Sunday, January 29, 2012

Trivia Night

I love trivia night. If the pub-trivia-nights of the world had a joint ad campaign, I'd be on the poster. So when I had the opportunity to go to one of the British coffee houses on post for their weekly trivia night with a few friends, I took it.
Hard at work proving who knows the must trivial pieces of knowledge.
The trivia night here went faster than most places I've been. I suspect this is because the proprietors aren't too concerned with trying to get their patrons to purchase more alcohol as there is no alcohol!
No! No! No! THIS answer goes HERE, THAT answer goes THERE. Got it??
We lost in the end, but playing with people from so many different countries made it a little interesting. It seemed like there were representatives from every English speaking place represented here on KAF. At one point the host asked a question about what the top of a nail was called and he pronounced nail "nowl" - and people were joking about it the rest of the night. 

I'm very much looking forward to my next pub-trivia-like event, wherever it may be.
Better luck next time...

Friday, January 27, 2012

Cigar Night

A few weeks ago we had a cigar night after Havdalah at our friends over at the US Army Corps of Engineers compound's cigar porch.
Welcome to The USACE compound!
I'm not an expert in virtually any vice, but the peer pressure got to me and I'm told they were very good cigars.
Welcome to the porch!
Frank is a phantom.
Tobacco is basically the only permissible vice on KAF.
 I realize the irony of my making comments about Mike Self way back in the day and how he looked like Fidel Castro. I am fully aware that in these pictures, with the big beard, and especially with the cigar, I resemble Fidel Castro. Just wanted to get this out there in the open, so nobody else thought they could point it out to me.
I'm telling everyone about this glorious revolution I once led.
Curse the infamous glare off of reflector belts!
Cigar night was also a good opportunity for some great looking pictures of good deeds being done. Benari had lots of comic books, and Avi knew of lots of people who had little time on their hands. Supply and demand at their finest.
Transaction complete.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Preparing for an Apocalyptic Water Shortage or Even Worse: A Dibba Surplus...

I've never really held much stake in the idea that bottled waters had much differences between them. Especially the super expensive waters - Fiji Water, Smart Water... these, to me, were simply fantastic frauds pawning off Polish Spring at higher prices - and I love myself some Polish Spring. Water was water and that was it... until I came here.

When I first arrived here, Dibba reigned supreme. Dibba is bottled in the United Arab Emirates. You'd think the people of a desert country would appreciate the taste of good water, but you'd be wrong. I wasn't fully comprehending, then, that it tastes like a rust infused concoction of gutter water after a rain in a big city, put through a months-old coffee filter. Back then I'd drink it and think to myself, "hey, it's not too bad!". Now I know better.

Nestle water and Kinley water (owned by Coca Cola) are now, to me, like the dom perignon of all water. Still basically the same as Fiji and Smart water, but good lord can they hit the spot, and I'm certainly not the only one who has become a connoisseur of the bottled waters of KAF - I'm not even the first one to write about it.

For most of my time here Kinley and Nestle have been the water of choice for the powers that be to drop at various water drop points throughout the base, but throughout much of late-December and early-January we've been on Dibba... yuck.

You can imagine our collective mirth when one day in mid January - like mana from heaven - an entire pallet of Kinley was dropped next to the Ed. Center. Not wanting to share this bountiful harvest with the vultures that would doubtless descent on the Ed. Center at any moment, we took nearly all of it inside. Storage was a little bit of a problem as you can see below. Under circuit breakers, tables, along walls, in enclaves where people rarely go, we made sure to fill every open spot with delicious Kinley.
Lonely box of dibba water sits outside in the cold dust.
About two days after we carried all that water inside, another pallet of Kinley was dropped off so we didn't have to act as if we would make a memorable episode of hoarders. Such is the water situation in Kandahar.

Monday, January 23, 2012


No one had to tell me that I needed a haircut. I was well aware. People told me anyway, but I was avoiding it. Basically only one man in my entire life has ever cut my hair. He works at Village Square Styling in Beachwood, Ohio. All throughout college and obviously before college I would always be in Beachwood for my haircuts. This geographical arrangement didn't seem likely anytime in the near enough future to fix an ever worsening hairtastrophe, so I got a haircut here...
Please note: I poofed up my hair and beard for these pictures.
Waiting for a haircut
It was windy that day, OK??!
Andrea and Anisa came along to document this historic event.
I'll be leaving a little bit of myself here in Kandahar
The barber joked about leaving my hair this way.
I have a neck!
And now the unveiling.
OK... I'll be leaving a lot of myself behind in Kandahar.
I clean up well.
Mission Accomplished

Thursday, January 5, 2012

In Another Life I Was Either a Contractor on the Panama Canal, or Killed by Luke Skywalker

For the past three or so months, I've been reading "The Path Between the Seas" by David McCullough on and off. It's a chronicle of the building of the Panama Canal from early surveys of the Central American Isthmus, to completing the canal just before WWI. It was a solid read, and McCullough is probably my favorite non-fiction author.
One of the last chapters of the book entitled "Life and Times" was about what life was like for all of the workers living in the American "Canal Zone" during the final ten or so years of construction. I had no idea, when I started reading this book, that I'd feel any sort of kinship with the workers who built the canal.

The canal zone was sort of a weird hybrid of American territory/military outpost/private enterprise. It had its own laws, health services, stores, etc. The outline laid out in my demographics of kaf a couple of posts ago, probably strongly resemble the demographics of the canal zone.

The inflated salaries for educated/skilled westerners in the canal zone and the relative poverty in which the unskilled, imported labor force from various Caribbean islands in the canal zone lived closely resembled the differences between westerners and TCNs (Third Country Nationals) from places like Sri Lanka, India, Nepal here at KAF.

As I read further into the chapter I steadily grew more and more amazed at the similarities that continued to appear. The continuous construction/activity, the relatively frequent employer-dispensed home-leave schedules, the availability of a wide variety of religious services in canal-zone provided chapels (although I didn't read anything about Jewish services in the canal zone, now that would truly blow my mind). There was even a line that spoke of the lower prices of goods available at the commissaries in the zone compared to back in the States. At that I thought to myself, well that's exactly like our PX stores, and then the sentence went on to explain that the commissaries of the zone would go on to become the model for the modern military Post Exchange store! Wow!

A future embodiment of McCullough may be tempted to write the story of Kandahar Airfield. Life seems to be the same story repeated and told in different ways - and not just in non-fiction, and not just in books...

Not to try to make any profound statements about the current military force working hard in Afghanistan, but if life were an analogy for Star Wars, I'd be currently living in the Death Star as an administrator for the Storm Trooper Education Center. One of the thousands of nameless innocents Luke Skywalker killed with his Proton Torpedoes... never forget.