Around Afghanistan in 8 Hours – Pictures

Here are some of the pictures I took to document my quick jaunt out to Herat. None are fantastic since they were mostly shot from the air, but I at least got to get some pictures on what was a very nice day in Afghanistan.

Kabul from the air

These buildings, I'm assuming apartments, are visible directly south of Camp Gibson, over the top of the wall.

"Honey, do you know where I put my keys?" "Keys?! I can't remember where I put our house! They all look identical" "Ours is the brown one!"

Downtown Kabul!

One thing I'll give Afghani engineers - they can draw straight lines pretty good.

These homes go right up against the hillside, but on the other side, there is nothing - the city ends right here.

The rural areas north of Kabul. All that snow in the mountains makes rivers that feed this greenery. It really looks beautiful to me.

One of the vales that reach up into the mountains. I think this would be a paradise.

I like these photos of the mountains with the ranks of the rest of the range lined up behind. So beautiful. There were some frozen lakes along the tops of these mountains.

The patterns of erosion in this country are beautiful. Composure and everything else-wise, this is my favorite picture from the day.

Mazar-I-Sharif airport - helicopters practicing formations.

Mazar-I-Sharif National Airport. All three Afghani airports I saw on this day looked very similar to this.

The only large body of water I saw the whole day. It's man-made, but still beautiful.

Herat Airport and the surrounding mountains.

Welcome to Herat in English and in squiggles. I'm joking, those aren't squiggles, that is Dari for "Westerners, please leave your money and go home."

Finally, this is a closeup of Herat airport. I was curious about this guy on the roof. I found out later that he was doing two things. 1. Waving the planes into the airport. They don't have fancy "radios" or "walkie talkie" devices in Herat. Azim has been waving in the planes for years now, and he's pretty good at it. 2. Checking the wind direction. You can't see, but right before I took this, he stuck his finger in his mouth and is now holding it up to see where the wind is coming from.

Posted in Mostly Pictures | 3 Comments

Around Afghanistan in 8 Hours

At the last minute, I was assigned to be a courier for our office and had to take some documents and information to one of our remote training centers (RTC’s.) This particular RTC, called Islam Quala (IQ) is unique because it’s in the far west of the country, so far west that you can see the Iranian border crossing when you stand in the guard tower on the camp.

Luckily for me, the staff at the camp agreed to meet me in Herat, which is the main western city of Afghanistan, and it’s a good 90 minutes from Iran.

What that meant was a plane ride all around the country in the course of about 8 hours.

Since my mission here is funded by the Department of State, I was put on a DOS plane out of the DOS air wing – basically the department of state’s own private airline. They have what some of the guys from IQ called, “straight up Indiana Jones” airplanes, but I was lucky and was flying a Dash 8 300 Series. These are sweet little planes made by Bombardier (de Havilland) in Canada, and most people in Boise will recognize this plane as one of the main prop planes used by Horizon/Alaska to get people to regional destinations. There were no more than 6 people on the plane for any one leg of the trip and there are 30+ seats, so it was very comfortable.

DOS air wing is situated very close to my camp, so the convoy there was uneventful and short. We were on the road at 5:45 a.m. and checking in for the flight before 6:00.

The plane was headed to Konduz and Mazar-I-Sherif before getting to Herat, but the return flight was direct from Herat to Kabul. My co-passengers were civilian correctional officer advisors headed to Herat. They work for a company that is a competitor of DynCorp, but we all work for the department of state, so we pledged to get along while on the airplane.

The flight to Konduz was short, but directly over the mountains that I see every morning as I go to breakfast. It was fantastic to see, and I got a bunch of pictures that I have to develop and post a little later.

The Konduz “airport” was very small and we stopped only for a few minutes, but I did hop off the plane and walk into the terminal and look around. It was very primitive, and I made a point to use the bathroom just to see what that was like. That smell will be with me for a while I think. That was a short stop and we were back in the air headed to Mazar-I-Sharif. This stop was longer and I walked into the airport there to buy some pistachios because they are famous for them there. They were quite good, but when I bought the two-pound bag, I did sort of heft them in my hand and shouted, “THAT’S A LOT OF NUTS!” This startled the shopkeeper, but I think he was flattered.

We got to Herat very early, but the people I was there to meet were waiting and we sat around and talked for a while. It was real nice to meet some of the guys who work so far out on the front lines of our mission. Met a guys from San Diego, St. Louis, Romania and Great Britain. But after about 20 minutes, I asked why they were sticking around, and non-security-minded me forgot that they would stay with me until the airplane took off to make sure that if the plane broke down that I would be safe and have a place to stay.

