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.