Monday, September 29, 2008


As this deployement continues to stretch out I've had to fight the temptation to use this blog as a venting session. Almost like therapy. I titled my blog 'A Work in Progress' because the purpose of it was to show how my life was evolving and moving forward. Like the renovation of our first home, the growth of our family, the accomplishment of goals, and the expansion of friendships. The recent postings have been a reflection of my life at the moment. Which is- not much going on right now.

That's not entirely true. There are always lots of things going on here. I have been able to see and do many unique and interesting things while I have been here- but I don't talk about them because I don't think they are suitable for a blog. There are many daily dramas and challenges, victories and defeats.

Some days I think I am losing faith in humanity. Observing the way people live and act here, and watching the news from home. Witnessing people leave behind traditional values to embrace the new american dream of 'something for nothing' and freedom from accountability. And then there's us here in Afghanistan. We are in month 9 now. Resentment and desperation are spreading through the ranks. More and more often I have the feeling that I want to choke someone. More often I sleep in, take naps and avoiding being around other people. Work and progress are steadily being nudged aside by laziness, stagnation, and indifference.
How do I stop the spread? How do I keep balance?

Well, regurgitating all my repressed negative feelings into my blog and spinning it out into the abyss of space is one way. Another is counting my blessing and looking for the little miracles happening around me, and recognising them as such- victories of the human spirit, wonders of nature, changes of heart, divine intervention, and the administration of justice.

For example-
We recently picked up a local guy that was blown up/shot up a bit. In the hospital his fingerprints were matched to a couple of roadside bomb incidents. So he got his, and now he's in jail. Hopefully until he dies. Justice.

Since I started teaching for the branch addiction recovery program I have had the opportunity to witness the atonement and the miracle of forgiveness unfold in the lives of people who have desperately needed it. Changes of heart.

The colder the weather gets here the more insurgents start walking back home into Pakistan, the less violence in Afghanistan, and the lower used motorcycle prices drop. Wonders of nature (sortof).

Me and all my good friends that I came here with are still alive, and I haven't accidentaly killed anyone with well meaning but inappropriate medical care. Divine intervention.

This morning one of my enemies became one of my friends. Victory of the human spirit.
So there are all kinds of things to be happy about.

I think that will keep me from losing my mind for a few more weeks.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


This morning we gave a lift to local guy. He kept giving me the stink eye during the whole flight. I thought it was a little rich. We patched him up and gave him a ten thousand dollar ride, but he glared suspiciously at me the whole flight. And in return he made the whole aircraft stick like crap. I even gave him morphine. I didnt have to. I could have just let him suck it up. He wasn't stink-eyeing anyone else in the bird, just me. The flight doc had a thought about why that might be. I have a red cross patch on my helmet. Apparently that means I am an evil christian crusader, and want to take over the muslims. So there you go.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


With less than four months to go (fingers crossed everyone), the major theme now is waiting. For the last eight months Valli and I have been working for our futures. We have been working and saving all year in preparation for all the cool stuff we want to do when this deployment is finally over. We are so close to both meeting our financial goals, and more importantly- getting back home so we can put them into practice.

I left for Afghanistan in January. At that time it was all about getting out of debt. You might remember the motorcycle conversation. sniff. Then around April we made The List. We listed everything we could think of that we wanted or needed. Then we organized them by priority. Any time either of us gets money it goes towards the list. Funds get set aside for the highest priority items first. First was remaining debt. We were able to knock that out a few months ago. Next came "needs", like money to finish remodeling our crappy house so we can sell it when I get home. We just got that part taken care of about a week ago. And thanks to the state of Alaska for the awesome dividend this year we have a good portion of the fourth catagory filled: The downpayment on our next house.

Every day we are inching our way closer to the last catagory. All the work and all the waiting- every day a few dollars closer. This is my favorite catagory. Wants. Our wants list has sensible things on it. Things like home furnishings, a modest vacation, food storage, etc.

But there is this one thing. At the bottom of the wants list is something superfluous, immodest, insensible and expensive. Most of my free time is dedicated to thinking about, or corresponding with, my wife. Honey- I hope you know that you are always number one. What I think about most after her is the next motorcycle. Especially on warm sunny days. There are about 300 warm sunny days a year here. Everytime I go up in the air and see the long dusty roads stretching past the horizon, or the twisties carving over mountain passes and descending into deserted canyons, I see myself back home on my bike. And not just any bike either- a Hayabusa. The bike.