But the plane didn’t break down and I was back in Kabul in a couple of hours.

All the way around, it was a boring trip, but I did get to see a lot of the country side, which brought up tons more questions for the locals working in my office. I’m excited to learn more about their culture, but for now, I’m going to take some time off today (Friday) and relax a bit.

Posted in Entertaining, More or Less | Comments Off

Adamhani the Teeth

A rare image from the 1300's, this artist sketch of Adamhani the Great Bookkeeper is a treasured addition to the Afghan National Museum

I was talking with the Afghan workers yesterday, and we were telling jokes and laughing about a lot of different things. The topic came up about how they are all going to have to go through a re-interviewing process as we work through some changes here at camp. They were told that they would have an interview just to reaffirm the security situation at the camp and they would be asked a lot of questions. I then interjected that the torture wouldn’t be so bad, at least not any worse than they are already used to, working in an accounting office.


Okay, so maybe next time, don’t mention torture.

I joke – they thought it was really funny and we all had a good laugh.

I was asking them all if they’d visited Wahkan, the place I wrote about yesterday, and none of them had. They described it as the kind of place that you needed special equipment and vehicles to reach. They all reaffirmed the facts I’d worked through the day before, but they were very interested in the road that has been planned to be built through the corridor to China for years, but political battles between the United States and China have kept the Chinese side of the road from being developed.

But then, one of the guys started to tell me a story that he, and some of the other guys had wanted to tell me since I got here because of my name. There is a folk story that centers around a character named Adamhani (that’s a phonetic spelling, and not, like so many other phonetic spellings I throw out, a joke.) This story has been told for hundreds of years, and in a country that has a solid 6,000 years of historical record to tell stories about, this one has been around for as long as Kabul has been a city (over 5000 years.)

The crazy thing is how much this story resembles other stories that have been written since.

It’s central character is Adamhani, a Kabul resident, and his love, whose name I don’t remember. Turns out that Adamhani is not thinking straight, because his love is out of his reach, but never out of sight. Adamhani and his love live on opposite sides of the river that runs through Kabul. Though the river divides them, and her father doesn’t approve of her choice, they long to be together, and eventually are married.

Adamhani is no slouch – he’s a business person with appointments all over the ancient world – so he’s gone from home, and as a tradition, his wife’s brother comes to stay at the house, sleeping in a bed that is placed just outside the house, in the yard.

Adamhani is a hard worker, but also very romantic, and as his business trip comes to a close, he’s close enough to Kabul to push through the falling darkness, to get home a day early, and more importantly to Adamhani, a night early. He’s horny. That’s not part of the story, but I’m editorializing.

But instead of coming through the front door, Adamhani makes a strange decision, coming over the wall of the house, not like the owner of the house that he is, but like a thief. (At this point in the story, the guys didn’t know how to say the word ‘thief’ and it came out sounding like ‘teeth,’ so that took a little while to figure out.)

Adamhani – grateful for his services, but wanting to let him know he could himself go home – shakes his brother-in-law awake on the bed in the yard. Startled by this teeth shaking him at the middle hour of the night, the brother-in-law welcomes Adamhani home with a sword chop that takes our hero’s head off.

Now at this point I realized that this was not a happy story, and not really a tragedy, because everyone else lives at the end. It’s more of a story with a theme of . . . that’s right, stupidity.

So this is the way that my Afghan coworkers see me – as a guy who reminds them of a famously stupid folk hero.

It was at this point that I encouraged them to try and document the things that I do in the year that I am here, and it would be in the best interest of my name to make up a new story featuring Adam – the folk accountant hero – the white devil who brought down from heaven (Idaho) the magical AP Database, and the legendary Excel Add-In that turned the backbreaking labor of the people into a workweek where every day was like Thursday (the Afghani equivalent to Saturday.)

They also thought that was funny. I don’t think they’re going to write the story.

Another picture of Adamhani from the same photo shoot.

