There is an interesting thing that happens in our office related to water bottles. We have a mini-fridge where we store water bottles and other stuff. The top part of the fridge has a little freezer part. It can be seen in the photos below.

The freezer is at such a temperature that the water gets nice and cold, but the water does not freeze. However, sometimes I can take a water bottle out of the freezer, bring it to my desk, set it down and the water inside will freeze and crystallize without me doing anything. I do not open the water bottle so the seal is intact the water just freezes. Some photos of this can be seen below...the water always freezes from top to bottom...most of the time. It may not look like it...but the water is freezing to slush.




Other times, the water will not freeze up...however, if I take the water bottle and lightly bang it against the side of the table or shake it...this action starts the crystals forming. I think that if I smack the water bottle on the edge of the desk, the point of impact will be the location at which the freezing starts...but I'm not sure. Experiments forthcoming.

Again, this is all without opening the water bottle.

Ok, as a bunch of nerds, we're trying to figure out WHY it happens. Initially we considered that there is a change in pressure from the fridge to the office because we're at altitude...6000 ft. We debunked this for a couple of reasons...the fridge is not a "pressure vessel" but also because the pressure inside the water bottle can't change that drastically because the seal does not get broken and the bottle does not noticeably change in size.

The mechanical engineers believe the whole process is somehow related to dissolved gases in the water. Since I don't know what this means, I have to disagree with their theory. This is a very common response from scientists...if you don't understand something, it must be wrong. I've vehemently disagreed and went so far as saying that it is the dumbest thing I've ever heard...they knew I was joking.

Coming from a chemistry background I think it has to do with activation energy...the energy required for a reaction to take place. For example, with water if you add enough heat to it...it boils. If you remove enough heat...it freezes. My thought is that the action of shaking the bottle releases enough "heat" from the system to start the water freezing.

The mechanical engineers also believe that the water is somehow already below the freezing point temperature when it comes out of the freezer...but for some reason it doesn't freeze.

We're having and experiment tomorrow at 0700. We will put 5 bottles in the freezer tonight so they will be nice and cold by tomorrow morning...and we're going to try to figure this out. We have thermometers and everything all ready...very methodical.

It may be tough to sleep tonight...my adrenaline is pumping...the excitement...you can cut the tension with a knife around here! Good thing that we're getting "danger pay".

2 more days of work until R&R!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rockets, Mortars, and Water Heaters

So a couple of weeks ago I got the following email...

"...would like for a structural engineer to come over to their villa and check out damage from an explosion (not from insurgents). They would provide transportation.
Not sure what exploded"

I got to go check it out, kind of exciting. It turns out that a water heater in a back bathroom exploded. The force of the explosion was pretty amazing. It blew 2 large wardrobes that were in the next room through the window and out into the yard. It also blew doors off their hinges that were 4 rooms away. Pretty intense shock wave. Structurally, the building was fine..the force tried to blow the roof off, but instead travelled down the hallway and caused some smaller damage.

It turns out that water heaters in the States have both pressure and temperature valves. Water heaters are supposed to stop heating when the water reaches a certain temperature...if they malfunction the water inside keeps getting hotter and hotter and eventually superheats and explodes...which is what happened. In the States the extra valve releases the pressure or turns off the system so no explosion happens. That is not the case here...no pressure release and temperature sensor failed...so...BOOM!

I also got an email yesterday about a police station that got hit by a mortar...and they inquired about structural damage and repairs. Picture is below.

The mortar hit the roof and blew some of the roof away. Surprisingly, the mortar did less damage than the exploding water heater. But this way, you can see what an Afghan police station kind of looks like.

I also got a email yesterday that a rocket hit a construction site somewhere else in the country and damaged a steel beam. It blew a section out of the beam and we have to design a fix based on some pictures.

A flurry of stuff to deal with, kind of exciting couple of days...breaks up the monotony of desk work.

Less than a week until R&R, I'm excited to get out of here for a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Train Museum

So since life over here is pretty boring...I've decided to write about something other than Afghanistan.

