For Unny…she is always with me despite my weaknesses…
For Unny…she is always with me despite my weaknesses…
Language has not the capacity.
There are no words.
There are no photographs.
There is no flower arrangement.
There is no gift or act.
Unny and I decided that we needed to get them out. Take them to the park. Try to get them to poo somewhere else besides my Afghan rugs. So we packed them up into my Afghan pack and rolled out.
We attempted to go to the Lumpini Park first. No Dogs Allowed!
We head over to Suan Roe Fai (Old Rail Way) Park. Technically no dogs allowed there either. But we snuck them in.
We rented some bikes and tooled on over to a secluded and shaded area in the park. I let my babies out of my backpack and watched their reaction. I think they were in shock from the ride. They just sat there. Scared. Intimidated by their surroundings. I forced the issue. I put their leashes on and pulled them along. Malalai wasn’t having any part of it. I had to drag her for a bit and afterward she’d just stop and sit there. Refusing to sally forth into new territory. Sierra was a bit more adventurous. She roamed around a bit. She followed me and I didn’t need to pull her but every so often to make her move.
When we left, we placed them in the baskets and rode them back to the park entrance. I had to lock Sierra onto the basket because she kept trying to climb out. Malalai simply sat there and looked around until we neared the front of the park. She started getting a little more interested at about that time. So I held her with one hand and steered the bike with the other.
There were funny. I laughed. They whined. I laughed some more.
Things I noticed.
Thai people really seem to love dogs. Everyone pointed and talked about our pups. Everyone was interested. The Taxi drivers had absolutely no problem picking us up with our dogs. The ones who drove us to the parks seemed to actually enjoy having our pups along for the ride.
It was hot.
I think three crows were interested in making more than casual acquaintance with Malalai and Sierra. I had to shoo them away twice. I think they wanted a nice little snack.
The Red Shirts were out in force. Don’t know if it was full force but there were a lot of them. They were announcing over their hand held bull horns that today was not a day for Red Shirts or Yellow Shirts but a day for Democracy. Apparently, the Reds love their King and aren’t bothered by the dichotomy of love for a King and love for Democracy. Kind of schizo if you ask me or it may simply be that they haven’t thought through their actions to the full spiritual, emotional and political extent. It’s their country. I’m simply a guest. It’s an observation.
Malalai and Sierra were or seemed to be dizzy and in calm shock for most of the trip and were exhausted afterwards. We took them for their 2nd and 3rd car ride. 1st moto taxi ride. 1st bike ride. 1st trip to a park.
I accidentally knocked Sierra into a creek or tributary of some sort to the Chao Phraya. She didn’t like that too much. I placed Malalai into the basket of my bike. She just lay down and went to sleep. I did the same thing with Sierra. She moved around too much and the bike crashed to the ground. That might be why she kept trying to climb out of the basket later.
A bird strafed Malalai while she was sleeping in the basket of the bike that I had rented for the park. Funny but disgusting and I had to clean her.
On the way back in the taxi, both of them fell asleep on me. Malalai on my leg. Sierra on my shoulder.
They were cute. It was a nice day at the park for all of us. When we arrived back to the Condo and I let them out of my backpack, they looked around as if to say; “How’d we get back here.” Then they took a nap.
Big day out for our Pups. I think they enjoyed it. I know Unny and I did.
I walked over the bazaar to say a final farewell to a friend. Hossein sells bootleg DVDs at Coalition Camps all over Herat. I’ve run into him all over the place. Primarily at the RTC, Camp Stone and Camp Arena. I’ve seen him tooling around downtown Herat once or twice as well. We struck up a friendship of sorts over the past couple of years. So I stopped by to say farewell.
While I was doing that, I ran into the Tea Pot. Unny wants to have a small cafe in Bangkok. So I figured it would make a nice piece to display at such a place. I picked it up for her. It’s inlaid with turquoise, lapis and some kind of red stone. I like it. It’s a nice little piece that I think she’ll like as well. It’s decorated with figures from Hindu and Buddhist mythology which ties in nicely with Thailand. Garuda is front and center in the picture.
