Monday, January 3, 2011

We meet again

So this post is going to cover my time in Bagram, about 4 or 5 days.  It is going to be 1 of a 3 part series that I wrote in one sitting.  They will carry on through my flight to FOB (Forward Operating Base) Sharana and my first few days on this base.  I feel like that is referring to hundreds of events worth noting, but I'm pretty sure it spans less than a week.  Which brings up my first point.  Days.

Since the day after Christmas, I have had no sense, or care for that matter, what day of the week it is.  Since we will be working 7 days a week, there is no need to keep track.  Also, as each day will be mind-bogglingly similar to the one previous, it makes keeping track even less important.  Now this creates several twilight zone like effects.  For one, I Skyped my wife at noon, and she appeared in my video screen wearing PJs.  Now I know that the NRF doesn't allow this, but my first thought is not, "oh, it must be the weekend."  My first thought is, "what is she doing?"  It isn't until I begin running through a list of possible reasons, that the day of the week comes into play.  The second most prevalent effect, is when pondering spans of time.  When I say I feel like I've been here for a month now, I literally feel like the amount of days that have passed since last seeing my family has reached month long status.  I'm asking Margaret if our couch is still holding up...I saw the couch something like 2 weeks ago.  Weird.

So, I've been in Afghanistan for a lifetime now.  We had a few days of scheduled downtime at Bagram.  I can honestly say that it was a lifesaver.  The list of things that one has to adapt to being over here is too long to think of without my brain hurting, so I will just hit a couple.  The average elevation in Afghanistan is something like 4,000ft, where Virginia is somewhere below about 1,500ft.  I can tell you for a fact that both Bagram and Sharana, are well above that average.  The mountains surrounding both bases can and often do have snow caps well into the summer months.  The elevation can leave you breathless after seemingly short walks.  Imagine carrying a 30lbs backpack, a 40lbs body armor set, and two 60lbs duffle bags as soon as the doors to the airplane open.  Not a pleasant welcome to the country.

Another issue is how dry the air in this country is.  Many newcomers often get several bloody noses during the first few days of acclimation.  I'm a pro, so I didn't get any.  However, I did avoid touching, rubbing, scrunching, or picking my nose, the wife would be proud, for fear of opening the floodgates.  Every sneeze is immediately followed by 4 seconds of sheer panic as you are certain that you've just begun bleeding out all over your nice new work shirt.  Gross, sorry.  The dry air coupled with the distinct lack of rainfall magically transports all of the dirt that should be on the ground into the air for you to breath and attempt to see through.  If you are foolish enough to open your mouth while in the presence of a vehicle, during a windy day, or when in close proximity to someone that treads heavily, you will literally be chewing your air.  Think, "sand in mouth at beach=beginning, middle, end of each day in Afghanistan.  Sucky is a word, though underlined in red right now, that comes to mind when thinking of breathing in this country.

Now, Bagram was where I spent the time acclimating, but I can't say it was all bad.  The Dairy Queen, Burger King, and Subway that I'd remembered from my previous trip had all been closed when the last commanding general took over.  Oh wait, that does suck.  However, what I was most looking forward to at Bagram was still around.  I like to call it, "a barber shop/ massage parlor".  It was basically a place where you can go to get your hair cut and/or get a 60 minute massage for just $20!  I know that was obvious, but I seem to be in a joking mood at the moment.  $20 gets you a full body massage for a whole hour.  Back when I thought I'd spend my whole year at Bagram, I entirely planned on having one to two massages per week.  Pipe dreams.

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