A couple of years ago, just before the boys turned 3, I took them to the Washington State Historical Society museum as they were having a big model train exhibit. The boys were train crazy at that time. We had a DVD collection called Toy Trains and the boys LOVED it. So when they were having a couple-day exhibition of model train set-ups, I decided to take the boys. Model train clubs from all over the Northwest came and set up their lay-outs for everyone to see. These layouts were intricate and amazing...trains of every type/size were going to be on display. My friend Jesse and his kid, Sam, went also...dads and their boys...what could go wrong?

We drove to Olympia and paid our admission to the museum. It was a really neat museum...4 floors of displays and amazing/intricate train lay-outs. These lay-outs were all built and paid for by local clubs and model train enthusiasts. Most of the members of these clubs were older gentlemen. The standard height of these layouts is about 48" off the ground. A nice height for some old guys to work on their model trains...not a nice height for crazy toddlers that want to see what is going on. Only one or two train lay-outs had step stools for kids to watch...the rest of the time parents had to pick up their kids. It sure would've been nice to know this before we went...we would've brought our own little steps for the boys. Since I let Kristi have the day off, it meant that I had to hold both boys...at the same time...all the time. I got tired really quickly.

The boys were so excited about all the train stuff that they were running between the train set-ups. They were loving it.

One of the best rooms was a city of playmobil trains. The set-up was amazing, very creative. This was a personal lay-out of one guy and he was so nice, he would talk to the boys and show them some stuff and he didn't freak out if the boys wanted to touch some of the pieces...he was very generous and kind. The display had a rope in front of it to keep people back a little bit, but he didn't freak out when the boys ducked under for a closer look. He had a 5 foot tall plastic Playmobil figurine as part of the display. When I asked him about it, he told me that those were very rare and hard to find. It was a really neat layout that we came back to visit several times.

Finally we made it to the 3rd floor...through about 2/3 of the train exhibits. I was already getting tired, the boys were not. Sam was running down one of the halls wind-milling his arm round and round...he used to do this, run and just swing one arm round and round like a windmill. It was adorable and very care free...I wish I had a video of it, he doesn't do it anymore...and it was one of my favorite things for awhile. It always made me smile. Anyway...running down the hall...I noticed that Sam was only wearing one shoe. I asked him, "Sam where's your friggin' shoe???" He looked down at his socked foot, back at me, shrugged and went back to running. Now I had to keep tabs on two crazy kids and also try to find a lone shoe somewhere within the thousands of square feet of museum that we had already seen.

So that I could formulate a game plan, we went back to the Playmobil exhibit. When we got there, Sam ducked under the rope and went around the side of the display. Since I figured that this would test the patience of the very generous owner, I crawled under to go get him. At the same time, Matt noticed that the big Playmobil statue had an orange construction vest on. As he loved everything orange (and still does), he wanted to give the guy a hug. Of course, he knocked over the "very rare" 5-foot tall Playmobil guy. The owner was visibly rattled...luckily there was no real damage to the statue, but that was our last trip to the Playmobil exhibit.

Sam still was missing a shoe, though. In a stroke of genius I went to the info desk near the front door and asked about it. They had people all over the museum with radios. They put out an APB and the shoe was located in a matter of minutes...chalk up one point for dad!

We went and saw the trains in the basement and then took a break for lunch. My friend, Jesse, could see that I was pretty tired...he recommended we take a little time walking through the museum exhibits to take a break from the trains.

This started out seeming like a good idea...there was lots to interact with and see...giving me a welcome break from the chaos of trains. We spent some time at this exhibit that, if I remember correctly, was a covered wagon and pioneer exhibit. Then I noticed that there was a blue flashing light on top of the exhibit and a high-pitched chirping sound. I couldn't figure out what that had to do with the pioneers...no other displays had blue lights. Then I noticed that Sam was holding a wooden apple from the display...back to the blue light and chirping sound...back to Sam. Oh, CRAP...he set off the alarm on the exhibit!!! Needless to say, we did not stick around. We acted very nonchalantly as we passed security guard heading for the display.