The other pics are just random shots taken as I waswalking about the bazaar area and the camp.
It was the last time that I’ll see them. A bittersweet moment that left me feeling a bit melancholy.
I drove over to the RHQ to see them one last time. I pulled in and saw them sitting out in front of their little store. We waved to them as we passed into the RHQ. I had a little bit of business to conduct inside the RHQ. I wanted to get some Certificates signed by General Ak to present to my guys on Thursday when we have our little Hail and Farewell. Shoaib and I sat with the General for a bit. He signed our Certs and we chatted for a bit. He told me that he was going to get me a gift for Thursday. We joked a bit and then said our farewells.
After that, we went and visited with COL Zahir for a bit. He was all harried and had a cold. So he was cursing everything and grumpy until everyone left his office. We chatted for a bit and laughed and joked for a bit. Then I had to get going. I told my boss that I’d not be long out and about.
Funny thing. Jonathan called me while I was there and cursed at me for being out so close to departure. He doesn’t want to party alone in Dubai. haha
Finally, it was time to see the kiddies. We drove out of the RHQ and turned left into the parking lot where there family store is located. I jumped out. As I was pulling the bags out of the back of the SUV, Ali and Jalil came running over. Nahida, reserved as usual, stayed by the door of the mud brick store which her father built. I grabbed everything out of the SUV and carried it to the store. I held out the Kangaroo bag and the Mickey Mouse bag to give the boys a choice as to their preference. Ali chose the Kangaroo bag. Ali picked the Mickey Mouse bag. Next, I opened the big bag with all of the girl stuff that Unny, Orawan and Emmy had sent.
Odd to think that these items came from so far away. Bangkok and Australia. Such distance and worlds that couldn’t be more different than Afghanistan.
I took out the things in the bag and showed them to Nahida. Her eyes lit up as I showed her the sandals that Unny sent. She seemed to love the pajamas that were sent by Orawan. The favored item, though, was what I’d forgotten in the SUV. As I was showing her all of hair thingies, I remembered the Barbie Doll that was in my back pack. I walked over and pulled it out. The biggest smile I’ve seen on Nahida broke on her face. I think that one really made her happy. The pajamas ~ she loved them. The shoes ~ Nahida didn’t want to hand them back to me so that I could put them back in the bag. The Doll, though, she lit up and her smiled beamed as bright as Polaris. It was a lovely moment.
Nahida doesn’t smile a whole lot. She’ll break in a smile, but, it quickly goes away. A flash of brilliance just as quickly vanished. Seeing that smile come out for the Doll really made my day. As I’m sure the Doll and assorted other goodies made her day.
As you can tell from the pics, I tried to get them to do that John Wall dance. lol Not too successful there. But it was cute.
After we talked for a bit. I told them that this would be my last visit. They didn’t understand at first because Ali asked me when I’d be coming again. So I pulled Shoaib in and told him to make them understand that I was leaving Afghanistan. It was a little emotional I knew I’d get a little emotional once I got to that moment. I’m a little girly like that sometimes. lol I didn’t, however, think that I’d damn near start to cry. It was funny for me. Shoaib made fun of me a bit. He teased me for looking like I was going to cry. I told him; “Hell, I couldn’t help it. I’ve grown close to those cute little bubbas.”
I’ve been asked by a couple of people about adopting Nahida or Jalil or Ali. The subject has been brought up with the father. I asked about taking Nahida to the States to put her in school. A fairly affluent couple from Scandinavia asked about adopting or simply sponsoring Ali and Jalil for European citizenship/schooling. The Father will not do it. It’s a shame. Those kids could have a great life and excellent opportunities if their Father would allow it. He said that he wants to keep his family together. Who can blame him. Not I.
The other side of that is that families are economic units in Afghanistan. All of the children are earners of some sort. Whether it be bringing in money for odd jobs or working the shop that their father built or begging on the streets. They all bring in money to the family. Lose one and the whole family loses money. To lose three would be a fairly large dent in the family economic situation/ability to earn. Even so, I know that he’s been offered money to allow the children to go outside of Afghanistan.
