Afghanistan-A-Go-Go

A Reservist's Tale Of A Tour

How To Make Things More Tolerable

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One of the things that is vital to being able to live and work in close quarters with a fairly small number of people is a good sense of humour, and it seems that’s something we have in spades. The mix of nationalities seems to help, because it means we can cover a diverse array of styles of humour.

Being the new guy (though there are several new people in the organization and several getting ready to return home to various places) means getting to understand the history of the jokes, having to ask questions about some of the more bizarre things posted up around the office, and just trying to get a handle on what makes everyone tick. They do a good job of making you feel welcome quickly though.

One of the chief jokers is an American National Guardsman who will be leaving soon. I don’t actually see much of him because he’s running around closing out things before he heads home, but he’s left his mark. I learned of him primarily from walking into a hilarious late night conversation about his travel plans (including visiting the Canadian I’m taking over for), and his almost passable ability to sing the Stan Rogers classic Barrett’s Privateers, which he knows is somehow associated with Halifax.

One of his creations stemmed, as the story goes, from a conversation with someone senior about the mundane job of running a training centre. He was told “Well, it could be worse. You could be out doing foot patrols in the Korengal Valley.” Ever see the movie Restrepo? If you’re reading this, probably a good movie for you. There’s also a good PBS Frontline documentary about it. The Korengal Valley is located in Konar Province east of Kabul, and is a remote, lawless, dangerous area where Americans live in precarious combat outposts.

Anyhow, that’s what Wikipedia’s for. I’m getting away from the point, which is that a sign up sheet for “Dismounted Patrols In The Korengal Valley” went up in the office in short order. Beside it was his “Christmas email” sent to the entire camp, a hilarious riff on the Mayor’s Cell suggesting that conditions were ripe for insurgency within the camp, and the response from that office.

This is the kind of stuff you need to get by. By one of the 435784578 coffee makers located in our facility is a list of “Don’ts”, which describe series of offences that most people would be familiar with (leaving less than a cup in the pot, etc), all with verbs to describe them based on the names of the individuals notorious for the sins.

Additionally, I have an event to look forward to every week – trivia night run by the Brits. It’s a hilarious affair, seriously competitive with a grand weekly prize of nothing but bragging rights. My first night out was a roaring success, trouncing six other teams. More amusing was my introduction to “The White Rat” which is evidently some sort of naval tradition. Essentially, someone is secretly nominated each week to snoop around camp collecting gossip and embarrassing stories about the contingent, which are then delivered to the assembly in the form of a hilarious monologue which a prop “white rat” (which I think was some form of sock puppet) presents the dirt. It was brilliant. Their humour is also well used in their farewell traditions where departing soldiers are subject to a great roast, for which detailed notes are kept during the tour.

The latest development is that I finally have my permanent quarters. I don’t have my own room, I share it with another Captain, but it should work out okay. We piled all our stuff in as soon as we got the keys and spent a good couple of hours yesterday organizing things. To our good fortune, the previous occupants left lots of stuff behind of use – a kettle (two, actually, we gave one away), cleaning supplies, coat hangers, power bars, carpets, etc etc. The room’s nothing fancy – it’s maybe 10′ x 10′, with a couple of lockers, a couple of book cases, a bunk bed, and a desk (we would like another one, but it’ll be a tight fit). It’s comfortable, and once we got unpacked a bit it felt like progress. It also, unlike some accommodations, is in a building that has laundry and washrooms within it. Some quarters rely on trailers you’ve got to go outside to get to, which when it gets muddy in the spring won’t be so much fun. No complaints, really. We’ve got an option to buy a TV and DVD player as well from someone about to leave, and movies can either be borrowed from the morale and welfare folks or bought at the Afghan shops – the latest Chinese bootlegs for $2 each. Whatever works.

For now, though, things are going slowly. There’s a lot of stuff we’re working on, but it’s not really coming together due to circumstances presently beyond our control. I’m mainly getting ready to do some courses which will be interesting – reading the material in advance and such things. I’ve also done a little bit of monitoring of ANSF classes, sitting in the back with an interpreter and the Commandant who’s advising their chain of command on the quality of their instructors. It’s interesting seeing how their officers teach – I can’t comment on how well they cover the content (except that apparently with some variation it’s been pretty good), but they seem to have strong presentation skills and an interest in the material which makes their teaching more effective.

There’s lots swirling around, but for now, we’re just getting what we can done and waiting on what we can’t.

Written by Nick

March 4, 2012 at 6:42 am

One Response

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  1. Gooto see you getting “settled”!

    Good to see you’re getting “settled”! 😉

    Lynn

    March 4, 2012 at 8:09 pm


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