I have a friend -- let's call him Larry -- who is in the middle of a six-week tour of duty in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Larry is a civilian contractor. In fact, he's a freelance development consultant, just like me. So I've been pretty interested to hear how he's doing there: it's not impossible that I might end up in Kabul myself someday.
Larry is keeping friends and family informed by a series of candid and funny e-mails. With his permission, I'm going to reprint some of them. There's some editing for space and confidentiality concerns, but mostly these are just as they've arrived in my inbox.
So, without further ado:
AM I SCARED? A little. If I were really scared, I wouldn't have come. There's obviously a little fear. The news of the bombing in the past few days wasn't too appealing. I had a few teary-eyed moments before I left thinking about the possibility I could never see my kids again. But I spoke to about 10 people who are here or had been here and all of them said they generally felt safe and would consider going back to Afghanistan. My real fears:
a.) My work is related to my specialty but is not "in my wheelhouse" and I did not have the opportunity to prepare as I would have liked. I want to make certain that while I am here that I am effective.
b.) I will be incredibly bored of the routine and confinement over six weeks.
c.) That I will begin to look like a mullah because I forgot my ear and nose hair trimmer. Nail clippers and a razor aren't the same. Aging sucks...
ARRIVAL. I've arrived in worse airports than Kabul but not many. Customs and all that stuff was OK. I was met by one of our security officers. Nice fellow. Ex-UK military. He escorted me to an armored SUV. When we arrived at the car, he said, "I don't expect any incidents. We haven't had any incidents. But if we do have an incident, keep your head down below the window and don't exit the car unless I tell you to."
THE COMPOUND. After our trek through town, we stopped at the compound where I will be staying for the next 6 weeks. It is behind concrete walls and has armed guards. We are staying in a 14 room villa. My project colleagues live in the other rooms. I have a basement room which is very similar to the room I had in college except I don't have a roommate who studies organic chemistry and reads Hustler magazine. (DEW: Huge fan in the room. Awesome white noise.) The folks in the compound are very friendly. I had dinner with them and we had a little get-together in someone's room after dinner. They serve breakfast and dinner at the compound. The food was pretty good. A spicy tomato soup and a chicken curry with rice. The villa has a rooftop deck, small exercise room, TV room and a ping-pong table.
UNDER HOUSE ARREST. Except for the ankle bracelet, I feel like one of those prisoners who is under house arrest and is allowed to go to work and come straight home. I am allowed to go to other compounds and specific stores and restaurants cleared by security. I am under no circumstances supposed to walk anywhere. I am to be driven. There is no riding in any vehicles other than our secured vehicles. The social life is visits at the compounds and the occasional dinner out at a cleared restaurant.
I've heard consultant work in Kabul described as a "white-collar oil rig"...
Anyway. If there's interest, I'll post some more excerpts. Is there interest?