I was tired, boys were not...I was pretty close to the end of my rope.

We went to one other exhibit. This one at least had a metal railing to keep people away. It was a display of Native American masks or headdresses. The boys both immediately dropped to their knees to crawl under the railing. I was able to grab them each by the ankle, but not before they set off this alarm also.

This ended our trip to the museum. I let Jesse and his kid stay at the museum for a little while but the boys and I were done...we stayed outside for a bit and then waited in the car. I was so tired.

All in all, I don't regret the museum trip. It provides a nice story to tell, but I was a wreck by the time the day was over.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Quakes

Living in Oregon, we've had earthquakes from time to time...but I've never felt them.

Here they are more frequent than in Oregon, but I still never feel them.
We got a jolt yesterday that I felt. Actually, we had 2 yesterday...a 4.5 and a 4.3.
I fell the 4.5, it rumbled the building a little bit. The 4.3 came and went without me even knowing.

It was over before we knew it. No time to weep, hide under our desks, or even have our lives flash before our eyes.

No big deal...just another day in Afghanistan.

Monday, May 30, 2011

New Favorite Shirt

A couple of weeks ago, I got a box of goodies from my brother and sister-in-law in Colorado. My parents were out visiting them and offered to take it to the post office. On their way to mail the box, they decided that there was just enough room in the package for a little bit extra...they stopped at a store to buy me a Colorado Rockies shirt to add to the care package.

Nice gesture but one slight problem...the shirt is a YOUTH size and not an ADULT size.

I did however, decide to try it on when I got it. It is my new favorite shirt. Trust me, nothing makes you feel more like a barrel-chested-behemoth than a shirt that was cut for a 14 year old. Biceps fill out the sleeves nicely without all that pain and suffering in the gym...

If you are a bit past your prime...or if you don't remember ever having a "prime" but are rapidly approaching 40, bald, with 2 kids...and want a little self-esteem pick me up, "accidently" buy yourself one of these shirts to wear around the house. It does wonders.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day

Yesterday we had a day off in observance of Memorial Day.

Surprisingly enough, we spent Memorial Day much like most American spend it. We grilled, played horseshoes, basketball, volleyball, and poker. My friend Daly and I even went over to the U.S. Embassy and swam in their outdoor pool.

One thing that was a little different is the candlelight service we had last night in honor of those that have fought and died in service of our country. It was a pretty moving ceremony that included music, a slide show, and lots of stories of loved one who have served, or are currently serving.

One thing that our Commander said caught my attention...he spoke of those past that have made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms that we enjoy and went on to say that even though we grill, play games, and relax on this day there are still lots of people on the front lines defending us as we celebrate and it is likely that at least one of them will make the ultimate sacrifice today.

On Memorial Day think of those that have sacrificed in wars past, but also remember those currently sacrificing for the life we enjoy.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Culture

In my time here, I've learned a fair amount about the daily life for Afghanis...I'll try to put some of it down here, but it may take a few posts. Most of the information about daily life and culture has been gathered from interactions with our local nationals and conversations with coworkers. All of us speak with the LNs that work on our compound and sometimes they provide us some insight about Afghan life and culture. The information provided here is only anecdotal and I have not done significant research to verify any of this information.

When we drive around we see children all over the place, boys and girls playing together. But, as kids get older it is inappropriate over here for males and females to interact unless you come from a very very liberal family. One of our LNs indicated that after children are about 9 or 10 years old, they are not allowed to speak or interact with one another. Also related to children, one of the LNs indicated that in some families, as boys age (still younger than 10), it is not uncommon that all parenting of that child is done by the father and the mother has a very limited parental role in the child's life from that point on.

We've asked about the burqa and head scarves. All women from a very young age have their heads typically covered with scarves...but the extent depends on the family. As children, girls typically only wear a head scarf but her face is rarely covered. As girls age the requirements change. Some families only require that the hair be covered while others require more. Sometimes a woman covers her face while in mixed company while others have their face covered at all times. The most face covering is with the burqa where is even a woman's eyes are covered through a cloth mesh. From my understanding the decision regarding which type of head covering a woman wears is made by either the father or the oldest male child in a family. Either makes this decision.

