And So It Went

Filed under: — lana @ 4:08 am

Now that I am sober (I think), I can recount the tale of the travels home. Exciting and fun, as always, and full of wonderful and mysterious adventures.

Okay, that was a bit of a stretch.

We sat out east for approximately forever, give or take an eon. My days consisted largely of wandering to the computer lab, moseying to the PX, maybe looking inside the gym for a quick shudder, some food or what passed for it, and hanging around wherever I thought my team couldn’t find me. I was largely successful, and only got in trouble about once a day, which must be some kind of record. Eventually, we got to split up guard duty on our belongings which were sealed and ready for the plane, so I could spend a few hours a day either pulling a shift or keeping a friend company as they pulled a shift. A bit sad when you are willing to sit on guard duty with someone for lack of anything more interesting to do.

The best part about duty, however, was watching the aircraft. We could see helicoptors moving about and watch the A-10 jets… the culmination of my stay out east (aside from guard duty, because nothing can top sitting for an hour or so in the dark because I consistently got night shift out on a secluded part of the airfield listening to a promotional radio which only picks up two stations that have english, and one of them is a country station) was a trip to the hangars to see A-10s up close. I’m sold. We saw the inner workings of one being worked on and a pilot took us out to see the inside of the pod… awesome. More entertaining than a barrel full of monkeys, and that makes me wonder just what all those monkeys are doing in a barrel.

We finally got word that we were supposed to leave the morning of Monday the 19th of July. Huzzah. Pack it up, load it up, let’s go. Only not so much. As usual, there were problems. They were fixing the tarmac, so the plane couldn’t land. Great day for laying asphalt! Really, what day isn’t, but I digress. I spent the day as I spent most, wandering past working Afghans saying “Hey, buddy! Whatcha staring at?” and saluting officers I passed until reaching muscle failure. But we did get word to be findable around 2100, so it was to be game on.

We did meet at 2100, and we went out to manifest. Then, as per Army standard, commenced milling about. We went to the coffee shop for one last night of sitting around talking about life, the universe, and other absurdities, and I went to pull guard at 0100.

But it really was time to move! The baggage got loaded onto the plane while I watched, and was replaced to go grab my carry on (having been ransacked earlier by customs) and hop aboard. I sat amongst my friends and talked and joked until the motors started up and we could hear the engines putter to life, and as we took off relaxed because from there on out, all roads lead to home.

We stopped to refuel in Asanabad, Kyrzgyzstan (Constantant to vowel ratio: astronomical), then off to Germany. An interesting thing about Asanabad was that the whole time on the ground we werent even supposed to look out the windows. Interesting. Super secret squirrel out there, I guess. Must not be any burkhas.

Germany was another delay, and we were held up for crew troubles (someone must have stolen someone else’s snack pak out of their lunch), so we got to stand around and look at each other for several hours in good ol’ Rein Mein air base. Brought back fantastic memories of the trip out, where we spent three days on that tiny post. But after purchasing and using no-rinse shampoo (no lie!), taking the opportunity to buy candy we hadn’t seen in months, and a lot of sitting around doing nothing, we were finally back on our way. Keep in mind, this is still Tuesday, and our flight left at 0230 that morning… Afghan time.

Most of the trip was spent squeezed between my friend and some baggage crammed on the floor, napping. Occasionally, I got up to antagonize other buddies or to get antagonized by them (it’s only fair), but by and large tried to sleep most of the way. At about 2100 in the evening, North Carolina time, nine and a half hours behind Afghan time, still on Tuesday technically, we arrived at Green Ramp to be searched again by customs in case my magical Afghan snuck out of his genie bottle and was about to wreak havok on our nation.

After the longest day ever (back in time? Without a Deloreon? How do we do it?!), we were breathing air with little or no fecal matter mixed in the dust, it was humid to accompany the hot, and there were people in woodland cammo greeting us that looked incredibly dark to those of us who spent six months in the desert.

Adjustment period has since started, mostly consisting of hanging around and, at least last night, getting blitzed and laughing about anything not having to do with Afghanistan. I still drive somewhat like I am there and want to pass using the entire road as my oyster, and having to remember that the people around me now speak my language so I can’t shout random phrases or curses at them or call them idiots anymore, though sometimes I do it anyway, and we are trying to get back in the swing of things. It is strange, to say the least. Strange doesn’t even begin to describe it, now that I think about it, but it is still good to be back…

To be continued… yes, even before we go back there in six months….