Whatever his reasons, Baba jan wants his family to stay together.
Last note. I think Nahida thinks that Unny is as beautiful as I think she is. She asked me for another picture while I was there. So I gave up my last pic of Unny to her. I’ll have to get more printed. I like to look at Unny from time to time and see her brilliant smile. I think I’ll take all of the pictures on my wall and have Shoaib take them to Nahida. I’ve got them posted all around my room. I’ll not need the pics for much longer as I’ll have her.
I hope the Gods watch over my little children here in Afghanistan. I know I’ll think of them from time to time and wonder how they are. I wish there were a way to keep in touch. I will always feel blessed to have had these little people in my life. Even for so short a time. As I left, I gave the boys a big hug and swung them around one last time. It’s taboo to do such a thing to Nahida, so, I just shook her hand. I told them to take good care of themselves and to be brave and strong in life.
Khoda Hafiz Nahida, Jalil and Ali…
There are two entries in Wikipedia for Chaghcharan.
Chaghcharān (Persian: چغچران) is a town and district in central Afghanistan, as well as the capital of Ghor Province. It was formerly known as Ahangaran. The main inhabitants of Chaghcharan are Tajiks. It is located on the southern side of the Hari River, at an altitude of 2,280 meters above sea level. Approximately 15,000 people live in the town, making it the largest in the province. Chaghcharan is linked by a 380-kilometre-long highway with Herat to the west and about the same distance with Kabul to the east. Due to severe weather, the road is often closed during winter and even in summer it can take three full days to drive from Chagcharan to Kabul.
There is an airstrip, located north and west of the Hari River, one mile east/northeast of Chaghcharan. It is approximately 1800 metres in length, unpaved and capable of supporting small to medium sized aircraft.
In 2004, an independent FM radio station راديو صداي صلح or ‘Voice of Peace Radio’ opened in the town, the first independent media in this part of Afghanistan.
Chaghcharan District is one of the most populated districts in Ghor Province (115,000 in 2005). It is a mountainous district. The winter is severe and the roads are inaccessible because of the snow. The district center Chaghcharan is also the capital of the province. It is situated at at 2268 m elevation. The drought seriously affected the agriculture — the main source of income. There are a hospital and secondary schools in the district center, but because of the bad roads and severe weather they are hardly accessible to the rural population. Most of the population is Aimaq Hazara.
The first states that the people are mostly Tajik. The second correctly states that the people of Chagcharan are mostly Aimaq. The Aimaq are a Shi’a people closely related to the Hazara of Afghanistans Hazarajat.
I have been trying to get to Chaghcharan for the past 18 months to train the ANP Province Logistics Cadre. Always before some problem arose. Some unseen event would halt our progress and keep us away. Either personnel on the ground were busy or out of the net or the winter snows would forestall progress in our travel. We’d get bumped from the flight. The flight would be cancelled due to weather or the aircraft would break down on the flight line or be re-routed. Something would happen to keep us from getting there. All plans came to naught.
Finally, Shoaib and I made it up there. I didn’t trust it until we actually landed. Kept waiting for a sudden snow storm or the aircraft to run out of fuel and need to re-direct to Bagram or Kabul or worse, yet, Qandahar. Who knows. It’s happened before.
Heading out on leave, I was flown from Herat to Kabul. Somehow, we were re-routed to Qandahar for a fuel stop. We landed. I looked out the window and told my fellow passengers that we were in Qandahar. They thought I was crazy. I recognized the place though because I’d been there a couple of times with another company. I just started laughing as the flight crew stepped back to apologize for the landing and explained that neither Kabul or Herat had fuel readily available so we had to land in Qandahar to fuel up. That pit stop turned a 1 hour 45 minute flight into a 5 hour ordeal. Making matters worse was that we had been on the flight line for 10 hours prior to that flight because 3 other flights had been canceled that day. We were happy as hell, though, when we landed in Kabul. Not a complaint one. We were just happy to finally make it and be in position to make it out for our respective R&Rs.