In regards to women and school, all girls typically go to school until about age 10...but boys and girls do not go to school at the same time. In some places, boys and girls have totally different schools but in other places girls go in the morning and boys in the afternoon, or vice versa. After the age of 10 education for girls varies. Some families encourage their girls to go to school beyond age 10 while other families keep the girls home. The more "liberal" the family, the longer the girls go to school.

There is lots more related to marriage and family life...I'll post at a later date.

Things are still going very well here...less than 3-weeks until my R&R!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Counterfeit

There are lots of counterfeit items in this country.

At the bazaar, there are DVDs for movies that just came out in the theaters a week before. The quality of these fakes range in quality. Some of them are so bad that they were created when a person went to the movie with a video camera and took a video of the movie as it was playing and then burned it to a disk. Sometimes you'll see someone from the audience stand up and then walk out...in front of the video camera. Many years ago Seinfield did episode like this where Kramer was selling bootlegs filmed like this.

Counterfeit items are everywhere. If you want a whirlpool washing machine or a Sony TV...you can get them. They'll have all the proper labels and such but they will not be the same quality of the same products found in the states. You want GE lightbulbs? We got your GE lightbulbs (not really). You want Microsoft Office? $10 and it is yours...

The same counterfeiting happens with building supplies. It is difficult to build a building with high quality building materials as the documents that would attest to the quality are easily fabricated. Steel reports, concrete quality tests, concrete block strength tests, and even nut and bolt tests are all easily faked. Without quality building materials the buildings may not last as long as it should...or it could perform poorly during an earthquake, we don't really know...time will tell.

Counterfeiting sometimes has more immediate and deadly ramifications than a washing machine or TV not lasting as long as it should. A couple of days ago a guy with a counterfeit Afghan Military uniform detonated a suicide vest in a tent at the military hospital. The people that were killed were intern doctors at the hospital. The hospital wasn't too far from our compound. Lots of people eating lunch outside heard the explosion and our compound and Camp Eggers immediately went into a lockdown state. The Corps of Engineers has a group of people stationed at the military hospital to assist with things over there and their tent was about 200 feet away from the site of the detonation.

There are many things I don't understand about life over here...suicide bombers are at the top of the list.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bone Marrow...

I couldn't sleep last night. I got an email from Kristi about a child of someone she knows and it shook me. I'll share some of it below...editing it as it isn't my story to share...I did, however feel compelled that some of this get passed on.

[..my 3-year-old son, XXXXX, has been fighting serious health issues dating back to January 2010. He has been in and out of the hospital multiple times since then, and most recently, we have been inpatient...for nearly a month.

Many people have inquired about XXXX’s current medical situation. He has had a very difficult and complex journey the last 17 months and, believe it or not, it will only get more difficult in the coming weeks. He was originally diagnosed in February 2010 with Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) caused by the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). EBV is a common virus found in 90% of the population. In XXXXX’s case, his body is simply not able to fight off the EBV thus triggering the HLH, which is fatal if untreated. The only way to cure HLH is with chemotherapy, and if that doesn’t work, a bone marrow transplant. After 2 relapses in 2010, a lot of research and consulting with our team of doctors...it was determined that XXXXX has a much more complicated and rare auto immune deficiency and he needed a bone marrow transplant as soon as possible. In December, he was officially diagnosed with Systemic EBV-Induced T-Cell Lymphoproliferative Disease of Early Childhood. As it turns out, he is only one of 26 documented cases in United States History.

As we lined up a few potential 9/10 matches from the national bone marrow registry and started to set up dates for transplant in February, XXXXX relapsed again. To make matters worse, while he was finishing his chemo and preparing for another date in April to transplant his donor backed out. So we found a new donor that was almost as good as the first, and set a transplant date for May 4th. But two weeks before, he relapsed yet again. This time, it was worse than ever before and XXXX was as sick as he’s been. Now, after nearly a year-and-a-half and 5 rounds of chemo, XXXX is close to being stable and we will begin the process again next week with the hope of a transplant in early June. On average, it takes 4-6 weeks to recover enough to be released from the hospital post-transplant. He will continue to be monitored and treated for months to come. But a successful transplant will cure his condition and XXXX will be able to enjoy a normal childhood...]

