Thursday, October 20, 2011

What are you still doing here?

Wait, what? I’m still here?  Hmmm thought I was going to leave by now.  Oh well.  So I’m still living the life at C^3.  Turns out my replacement had some minor delays so I said I’d hang around a little longer till he got it sorted out and gets here, shouldn’t be too long so no big deal.  Me staying a little longer than planned is much better on the whole than not having any overlap and him having to learn everything on his own.  Once he gets here we’ll have a few days of overlap where I need to try and teach him all the ins and outs of my “normal” routine.  I put together a list of that this week, it’s pretty short.  But there is a lot of other stuff that I do “as needed” which takes up a larger chunk of my time so getting him ready for those random bits is important too.  At least for me a large part of this job is reactionary so really what I’m doing any given day/week is dependent on what is going on across the country and here at C^3.

I did get to have some fun this week.  The boss and I went over to Bagram for a day to take care of some administrative stuff.  Aside from seeing most of the guys over there we also got to see the new PIF that one of the teams is installing.  Basically when it is all delivered, setup and functional it will have the capabilities of a regular machine shop back stateside.  There are some issues with the whole concept and scheme of implementation and how you make something like that useful while still following all the army rules on R&D type activity but when they get it all sorted out it could be a really awesome capability to have.  Either way it was neat to go check it out and see all the machines and talk to some of the guys that I normally only talk to over email.

They gave me the choice of which DFAC to go to for lunch, so in my ongoing quest to eat at every DFAC at Bagram I choose to go to the BBQ Tent. (ok do you really need any other reason to go to the BBQ tent, I mean they serve actual grilled food.)  Of course it was delicious; I had ribs that I ended up turning into a sandwich.  Pretty much any meat product is better when surrounded by bread, I don’t know why it works like that all I know is that it is delicious.  Oh I had sweet tea and corn on the cob too so that brought everything together rather well.  Also that means that I’ve eaten at every DFAC that I know of at Bagram,  I imagine there are still a few on the list that I haven’t hit but I doubt there are many, especially not if we only count US DFACs. I’ve been to seven, but I don’t know the true number of how many there are.  Not bad considering I don’t live there, also I’ve been to a DFAC that one of the guys that has been at Bagram from the last year has never eaten at.

Once we got done with all the stuff we had to do in Bagram we had some time before our flight to kill so we ended up going to the Bagram PX and then the Bazaar that they had setup. (Their bazaar is more of a permanent fixture where as the one at C^3 is a once a week deal.)  I found what I was looking for at the PX so that was a worthwhile trip.  At the bazaar we ended up spending all of our time at one shop talking with one dealer.  One of the guys we were with wanted to buy an old rifle so most of the time was spent haggling over the price and quality and all sorts of things like that.  He actually go a fairly good deal all things considered.  As this was going on I was looking around, mostly just the usual collection of trinkets which are all pretty cool until you start seeing the same thing over and over at all the different shops in the different bazaars.  LOTS of stuff that isn’t nearly as old as they want it to look like it is, which is kind of a shame since a lot of it is pretty neat.  Anyway one thing this vendor did have that I had seen before but in in such quantity was old Afghan Afghani bills.  He had stacks of them.  Now of course they have been replaced by new currency and so these old ones are pretty much worthless, still I’ve always liked old money for some reason and stacks of it is even better.  But why would I ever need stacks of old cash…..Monopoly….yeah that’s right.  When I get back I’ll be able to play Monopoly with a foreign country’s currency.  Well worth the price I paid for it even considering how much I overpaid for a few stacks of worthless bills. (still I did pretty well considering his initial price,  plus did I mention playing monopoly with REAL currency from another country?  Is that wrong?)  Now they didn’t make 500 Afghani bills so I just got a bunch of extra 100’s and then a stack of 1000’s as well.  Plus since the rules of Monopoly say that there isn’t supposed to be a limit to the amount of money in the game it should workout without any problems.  Holding the stack it feels like I robbed a bank.  I don’t even play Monopoly that much, but when I do I’ll have the best set ever!

And we still got back to C^3 just in time to go to dinner.  (This was a major concern, not mine but still glad it worked it.)  Plus I got in a couple more Blackhawk rides, good times.  Helicopters are the coolest way to travel.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Another week another canceled trip.  The boss and I were supposed to go over to Bagram for some business but that got canceled at the last minute for who knows why.  Oh well.  It is kind of disappointing but not a huge deal.

I got a shot this week, we all had to get flu shots at the little clinic they have here.   I have nothing against flu shots for any reason other than I’m just against shots as a general rule.   People sticking pointy metal objects into my body just doesn’t do it for me, I like my skin puncture free.  I got a ton of shots before coming over here but for some reason this one just wants to keep feeling sore.  On the other hand I got a flu shot which I generally consider a good thing (actual shot part excluded), especially around here where we all work/live in such close quarters.  Hopefully I’ll be out of here before anything starts going around, we’ll see. 

Not a whole lot has been going on here, pretty slow really which is kind of annoying I’m getting pretty short so I won’t complain too much.   I would like to thank the Navy today.  Today was the Navy’s “birthday” and so they cooked up some steamship round for dinner, which was a welcome break.  So thanks Navy.  (For a landlocked country we have a lot of Navy people here, go figure.)

The big news this week (ok there is more than one thing but I’m only sharing this for now) is we had a “mini-bazaar” on Saturday night.  They brought in a few vendors from one of the nearby bases.  These guys had more or less the same stuff that you can get at our normal bazaar on the weekends and it was outside so the lighting was less than ideal.  Also I think the prices were a little higher than our normal bazaar.  I didn’t buy anything.  Actually I think I’m finally starting to get semi decent at negotiating prices so it’s a little more fun to shop at the bazaar.

