Thursday, April 28, 2011

Livin' in the Land Down Under

G'day mates!

Just a quick note to confirm that Nick and I are 1) alive, and 2) having a grand time in Australia. Tons of good food, lots of good hiking and clean air, some beach time, some desert time, few movies , and some circus kids thrown in for good measure.

We've conquered Fremantle and Uluru, and we're off for Stop #3 -- Melbourne -- Friday morning. Hopefully I'll be able to upload some pictures there.

Lastly, we just heard about the attack at the Kabul airport. First, all of you can relax about us passing through there in early May. The attack was on the military base that sits next to the airport -- not in the passenger terminal. Second......yes, it's very scary and I'm nervous. But I just keep saying....30 days, 30 days, 30 days left.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Home is where you hang your hat

I learned recently my humble little blog has been added to the list of suggested reading for students in the Afghan Familiarization course at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) -- the course that all USG employees coming to Afghanistan have to take before deploying. Of course I learned this just after I wrote the post on my new found ability to use a squat toilet.

Hi everyone at FSI! I'm Liz. With any luck I'll depart post before you get out here so that you don't have the opportunity to meet me face to face to discuss using squat toilets. Because that would be highly embarrassing and I blush easily.

So after learning that this blog had become training material, I started think about what sort of picture my posts paint about life in Kabul. And I realized that this blog is very biased towards apartment dwellers. Odds are if you are reading this blog and are soon to deploy to Kabul, you will not be living in an apartment. As I've mentioned before, Nick and I are very lucky that married couples are given priority and that we get to have a kitchen and a full bathroom. The hooches, while cozy, are far less comfortable. And quarters out in the field are another story all together.

So in order to make this an equal opportunity blog, my plan for posts between now and when Nick and I depart Kabul (June 11) is to gather as many pictures of USG staff quarters throughout Afghanistan as I can. That way I can give as many of you FSI folks as possible an idea of where you'll be living for the next year (or more). Because if you're in FSI right now and are anything like me, what your housing will look like is possibly your number one concern. Although, if you have a different number one concern, add it in the comments section and I'll do my best to answer!

I had planned to start this new mission with photos of the new Kabul hooches, but none of my hooch-dwelling friends sent any pictures by the deadline for this post (more on that below). So we'll start with a picture of some guest quarters out in the field:

My overnight quarters at FOB Finley-Shields. Kind of like summer camp meets a horse stall.

My friend Dave's cot in a storage closet at a PRT that shall remain nameless.

So why the deadline for this post? Well, it pleases me to no end to report that Nick and I are off to the airport in 1.5 hours for our very last R&R, an 18-day jaunt through Australia. It's been 80 days(!) since our last leave; the cabin fever is really getting to me. As mentioned in a previous post, the security office has tightened up restrictions on going out in the city. So other than a few trips to various government offices, I really haven't left the compound since we returned from Hong Kong. I need out, NOW!

It also pleases me to no end to report that the day Nick and I get back to Kabul -- May 11 -- is the day we start our 30 day departure countdown! I cannot even tell you how good it feels to type that. After 18 months in Kabul (24 for Nick) we are more than ready to close this chapter in our lives and move on to the next (Cairo!). Sorry all you FSI people. Not to be overly negative, but living on the compound can really get to you after a while.

As usual, posting will be light as we bounce our way from Kabul to Dubai to Perth to Uluru to Melbourne to Sydney and back. I think we might break down and finally buy a nice camera so that we can capture our adventure with good photos. Because HOT DAMN Australia is expensive, and unless we do another tour through Afghanistan I really don't see another trip to the Land Down Under in our future (thank you danger pay!). So we better do this trip right.