Sunday, January 20, 2008

Getting acclimated...

I think I am finally starting to get used to my new environment here. Even though this is not the first, or second, deployment, there still remains an adjustment period where you just have to get acclimated to your surroundings. For me, some things sunk in right away. Landing in a combat zone, there is training that kicks in automatically – always keeping a good SA (situational awareness) of your surroundings, handling your weapon, that sort of thing – but you also need to establish routines to keep yourself busy and prevent you from going insane! I’m trying to keep a somewhat normal work/play/sleeping schedule now so that I don’t practically kill myself like I’ve done this past week while working double & triple shifts.

Some of the things I’ve started doing to also acclimate myself to this new temporary home is to get out and do something else besides eat, sleep and work. This past week, a Tech Sergeant from the outgoing unit introduced me to Ismatullah & Abdul who run the Bakhter Jewelry shop in a little Afghani shopping section of the compound here. I visit their teeny little 8’x8’ shop there almost daily to say Hi and look around. I pull up a chair and we talk a lot about each others’ cultures, families, and especially food. As a token of their thanks for stopping by and chatting, they’ve treated me to a new Afghani delicacy the last several visits. My first treat was a pastry called Coultcha, which is a thick, flaky pastry with an orange-like sticky-sweet jelly in the middle layer. And of course, in Afghanistan, many cups of traditional hot Afghani Green Tea are consumed with each meal. The next day Scotti came with me and we were treated to a puffed corn snack caled Holta and another room-dried (not sun-dried) green grape concoction called Eesh-Meesh. (by the way, there really “is” no correct spelling for all these items – all I can do is spell them like they’re pronounced). Of course, copious amounts of Green Tea were once again consumed! As we were leaving that day, they shouted, “Come back tomor-r-row and we make something vetty special for-r-r-r you!” The next day I came back in around lunchtime, excited and right on schedule. I opened the door of the store to find Ismatullah smiling and reaching behind his small jewelry counter to get something. “What could it be this time?”, I thought. Momentarily lost in my own imagination, I didn’t notice what he had reached for - until it was practically under my nose….. it was…. well….. a CAKE! But who really knows “what” it really is…. I mean, this is Afghanistan, right? It looked like a yellow, six-inch square, baked in this brown wax paper. As Ismatullah unwrapped the paper to begin slicing it up, I could hardly contain my excitement to learn the name of yet another new Afghani culinary delight! “Ismatullah, what do you call this?”, I asked, excitedly. Looking bewildered, he replied, “It is CAKE!” Thinking I had misunderstood him, I asked again what it was, and without missing a beat, he immediately replied – once again – “It is cake! “Ooohhhhh!!”, I said embarrassed.….. and then the room erupted into laughter, as Abdul, Ismatullah and I realized the humor in that exchange of cultures. *LOL*

Speaking of food, living on a base that has over 30 nations represented certainly presents ample opportunity to get out and try some food from one of the other nations’ little restaurants, so Scotti and I went to a tiny little Italian shoppette and decided to order two of their pizzas. Scotti ordered the Prosciutto Crudo pizza…. Yeah!... I didn’t know what in the world it was either! Turns out it was smoked lamb meat topped with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. Whew! I decided to opt for the Pizza Capricciosa. What is that, you ask?….. Well I had to look it up too. It is tomatoes, mozzarella, sausage, salami, pepperoni, ham, mushrooms, artichokes, and green olives. Ugh. But hey! We’re here to try new things, right? Soooo…. We both dove into our strange-looking pizzas with gusto. After a couple bites, we decided to try each other’s pizza. Soon, I heard a CRUNCH! And then Scotti moaned in excruciating pain. Turns out when Italians put green olives on their pizzas, they do NOT pit them! He swears he chipped a tooth on that thing! *smile*

Another thing I’ve started to do is work out in the gym, and in fact, I just returned from my Yoga class. Ok…… uummm…. stop laughing! Gimme a break - it said “Stretching Class” when I signed up. *lol* Truth is, I like to run and I’ve not gotten out to jog in several months and know I need to stretch badly to get back into shape for it so hey!... I signed up. It wasn’t until today that learned from the gym staff that it was Yoga, but “wow” do I feel great! We stretched for an hour and a half! I think all the stretching and running I’ve done in the past paid off though, because even though I’ve been out of it for a spell, I was still more limber than many others in my class. *grin* But I have to remember to NOT sit on the mat next to the hairy Macedonian who likes to wear tight shorts and a tank top and smells like he hasn’t showered in a week! YUCK!!!

Early this morning, Wes, Roger and I decided to climb up onto the roof of the building where we have our satellite dishes mounted and get a good view of the majestic, white-capped mountains that surround most of this city. They are a site to behold! They remind me very much of the mountains I saw that surrounded Bagram three years ago. They are so massive, and intimidating!...yet quiet, and somehow peaceful. Wes snapped a photo of me while we were up there. I stood there and thought to myself, “If only those mountain ranges could talk!” They’ve witnessed decades of war and suffering here… and yet they stand tall, unaffected, having out-lived every conflict. I wish Afghanistan’s people were as resilient….. heck, I wish we ALL were!

Well, my first 8-hour work day turned into an 11-hour day instead, but it was still by far the shortest day I’ve had here yet. But since I'm trying hard to maintain a schedule, it's time to say G’nite!

View My Profile


Bag Blog said...

Trying new food can be great, but you must be a brave soul to do it, or at least have a strong stomach. I'm in Scotland right now and may try the haggis soon - we'll see.

The cake story is too funny. My daughter's Mexican babysitter once told me she had baked a cake "from scraps." I knew she meant "scratch," but I was still worried about eating it.

Men don't stretch enough - maybe they think it is to girlie, but it is great stuff. Yoga is a good thing to know.

Great stories!

CJ said...

I just found your blog and have been "catching up" by reading from the beginning. Thanks for doing what you do and for sharing it with us. Take care (and watch the olives!) =)