Filed under: — lana @ 3:10 pm


Right. The holding pattern, something for which the Army is in fact quite famous, is getting a little dull. My days mostly consist of wandering around trying to avoid getting in trouble, and thus far I have been largely unsuccessful. However, I have at the very least scheduled my times by meeting with people in charge of me at scattered but pre-arranged times, so I may control the frequency and duration of the fun. I find that when the Army has little else to do with their time, they enjoy one of two things: making new rules and keeping them secret and/or reprimanding people for not following the secret new rules. Enchilallah (literally close to God Willing, used as a whatever happens, happens, or in the colloquial, I don’t really care so leave me alone and let me wallow in my self-pity and retain my lack of motivated attitude).

And so I spend my days hiding in something of a Saddam-like spider hole that is actually a seperate compound within a compound here, occasionally (like, when the core temperature of hell is getting a bit chilly) hit the gym, then my evenings to the little coffee shop (combat pay! hooah!) where I can sit and talk about all things non-Army with friends I haven’t seen in a few months. Really, not a bad life, when you get right down to it, minus the occasional guard shift and the constant wandering over what breaks down to a fairly large base.

This place also happens to be where they send all the officers they can’t figure out what to do with elsewhere in theater (or theatre, as some of my foreign compatriots insist… there is still no extra i in aluminum… aluminium… hogwash…). This means that I have had to glue my right hand to my hat in a perma-salute, because as you walk from the hooch to chow you end up saluting no fewer than 10 times, usually more. The fun part about it is that once you arrive somewhere, you don’t want to go back out. The even more fun part is that most of the other people on the base feel the same way, so people just end up trapped places milling around. The officers have it worse, because they have to salute everyone. I wouldn’t want to get caught in front of a right hook from some of these people…

Yesterday there was a minor earthquake while we were sitting around doing nothing. Something like a “point almost nothing.” I felt like I was on a boat in a land-locked country. The word for pirate in dari is pretty close to Dozdani Keshti, though that is not quite it because they really have no word for a sea bandit, since there is no water, no sea, no ships, and thus no pirates. It took quite a long time to find someone who could figure it out for us.

Today I went to the bazaar that comes to an area near one of the gates. I didn’t buy anything this time around, running out of money as I am, but I did help a friend get a great bargain on a large marble vase. The guy said 25 dollars. My friend said ten. The guy wouldn’t go lower than 20, my friend no higher than 15, and asked me what I thought. I said I had seen the same one in Kabul for 15. He sold it (angrily) to my friend for 15.

I have never even seen Kabul.

So I drink my choco frappachinos and talk about the world until 0300 every morning, amazed that I can go a full day without having one conversation of “Hello!” hello. “How are you?” fine how are you? “Thank you very much.” Indeed, it isn’t bad out here, though boredom set in about three days ago and so by now it may actually be numbness and a sense of utter defeat that keeps us moving day to day… but it will not be long now… then it’s back to our home unit and a lawn that is surely in need of good soldierly mowing…


Running Low

Filed under: — lana @ 12:18 pm

Indeed, while we are on our way home, there is still plenty of time for nonsense. The Army has a penchant for making things particularly painful from time to time, and this is slowly becoming one of them, only this time it’s back into our uniforms…

There are a limited number of places that you can go on the base where we are patiently waiting for a plane to take us out of this lovely locale. You can go to the computer lab, the PX/BX, there is a place to play pool or get books, and there is a gym. Other than that, it is sit in the hooch and stare at each other, the walls (plywood, a personal favorite), or simply nothing at all. I’ve memorized the facial features of most of the people I live with as well as those of several that I don’t, which I’m sure will come in handy some day, in some police lineup or another.