The email continued and encouraged people to consider getting registered to be a bone marrow donor.

Kristi and I have been so lucky that our kids have been realtively healthy...others have not been so lucky.

I couldn't stop thinking about how I would feel if I were in this situation. How desperate I would be for a donor match...how I would ask everyone I knew to get registered: co-workers, friends, family, neighbors, the parking lot attendant I see daily, people I regularly say "hi" to on the bus, etc.

So, I'm asking you...anyone who has read this far...to get registered. Not necessarily for this child...get registered as if it were Matt or Sam. If you've somehow ended up at this blog and don't really know me and my family...get registered as if it were one of your family members that were sick. Better yet, get registered with the intent that...God forbid...someone you love needs you. If, someday, you get the call telling you that someone you know is sick, your bone marrow has been coded and you're ready to help without delay. If it just so happens that you can be someone else's hero while you wait to help someone you know...all the better.

Registering is easy. Go to the following webiste:
http://www.marrow.org
Fill out the information and they will send you a kit where you take a some cheek swabs and return them for processing. You have to be between the ages of 18-60 to get registered...and then you're on the list. It isn't a promise that you'll donate if you get the call, it is just the first step.

In looking through their website, I noticed that they currently only have 400,000 people on the registry. That is such a small number...such a small fraction of the population. To the few that read this blog...please, get registered...and convince a friend, too.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mother's Day

A week ago, on Mother's Day, the men of the compound here made an effort to make the moms of the compound feel special. The Colonel requested that we put the seat down when we were done using the bathroom...just on that day...but some people wanted to do more. We made a special dinner for the moms.

We set up tables in this nice little part of compound. The women were escorted to their table by well dressed men.
Each table had their own waiter.
He poured them as much fake wine as they wanted.


We cooked for them.
Served them their dinner...notice the elegant paper plates and plastic silverware.


Each mom got a flower to end the night.
Between the fancy dinner and putting the seat down for a day...I think we made the women feel a little bit special.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Board

So after you've been here for a bit, sometimes your photo makes "The Board" here in the office. A photo gets photoshopped and hung up.
Mine made the board today...

BTW, flight suit is like a big snowmobile suit...I have multiple layers of clothing underneath...I'm not really that fat.

Patch

I had to go to the store to get a new patch for my uniform and a guy in my office said, "Make sure to get the right one." Like I'm some kind of dummy. Here is the patch I bought...

Besides the color, notice anything a little weird?
It's backwards...and this is the CORRECT patch!

It turns out that there is a reason that we wear a backwards patch. The patch goes on my right shoulder so the stars are facing to the front of my body. Because we are in a combat zone, this is the combat flag...the stars lead you into battle.

Here is a pic of the patch from my other uniform.

From what I've been told it stems from the Revolutionary War. There was always a flag carrier that led the battle charge. The flag was attached along the edge of the flag that had the stars...so when he was charging...stars were at the front and stripes were flying behind. Because the flag goes on our right shoulder...stars go in the front. I'm not sure why the flag is on the right, but it is.

Coincidently, if I were working on a military base during peacetime, the flag would be the other way.

As always, this is what I've been told...I could be totally wrong.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Every Day

Every day, one of the first things I do after firing up my computer is open a couple of pictures of my boys. That way, when I'm working all day on my computer and switching through all the different applications I have open, I accidentally run into pictures of my kids.

Here are a few of my favorites...6 weeks and counting until my R&R trip.
This was one of the pictures taken at their school on picture day.

Oregon Coast

Matty at the park

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Orphan School

It's been awhile since my last post but there hasn't been much of note worth blogging about. Things are pretty boring here. I work 11 hours a day and then try to find a little time to workout. I think I'm starting to get tired of the food around here as I've been making a mental list of what I want to eat when I get home for R&R.

