Monday, November 30, 2009


For all my readers who are medically astute: This is NOT a story about transient ischemic attacks. TIA is our abbreviation for “This Is Afghanistan”. It’s just another way for us to cope with the wackiness we encounter here, daily.

A recent example is my trip this week to Kabul. I have spent the last few weeks packing up offices and assisting with the minutia that accompanied our move from Bagram Air Field to our new home in the province. On the night we drove away from Bagram, I received a call from the commander that there was an issue a road project the team engineers are responsible for. He wanted one of the engineers and me to attend a meeting. The meeting would occur at a base down the road but we would need to “helo” there with the French contingent.

The next morning, following a quick meeting with the boss regarding the goals of the day, the lieutenant and I arrived at the helo pad, with scant time to spare, only to discover that the meeting was in Kabul. Being the good sports we try to be, we jumped on the bird and found ourselves at a French post in Kabul and, shortly thereafter, discussing contractor concerns in the office of an Afghan National Army general. We, with the help of the general and our French counterparts, managed to mitigate the concerns. If everything goes as planned, work will resume soon.

After completing our discussions, we were invited to lunch at the Afghan National Army chow hall as guests of the general. The meal was traditional, with rice, various meats and lots of naan (flat bread). Thankfully, neither of us fell ill the next day! We spent the remainder of the afternoon in talks with other American and French soldiers, planning future projects and cementing our working relationships. We ate in an amazing French chow hall for dinner. There were so many choices, I felt like a kid at a candy shop and, with everything my eyes told me I had to have, I likely looked like a piglet!. We returned “home” that evening, none the worse for wear and with adventure stories to share.

TIA, my friends. Some days are wackier than others!


Reflections on Nursing Leadership, published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Back to the front

It has been nearly two weeks since I returned to Afghanistan, and I am finally feeling back in the groove. I didn’t realize before leaving how hard it would be to return here. It isn’t the mission or the country itself that I struggle with; I miss having privacy. I spent two wonderful weeks in a fancy hotel room, enjoying all Bavaria had to offer. Now I am back in a dusty war zone, living in a little plywood shack with seven other women (whom I know only casually) and walking 100 yards to the bathroom and shower, a shower that doesn’t always have hot water.

When we first arrived, the novelty of being deployed and the “adventure” of it all made the transition easier. I had stars in my eyes, imagining all the great things we could accomplish. Now, I know how stressful the work is, how long the hours, and how hard it is to actually move a project to completion. I think the chaos of our current living situation doesn’t help, either. We are in the process of relocating our headquarters to another location. This involves packing everything—offices, personal belongings, even ammunition—and arranging for its movement to our new home. We have a plan to phase the process out but it still seems overwhelming some days as we struggle to move people, trucks and belongings a measly 40 km!

Knowing the deployment is already halfway done helps but, with the holidays rapidly approaching, I know the ache of missing my family will only become more acute. Knowing they will be able to see friends and family helps, but it will be a difficult time for them as well. Also, I have no idea how to make the holidays special for the soldiers and airmen who are here with me. The team has talked about decorating our tents and putting up a tree, and we anticipate a special meal from our French hosts. (Yes, we will be living in big tents for the remainder of our time here, with winter closing in!) But it just doesn’t seem like enough. If anyone has any ideas, please pass them along.

O, an update on the mouse situation—they continue to plague me! With all the moving and cleaning going on, we have found several and the spot outside my bedroom door is still the best place to put a trap. We have caught at least five there but, since my return, I have not seen any in my room, so that is a good sign. There are rumors of snakes being found in the living quarters. I think I prefer the mice! The girls in my hut are convinced that mothballs will keep the critters away, so now everything I own smells funny. But, if it works, I am game.