There is also the occasional class. There is a fun thing in our company where if you screw something up that doesn’t warrant significant reprecussion but is worse than something that you could just do push-ups for (I get strong!), you have to teach a class on proper procedure for whatever it was you screwed up. We have had a few of these classes, accompanying our out-processing classes (I think they mentioned not to beat the spouse, but I was talking at the time so I couldn’t hear that well. I’m sure I’ll get it again later… can’t be THAT important…). Those classes are the fun ones, though, because those giving them are about as enthused as the rest of us who are attending…

Other than that, there is so little to do here that I have taken to finding hiding places. If found, there are many meaningless tasks to do, like emptying out and reorganizing the conex with all of our heavy equipment in it (I’m on unload/reload adventure number three). I am reminded distinctly of ex-PFC Wintergreen in Catch-22 with his hole digging, for those who have read it… There are not many places to hide on this compound, as large as it is. You would think that with about a mile between the company area and the place we live, and the base is bigger than that by far, there would be more spider-holes to crawl into. It’s amazing how no matter what, Army leadership can always seem to find you. Surely that is why they are leaders… or perhaps there was a tracking device installed in my neck when I joined. I should ask someone to check for a scar… goodness knows they should have seen it by now…


It’s About Time

Filed under: — lana @ 3:21 pm

And so finally we made it out. One day we just packed up everything and ten minutes later were unpacking it. The next day we made it as far as the airport where we sat for three hours for a plane that never showed up. Then, two days after that, we got on board a plane packed with all of our gear, a forklift, and a ton of mail and headed eastward. Halfway, anyway. We were laid over in the middle when a different plane we had to transfer to (without a forklift or mail) had mechanical problems. We had just gotten comfortable and started to taxi when they shut off the engines and let us off. We sat in the terminal. Then we continued to sit in the terminal. Both of my legs fell asleep at once almost making me fall over when I stood up, and that was the only interesting thing to happen all day. Overall, it took 27 hours to make a two hour flight. Only in the military…

But we are slowly making our way home. It is good to see people from the company who were not on my team. After about five months with the same three other people, anyone else is a treasure. Things still change on a daily basis, which is fun and exciting and ever so entertaining. When are we leaving? No one knows. What country will we go through? No idea! What will we do on a daily basis until then? That we know. Fun Army things like mill around and wait for things to happen. That’s my favorite pastime. Fun and excitement for all. Only not so much…

But we do have a lot of the tasks out of the way that we needed to do, so we should have plenty of time to mill around, at least. Then when we get back, there is a mandatory reintegration period. That sounds like fun. Briefings about how to not beat your husband. I’ve been told to pay attention. There also may be one about not beating your dog, but since I have cats, I intend to take a nap. The cats are fairly resilient anyway…

And so the journey continues. A few more weeks is likely, and I still have the locals on base to laugh at. They’ve been around Americans for awhile now, so these are a little more modern. They know a lot of fun words from all of the infantry and marines… and I can yell back at them in their own language. I may not have learned much, but at least now I can curse at people in a foreign country…


Change Number 983

Filed under: — lana @ 7:59 am

Friday. No wait. Monday. No, actually, Wednesday. Come to think of it, make it Thursday. Okay, definitely Friday. No, not Friday either. Just stand fast and eventually, a plane will come and get you. Have a little faith in the Air Force.

Really, it’s amazing the military gets anything accomplished. I think I have said goodbye to all of my friends at least five times now, and every day they laugh at me by breakfast when our flight out of here gets cancelled. Today was particularly painful, because we are all packed up and loaded over a ton of equipment onto the trucks when they decided to put us out of our suspenseful misery. Superb. Time to turn around and move it all back. I guess I have to go and root through all of my bags if I want to wear a semi-clean shirt tomorrow. Then again, I could just tell people that I have gone native.

Which brings up an interesting point. The summertime heat of Afghanistan does many things. It means the roads are empty during the mid-day heat, making it easier to get out without running people down (unless, of course, that is your goal in the first place), it turns all of the poppy fields a lovely shade of brown, the water in the sewers becomes a murky black, and the smell of a donkey-riding, weekly-washing (if you are lucky) public majority fills your nose with a sense of… well… we will leave it at indescribable. Yesterday as I stood outside of our vehicle unwittingly close to not only a sewer but also on the other side of the car was a garbage pile I noted that I was feeling a touch light-headed. Turns out it was the flies blocking my airway. Fantastic. My companion, who I dared (and indeed double dog dared) to breathe deep and grasp the full concept of the aroma, opted to wander into a shop, only to back out when he discovered that midday heat had made the proprieter a touch orlifactory unappetizing. Our eagerness to leave the country grows every day.

And so we sit. And we wait. And wait. And wait. Soon, we will be out of this area, after which we will wait in another place before we get on a plane. Probably land somewhere in between and take another few days of waiting, but eventually we will make it back to the states. Those who have been in the military can understand our pain…

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