Hello from Kabul!
We finally made it! It's 6:45pm here, 9:15am there -- yea it's a weird time zone apparently. We basically didn't sleep last night but we finally got up at like 4 and made our way to the aiport only to be told to wait until 6:30 which turned into 7:15 but the attendant got us on the flight. We had to pay extra for being UNDER the baggage weight -- yea, UNDER!Funny thing is Jamison had more weight than I but we had to pay the same amount - it was basically a "screw you American tax" we think because we were the only ones to pay it. Anyway, the flight was nice --I got to sit in 1st class! Well, the big leather chair with more legroom was about all the difference it was on the flight but I'll take it.
The Afghan landscape is amazing. The mountains are tall, bigger than the Rockies, and they totally emcompass the city of Kabul. In the airport this morning we met some others who work in Kabul and have for 3 yrs, and another guy working security for another outfit. I got some good information from the other two of things to watch out for but also found out from Deana, an Aussie lady, that Sunday and Wednesday are salsa nights, Monday is trivia -- they had to make sure we knew the important stuff! I sat next to a Bulgarian banker on the flight and got more info from him.
Once on the ground in Kabul, you quickly realize you ain't in Kansas anymoreToto! Soldiers running drills just off the runway, soldiers greet the plane, soldiers shuffle you through passport check and baggage claim -- all the while looking at you in a very intimindating manner, even though they're not packing guns. This one lady US Army Capt. almost got herself in trouble. She was packing heat, as was her partner, and they were waiting for some folks on our flight. Well, she kept trying to come inside the terminal and the UN guy kept telling her she wasn't allowed inside with her guns. It's stuff like that which makes ya wonder what we think as Americans sometimes. Why did she persist? There was no reason and all it did was upset the local police who are trying to maintain the rules.
Outside the terminal, our security force was not there. We carried our bags past several guys with guns and other folks were getting shuffled by their security teams into SUV's. I met a guy from SOC, another security detail, and he let me call our guys. Apparently they had called to find out when the flight was coming in and were told 12:30 so they were shocked that we got here at like 11:30. Anyway, it all worked out. One of the locals came up and talked with us for a bit. He works with the tourism board and with airport security and was not pushy but very nice. Once meeting our security detail, they all seem very nice and take their job VERY seriously. They're carrying AK-47's, dress in plain clothes, and drive Toyota 4-Runners -- they like to keep a low profile. The other security details are all in military dress with vests full of shell slings trying to be all bad. Our guys are mostly Scottish, turns out, so I'll likely come home with a touch of Scottish accent!
Even with the unsurety at the airport, it's not really an uncomfortable place. It's really below the poverty line, though, but that doesn't stop folks.Everyone is out buying and selling and playing soccer and doing things, not staying inside or cowling about. That says a lot about the people and their motivation to make this a better place. There's mud everywhere right now because of the thawing in the mountains. Our road is nothing but mud and holes bigger than our SUV! There are "improved" roads but not in the neighborhoods yet.
Tomorrow we'll head over to Camp Eggers and get some briefing over there about our work and the lay of the land there. Apparently that's where we grocery shop and such as well. I'm gonna head downstairs and watch some rugby with the guys on the satellite TV. I guess England's playing Ireland so it ought to be a good game.
I'll get some pictures up tomorrow or Monday. Thank you all for the emails and prayers. I appreciate them very much!