A few weeks ago, I posted that two things I've found myself missing were sandwiches and to go cups. Well, I got my fix of both yesterday. I had to fly to Kandahar to do it, but if that's what it takes. . .
I don't think I've mentioned before that Joey's dad, Victor, works for a contractor on the base in Kandahar. I know, I know, small world. Every few weeks Joey's gets to see him when they have a long layover down there. Since I was free yesterday I was able to hop on the plane and fly along.
A few things about Kandahar: The city of Kandahar is one of the more dangerous places in Afghanistan. When the Taliban rolled into Afghanistan in 1994, it was the first city to fall and became their capital. Since 2001 it has been an area of continual conflict and the situation there has escalated in recent months.
I hope to be able to visit Kandahar City one day. Before the wars, it was the center of trade. It is rumored to have the best bazaar, best handicrafts, best textiles, best fruit and best architecture in the country. And it used to get really green because the river that flows through it actually flows. As with the rest of the country, Kandahar City has suffered greatly for the past 30 years and many of its beauties and sites have been destroyed or lost. Because of the security situation, I will have to wait to visit and spent my day on the ISAF base.
The base in Kandahar is outside of the city at the airport. It is one of the largest ISAF bases in Afghanistan with detachments from several countries. This was my first "on base" experience here. I've been to the ISAF market that's right off a base in Kabul (the place where I got all the stares from ladies in shorts), but I haven't been on a base.
When I stepped off the airplane, I felt like I stepped into some strange, different world. First, it's dusty, really, really dusty. I've complained about the dust in Kabul. Our dust is nothing compared to Kandahar dust, which is almost like chalk in consistency and is everywhere (I think the Kabuli dust is fighting back now, the wind just picked up and I can't see the house across the river). Second, it's hot, really, really hot. It was 101 degrees when we were there; that's a cool day during this time of the year. Third, there were kharejis (Dari word for foreigner), lots and lots of kharejis and very few Afghans. This base is multinational with soldiers, contractors and aid workers from around the world. And finally, they've all got guns, lots and lots of guns. People in camo with guns, people wearing workout clothes with a gun strapped to their leg, people carrying a gun with another gun strapped to their leg. I've never been around guns and always feel a little nervous and queazy around them.
So, here I am, surrounded by dust, kharejis and guns. Our first order of business (after parking the plane and getting my visitor pass) was finding Victor. I was prepared to get a severe talking to from my father-in-law when I saw him. People that live on base think that we're crazy for living off base (and often vice versa). I got my fill of be careful, keep your eyes opened, and no more riding bikes, in the first five minutes. It's good to know that people are concerned for us. And I reassure you all that we are careful, we do keep our eyes open, and I haven't ridden a bike recently.
Another thing that makes a base feel like a different world is that it has a lot of Western places that we don't have elsewhere in Afghanistan like Tim Hortons (for the Canadians), Subway, Pizza Hut, and a coffee shop. So, I ordered my coffee in a to go cup and got a sandwich at Subway. I don't think I've been to a Subway in the states in years, but that sandwich yesterday totally took care of my sandwich craving. We walked through the Dutch PX which has all kinds of fun chocolates, teas, sodas and mineral water but no PG Tips. And we sat on the boardwalk and watched people playing beach volleyball and field hockey.
I don't think I'll make the trip to Kandahar very often, especially since I start working in October. But it was great to see not just a familiar face but a family face. And I'm willing to deal with my issues with the crew cuts and guns for a sandwich and a to go order every couple of months.