Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Stuff and Things

Hi!  Remember me?  Finally able to get on the ol' blog.  It's a lot more frustrating to blog over here than I thought.  Half the time, when I click on my link, the 'log in' portion of it gets blocked so I can't figure out a way to actually log in....the other half the time, the SUPER slow internet that we have is so clogged up with people on it that I can't even get on the webpage.  Oh....and the rest of the time, I'm just too lazy or tired to blog.  PLUS I don't have a whole heck of a lot to blog about.  I thought my life would be much more exciting over here but alas, I'm an office hack.  Have just spent the last week up to my eyeballs in end of tour admin for one of our detachments that is leaving soon.  Lucky bastards!!  :)  I'm happy for them that they get to head home.  As we retrograde out of Uruzgan, the bases are closing down....so their FOB closed down and they're almost outta here.  Lots of paperwork involved in sending people home....awards, evals, theater release, check out sheets, etc.  But we'll get them out of here and learn the process so when the next det goes, we'll have it down pat.  So it's not really all that exciting....I'm a staff officer again!!  Just happens to be in Afghanistan.  My days are pretty much Groundhog Day....get up, go to the gym (sometimes), listen to the Capitals game (sometimes), eat, come to work, eat, come back to work, eat, come back to work, go back to the room, sleep, and do it all over again.
 
Have been religiously following the Caps and wake up the mornings they play by 0400 so I can listen to them on the radio online.  Gives me something to look forward to every couple of days and they're now on a 2-game winning streak so it's getting more exciting!!  :)  They've still got one of the worst records in the NHL but I love them.  I'll get to watch them Monday morning on TV so I'm pretty excited about that (even if it DOES start at 0330).  The boyfriend is out training, getting ready for his deployment over here in April so haven't talked to him in a few days....and probably won't for a couple more weeks.  NOT awesome....but nothing to be done about it.
 
Other than that, just getting ready to MOVE.  We are moving into a new living chalet, which kind of sucks.  Hopefully we'll now get to stay there until we leave and not have to move again.  We got squished from 22 rooms to 16 so most of us are 4 to a room (although I'll have only 3 because there are only 3 of us females here....and a couple of the more senior people only have two....but for the most part, we're 4 to a 4-man room).  It's not THAT bad....especially after being in the cramped quarters of a ship.  It's do-able for another 4 months.  Will be excited to be done, though.  Have I ever said that before?  ;-)

Cabin?  In JULY?  Oh HELLS YEAH.



Friday, January 18, 2013

Bummer!!

Did everyone hear that the CAPS season starts tomorrow night!?!  Well, if you've been living under a rock somewhere, the NHL is BACK, baby, and the Caps have their season opener down in Florida tomorrow night against the Tampa Bay Lightening (#BEATTHEBOLTS).  Soooo.....I checked on the NHL Gameday season package online....$50!!  SWEET!!  And you can watch anywhere in the world with the exception of like 4 countries, none of which is Afghanistan.  EVEN SWEETER!!  


Do you think the internet here meets the minimum requirements to live-stream video? 

OF COURSE not.  UGH!!!!  

I WILL FIND A WAY, AFGHANISTAN!!!!  You haven't won yet....

GO CAPS!!!


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Women in Afghanistan

So I was out at one of the more remote FOBs last week and we were able to do a mission into the District Center to meet with some women to talk about the local women's council and how to address their needs.  The district women's representative invited 5 or 6 women from the council to attend the meeting to meet with me to talk about how we could work together to get some programs or initiatives going out in the district of Deh Rawud.

