Easter and Konduz
First, the Easter sunrise service yesterday was really awesome! There was a choir, doves, great preachin', and about 100+ people. I was talking with Chaplain Fisher at the gym tonight, and he heard today that it was the only sunrise service held in Afghanistan yesterday! Now THAT's a testament to the the chaplain staff at the base here. I have a couple pictures which I'll post below.
Chaplain Fisher delivering the opening scripture
Doves that were released but didn't stray far
I actually had to leave the service just as Chaplain Shaw was gettin' cranked up because we had a convoy to the airport for an 8am flight to Konduz, which is province and a city, about an hour flight north. It would take about 2 days to drive there, because the mountains are incredible between here and there! Kabul sits at about 6500 ft above sea level and is surrounded by moutain peaks reaching over 11,000'. Konduz sits at about 1200' and is surrounded by some of the same 11,000' peaks! It was beautiful. The area was lush, the city clean, the people friendly (just as they've been all over), and there are remnants of the Soviets all over the place. It was obvious they got their butts handed to 'em -- there are tank shells that are upside down, fighter jets in pieces, I could go on. The weather was great -- 85 degrees and sunny! I think I actually got a minor tan!
Of props and peaks. Just north of Kabul
Soviet tank graveyard
Afghan surface to air missle delivery vehicles. These have long been retired.
So, on Sunday morning, I found my new dreamland -- Feyzabad (pronounced 'Faiz-a-bad'). It's this little village thats nestled in a grand valley at like 3870' above sea level. The peaks surrounding it range from 7700' to 9800'. We landed on this Soviet runway that was built using corrugated panels for fast construction. There's grass growing through the panels and the only thing you see coming in to it is a faint white line on the ground. The flight into the valley was gorgeous -- pictures do not do this place justice. I was wishing for a video cam! I have a picture below -- and no, that's not Colorado!
View of the valley of Feyzabad looking north from beside the runway.
One last word about Konduz....the Afghan soldiers and police there are really a few notches above the others I've seen in this country. They all wore their wool uniforms squared away -- even in the 85 degree heat, they saluted our colonels (and me for some reason) with a snap and at attention, and basically you can tell these men take pride in what they are doing. That's not to say the others don't, and after mentioning this as a product of the trainers the U.S. has there, one of the instructors was quick to respond that it's the people in that region. They take more pride in everything they are and do -- and it shows. The city of Konduz itself has sidewalks -- not mud-- so folks walk there and not in the street. The markets were clean and colorful. Some burqa clad lasses wore white instead of blue or black. The pride of the tribes living in Konduz really shows through and it was a joy to see!