Wednesday, July 15, 2009

First mission

Finally, all the stars align and I can blog about my Afghanistan adventures. I have been plagued by Internet connection issues, computer problems and just all-around business since arriving two weeks ago. I have so much to write about. I struggle with where to start!

I went on my first mission this week, and it was thrilling! I am happy to say we experienced no adverse events and considered the two days a complete success. We spent much of our time looking at our current engineering projects (several sections of road and some school projects) but my favorite part was playing with the children. The photo is of several children at one of our stops.

They were initially very shy but, once the camera came out, they all rushed to have a photo taken. The girls are all a little hesitant and tend to keep their distance but will creep closer as the boys become more engaged. I found getting them busy doing something with me helps break the ice. Counting was easy. I would try to remember the numbers in Dari, often getting them wrong. The children would laugh and try to teach me. I would also point at various objects and ask the word, then try to teach them the English equivalent.

The countryside is beautiful but barren. It reminds me a lot of southern Arizona, with beautiful blue sky and hidden canyons with flowing streams and trees. The living conditions are simple; often mud walls, few cars and true manual labor. We saw several wheat fields being harvested by hand and one area where the cows were being walked in a circle to separate the wheat.

I had the opportunity to meet with several doctors at the only hospital in our province, and they are very excited to work with our team. We hope to introduce a nutrition supplement for malnourished children at some point in our tenure here. It is a project that is having impressive results in other areas and the people of Kapisa would benefit greatly. There is also a physician training program here at the main base that incorporates didactic lessons with hands-on experience at all three international hospitals (American, Egyptian and Korean) and the providers were anxious to be recommended to the program.

We did have one medical emergency while staying overnight at a French base in the area. My counterpart who I am replacing (a physician assistant from California) and I were going to meet the French doctor for dinner. When we entered his clinic, we found him working on a local young man who had suffered a traumatic amputation of most of his hand. Somehow, he had put his hand into a thresher machine. The French team had stabilized him so, while my counterpart dressed the wound, the doctor and I called for help from the U.S. hospital. The goal is for the local providers to learn to care for their population, but this injury was so significant that we were able to send him to the American facility for surgery. We were thrilled to see this young man get appropriate care. It goes a long way to show the people of his village that we are there to help them.

This continues to be an amazing opportunity, and I look forward to the next nine months. I admit I miss my family terribly, but the time is flying by and, if the next 34 weeks go as fast as the first two did, I will be home before I know it. Nate and the kids are doing great and enjoying their summer travels—a much needed adventure to help their time pass quickly as well.
I promise to write more often, as long as the computer and connection cooperate!
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1 comment:

  1. Lori, I can totally see you trying to hobnob with the kids. I bet that really brings it all home - the reason we're there in the first place.