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


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


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 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 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.

[ 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 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 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 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:
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.


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 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 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


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.