First of all, driving around Afghanistan, I'm always completely enthralled with watching out the window as we go through villages.  You rarely see women.  They just aren't out and about....and if they are, it's ALWAYS with a male relative.  You see lots and lots of men and children.  Everywhere.  Men and children.  Sometimes the children will run towards the convoy and wave.  Sometimes they will hold their hands out (I'm assuming hoping the gunner will throw them candy or something?).  While we were driving last week, I saw my first kid giving us the thumbs down.  I did a total double take....it was a line of kids on the edge of this short wall and there was one little kid, couldn't have been more than 4, looking at the convoy with a scowl on his face, giving us the thumbs down.  What the?  Occassionally the kids will even throw rocks at the vehicles.  I always wonder what experience they've had with the coalition to make them feel the way they do....or what have they been told about us to either like us or hate us so much?  As we pass by the men squatting in front of their storefronts or sitting along a wall, I wonder if they'll be happy to see us go....or are afraid of what is going to happen when we do....or do they just not care one way or the other?

Man sitting outside his shop
Anyway....back to the women.  So we sit down with these women (and their 4 or 5 small children) and I thank them for meeting with me and tell them I want to talk to them about what their greatest needs are....do they need schools for girls, healthcare for women, education on equal rights?   The women immediately start chattering at me in Pashto and when the interpreter finally is able to tell me what they're saying, he says they say they are hungry and they need food.  Ummm....what?  That caught me completely off guard.  Something I guess I never really considered.  So I told them I would work with their government in Tarin Kowt and see if there are programs or if there is funding available to take care of their immediate necessities, food, water, shelter, clothing.  They were like, "We don't need shelter or clothing, we need food.  Our families are going to bed hungry every night."  Wow.  I didn't ask, but I assume most of the women were widows (after 30 years of war, there are a lot of widows here) and are unable to work outside the home to provide for their families.  It's just something that didn't occur to me.....so it's understandable why they don't care about schools or healthcare or human rights when they're not getting enough to eat.  Not to mention that it had to have been about 40 degrees out and all the women and most of the children were barefoot.  It just struck home to me how lucky I am to have everything I do.  I commented in the truck on the way back that I'm GLAD I wasn't born a woman in Afghanistan, GEESH....to which the gunner replied, "I'm glad I wasn't born a MAN in Afghanistan."  Touche.

There are too many reasons to count that I'm glad to be an American woman.....

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Mid-January, ALREADY?!?

Wow....if I'm going to do TEN posts this month, I've got my work cut out for me!!  I can do it, though.  This is number 2 for January so I've got 19 days to post 8 more times.  No PROBLEM!!
 
So what's the 'haps out here in Afghanistan, you ask?  Well....we seem to stay busy every day....and every day seems like groundhog day at the same time.  Time really IS flying.  We've been in country almost three months now....with less than six to go.  It will be over before we know it and I'll be enjoying a Miller Lite on the dock at the cabin and regaling my friends and family with stories from Afghanistan.  "So there I was....."
 
I'm enjoying the tour here, but it definitely makes me appreciate what I have at home.  Just simple creature comforts....having a bathroom IN the house, actually NEAR the bedroom so if you have to get up in the middle of the night to go, it's padding 10 steps in the warmth of the house rather than putting a sweatshirt on, feeling around for flip-flops, going out in the cold passageway of our "chalet", stumbling over the gravel to the bathroom next door and then doing the reverse when you're done.  Such a simple thing, and it's not a big deal....but one that I can't WAIT to be done with.  Another, obviously, is the shower thing.  Will be so nice to be able to get in the shower and be able to keep the water running when I'm soaping up, and brush my teeth in the shower like I used to do.  I miss that.  Even though I'm not a very good cook (sorry, Jason!! :), I miss being ABLE to cook my own food and try out new recipes if I want.  It's a small freedom that I didn't realize I'd miss until I got here and must eat what is put in front of me.  Don't get me wrong....the food is EXCELLENT, but definitely not the same as having your own kitchen at your disposal.  I miss having privacy.  I haven't shared a home, much less a ROOM in years....and for someone who gets refreshed from being alone, it gets trying sometimes to be around people almost every waking (and sleeping) minute of the day.  So I will enjoy getting back and getting my own place again....
 