Posted in Entertaining, More or Less | 8 Comments

The Great Game

In the 1800′s, the common belief of the American people was that our country was meant to stretch from ocean to ocean. We believed firmly that nothing was going to stand in our way of possessing all the territory from Southern California to the tip of Maine. In fact we didn’t just want it real bad, we transcended wanting and brought our dreams into focus with the word “Destiny.” It was our destiny to inhabit the width of the continent, and there was no wilderness, no desert, no Indians that would stand in our way. And we threw Alaska in there as well. I submit that we wanted to add Hawaii to the union not to counterbalance the freaking cold weather in Alaska, but as a continued dream of manifest destiny. We saw that our continued expansion to the east would take us to war with England, and while we’d already won that battle several times on our own ground, we hesitated. With Hawaii, we had the perfect jumping-off point to expand further westward through Japan, and China. But we’ve read “The Diary of a Napoleanic Foot Soldier” so we aren’t stupid enough to try and fight a land war in northern Asia, so we leave Russia out of our plans, but then have to head south to get to Europe (leaving England for last and coming in through the back door – yeah, it’s going to feel like that, Brits.) To head south, we come through the butter-soft defenses of northern Pakistan, but then we come to Afghanistan. And at that point, the war gamers set down their pencils and take a coffee break.

That was a long intro that has really got me wanting to play some RISK, but I got off track because I really didn’t want to talk about a plan for world domination or girding the globe with American-ness. I just wanted to discuss how the geography of a country can be a great way to talk about the history and people of the place. Afghanistan is no exception.

First of all – the country is landlocked. This is a crazy thought for most Americans, even if we don’t realize that we think it’s craziness. We take for granted the thousands of miles of coastline that we control with absolute impunity. Afghanistan is bounded by some of the most volitile and powerful countries in the world. Pakistan to the south and east is the most worrisome to me, given that it’s a bunch of people that hate the Indians and have their finger on the button. But strangely enough, the Afghans don’t have a problem with Pakistan – on the contrary – that’s where many Afghans fled during the war(s) and several of the guys I work with spent years in Pakistan, living and going to school there, waiting for the time that they could return to Afghanistan.

To the north is Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, but who cares? I think they are working on getting electricity those countries in the next few years, but since there’s no real working phone system, they might not. Of course, I was joking about that last part, but not really about not caring.

To the west is the country that many here say is pulling the strings in the region – Iran. Home of the holocaust-doubting President, Iran is an interesting place because of the central role it plays in regional politics. I’m going to learn more about that for later posts. Don’t get me wrong though – the Iranian President is insane, and there are religious fanatics in Iran, no doubt about it, but I do want to learn a little more about that country before I lump all the people in the same cruise ship of crazy.

But the awesome part of the Afghan map is the little branch of land that points to the east. When I first looked at it, I anthropomorphosized the country as I’m likely to do with everything. It was like Afghanistan was doing one of two things: reaching out to put an arm between Tajikistan and Pakistan and saying, “Whoa, whoa, break it up you two!” or being like an annoying sibling in the car, and just reaching out and barely touching China. China screams to Russia, “Russia, Afghanistan is touching me!”

“I’m not touching you,” Afghanistan says.


At which point Russia says, “Do you want me to pull this continent over?”

But as I looked more at the geography of this little spit of territory, I was fascinated.

It’s called the Wakhan Corridor, and is a result of boundary changes made during what was called the Great Game. Now, for me, that would be almost enough to know. Anything that is a result of something that is know as the “Great Game” is already awesome. Period.

But there’s more – I was actually right in assuming that the land was a buffer zone. The Russians and British agreed on the buffer during the Great Game in the mid to late 1800′s as they positioned themselves for political dominance of Asia.

The coolest part of Wakhan though is that it is completely rugged and does not get a lot of traffic. Even though it’s the only trade route directly from Afghanistan to China, there are no roads crossing the corridor, only small paths. It’s generally assumed that Marco Polo crossed this area in his travels, but the last foreigner to do so was over 60 years ago. The pass that leads through the mountains to China tops out at 4,923 . . . meters. That’s right, get out your calculators – that’s 16,152 feet! A mountain pass at that height is just wild to think about. When you cross into China, the time change is as sharp as the escarpment and the greatest in the world. Advance your watch 3 1/2 hours. You may want to hit it in the morning or evening though, because otherwise, you’ll completely miss lunchtime.

Just below the pass, on the Afghan side, there is, wait for it, a huge ice cave. Out of the ice cave flows the Wakhjir River, which joins with the Amu Darya – a river that forms the boundary of Afhanistan and Tujikistan – so people say that the Amu Darya’s source is this cave. I would really really like to see that someday.

“Hey, where does this river come from?”

“Oh, nowhere, just a FREAKING IMMENSE ICE CAVE!”