The other day, we went to the Orphan School to deliver the backpacks and school supplies that we collected. I've included some photos. The kids were really nice, appreciative, and opened up to us very quickly.

Logistically it was a little interesting. We always travel with our "force protection" people that consist of 1 military and 1 local shooter per vehicle. Once we got out of the vehicles they fan out around us just in case we start taking fire from a neighboring building...we didn't take any fire, but it was interesting nonetheless.

We presented backpacks outside and then went into the school to pass out candy and do some puzzles with the kids. As I mentioned before, each child got a puzzle and tons of school supplies in their backpacks. I was in the youngest classroom with some boys about Matt and Sam's age. It was nice to do puzzles with them just like I used to do with my boys.








After spending some time in their school, the kids came back outside as school was over for the day. All the kids wanted to meet us, shake hands, have pictures taken with us, and check out our bulletproof vests and other gear.

It was a neat experience. I hope to have more similar experiences while I'm here.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Recent News...

We watched the President's news conference yesterday...as many people did. Our reaction here was different from that in the States as there was no mass celebration or party in the streets. While it is very good news that Bin Laden was killed, it is difficult to separate the news from our current location. We can't help but wonder what the backlash is going to be...if any.

My roommate was working with FEMA in New York during 9/11. He spent months at ground zero and got to see first-hand the destruction of that day. He also spoke with many people looking for loved ones...or some sort of closure. Even he has some mixed feelings about this recent news and how it could affect us and our coworkers at other bases.

As I've said before, we're safe on our base in the middle of the green zone. But we all have friends working at places that are more exposed...this has the potential to affect them.

One of the LNs was asking one of the engineers here if we were now going to pack up and leave now that Bin Laden was killed. We're not, of course...but this question seems to show that lots of people...from both sides...aren't really sure how things will change now that Bin Laden has been killed.

Again...I'm safe...just working away. Hope you are all well.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Airport


This is a picture of the memorial at the airport training center where 8 US Air Force soldiers and 1 US Contractor were tragically gunned down by an Afghan Air Force Colonel a couple of days ago.

They are beginning their journey home, please keep their families in your thoughts and prayers.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Season Opener...

So as most people have heard, the Taliban have announced that the "spring offensive" starts today.

We're fine. They've cancelled all movements for a few days until we see whats going to happen. Keep in mind, I'm sitting at a base in the middle of the green zone in Kabul. Vehicles have to pass through lots of armed checkpoints before they get near our compound.

It seems to be like the beginning of deer season in MN. Everyone gets all excited, except for the deer. They just keep going about their daily business...as are we.

Don't worry...I'm fine.

Orphan Education Center

Before I came here some people on base decided they wanted to try to help some of the children of Afghanistan. The years of fighting in this coutry have created many orphans and disabled children. They wanted to try to help.

People here began speaking with the local nationals that work here on base to try to determine how we can best help and reach as many children as possible...the neediest of kids.

We were informed of an Orphan Education Center in Kabul. It is an all-boys school for orpahed and disabled kids. They don't live at the site, they live with a relative or somewhere else but attend this school daily. There are 160 students of all different ages.

We started a collection. Several people here reached back to family, friends and their home USACE district to collect school supplies for these kids. Sadly, my district office in Portland was not contacted to donate, I would've like to participate.

We were able to receive a ton of supplies...and money, too. In addition to the supplies we received, we gathered about $1600 to purchase more stuff. Our LNs went shopping for us to get the rest of the supplies that we needed. With the money and donations that we received each boy will get a backpack filled with: several notebooks, pencils, pens, erasers, crayons/colored pencils, puzzles, a few toys, ruler, caligraphy tool and ink wells.



We also collected about 30 lbs of toiletries and candy in case the kids need either of those necessities.

The caligraphy tools are very interesting. They are essentially bamboo-type sticks with the ends cut. The written language here is very artistic and there are subtle nuances with the written letters that can't be conveyed as well with standards pencils and pens...so each child gets a few of the caligraphy tools and 2 ink wells.