They also had a bunch of guys cooking traditional Afghan food and serving that.  They have great food here.  Good flatbread, great lamb kabobs, then rice and chicken with spices. (Similar to a curry)  The lamb kabobs are really good wrapped up in a piece of flatbread.  So that was pretty cool, we don’t get that many opportunities to eat local food, plus while we do have a rather nice DFAC it is really nice to eat something else every now and again.

But wait, there’s more!  Live entertainment!  They had a local afghan band come in and play for a few hours.  Not only that but a lot of the locals that work here got out and danced some we got some traditional music and dancing which was pretty cool.  Of course they played some less traditional stuff too, at least it sounded different. And there were plenty of people dancing and just generally having a good time.  So I hung out there for most of the evening just enjoying the atmosphere.  Something different and there really aren’t all that many opportunities to be social outside of the office here.  I had a pretty good conversation with one of the BGs who is here which was neat, doesn’t happen everyday.

Unrelated to the “mini-bazaar” but related to live music there has actually been a pretty big concert series going on throughout Kabul over the last month or so.  Bands play at a different venue each night and they don’t tell people where it will be that night till the day of.  Obviously still somewhat underground, but still pretty cool that they are doing stuff like that.  Also saw the webpage for the Kabul Golf Club, look it up, dedication is all I can say to that one.  The MAJ I work next to showed me a daily brief which has all the normal stuff but then the last section of it is something about Afghanistan or Kabul which is really interesting.  I wish I had found out about that at the beginning of my tour here as I would know a lot more about the country and people had I been able to read that every day.  As you may expect from a city located on the old Silk Road there is a TON of history and historic buildings around here, even considering all the war this country has seen in the last 30+ years. Maybe in 30 years this will be like Vietnam and we'll be able to come back as tourists, that would be pretty cool.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Things that didn't happen

And we’re back, actually I didn’t go anywhere I’ve been here the whole time.  Another week in the books.  So this time last week I was anticipating leaving the next morning to go down to Kandahar for a few days to do some stuff down there.  Well that didn’t happen.  First my flight to Bagram, which I got up early for, got canceled for no apparent reason.  Now this isn’t the first time something like this has happened, in all reality it is pretty common for flights to get canceled even when you were approved for them and were on the schedule when you went to bed.  Just another part of traveling in theater which you get used to and just accept,  really unless you’re wearing a star (or more) on your chest there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it.  Anyway there was another flight scheduled for that afternoon which looked like it should have space so I could hop on and make it down to Bargam to meet up with the guys I was going to head down to Kandahar with so I figured I’d just hop on that one.  Cue forward 6 or 7 hours.  I’m back out waiting for the flight with some other people.  Then this GO walks up with his posse, not really that rare of an occurrence here at the C3 and they start waiting for a flight as well.  Well this GO somehow had an M4, which is somewhat weird but I guess if you’re a GO you can get whatever you want, people don’t say NO to GOs even when they should.  Anyway this guy had the WORST muzzle discipline I’ve ever seen.  Just because you have a star doesn’t mean common sense rules for handling a firearm don’t apply to you.  It almost got to the point where I was ready to go over and remind him where not to point the thing.  I guess that’s why they normally don’t let GOs have long guns…  Anywho the flights we were waiting for got canceled.  Well except for the GOs but that is a different story for a different time.  (I would have been a terrible army officer)  So no trip down to Kandahar for me, as going the next day would have made an already short trip not even worth it.

On the plus side I was able to hit up the Bazaar over the weekend which was nice as I had been wanting to pick some stuff up before I left.  I got two really nice paintings which Im pretty happy about.  Also picked up some other random stuff.  I have a few more things on the list assuming I get a few more chances which I should.  I also got the Massoud getup, and by that I mean a scarf, parkul, and blanket. (Went with a nice camel hair one)  I got a lot of comments on them as I got some of the rarer colors I think.  But they look good.  Now the MAJs and I are working on getting some pictures taken with all of us in our get ups.  Actually If I got a tan I could probably go walk the streets without to much trouble, or so I’ve been told.  I’m not going to test that one out.  Now I have a bunch of stuff to ship home too, especially with trying to get rid of as much stuff as possible so I don’t have to carry much back with me.

Speaking of redeployment.  It has been a rather exciting week on that front too.  My replacement had a medical issue pop up so for a while I was looking at extending while he got that taken care of, but it turned out to be nothing major so he is back on track to get here when scheduled.  Which of course is good both for him and me, everyone wins.  Actually I wouldn’t have minded staying a few more weeks but I have NO problems going home.  Also going home is less paperwork which is a plus. 

It’s rained here the past two days, the season really is changing.  It has even been getting pretty chilly at night when I go out after working out.  But I’ve always liked the fall so no complaints there.  Hopefully it doesn’t rain tomorrow since that would keep them from grilling steaks and the grilled steaks are much much better than the non-grilled steaks.  Actually I’m fine waiting for a day without rain for the steaks, but I don’t get to make those sorts of decisions.  Thanks the MAJ I did find out about the Mango sorbet bars they have here, they are actually rather good and close enough to fruit that I can pretend they are healthy and aren’t really a dessert. (hey they are 30% pulp, that has to count for something.)  I snack so much here, and I’ve never been a huge snacker.  Oh well I’m still at the lower end of what I feel is acceptable for my weight so I guess it hasn’t hurt to much.

Not much else to report, life goes on.