After a couple of long flights and an overnight stopover in Dubai, I'm finally here...Kabul, Afghanistan. It is very brown. The city is surrounded by mountains and is at an elevation of about 5800 feet...I could feel the elevation just walking around and climbing stairs. it reminds me of Denver or Bend, OR, with the mountains nearby and some of the big desert pine trees that we have on our compound.
We landed and met our escorts who took us through the airport to meet our transport. We had armored vehicles and were required to wear flame retardant jumpsuits and gloves, bulletproof vests, helmets and safety glasses for the short 10 minute ride from the airport to our hotel. We had a convoy of 3 vehicles driving down this 4 lane road. But when they drove, they staggered themselves so that we took up the entire road, so nobody could pass us or get along side us. We had to pass through some roundabouts and did it with horns and sirens blaring so people knew to get out our way. We had to pas through a number of checkpoints before reaching our base.
The base for the Corps of Engineers is called Qalaa House. From my understanding it is the former Iraqi Embassy that is now ours...I'm sure that we paid them fair market value for the property. The propery originally was...I think...about the size of a football field with just a handful of buildings on it and surrounded by walls. Here is a picture of the main building. Most of the time you don't get this nice of a view of this building as our armored vehicles are typically parked in front when people aren't leaving the compound to go look at construction sites. Just so you know, when you leave the compound to visit other places, it is called going "down-range"...and you travel with a "force-pro" team...that's "force protection" for you non-military personnel.
The living facilities are a bit interesting. To make dorms, they stacked up metal shipping containers...ConEx Boxes....wired them with power, tossed in a couple of beds and a desk, threw on some doors and "Viola"...dorm like rooms.
I'll be able to upload some pictures in the near future but I have to do a little work to get them off my ipod and onto a computer hooked to the network...the Government doesn't make this process very easy.
It is truly amazing how many offices and living spaces they have crammed into this base...I think we have a couple hundred employees working at this base. We have one dining facility...DFAC...open 24 hours per day...buffet style...all you can eat. My kids would love being here as they could have ice cream with every meal and nobody would care. They have lots of health choices, but there are plenty of opportunities to really pack on the pounds if you aren't careful of what you eat...endless cookies, bottomless soda, all the bacon your heart can handle. If we are tired of the food choices here in the DFAC, we can walk across the street to Army Camp Eggers and eat over there. They have a number of DFACs that have specials throughout the week...surf and turf...grilled steaks...good livin'!
Good thing the gym is also open 24 hours per day...and there are plenty of classes that the employees take turns leading. They have Zumba, Insanity (I think), spinning, and I think there is a crew here doing the P90X workout. I hit the elliptical this morning before work and then went to spinning where I may have over-done it...I was spinning in a puddle of sweat by the time it was all over.
For work, I work in a team of 6 where we review all designs and calculations for a variety of buildings and bridges going up all over Afghanistan. Additionally, we support the construction offic when things in the field aren't going up as they were shown on the drawings. It will be nice to get back into building engineering...I've been away from it for a couple of years.
Except for missing my family...this is a pretty great place to work. It must be pretty weird to read...all things considered...but the people are very nice, the work is bottomless but rewarding, the food is pretty decent...things could really be worse...I guess there is that constant threat of incoming fire to remind me that I'm not really working in paradise. There hasn't been an incident of direct or indirect fire at this base for a long time, but they like to remind us not to get too comfortable.
As I said...all things consider, it won't be too bad spending the next few months here...I'll send pictures when I can.