After filling our quota of school supplies, our LNs spent some of the leftover money on soccer balls, volleyballs, basketballs, and air pumps for the school. You know...all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. In wonder what the Afghan equivalent is for "Jack"...


We were planning on going to the school tomorrow to make our delivery, but our movement was cancelled for some reason. We're hoping that we can do it in a week or so.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Video...

The story behind the video that was posted the other day...
Kristi posted it. We're trying to trouble-shoot how I can view videos that she takes of the boys while I'm gone.

The videos are too big to email so she tried posting them on the blog to see if I could watch them. I can't, it turns out that my computer here doesn't have the necessary plug-in to see the video. If you can view it you'll notice that the boys are learning how to use the monkey bars.

So the "easiest" way for me to see videos of my kids is to have Kristi post them to snapfish where I then login and download them, burn them to a CD, and then bring them to my room to watch them on my personal computer. Such a pain in the butt...but it is better than not being able to see my boys in action.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Update

"Who wants to hit this bag of Cheetos with me??" I hollered after opening the package I received from my niece and nephew. It is good that they sent 2 bags as there were lots of takers. I hid a bag and kept one for sharing. Some night I just may strap the spare bag to my face and chow down.


A big thanks to H and M for the package...I got some great stuff: coffee, hand sanitizer, peanuts, some great reading material, and some candy. It was very thoughtful.

I actually got 2 packages on the same day. My family send me an Easter box, too. From them I got some homemade granola bars, artwork from the boys, a workout journal, candy, and a big ROCK!

Evidently, Kristi was on a walk with the boys and they were talking about sending me a package. Matt picked up a rock from somebody's yard and send he thought I would like it...he wanted to send it to me. Little does he know that one thing that Afghanistan has excess of is rocks. It is a pretty big rock for a little guy to carry but he carried it 3 blocks home and then picked out some wrapping paper to wrap it before sending it. I guess partway home he got tired and asked Kristi to carry it, but she told him that if he wanted to send it to me he had to carry it all the way home...after a little rest he found some energy reserves and carried it the rest of the way.

Kristi also sent me some KEEN sandals. I hate sandals and swear that it has been over 20 years since I've worn a pair. But, Kristi wants us all to have KEENs when we go on our waterpark vacation...so I guess I'll give a little on my no sandal thing. I still wear the pants in the family though, even if it is pants with sandals.

Also, awhile ago...after being a crybaby about the crappy coffee here some friends from Portland sent me this wicked coffee press that fits right on top of my coffee cup. Its kind of funny looking but makes a really fine Americano...Thanks T and S!


Other than that, things are pretty boring over here. 500 insurgents escaped from jail the other day...you know, everything is pretty boring...

I've been in the office all day every day...no trips to the field in a while...but Sunday we're going out to make a delivery of stuff we collected to an orphanage...
I'll write more later, I have to go to the gym and work off 700 calories of Cheetos...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Jesus and machine guns...

We had a 6 am Easter church service on the steps of Qalaa House yesterday. We were the most rag-tag bunch of church-goers that I've ever seen.

Some people were dressed in their cammo, others in shorts or jeans, and some we dressed to the nines in the dresses or nice shirts and pants. Also, soldiers that carry weapons as part of their job brought their weapons to church. Having a bunch of people "packing heat" during church added to rag-tagginess.

The pastor was from Cananda so he was a "Padre Something or other" and not "Father". I gotta say, Padre is way better than Father...Canada has the US beat on that front. He said a-boot for about a couple of times...adding to the rag-tag.

We had a church band! It consisted of: a keyboard, 2 guitars, and a saxaphone. I think it is the only quartet in the history of the world with that instrument list.

We also had a gospel choir that performed a song! And a duet sang a song, too.

It was very interesting...but it was nice though. It was really nice that there was a place for anyone that had a gift/talent that they wanted to share.

All in all, it was a nice church service...but I would've rather been home with my family.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

9 weeks and counting

Only 9 weeks until my R&R...

