Sunday, October 30, 2011

Kandahar Jewish Community Part III

No big deal, just reading up on my Cleveland Jewish News here in Kandahar:
We had a Rabbi here at KAF for the period between Sukkot and the Shabbat after Shmini Atzeret. It definitely enhanced our small congregation's experiences for a little while. While he was here, he had a chaplain's assistant who took lots and lots of pictures - so it's thanks to him that I'm able to bring you this:
Sukkah in Kandahar - believe it or not.
The only things that we lacked, were the stringed up Sukkot greeting cards with which to decorate. Regardless, we had ourselves a pretty lively holiday.
Welcome to our booth.
mmm, cholent and salad.
The next day we made Kiddush in the Sukkah in the afternoon.
Lulav, Etrog, and all.
And then a little dvar.
At the end of the chag, we once again did our regular Friday night service.
Followed by our regular Friday night dinner.
Having a Rabbi here for the holidays was great. It was nice having his experience and knowledge from which to draw for our discussions during and after our services. His presence also helped us to appreciate our little group all the more. He also helped us celebrate Simchat Torah the following week after going to a couple more FOBs in between the two chagim.

First we lit candles.
Before long, it was time to march with the Torahs. Like most of our Jewish experience here, we have to work with what we have, and what we have here are paper/toy torahs. It didn't matter though, as you can see it was pretty fun:
Giddy for Torah.
Marching around the room 7 times.
Everyone carrying a Torah wore a Tallis - we had exactly the same number of Talesim as we did Torahs though, so it worked out.
Warren gets a Tallis.
Beginning of another Hakafah.
This Hakafah, I led.
Rounding the dinner table.
Those same flags were waving in Synagogues all across the world that night.
Last one.
I was really happy that we got to march with the Torahs like we did. It may not have been ideal, but it made me feel homey - and that's one of the best parts of the Jewish service here.

Our last Friday night with the Rabbi was very nice. We had a couple of newcomers, but about six or seven of our regulars have left KAF in the last couple of months. The rabbi gave us a bunch of advice on the subject of increasing our numbers by getting in touch with all of the chaplains on KAF.
More formal set-up service than we're used to, but it was a nice change.
Rabbi Weiss's assistant encounters the reflector belt flash-photo problem.
I could repeat myself over and over - last time: It's really helpful to have this group of support as well as a break from the regular routine of life here. It really helps break up the weeks for me and others. Food that isn't the DFAC food is good - no matter what (well, that's probably not true, but our cholent and salad does the trick for me).
It's therapeutic to sit down with these people week-to-week.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Graffiti and Zombies Part II

They're up to something in that church... I know it.
Must be a seance or something. 
I thought I had dealt with all the issues involving graffiti and zombies in the first post, but clearly I was wrong. We still have things that go bump in the night, and I keep on stumbling across works of art splayed out across segments of t-wall

Imagine walking home late at night in the dark and suddenly this pops into view from around a corner:
He's a mean one.
It's very startling. Not sure of the history of this seven-foot-high mural of the grinch, but I often see people playing cards around that table he's looking at - so he's not so off-putting that people don't want to hang around him.

Every once in a while I'll come across an odd bit of activist-graffiti:
In 2007 a crack logistics unit was sent to Kandahar Airfield to serve as suppliers for 904 EAW. These soldiers promptly formed as a team and served the detachment to their highest abilities, today still required by the government, survive solely on subways and burger kings. If you have a problem, if no one else can supply it, and you can find them, Maybe you can hire:-

Veterans needing jobs is a very serious issue...

Sometimes it's good to see some old school slapstick to break the tension:
The flag says (phonetically)  "tok" - I assume this is an onomatopoeia like "bang".
Driving by the Army Corps of Engineers' compound one day, I catch a glimpse of the mother-load out of the corner of my eye. It seems in their courtyard they commissioned the Michelangelo of Afghanistan to paint their murals.
The mother-load.
Who is spending their time making these under-appreciated works of art? It's not like the nature of Kandahar Airfield is very conducive to artists for hire. I'm surprised that the odd soldier out there with artistic ability is willing to spend their time working on things like these when they're not busy with their military occupation or disparately clinging to every moment of free time that they get. If you're out there, artists, I appreciate you.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Night-time Dancers

At various times, while walking to my room from work, I pass these groups of people.They don't notice me, because I'm not one of them. It's like something out of The Sixth Sense. They're like the dead in the sixth sense. I speak of course, of the salsa dancers.
In their own little world.
I must've made it clear by now that there is very little to do here outside of work, play video games, exercise, eat, sleep, watch movies, read, and write a blog that people claim to enjoy. I'd probably turn to things like salsa nights and karaoke as well, if I weren't working 12 hours shifts every day of the week...
It does look fun...
I work right below an office of lawyers, and when I asked them what they typically deal with they said there's the usual stuff... and salsa night. Apparently if you get 18-20ish-year-olds together and organize a night of a very physical-contact-centric dance some people are going to claim sexual harassment.
We unknowing can only look on in envy.
A crowd always forms around the salsa dancers. Dancing is a spectacle around here. Not many people have a reason to dance, which is why, I suspect, that they organize salsa night to begin with. People need to unwind and why not salsa dancing to help them do it?  ... Maybe because of the lawsuits is why not? But I'll leave that to the powers that be.

Dancing being a spectacle, you can imagine my surprise when I saw this:
Hundreds of dancers!
There was a breast cancer fundraising dance-a-thon a couple of weeks ago. It definitely side-tracked me from my route to my room because just look!
Hope they raised a lot of money.

Friday, October 21, 2011


Monday night at KAF is Karaoke night at the MWR tent. They draw a regular and decent-sized crowd. On one of the last nights Mike Champion was in town a bunch of us went to see what it was like.
Pretty legit with the whole stage thing.
Lyrics for all to see.
Taking pictures with the flash on has a very predictable problem associated with it - note the reflector-belt.
Glorious Cuba can only benefit from watching others sing popular songs.
...Also I really love Karaoke.
Did you know Karaoke means empty orchestra? Isn't that hauntingly poetic?
Go Michael!
Michael is kind of a celebrity at Karaoke night. He even had a request one time. The best chance I have at having that sort of notoriety around here is being known as beard guy - and there are plenty of those. There's even a guy with a handlebar mustache walking around... How can I make my mark?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

TGI Friday's

Let's go to TGI Friday's!
There is a Friday's here. I haven't been to every restaurant here yet by any means, but this one has been the best so far. There's a lot to be said for going somewhere that feels like home, and I've never even been to a TGI Fridays in the states. It's basically just like Applebees or Chilis... they're all the same, as far as I can tell: Plenty of flair on the walls, novelty chock-full-of-sugar drinks, and pictures in the menus, which are sometimes used to tell secrets:
Secret menu time.
One wouldn't normally think to take pictures in a TGI Friday's just because it's a TGI Friday's, and one would even less likely think to take pictures of someone taking pictures of someone in a TGI Friday's, but in Afghanistan it's normal. 
Picture within a picture. 
I think I ate too much.
So at KAF, TGI Friday's is the place to go for special occasions. They make a big deal of embarrassing people on their birthdays with a bottle of non-alcoholic champagne. The honoree is forced to stand on a chair and dance around while they sing a birthday song. I'd be embarrassed if it were me. We went to Friday's for Michael Champion's farewell lunch and he got the royal treatment:
"Celebration Drink" I think they called it.
Psychadelic Dancing
I must make it seem like I only eat at restaurants here with all the Tim Horton's and TGI Friday's talk. I've paid for a total of six meals while I've been here for over two months, a huge drop compared to my states-side record.