Back to Chaghcharan…
We board a Canadian ISAF flight to Chaghcharan from Herat. Shoaib and I are both afraid to get our hopes up. We both want to get up into the mountains and finally do some work in Chor Province. Shoaib had lived and worked there previously. He was a Terp for the Lithuanian contingent. He’d spent two years up there. I am fascinated by the history of the region and would really like to experience as much of Afghanistan as possible before I finally give up this region and head home or wherever I end up after the Stan.
The Canandians are funny. A little female NCO comes and briefs us and clears the military passengers weapons. She gives us the safety brief and tells us that it’s a short flight so we should keep our IBA and Helmets on for the whole of the flight. Then. She leads us to the aircraft. We climb aboard.
We roll down the tarmac and go wheels up. Almost safe.
I don’t think they turned the heat on during the flight. No matter. I was prepared and bundled up in my fleece, Palestinian scarf and combat gloves. I was warm. I strap myself in. Put my helmet on and prepare to catch a nap.
Shoaib sits on the web seating and tries to work the seat belt. I watch him as he stares at it befuddled and then show him how to work the clasp. All the while chuckling. I had assumed that he’d been on a C130 before.
Apparently, he hadn’t.
45 minutes later, we land.
I’m excited as hell.
We made it.
18 months in the making. We’re in Chaghcharan. I’ve read about the place and never thought I’d ever actually make it there.
We climb down the stairs to exit the aircraft and walk onto the dirt runway.
There are three little buildings. One of which is an outhouse. The other two are locked up and look to have been out of commission for quite a few years.
We’re greeted by the PRT welcome wagon. A mix of US and Coalition soldiers from Lithuania, Denmark and Croatia. They load our bags into some Toyota pick up trucks and we jump in for the short ride to the FOB.
FOB Whiskey. PRT Whiskey. Depending on who is talking to you. It’s a smallish FOB in the middle of the Hari Rud river basin. It looks like they diverted the river with a canal the runs around the base and into town. Even so, when the river swells in the wiinter rain months, the FOB floods and the plywood walking planks, I’m told, float as you walk on them.
We should be returning at that time. So we may get to experience the floating planks.
We meet our military sponsors. They show us to our Five Star Hotel. A not well insulated tent with very inadequate heating that is as dusty as the roads out in town. No matter. I’m happy to be there.
It’s a decent FOB. Pretty good chow. Same day laundry service. Decent gym. Surrounded by Hescos, Concertina wire and 12 ft tall fencing. As safe as any place in Afghanistan. Chaghcharan is a pretty sleepy town. Not too much activity of any sort. If the Taliban are there, they’re sleeping and waiting to go somewhere else to cause trouble. FOB Whiskey hasn’t had problems of any sort for almost a year.
We settle in. Grab a bunk and are given a tour of the FOB. Not much to see and won’t go into it here. The highlight is the MWR house with pool tables–Russian and regular. It also houses a small internet cafe with intermittent internet access. Every Thursday, the Coalition forces have a beer night. 3 beer limit. The US forces can not imbibe. General Order #1 prohibits the consumption of alcohol in Afghanistan. That lovely throwback to our puritan roots that makes absolutely no sense to me.
I sit down with my military sponsor and we put together a plan. He briefs me on the Ghor Province Commander and Logistics Cadre. Giving me a rundown of shortcomings and items that he’d like me to include in my instruciton. Fuel and Accountability. We talk about the usual problems that he has noted during his tour in Chaghcharan. We plan out the next two weeks.
By that time, it’s getting late. I head off to bed.
I can’t talk too much about our routes and training. So I’ll leave that part out of here for now.
The rest of the week is left to coordinating travel.
As we travel around to various sites, we drive through the town of Chaghcharan to and from the Province HQ. We visit the Generals house. Hit up a few check points to see if they are supplied correctly or manned at all. All seems well.
I always carry my camera on these trips. Along the way, I snap random photos.