I'm taking 3 weeks off near then end of July to meet my family in MN. I'm pretty excited, I have my flight already booked. Between me going to grad school and those expensive kids, we haven't had much for family vacations in the past.

We're going to take the boys to Wisconsin Dells for a few days. We're staying at Wilderness Resort...the boy's heads will likely explode when they see all the great waterslides and such. I'm really looking forward to this time with my family. I'm excited to teach the boys the Hace Family vacation tradition of ordering pizza and eating it in bed! The only time you ever get to eat pizza in bed is on VACATION!

If you've never had pizza in bed...try it...if eating pizza in bed is wrong, I don't want to be right!

I'm also looking forward to: Valleyfair, MN backyard BBQs, going to Duluth, playing frisbee, trampoline with my kids, niece, and nephew, great outdoor play structures, catching up with my wife, friends, and family. It is going to be a nice family vacation.

Then it is back to the desert for a couple months and then deployment is over...September will be here before I know it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Proverb

I got an email the other day from one of the local nationals that work here on the compound and his email signature had the following Arabian proverb with it:

"It is not the road ahead that wears you out -- it is the grain of sand in your shoe."

It got me thinking about baggage that I carry around with me: people I've wronged and never forgiven myself for...people that have done the same to me...arguments that I've had with people...events that I replay over and over again trying to find a different end result...

We all have instances where we've been hurt, or have hurt others...I think it is important to learn from those instances, but I think it is a totally different thing to carry those events as baggage, weighing us down...

I'm writing this mostly for myself, to remind me that when I get back I want to have used this time to figure some things out for myself...about myself...about who I want to be going forward: as a dad, husband, coworker, and friend.

There are things that I don't want to change, but then there are other things...

...random thoughts from the other side of the world...

I've been getting some questions about safety lately, maybe I'll cover that next time.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

It's been awhile...

I logged on today and realized that it has been a few days since my last post...sorry, there just hasn't been anything interesting to report...

I've gotten lots of emails related to must-have music for my nephew, Henry. Thanks everyone, keep the recommendations coming. I think I've decided on a few must-have full CDs and then some mix CDs that have a few songs from lots of artists. I'm working on it and will let you know as I get a little further on the project. I've heard from at least one person who wasted an entire day online going back to listen to music that they hadn't heard in quite some time. Glad I helped some take a walk down memory lane.

Things are up and down here. I went outside the wire again yesterday to go look at a few construction sites: a water treatment plant, water tower, and a new police station. The sites were off the beaten path and the roads to get there were crazy. Potholes were so big they our big Excursion was bottoming out.

The first place we went to see was a water treatment plant that is almost completed. The are having some trouble with the tanks leaking a little so they decided they needed my "expert" opinion. It is laughable that they would ask me, but we did the best we could to help them out so this project can get completed in the next couple of weeks.

They fed us lunch...my first sampling of Afghan cuisine. We had mountains of wonderful rice, beef stew, fruit and turkish coffee. It was very gracious of them to provide us with such a wonderful lunch.


After lunch we went to look at a water tower that may need a little assistance. I got to climb to the top of this thing. For Corps employees that read this...don't bother asking about EM-385...

This is a water storage tank that is at a rural police station in surburbs of Kabul. There are some concerns about how well this was constructed, so I climbed up to take a look. The tower itself is great, but the tank itself needs some help, I'm not sure what we're going to do about it.

As I've mentioned before, all business happens out of small stalls throughout the country. We passed by an area that appeared to be the main place to get your car fixed near this village; there were about 15-20 little stalls where everyone was working on cars. The craziest part of this was that whenever they needed to work on the underside of the car, they would just move it over to an area where they had dug a pit about 1-2 feet deep. Move the car over the pit, slide down and lay in the bottom of the pit and work on the car. Based on the dry, sandy soil in this country, it is amazing that the sides of the pit don't just cave in.

I'll attache a couple more pictures without much explanation...it is late, I need a little sleep.

Gas Station


Car Repair Place


House on a Hill