اولین جلوه های ویژه

I have a tradition of recording First Impressions, (see this and this) which is the title of this post–in Dari, one of the local languages. (If you do something three times, does that constitute a “tradition”? In my crazy, mixed-up, non-traditional world, it certainly does!)

So here is the latest in my “First Impressions” series–those precious first thoughts and experiences which color everything and which are unique to fresh eyes, ears, and heart. It’s always so interesting to return after a while and see how first impressions line up with a later perspective.

First, it’s prettier than I expected.  Sadly, we are only allowed to take photographs in three places, one being the official seal in front of the NOB (which I think stands for New Office Building, but you never know. Acronyms are a whole other blog post):

(Stay tuned for the other two locations, coming soon.)

So you’ll just have to take my word for how beautiful it is, although I don’t think my words will do the colorful display justice. There are flowers, including roses galore, and coreopsis, zinnias, marigolds, vinca, petunias, snapdragons, geraniums, portulaca, verbena, four o’clocks, sunflowers, and strawberry plants and multiple types of basil, and more! All these things we see on our twice daily walk to and from work, and I was able to record them all for you because, lo and behold, my boss, besides being an awesome human being in multiple ways, is also a gardener and identified them all for me.

Additionally, there are huge (as in HUGE) photos of national parks and amazing scenery from the US (even Mount Rushmore, and Wyoming’s Devil’s Tower) printed on canvases that line the walls of the building and the tunnel we walk through every day. These two things are a huge respite from the otherwise concrete world in which I now live and work.

It’s huge. As in, I wonder how long it will take me to find my way around without getting lost. The buildings go by mysterious names like EOB and NOB and NOX and D-FAC and SDA-1, 2, and 3, and SDA-A, B, and C. Who knows what it all means and where to find anything? The other day I received an email that I had a package, and I wandered around aimlessly for a very long time, through multiple buildings, before finding the mail room.

It’s intense. I had heard all about how we work long hours, six days a week, and so far, it’s true. My favorite term “it’s always something” is on steroids here. It’s really always something and my guess is that pace will continue. There are anywhere between 6K-7K people here, which is bigger than all but a dozen cities in Wyoming. So there is always something happening, someone needing something, whether it is a report, or a suture.

There are so many players. I don’t know if I will ever learn who’s who and who does what. And that’s just the world of MED; don’t even think about the rest of the embassy players. There are doctors, and nurse practitioners and physicians assistants, and medics and first responders. There are direct hires and contractors of all sorts. There are American nurses, and family member nurses, and third country national nurses, and Afghan nurses. And there are multiple facilities with whom we have varying relationships which go by varying names and acronyms and designations that I’ve never heard of. But thankfully I’m part of an awesome team and there’s always someone to ask.

It’s a compound. We live and work and eat and sleep and exercise and recreate here. We do not leave, except for our designated R & Rs, and when we do depart, it’s via helicopter. It’s not like we can take a three-day weekend to see the sights. What I see from the rooftop deck of my apartment building is what I see.

The food is amazing. And plentiful. There is so. much. food. There are three dining facilities, and each one is better than the last. They have special brunch on Fridays (our only day off), and steak and seafood dinners, and every fresh vegetable you can imagine. (Except brussel sprouts, now that I think of it. I think I will request some.) And the food, in addition to being plentiful and varied, is actually really good. It takes a lot of discipline to avoid the Freshman Fifteen here, I do believe.

And there is always something going on.  It’s been referred to as a “cruise ship run aground”–and it’s aptly named. There are first run movies, and spin class, and art class, and trivia nights, and open air markets with local vendors, and church services of every ilk, and even a games night, which I attended for the first time this week. But don’t be fooled; there are frequent duck and cover incidents, too. It is a war zone.

There is a lot of security here. That’s all I’m going to say. A lot of security. A lot of people in various brown uniforms carrying various means of protection. It is not difficult to remember where we are and what is going on here. But I feel safe and protected in my little world.

Next up: I’ll share lots of photos in Place #2 where we are allowed to take them. Stay tuned.

 

 

“Safe Travels!”

The last time I saw my friend, Jill, before I departed Denver for the next installment of Adventures Unknown, she requested a blog post about my travels. I guess it seems potentially interesting or even glamorous to jet across multiple time zones to destinations few in most people’s inner circles have journeyed.

So here I am, obliging her request. And I am SO HAPPY to report that my travels, although lengthy, were exactly what you always want travels to be: UNEVENTFUL!