We drove up to a check point and supply point in the hills surrounding Chaghcharan. On the way to one of them, we stop at an old Russian Fort. It looks old. Like Great Game old. Late 1800s or so. I grab my camera and take pictures of the surrounding area. It’s beautiful country. Greenery. Desert. Mountains. Roads heading off towards places like Sagar and Pasaband. A road that one can follow straight to Kabul. The same road that took the author of The Places In Between from Herat to Kabul. Beautiful. It’s like being on top of the world up there. You can see for miles in every direction.
After we finish with our mission of training the ANP Logistics Cadre, it’s time for us to head back. We manifest for a Sunday flight. That flight gets canceled. I get a little worried. Next flight out is Tuesday. So that Sunday, we head back to the PHQ to mentor the Province Logistics Commander.
Tuesday. We make the flight. Early flight. We rise at OH DARK Thirty. Pack our bags and equipment on a Toyota truck and head out to the airfield. We are getting a ride on the mail flight. It’s a Blackwater flight. Old Russian Bird. We wait out on the airstrip for about 45 minutes and she lands. We climb aboard.
What a difference in conditions. It’s a heated civilian bird. Seats like a 747. But big and cushy. HEAT! EXCELLENT HEAT! Best of all….WINDOWS!
I can take photos along the way on the flight back to Herat. I must have taken a couple of hundred photos. Some are below. I’m pretty syked about this. I know somewhere in our flight path is Jam and it’s 1000 year old Minaret. I would love to visit this site. Get down there and touch it, smell it. Get a feel for it. It was built by the rulers of the Ghorid Empire sometime during their reign in the area. 1088 or so. It’s one of those places that was forgotten and re-discovered. It’s a 60m tall Minaret with the Mary Sura from the Qu’ran written around the whole of the body of the Minaret. It’s in surprisingly good shape for a monument from antiquity.
We had a smooth flight and an even smoother landing. Once we land, Shoaib and I jump off the aircraft. Offload our bags and drag them to the pick up point. I send Shoaib home and wait for my ride. First order of business when I land is to call my boss and let him know that I’m “home.”
Then I call Habibi. It’s been a little over a week since I’ve talked to my diminutive sweetheart and I can’t wait to talk to her. I call her up and…get her answering service. She’s at work and has her phone turned off. I laugh. I guess I’ll have to wait to talk to Unny.
I sit down, pull out my book and wait for my ride back to homebase. Two hours later, I’m in my hooch relaxing.
Later that night, I finally get through to Unny and my heart smiles to finally hear her voice. 54 more days and I’ll be with her in Bangkok. We’ll have our party at Bedsupper Club on Soi 11. Then we head out for our 9 day tour of Vietnam. Backpacker style.
Very excited about this trip.
Below are the pictures that I took along the way in Chaghcharan. Lots of pics. I took approximately fifteen hundred photos up there. I’ve included a little over a hundred of the best for this blog.
I hope you enjoy them.
She answered, “Beauty is that which attracts your soul, and that which loves to give and not to receive. When you meet Beauty, you feel that the hands deep within your inner self are stretched forth to bring her into the domain of your heart. It is the magnificence combined of sorrow and joy; it is the Unseen which you see, and the Vague which you understand, and the Mute which you hear – it is the Holy of Holies that begins in yourself and ends vastly beyond your earthly imagination.”
Then the Nymph of the Jungle approached me and laid her scented hands upon my eyes. And as she withdrew, I found me alone in the valley. When I returned to the city, whose turbulence no longer vexed me, I repeated her words:
“Beauty is that which attracts your soul, and that which loves to give and not to receive.”
When love beckons to you, follow her,
Though her ways are hard and steep.
And when her wings enfold you yield to her,
Though the sword hidden among her pinions may wound you.
And when she speaks to you believe in her,
Though her voice may shatter your dreams
as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you so shall she crucify you. Even as she is for your growth so is she for your pruning.
Even as she ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall she descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
Like sheaves of corn she gathers you unto herself.
She threshes you to make you naked.
She sifts you to free you from your husks.
She grinds you to whiteness.
She kneads you until you are pliant;
And then she assigns you to her sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.
All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.
But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.
When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, “I am in the heart of God.”
And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.
Kahlil Gibran, On Love