Hearts, Minds, and The Bieber

There’s a painful effort here at the KIV—a sort of never-ending gnashing of teeth—to balance winning the hearts and minds of the Afghans with the coalition’s personal protection. Safety is always supposed to come first, but the only way to be truly safe is to leave the country, and even then our reprieve would be short-lived. If history’s any indication (which it should be unless you’re an idiot), disengagement ultimately makes things worse, global security-wise.

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One in the Chamber

Today, everybody stopped what they were doing and gathered to clap for some Wounded Warriors passing through. Apparently, they were injured in-theater and had to be medically evacuated, and this was their way to leave “on their own terms,” for closure. I’m not a big fan of closure, maybe because I’ve never had it for my various issues and therefore think it’s overrated. Hey, I’ve lived through a multitude of soul-crushing life experiences and turned out fine! Just fine, dammit! Sometimes the world makes you a shit sandwich, and you have to eat that sandwich and move on, because what else are you going to do? Demand the corned beef you’d originally ordered and refuse to leave until you get it? You’ll be waiting around for the rest of your life, brochacha.

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Fitness Goals

Many people come to the KIV thinking they’ll have so much time on their hands that they’ll exercise like fiends and go home with the body of Channing Tatum/Kate Upton, gender-respectively. Hell, when I first arrived, someone told me, “You’ll definitely lose weight here, either from exercising or dysentery.” The thing is, I’ve been about the same weight my entire adult life (not counting when I was pregnant and post-partem—babies make you fat), so expecting to suddenly become a hard-body because I’ve got slightly more time on my hands is unrealistic, and I’m all about realistic goals.

But still, everyone else has a fitness goal, why not me? So in the spirit of bandwagoning and one-upping, I picked a couple goals: teach myself to do a back walk-over and a handstand! Backflips have always been my dream…literally, it’s a recurring dream I have. Not sure what it means about my psyche.

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The Real Threat

Someone managed to sneak a bomb onto a base near the KIV, detonating himself and killing four people, and now everyone is freaking the fuck out about security. Understandable, given that getting a bomb onto any base is extremely difficult.

Just another reminder that I am never safe, no matter where I am.

But at times like these, I need to keep in mind the REAL threat…

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Staring and Sensing

So there are like a billion dudes on the KIV, compared to a few hundred women. Anyone with boobs gets stared at all the time, especially by the foreign guys (and especially the Georgians and Afghans for whatever reason). At first it’s kinda flattering—hey, people think I’m attractive!—but after a few days it becomes obnoxious, then disturbing, and then infuriating. I hold my head either down or up to ignore the constant staring, to the point I want to stop in the middle of the road and scream, “Stop fucking staring at me!

For such a small space, the KIV has a lot of poorly-lit areas. It’s a strange sensation walking through these dead zones and fearing, even just a little bit, that someone might jump and rape you despite the gun strapped to your thigh.

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Water Bottles and Cat Petting

The Coalition takes great pains to make absolutely sure everyone is well-hydrated, going so far as to make free bottles of water available basically everywhere. You can just walk up to any cooler and take one, no questions asked! If you get dehydrated, it’s your own damn fault. There is running water, but it’s not potable for some reason having to do with mineral content, not medical concerns. That’s how I justify using the tap water to brush my teeth, anyway. I don’t feel sick yet.

Of course, the result of all this free water is thousands of empty plastic bottles that go in the trash, because Afghanistan doesn’t have any recycling capability. I felt bad throwing bottles in the trash at first, but eventually the inner environmentalist in me shut up. Hey, if all those millions of trashed water bottles breaks your heart, feel free to start a GoFundMe or Kickstarter campaign for Afghanistan’s first recycling plant!

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In Kabul

And now I’m in Kabul—specifically, a hard target in the Green Zone! Almost three thousand military and government employees from over a dozen different countries are packed into the space of roughly two square blocks that I call the Kabul International Village, or KIV. The KIV is composed of a few permanent buildings surrounded by large metal boxes fashioned into offices, living quarters, restaurants, coffee shops, and even a spa. It’s got a very thrown-together Bohemian feel to it—you can stroll by the German enclave, through the center of extremely Little Italy (like 20 sq ft), and past the Georgian Smoking Spot, all on your 3-minute walk to the dining facility.

The KIV is a lot like Epcot—if people regularly shot rockets at the giant golf ball thing and it was a legitimate concern that Mickey and his friends might shoot you in the back at any moment. Continue reading “In Kabul”