Directly to the south, along the entire border of Wakhan, are mountains of the Hindu Kush range, a monster chain of peaks dominated by Tirich Mir at 7,709-meters (25,289 feet) in Pakistan. The range reaches east into the heart of Afghanistan, and I see it every morning when I step out of my barracks. The passes from Afghanistan to Pakistan are few, and the air is thin. The lowest pass, at 12,000 feet has been identified as the route that the ancestors of all modern Europeans used to travel west into Europe.

The history of this place is incredible. If there wasn’t a conflict in the region, I would be treking in Wakhan right now. But then again, I wouldn’t have come here and found a reason to learn all of this in the first place.

Attached is a map of the country. I’m in Kabul, which is why there is a star on that city. So now, when someone asks you how far it is from Kabul to Herat, you’ll know.

I just want to take a moment to thank Wikipedia for answering all my questions, all the time, whenever I ask. Thank you so much Wikipedia. I would donate money to you if I wasn’t really really cheap.

Posted in Encyclopedic, yet Mildly Entertaining | 3 Comments

Longtime blues

This post is a little introspective, so if you don’t want to know what’s going on inside of me, then stop reading. Also stop reading if you think “what’s going on inside of me” means that you’ll get to see how my lungs work or something like that. This isn’t the Discovery Channel (TM.)

And for the fan faithful out there, I did want to title this post, “The Man Inside Me” but decided against it. Okay, away we go.

I’m the kind of person who likes to do a lot of things. I enjoy activities across a pretty broad spectrum, and for the most part, I give equal time to the left and right sides of my brain. Why should one side get to have all the fun? I think that’s unfair to half-brains everywhere. So I really like singing, acting, playing an instrument or two and taking photographs; but I also get a kick out of coding, learning new programming languages, and making complex Excel spreadsheets. I like making spreadsheets for the purposes that could as easily be served by scribbling notes on a post-it. I can’t really make it sound as nerdy as it really is.

All of these diverse interests make me pretty content with moving from one thing to another really quickly. I like the feel of a new project and the creative energy that comes out when working on something completely different. And I really like to finish stuff and wrap it up neatly. As many of my closest friends know, I get into a pretty deep funk in the middle of projects. Thankfully, I try to move from one project to the next so quickly, that the middle is really short. So there’s that.

Last year was a really terrific year. Both Layne and I really made an effort to do as much as we could within the limits of our time and money. We road tripped to Portland, the Oregon Coast, Zion, the Grand Canyon, Missoula and lots of points in between. We camped and backpacked in some of the coolest places I’ve ever been, and pretty much everywhere we went, we had fishing poles and managed to get a line in the water. I know that a lot of people live lives that are as active, and in many cases, much more active than we’ve been in the last year. But for us, the only thing that keeps us from spending all our time reflecting on how awesome the past year was, is the fact that we have to dedicate time to planning this next year. Camping in the Sawtooths and Frank Church, music festivals at Redfish Lake, and new destinations like Jackson, Yellowstone, Bozeman, San Diego, Seattle and British Colombia.

But all of that was before I decided to come over here for a year. And I’ve got to say that I thought, all the way up until I left, that even though I was sad to step out for a year, that I was going to feel okay once I got going on something new. I thought I would be able to just move to the next thing, because that’s the way I’ve always lived my life.

I’ve been in a slightly turbulent emotional state since being here because I’ve been homesick – that’s a given – but more than that, I’ve been missing the things I thought I wasn’t going to miss so much. There have been moments in which I’ve thought that if I didn’t find a place to fish, or have plans to find one, I was going to scream. This last winter was really long for me, because most of the activities I like to do the most are in the summer and fall. I feel like I went through that winter and now, I have to wait an extra year to get to the summer that I’ve been missing.

The perceptive reader would, at this point, be wondering to herself (sorry guys – I’m not even assuming you’ll make it this far) what the big deal is, and why she’s wasted so much time with this blog post. I guess the point of it is that I miss home – in a way that I’ve never missed home before. I miss the outdoors and the hiking and the fishing and I miss Garden Valley, Idaho. I think that I used to believe that people who missed stuff – couldn’t let go of the old and move onto the new were somehow not right. I’m starting to realize that those people had something I didn’t have – a real passion for the things they love to do. I’ve been passion-less. It used to be that I was drawn to those who had a passion for life and I think it was because I didn’t have it, and it was like a magnet for me. Now, after a long road, I’ve come to the place where I think that I’m now one of those people that has a passion – has a love for something. Does that mean that I’ll always be passionate about camping and wish I was camping all the time? I don’t think so, but at least it means that somehow, out of the wreckage of my early 30′s, something good is growing.