And I obviously the thing I miss MOST is my family and friends.  Will be nice to be able to pick up the phone and call one of my sisters or my friends to catch up or to vent to after a long day.  We can call from here, yes, but there is a time-delay that I can't STAND and the time-difference makes it difficult.  I'm lucky to be able to communicate with them all via email or FB, and I'm really lucky to be able to text, message and call my boyfriend a lot....but it's not the same as being stateside.  And I really can't wait to get back and re-establish those connections that mean so much to me!!
 
Anyway....enough of what I don't have....believe it or not, I'm very thankful for everything I DO have.  I'm a lucky girl in a myriad of ways.  More in a couple of days!!  :)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Back to the Grind

The holidays are over....YAY!!!  I always am SO eager for Christmas to get here but then once it's over, I'm SO eager to put it in the rear view and get on with it.  December 26th, Christmas decorations come DOWN.  CHRISTMAS IS OVER!!  BAH HUMBUG.  

So now that we're de-Christmas'd and de-New Year'd, we're getting on with the business of PRT-ing.  I had an exciting week hob-nobbing with the big-wigs.  On Tuesday, I briefed General Abrams, who is  the Commanding General of Regional Command (RC)-South (which encompasses the Provinces of Uruzgan, Zabul, Kandahar and Daykundi).  We briefed over a tele-conference and I was NERVOUS, even though I had a script in front of me.  CDR Piret told me I would just be briefing with another Major and then when I got in the room, in walks our Combined Team Uruzgan Commander, Colonel Stuart and his Deputy Commander, Colonel Cardinale.  GREAT!  Now I have to read my script with an audience.  When there were about 2 people to go until I briefed, CDR Piret came in (he was at a different meeting and didn't know if he'd make it...).  I asked him if he wanted to brief and he's like, "No, you go ahead."  Ummm....thanks?  So right before I was going to brief, I noticed everyone that was briefing was saying snappy things like, "Rock of the Marne" and other 'cool' Army slogans.  So I asked CDR Piret if he wanted me to say "Go Navy!" at the end of my brief....he was like, "Um.  NO."  So then Colonel Cardinale was like, "Yeah, do it!!"  (I'm not quite sure he had my best interests at heart....I have a feeling his enthusiasm was more for pure entertainment value (his) so I didn't give that 'egging' ALL that much merit.  But it COULD be amusing....hmmmm.  So my turn comes and I read my (well, CDR Piret's) script and it goes flawlessly.  At the end I said, "Pending your questions, that concludes my brief, Sir."  (Thank GOD he didn't have any questions!!)  I could visibly see the relief in CDR Piret's face when he saw my finger come off the "talk" button without saying, "GO NAVY!!"  He covered it well by saying, "I had faith in my Deputy the whole time...."  :)

So fast forward a couple of days and General Abrams is up in Uruzgan for a visit to the PRT.  We attended a memorial ceremony for  a SEAL Commander that died before Christmas (totally sad....I'm definitely not built for memorial services.....I never even met the guy and I had tears rolling down my cheeks the entire time.  Very touching.) and then he came up to our spaces for a brief.  When he came into the room, he walked around and met everyone.  When he got to me I was like, "Good afternoon, Sir.  I'm the Deputy Commander for the PRT."  He leans over to look at my name tag (DOH!!  NAME!!) and I was like, "I briefed you the other night."  He's like, "You did?"  I said, "Yes, you said I did a good job."  He was like, "I did?"  I'm like, "YEAH!!" and he's like, "Well, I guess you must have then." and then moved on to Sergeant Major.  I guess I SHOULD have said something more memorable like "GO NAVY!!"  Next time....

Other than that, we're in full RETROGRADE mode.  I sent my one and only connex box full of supplies down to a Female Engagement Team in Zabul province.  YAY!!  I was so relieved to see that go.  I had no idea how I was going to get rid of an ENTIRE connex full of sewing supplies.  The Romanian FET that's down in Zabul said they can use all of it so there it went!!  I hope they find the supplies useful!!

We were taking bets whether that connex would fit on that jingle truck....it did!!  Then the driver noticed we had some scrap wood laying around and he took that too!!  Tied it right to the top of the cab.