But there is still more waiting and saving. About three and a half months worth of waiting. Waiting until I can go home and be with my wife. Until I can sleep in my own house. Until I can eat good food and ride my bike. And do all those other things on the long, long list we've made. But first- more waiting.

(Sigh) Waiting.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Summer Reading Program

A list of the books I have read this summer in no particular order.

The Kite Runner
A Thousand Splendid Suns
The Pillars of the Earth
Every Living Thing
The Lord God Made Them All
Storey's Guide to Raising Sheep
Storey's Guide to Raising Beef Cattle
Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens
The Host
The Thief Lord
Keeping Bee's
Basic Butchering of Livestock and Game
The Aurther Spiderwick Chronicles

Books to read by October-

The Good Earth
Storey's Guide to Raising Pigs

And the one I am working on now has a story associated with it. Or rather, the continuation of a story.
I just finished my awesome massage at the barbers and went by the little AAFES store next door. I needed some pretzels or something. The lines there can get really backed up with the Afghani dudes working the credit card machines and American money. I often grab a periodical to pass the time in line. The suprisingly large magazine rack is dominated by publications devoted to only a few topics. They are: guns, video games, fitness, the vehicle genre (bikes, planes, trucks and cars), and boobs. There is also a slim section of paperbacks containing the usual bestsellers, militaria, and sleazy black romance novels (read: chick porn). Wedged between the erotica and the guns was something I never would have expected to find- Stephanie Meyer's newest and worst-reviewed novel. Breaking Dawn. I had to do a double-take. It was the only hardback book on the wall, and that big white queen stood out like a beacon.
"Holy crow! What are you doing here?" thought I.
There was only one mildly abused copy. I bought it.
I have been reading a few chapters a day with Valli via phone. It's hard on the phone cards but it's been really fun. We both love the book so far, and agree that it's pretty rediculous. We have to stop frequently and ask ourselves why we are still reading when it waxes especially stupid. We skip around when Meyers goes off on things like "loving Edward more than anyone in the world has ever loved anyone on the world" and "burning pain" for seven straight pages. And we just call the mutant "R" because reading the name outloud makes me cringe. Even so, we still lose hours and hours of sleep and plan our whole day around reading about Bella and the gangs (hopefully) last adventure. We are slightly more than halfway through.

As for the livestock stuff- it's pleasent research. The book I most enjoyed reading this summer was the one on cows. I highly recommend it. Cows rock.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

How Spend 20 Bucks

Give it to the Kyrgystanis.
The other day I went to the barber on the north end of Bagram. It's operated by 6 or 7 girls and one dude from Kyrgystan. One (much needed) half-hour back and neck massage put me out only 10 bucks. The girl working me over knew very little english but did a great job. And we didn't feel obligated to keep up a conversation the whole time since we hardly understood each other anyway. After my massage I got my hair cut, not shaved or buzzed, but actually cut, styled and shampooed by another friendly person there. Seven bucks. Plus 15% gratiuty put me right at 20. More evidence supporting that things are looking up in Afghanistan. With all the soldiers spending money and the multitude of cheap services available I frequently wonder what some people are so pissed off about.

America Needs This

I spent a few hours in Jalalabad this morning and went buy the hadji-shop for a snack. I didn't find any snacks, but they had an amazing collection of DVDs for sale. The DVDs are produced by a company called World Movie BBK. I bought three for a dollar apeice. They each come in their own brightly coloered, glossy cardboard jacket which is covered in little thumbnail pictures representing their contents. Each disc holds about 30 hours of program. I got one featuring the Discovery Channel series called Wild World, A Disney disk that has a dozen or so full-length aminated classics and every Pooh movie ever, and a Kung-fu disk full of Bruce Lee, Let Li, and Jackie Chan. There were maybe 40 different disks on sale.

What is wrong with you America? I never thought I would say this, but Afghanistan has you spanked. At least in the cheap movie department. About 50 movies for 3 dollars, and I didn't even haggle with the guy.