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.
The guy I replaced—I’ll call him Papa—showed me the girls-only dorm, which is just like a college dorm in that you have to share a tiny room with another person…Or it’s like prison, too, I guess. After I dumped my stuff in the hole I’ll be sleeping in for the next six months, Papa showed me where he works and introduced me to a motley crew of lovable Army, Navy, and Air Force folks thrown together from different parts of the US—all dudes. Most of them are leaving within the next couple weeks, to be replaced with new, clueless people like myself. Papa’s deputy—I’ll call him Manny—became my deputy for a while, until he was scheduled to leave two weeks later.
When Papa and two other members of the team flew out of KIV for good on their “free bird” (i.e. helicopter), Manny cried.
“I spent almost every waking moment with those guys,” Manny said, wiping tears from his eyes. “We propped each other up through the good times and bad. Now they’re all gone.” He sighed. “Papa and I got massages together every week at the spa.”
“I’ll go with you to your massage this week,” I said.
Through wet eyes, he smiled. “That’d be awesome.”