In those times when I’m on the base here and I feel a sharp pain in my chest when I realize that I can’t go and do what I want, I feel a little comfort in the fact that the pain means something, and when I didn’t feel it, I didn’t mean as much.

Anyway, this is how my lungs work. . . .

Posted in Super Serious | 4 Comments

Marks, Mandolins and Meece

“Hey wait! You took all these pictures in your own room!” You exclaim.

“So what?” is my casual reply.

This is what I refer to as “the position of pain” which sounds dirty, but it’s not. I sit like this for as long as I can while I’m watching movies or stuff like that. My fingertips are burnin’!

Here’s a snapshot of my beautiful magic mouse. It’s an incredibly functional mouse and leave it to Apple to make it incredibly aesthetically pleasing as well. This is the only mouse that Apple makes. I like that about the company.

From a few days back – the April calendar mark off thingy that Layne gave me on the way to the airport. We’re 1/4 the way through May already, so that sheet will be next to be filled up. My first leave will be the first week of July, so not long now.

Posted in Mostly Pictures | 2 Comments

What I actually do – part two

I work in a very small finance office and there is a lot of cross-training that goes on here. Personally, I have been running, cycling and using a rowing machine, but after I’m done with that, I’m expected to learn other areas of expertise in the office, or “cross-learn” as I like to call it.

Most of my “cross-learning” has been in the area of travel. It’s a very interesting part of the office where I work, and something I just completely overlooked in my thinking about what this experience was going to be like. Steve, a guy from Phoenix, was working as the Travel Supervisor when I got here. He’s a great guy to work with, and I was amazed that he was able to absorb all the crazy minute details of the job. For all intensive purposes he and his team of four other DynCorp employees, are an internal travel agency for all the people here at the camp.

Each employee gets time off that he or she can spend here at the camp. That’s lame, so the company pays for certain trips home and to other regional destinations. They will fly you to your Home Of Record (HOR – but a classy one) or to a Regional (REG) destination like Dubai or the Maldives. So all of those flight arrangements must be handled through my office, and guess who has two thumbs and took over when Steve left? This accountant right here.

I can’t be bitter though. Steve left to go home for the summer and then he’s going to Edinburgh, Scotland (pronounced “Edinburgh” – with a Scottish accent that doesn’t translate well) to go to college, and I’m happy for him. He’s studying the fine art of complaining about how your area of land should be its own country with a flag made of a pair of plaid pants. I’m not joking. That’s a real degree there. TAKE IT EASY SCOTTISH READERS! I KNOW it’s not plaid pants – it’s that plaid dress you’re all so fond of.

But in any case, I’m now doing Steve’s job, which almost makes it sound like I’m intimately involved with the founder of Apple Computer, but it only sounds like that – I could only be so lucky . . . . Where was I? Right. I’m responsible for the same duties that Steve was responsible for completing on a daily basis (that sounds better, but I still said “duties.”)

Organizing flights all over the world to get the employees back home and to a place where they can relax and among other things, drink a ton of alcohol, is very challenging. Add to the flight booking all the changes that have to be made as situations come up. The airport could be shut down due to terrorist threats or wild-west style shootings by disgruntled pilots. AirIndia’s entire workforce could go on strike. Each day, people departing and arriving must be escorted to and from the airport in armored convoys. And on the way home, long layovers mean hotel stays which mean stops in exotic places with less than exotic methods of transportation to and from the hotel. It’s very exciting and very entertaining.

So that’s a little taste of some of the other things that I get to do while I’m over here. My coworkers in the travel department are from the Philippines, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan. The sheer number of foreign accents is mind boggling. Ever hear an African try to discuss minute flight details with an Indian from Delhi while an Afghani tries to talk in his other ear? It’s big fun, and there’s no telling who is really funny and who isn’t because all the parties are struggling to understand the other. And strangely enough, they all try talking louder and slower. It’s a universal solution . . .

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Nobody likes a bitter blogger

My dad always told me when I was a kid that it was dangerous to post to your blog when you’re upset. That was in 1982, and though the internet and blogs hadn’t yet been invented and I can now see that my dad was either from the future or an idiot savant, he was right.

But that’s no reason to dash off the all-too-common, “r u ok?” message that you are dying to send after reading that last run-on sentence. I’ll tell you now that I’m alright, just coming to realize that even though I’m in a foreign country and I live with my coworkers and I’m a reasonably nice guy, that doesn’t mean there won’t be uncomfortable interactions with people I work with. Granted, I win these interactions (yes, there is always a winner and a loser,) but still, they aren’t much fun.

