Wednesday, 23 December 2015

The Simplicity Offered in this Place

There is nothing polished here in Afghanistan, nothing impressive. No one owns a car or a yard. No one has the newest style. We do not discuss what happened on television or in a recent book.
We do not go to the newest restaurant or our favorite place. We never exclaim, “That’s new.”
We live in tension here, the constant thought of this is where we do not belong. We must be ready all the time, ready to hide, ready to move, and ready to go.
We do not have a schedule or even a semblance of entitlement here. We are fortunate for new food in the DFAC or bedsheets.
Currently I’m stranded on this base because I didn’t know I needed to put in a request four days in advance. No one told me.
We do not judge here. Your pants are dirty? Fine. Your hair is a bit unkempt. Fine. What we care about is being safe and counting down the days for home.
We have to wait 2 weeks for stuff to get here from Amazon regardless if you have a “prime” account. We only order what matters, what we need.
I cannot buy stuff here because I don’t want to haul it back. Everything I buy I commit to leaving behind. It sounds wasteful, but I don’t buy much. Anything I leave behind the next guy will use, just like he did for me—whoever he was—thanks for the shampoo.
My Kindle recently broke. I have no access to any of my books, my hundreds of books. It’s not a good situation. I’m a bit—twitchy. I started reading “A Simple Plan”. It’s good, but it makes me tense just reading it. And it’s a book. I’m not used to that. Paper. Turning. Bending pages. Three dimensional.
Convenience is a dream right now, there is nothing immediate here. You either stock up when it’s here or you go without. Someone took my soap that I left in the shower. I’m using shampoo right now. My body is dandruff free.
Everything is bare bones. I sleep with the sound of choppers overhead. I sleep with the possibilty that I may have to evacuate my B-hut in a minute. I put out clothes just in case, my ID is at the ready and it’s just like my old RD days.
We barely have time for anything petty, but at the same time this constant bit of fear drives out a constant amount of compassion. Some guys are cold, but we share the burden of being here. My burden is light compared to the military’s burden. I can go home—they would face jail.
But I think I’m over the initial shock of this place, the loneliness. I’ve managed to connect with three chaplains now. It’s like I’m collecting Pokemon…gotta catch them all. They are good men and I’m wondering if that’s the path i should go down–being a military chaplain, if that’s the life I want to live. I might want to do it for the attention, the honor and the prestige. Notice the word “service” is lacking from that list. Yeah, I did too.
I’m getting into the rhythm of the place. It’s just an adjustment, making your own rules and grooves about different things. I have to write every day at least a 1,000 words. Work out. Read. Connect/meet one person. So far I’m on track. I miss the gym occasionally or don’t get my reading done, but having goals has kept my mind from falling into the pit I know so well.
But again, there is nothing polished here. There is no entertainment unless you craft it yourself. I know guys who sleep all the time, watch porn or series upon series of movies, etc. One guy I met is burning through nearly all the 80′s series he can get ahold of. Really, the 80′s?
I mean I want to watch some TV (how good is Fringe right now? HOW GOOD IS FRINGE RIGHT NOW? IT’S REALLY GOOD. Spoiler: no one watches Fringe at my base.) but I don’t want it to be my thing. I want to build something, not just gorge on something someone else already created. I want to leave here with a ton of accomplishments, a life set up when I return to the states.
And I want to keep what I’m taking here from Afghanistan, a view of a world where nothing is polished, you need to impress no one, and life is simple.
Minus the rifles and choppers.

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