Monday, December 31, 2012

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Well, it's almost 2013 here in Afghanistan (about 4 hours to go....) and I'm laying on my bed, thinking about New Year's Eves past....have had some good ones and some bad ones (shut up, Beth :) and have even had one underway in the middle of the Pacific....but I've never had one as weird as this one.  I wouldn't really even know it's New Year's Eve except I've had the news on for most of the evening and watched "The Today Show" (we get it live on AFN....at 5:30 pm).  Here in Afghanistan, it's business as usual....and tomorrow is just another day.  I will look forward to getting back home THIS year (almost) and having holidays off....well, let's just say I will look forward to getting back home this year and keep it at that.  :)

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!!  




Friday, December 28, 2012

December!! (HA! Got one in!!)


HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!  I am the WORST blogger ever.  I can't believe you all

still follow me!!  One of my New Year's resolutions is to blog AT LEAST
10 times/month.  Let's see if I can get there.  Considering I've only
blogged ONCE in December, it's not lookin' good....but I can do it!!

So how was everyone's Christmas?  Hopefully you all spent it with
friends and/or family and had a WONDERFUL holiday.  Mine was good!  We
did lots of events leading up to the big day....starting on the 21st,
each day we did "Captain's Cup" events each afternoon from 1300-1500 in
the gym....we were in teams of 3 so we had one team event each day and
one "Army-vs-Navy" event each day.  The Army/Navy events were mostly
team-building type events and the team events were mostly physical
fitness events like sit-ups/push-ups/pull-ups, 3pt/free throw/half
courts shots, a weighted ruck-sack run, etc.  Me, the Doc and our supply
sergeant, Kern, were on a team (poor Kern didn't really have a choice
when we 'recruited' him (i.e. TOLD him he was going to be on our
team!!)).  Doc dissed us most days because he had to do "sick call" in
the afternoons (whatev) so me and Kern were on our own.  On the
sit-up/push-up/pull-up day, Kern did the pull-ups and sit-ups, I did the
push-ups.  It was funny, I went first for push-ups and got TWENTY whole
push-ups and then all the guys went and did upwards of 50 or more (hey,
I'm a 40-year old GIRL, they're all 20-year old GUYS!!).  After like the
5th person went, Kern walked up to me all disappointed and was like,
"Great, we're in LAST."  Ummmm....with ME doing push-ups, did you NOT
think we were going to be in last?  I liked his faith in me,
though.....that he seemed to be somewhat surprised that we were in last.
It was fun, though.  We all had a great time and I think it helped keep
people's minds off being here for the holiday.  


Me and my partner KERN-Bread!!

Me, carrying my two teammates across the finish line in "Toxic River" (we won).

Me running the course in the Weighted Ruck relay....notice my ROOMIE Ward, watching me like a hawk.  Where's the trust??

On Christmas Eve, we had our Christmas party and Christmas dinner.  It

was a lot of fun.  We had done voting ($2/vote) to see who was going to
dress up as Santa, Mrs. Claus and two elves.  We raised almost $250 and
our Maintenance Chief ended up being Santa, our Ops Officer ended up
being Mrs. Claus and the CO and my roomie, Ward, were the elves.  We did
a Secret Santa gift exchange (where Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves
passed out the gifts) and had pork, fried chicken, mashed potatoes,
gravy, greens, and sweet potato pie for desert.  It was SO good.  Great
time that night.  On Christmas, we had the day off so I slept in, went
to the HUGE Australian lunch at the dining facility (we're talking
turkey, pork, salmon, lobster, shrimp, potatoes, many different salads
and TONS of desserts) where the DFAC (dining facility) was decorated so
cute and there were poppers and candy and treats and party hats on every
table and a guy walking around playing the bagpipes...it was really
cool!!  Unfortunately, I was starting to get sick at that point so
didn't enjoy a lot of the dinner and spent the remainder of the day in
bed, between sprints to the bathroom to either throw up or do otherwise.
Being sick like that sucks when you're at home and are 20 feet from the
bathroom....being sick like that when you're here and are 50 yards from
the bathroom, have to walk through your entire living 'chalet' and then
outside to the bathroom REALLY sucks.  This lasted from about 1 in the
afternoon until about 2 in the morning.  Ugh.  I am SO happy to be
feeling better.  


