Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Actually Liking Afghanistan? What?

Every day I’m trying to find things that I like about Afghanistan. I won’t go as far as to say “love”. I will try and love people, but not anything here in Afghanistan.
I don’t picture myself looking back on this experience and misses the DFAC or the rocky road I walk every day. Maybe the chopper rides.
So here are just a couple of things that I like:
  • I’m surrounded by snowcapped mountains. You would think that Afghanistan is just a wasteland of desert, but actually parts of it are beautiful.
  • I like the food. It’s not the greatest. It’s like eating at Golden Corral or Hometown Buffet every day. And I mean, every day.
  • I like the gyms. They are a little smelly, but the equipment is great and there’s plenty of water and towels.
  • I like the chapel services. They always end on time, to the point and very applicable. There is no room for esoteric theology here in Afghanistan. Here’s what you need to remember, think about, meditate on and/or do.
  • I like my room. From what I hear I have a Illinois Avenue of rooms. My friends and people I’ve talked to have more of a Baltic Avenue. I’m just past Free Parking and I like that.
  • I like my gadgets that I brought. Last night I curled up with my Kindle and iPad. I was a happy guy. I’ve been playing Settlers of Catan on my iPad before I go to bed. I kill it, man, I just kill it.
  • I (am just beginning to) like the isolation. I’m in my head a lot. I listen to podcasts (have you listened to the Sklar brothers? Holy cow. Hilarious.) I’m used to sitting the DFAC alone.
  • I like the disciplines I’m gaining. Every day I’m writing at least 750 words, hitting the gym, reading (slacking on this. . . .everything is so loud here), and doing a Bible study. I’m hoping these carry on wherever I am.
  • I like social media. This shouldn’t be a shock, but I’m telling you Facebook is like a lifeline back home. You have no idea how happy it makes me to troll the News page and just see what people are doing. Spoiler: you are all having kids, dealing with kids or seeing Avengers right now.
  • I like Skype and Facetime. Just seeing a friendly face, a loving voice, seems to bring me home for a second. But like anything, if I do that too much, I’m in trouble. I don’t want to virtually be at home. I just want to be at home.
Now, I’m not about to start a gratitude journal. Let’s just slow down there. Maybe I could start one on the back of a napkin, but this is as good start as any.
Part of me really wants to become accustomed to this place, used to it, finding the routine. Another part of me wails against this idea. The other half wants to be the same person who got off the plane, who just disassociates from this place and burns the time until May 1st, 2013. But I think that other half is going to lose and fall hard.
Knowing who I am, the guy who feels about everything, I can’t keep the wall up that long. I can’t resign myself to not feeling. It would be the equivalent of numbing out with alcohol (and I’ve seen Intervention and we all know what happens there.)
I really want to master my job, and get good at it. It’s been a slow start where my fellow patriots are getting their PhD in this stuff. I’m still eating glue in the corner.
So I’m going to choose to grow accustomed to this place. Now, I still make my errors. For example: everyday I forget to take something when I shower: shower shoes, soap, shampoo, towel. I just want a week where I don’t lose something, forget something or screw it up (I’ve been on a tear in that department, more on that later when I don’t feel like crap about it.) And those of you who know me well are asking, “Well have you ever gone a week without forgetting something, Ryan?”
And my reply to that is: “That’s not very nice. I’m in Afghanistan.”
But building these routines, finding stuff I like everyday helps me put a shield up. So that when I am missing home, when I missing out on life and the people I love, I fall back on my routines. I have another box I have to check. I have another task ahead of me. And soon that task will be, “Pack for home.”

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