It started off not-so-good with a tearful good-bye to the newest member of our family, Nora Marie:

 

As a bit of a backstory, I planned my Home Leave to stretch as long as legally possible in hopes of being present for her birth. She was due exactly one week before my planned departure, but I was thoroughly prepared for her arrival to be typically late and to miss the entire event. Getting on that plane while mom was in labor was what I was expecting/preparing for, and It might’ve been the hardest thing I’d ever need to do. However, in an unprecedented moment of incredible cooperativeness, she arrived one week early! This gave me a full two weeks to enjoy her cuddles, and I am ever so grateful to her parents, Adam and Val, who accommodated my wishes and let me snuggle her every day I was home.

Leaving Randy, leaving family, leaving friends, leaving Quandary, leaving Denver, leaving Home Leave was difficult, but all that paled in comparison to leaving Nora Marie. It just about did me in.

Once that heart-rending event was behind me, the rest was fairly easy. Whenever I travel, especially to far-flung places involving multiple flights, I am always amazed when all goes smoothly. But, in fact, all did go smoothly. And I am so thankful.

My first destination was:

where unfortunately, I had a rather lengthy layover. I cannot speak highly enough of a Priority Pass lounge card, which we have via the Chase Sapphire Credit Card.

It’s an expensive card, but you receive much of the initial fee back in travel credit. I’m no Points Guy Guru, but it is worth the money. The lounges typically are pretty decent, free internet, free food and drink, and at least a bit more security than out in the airport waiting areas. Some even have showers and sleeping pods.

Anyway, I wrapped my arms around my carry-on luggage and fell sound asleep for several hours on a comfy sofa. I always try to sleep as much as possible while traveling. I don’t really subscribe to jet leg, so the more sleep I can get, the better that goes for me. (I know it isn’t scientific to ‘not subscribe to jet leg’, but for me it’s all about mind over matter. Besides, I knew I had to hit the ground running.)

I was a bit concerned about the 12.5 hour leg from JKF to Dubai, but it was not a full flight, so I was able to snag a few empty seats, and in between in-flight movies, stretch out and sleep soundly again. It went by very quickly, and I never even used any of the movies I had downloaded on my iPad. And Emirates is as nice an airline as you’ve always heard it was. The food was decent; the service wonderful; the plane a bit fancy, even in economy. And the flight attendants’ uniforms were amazing.

Once in Dubai, I found my way to the Kabul boarding area. I kept looking around thinking…all these people are going to Kabul (because it’s not like they’d be transiting through Kabul to anywhere else). Why? Why are all these people going to Kabul? And then it hit me, why am going to Kabul? But I guess it was a bit late for that question. Ha.

On the reasonably quick flight from Dubai to Kabul, I had the good fortune of being seated next to an experienced embassy employee who was returning from an R & R. Thankfully, she gave me a few tips and pointers about where to go, what to do, who to hand my luggage tags to, and processing for the final leg of the journey went as smoothly as it could’ve possibly gone.

First, we exited the plane via a different route than everyone else. Then a fully armoured vehicle took us to a special section for clearing immigration. There we waited until our helicopter was ready to take us on the very last leg of our already lengthy journey. We watched the special safety briefing about no hats or open-toed shoes, the need to wear ear protection, and how to don our safety equipment, and enter the helo. I have a really awesome photo of myself in the helo, complete with all the requisite safety equipment, but we’re really not supposed to take photos in the helo, and certainly not share them, so this photo of my personal-issue flak jacket will just have to suffice for now:

Before I could scarcely take it all in, our six minute helo ride was over and we touched down on the compound, where I was greeted by my colleagues sporting this lovely welcome sign:

And just like that, my travels are over for now, and compound life begins.

By tradition, next up: first impressions!

Stay tuned.

This Is A Test

This is a test to see if you’ll follow directions!

I’ve said it before, but I’m saying it again: I’m back to blogging. I do believe this next year will be more conducive to climbing back in the saddle, so I’m going to make a sincere pledge to do so.

However, I’d like to make it a little more private, and divorce it from social media. To that end, this will be the last post I’ll share on Facebook. So if you want to follow along, please go to the right side of the blog and click on “subscribe to my posts”. You’ll receive an email alert when I publish a new post. Don’t worry; I don’t post that often, so it’s not like I’ll be slamming your inbox frequently. But subscribing will be the best way to keep up.

Be sure to subscribe soon as I have a couple of updates in the queue regarding my recent travel and adventures! See you there!