In the end though, what do I care if people act petty and don’t think much faster than the words that spill from their mouths? I am very much like them and say relatively stupid stuff on a relatively regular basis. So no hard feelings.

I will say that the world of contract accounting is complex, and the policies that have to be in place to set up a work environment for us here in Kabul are intricate. I like the fact that I get to help in the design and revision of those policies, making sure that they are comprehensive, but at the same time, easy to understand and navigate for that cop from Mississippi or that accountant from Idaho who is taking a huge step into the unknown for a year.

Oh, by the way, if you are an expert in navigating your way through US Customs, I need you to send me a note and we need to talk. Why am I terrified that if I buy something over here that I’m going to prison if I don’t pay enough duty when I get back? I mean, I think that a lot of the contractors end up buying stuff, so it can’t be that hard to understand, right? And it’s not like I’m buying something fragile – like a man-servant – and bringing him back to the US. (For the record, I’m expressly forbidden from buying a man-servant by DynCorp policy . . . and personal ethics I guess. Yeah. Ethics.)

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A few more things that are different

I’m constantly finding things that are much different than what I’m used to in the United States. Here are three more.

Water heaters are suspended off the ground, near the ceiling of the bathroom, which is normal for Europe, but for me it’s a wild sight. There are little relief valves on the bottom that will let pressure out of the water heater if something goes wrong. So instead of building up pressure and exploding, riddling me with shrapnel as I brush my teeth, boiling hot water will spray all over me . . . I’m not sure which I would choose, but here’s an idea – PUT THE WATER HEATER SOMEWHERE THAT ISN’T RIGHT NEXT TO MY HEAD!

Hand soap smells really good. Almost too good. You can smell the hand soap well out into the hallway where the bathroom sink is located. It’s like the hand soap company is not only wanting you to smell good, but also simultaneously to let the rest of the world know that you just washed your hands, and to try and make the rest of the world smell good. I say bravo.

Most people have multiple names. I talk about Ghafoor and Khaliq and others, but these are not their only names. SayedGhafoor is Ghafoor’s complete first name, and AbdulKhaliq is Khaliq’s. At home, their families normally also have another name that they use. This could be confusing if you were looking for someone, because they have a conditional identity. “Do you know Khaliq?” “Not here I don’t!” In addition, this doesn’t take into account all the last names. There is a new guy here in our office that demands to be called by his last name. I’m agreeable, as long as he calls me dBase.

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We’re not in Kabul anymore Toto!

If you’ve been keeping up with the weather forecast in Kabul, you know that Wednesday has been a day of high winds. Our buildings are made of metal, so we get a lot of whistling noises when the wind blows, even if it’s a gentle breeze. The winds today were not gentle breezes. They blew up a dust storm that put big brown blanket on the world.

I was sneezing like crazy because of all the dust in the air. The locals were laughing at me and I got a little impatient and asked how they deal with the dust when it blows (literally) like this. They responded by showing me that, for the most part, every person who lives here has what the locals call, “Brown Lung.” They are all just a little closer to the earth than I am. To dust you will return, the old saying goes. They are pretty much there already.

In any case, the wind was blowing like crazy, but we stayed in the office for the most part, and missed the brunt of the weather. For a while though, it really started to storm and though we lost power, we are used to that, and continued to work up until dinner time. To my surprise, when I left the building to go home, the camp was gone, and standing in front of me was a small group of people who said (phonetically) “Kesh amadeed ba muchtama tujarati chueshakee!” I asked Ghafoor what in the world they were saying and it took a minute to translate from Dari to English, but roughly it was:

“Welcome! We are the men who gather in the place of business of the candy on a stick.”

Thankfully, when they realized that I could speak English, they proceeded, on behalf of the Lollipop Guild, to welcome me to Munchkin Land.

This is the reason that I believe the world is a very small place, and that we all can find common ground. Though the distances between us are great, and our ideologies may be worlds apart, we can all still be carried away by a thunderstorm to a magical land where we can all pursue the loftiest goal – killing witches.

Acknowledgements: I’d like to thank Ghafoor and several other Afghanis in the office for helping me to translate English to Dari and spell the phonetic representations of the phrases. A bonus for these Afghans is that now they know the plot of the Wizard of Oz. They didn’t seem to think that it would be a very good show. But then I told them about the flying monkeys. That got ‘em.

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