Sadly, Sam looks better in that Mrs. Claus suit than I would have....
My door, all set for the door decorating contest (I didn't win).


My festive gear

All the WONDERFUL and amazing love I got from home!!
So now we're almost to 2013 and it's so great that I'll be COMING HOME

THIS YEAR!!  We've only got about 6 months left to go and it will feel
GREAT to get back home.  I Skype'd with my family for the first time
this morning and it was really fun!  It was great to see everyone, great
to talk to everyone, fun to watch everyone open up their presents (I
even saved 3 presents to open myself!!) and I SO wished I could have
been there.  Especially after Beth told me that Millie was so pissed when they woke her up Christmas morning to see what Santa brought her that when Lorin handed her her stocking, she threw it on the floor and then kicked it.  HA HA HA!!  It was fun watching Sarah drink 3 glasses of wine while we were on the call, hearing about the spinach dip they had earlier in the day, watching the little girls meltdown while their Mom was attempting to put
their snow suits on them to leave....made me miss all of it....even the
meltdowns.  :)  I've always loved Christmas at home....being with the
fam....hanging out in my parents' cozy house....having my Dad's
home-made big breakfasts every morning....watching movies....playing
with the kids....catching up with my sisters' and parents....just is
so....HOME.  Missed being there this year but SO look forward to getting
home for the holidays next year!!


Me, Skyping with the fam....

Now that Christmas is over, we'll get busier with work again.  I'm

planning a trip out to one of our FOBs in January...I haven't been to
that one yet, so it will be nice to see the guys out there and get out
on some missions.  I'll be heading up to Nili soon, where I'll meet with
the Nili mayor again, the only female mayor in Afghanistan.  She's
pretty amazing.  Does great things for her city, all at her own risk.
She said when she goes to Kabul, she wears a burqa, she changes clothes
a number of times a day and she also switches vehicles periodically to
try to keep herself safe.  Scary....and inspiring.  So we're trying to
do as much as we can for Nili/Daykundi, since they have already
transitioned over to GIRoA control and are a pretty big success story as
far as security and governance go.  I'm also going to be meeting with my girl Fatema, who is going to single-handedly become her own NGO so she can continue her sewing and literacy program for local women.  AWESOME!!  

We're winding down our PRT mission here in Uruzgan and going from a 'training' role to more of a 'mentoring' role....we're also working on retrograding the base here in
Tarin Kowt so a good portion of our mission now is getting rid of stuff
that has built up here for the past 5 or 6 years....the PRT after us
will have to completely close down the base so we're trying to do as
much as we can to set them up for success.  It's a pretty daunting task
but we're taking it bit-by-bit so hopefully it will be manageable.  

Me and Fatema....she's AWESOME-SAUCE!!
(And I look like the Stay-Puffed Marshmallow man because I have about 5 layers of long underwear on, in case you were wondering....)
So that's the update!!  Again, I hope you all had a HAPPY HOLIDAY and I
wish you the BEST 2013!!  I will make a SERIOUS attempt to keep the blog
updated, although I can't promise pictures with every post because they
are a BITCH to post with our crappy internet here.  If I want to upload
or send a picture, I have to get on the internet between like 2300 and
0600, when no one else is on.  It's a pain in the ASS.  But I will do
what I can in 2013 for my loyal blog readers.  Thank you for all your
support and THANK YOU to everyone who sent care packages!!  OMG we got
so much stuff and everyone was SO appreciative!!  It was really touching
to see how much you all support us out here, and I know it made a lot of
our holidays much, much brighter.  So THANK you!!

P.S.  Sorry about the formatting....I wrote this earlier and then copied it onto the blog and it won't let me format it properly....