Wednesday, May 11, 2011

7000+ Miles

I got to Kabul early Monday morning, (boy was I glad to finally get here but more on that later).  They had arranged for me to get here by helicopter so that was really cool.  It is a rather short flight from Bagram to Kabul and the first window seat I had in the journey over.  Afghanistan (at least the part between Bagram and Kabul) is a very pretty country from a few hundred feet up.  Lush green fields with small villages and random houses scattered here and there.  All the houses are more like compounds in that they all have a walled in area around the house and yard.  The walls are maybe 6-8 ft high and are made out of mud/adobe just like the houses.  If the good fences make good neighbors saying really is true Afghans are probably the best neighbors.  I hope I get at least one more helicopter trip while I’m here, it really is an awesome way to fly.

Getting here was a bit of a journey but from what I’ve been told I had it rather well.  The flights from the US to Germany and Germany to Kuwait actually went really well.  I got to sit in “first class” so that was fun.  Ok it isn’t really first class the seats are the same as the rest of the plane but it was where the first class cabin would normally be.  The plane wasn’t full either so everyone either had an isle seat or an open seat next to them so that made the trip much more enjoyable too.  Airline food wasn’t as bad as I remember it being or maybe the food at CRC just lowered my standards.  The stop in Germany was nice since it was long enough to get out and walk around but we didn’t really have to sit and wait or anything.

Once we got to Kuwait we were taken to the transient housing facility/air hub and sort of just dropped off with very little in the way of direction.  Which, if you’ve never been in that situation before, is somewhat intimidating.  Once I got a map and found out where I needed to go to check in I was good.  Got billeting for the night and then grabbed some food and a shower, which both greatly improved morale.  Yeah in Kuwait and the best thing I can find to eat is KFC, go figure.  After that I made my way to the pax (passenger) “terminal” to find out about flights.  Pretty much everyone flies standby so if you get on a flight seems to involve a bit of black magic/voodoo/etc.  So you just show up for every flight to your destination and hope they call your name.  I was lucky since the guy I’m replacing put in a reservation for me which can help move you up the list.  I wasn’t really tired and the Derby was on tv so I figured why not stay up and watch it, I always seem to miss it anyway.  I forgot the derby has more pre-coverage than the superbowl. (It is a 2 min long race!!!)  Anyway by the time that was over I was sufficiently tired and went to bed.  Kuwait at night is hot, dry and dusty with nothing to do but wait for your flight, I wanted to spend as few days there as possible.  Luckily in the morning I found out I was going to be on the first flight out so that was great news.  Some people get stuck there for days or even a week.  I hope to never experience that.  Then a C-17 ride to Bagram and I was finally in Afghanistan.  Flying in a C-17 is another interesting experience, strapped in sitting along the wall of the aircraft like you seen in picture of paratroopers waiting to jump.

Bagram is huge and kind of what you might expect a large base in a warzone to look like, crowded, dirty, shipping containers and equipment everywhere.  The guys that I’ll be working with that are located in Bagram picked me up and showed me around a little and took me to get some food.  We worked out plans for the morning but those all got canned when we found out when my flight to Kabul was.  Oh well.  I didn’t sleep much that night, combination of jet lag, excitement, and being a few hundred yards from an active runway with jets taking off/landing 24/7 probably had something to do with it.  I didn’t want to put in my ear plug because I was afraid I would miss my alarm and then my flight.  In the end it all worked out and am getting my sleep pattern back to normal. From Kuwait to Kabul was a bit of an adventure but luckily the guy im replacing did a great job getting things set up and making it less of a hassle.  Still I was very relieved to get here and be done traveling.  Now I just have to get a non-temp room (actually I have the place to myself at the moment so in some regards it's better than the real room I'll move into later).  The temp showers are somewhat lacking but ehh I've had worse.

Overall my first few days here have been pretty good, the compound is pretty nice and so are the guys I work with.  The type of work is totally different than anything I’ve done before so it will take some getting used to but I think I can adjust.  I’ll write more later about the compound itself but now I need to get to bed, another early day tomorrow.

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