I’ve been here for a couple weeks already and all I’ve come to know is the routine that I last wrote about. I work in an office all day fighting to make MS Office co-operate. I get to the gym at least once a day (usually twice). I sit down for a coffee at least once a day and try to get a Skype call through to Kimberly. And, once a day I lay down in my bed (with huge gel cushion from Costco) and fall asleep. With no weekends(c’mon, this is war!), this routine has repeated daily, and it’s not bad. But, in the back of my mind I’m always listening for an out-of-place “boom” or thump to catch my attention and have me either diving for the floor, or running for a bunker. This makes me nervous when I’m in the shower or lying in bed. It’s different in training because your life is not actually in danger. But if the alarms go off when I’m literally caught with my pants down, I’m not going to be happy about it.
So, I have a new bit of mental readiness given that I’m literally waiting for chaos to break loose. If I’m in the shower, I always mentally rehearse running to grab my pants, shirt, and boots. If I’m going to sleep, I lay things out just right so all I have to do is click on my flashlight, grab stuff, and go. You might think it’s stressful to be on alert like that all the time, but honestly it’s not that bad. I’m still more worried about getting some strange lung infection or meeting a scorpion than I am about facing the Taliban.
I hope it’s of some comfort to know this: It is very unlikely for me to be in downtown Kabul for several months and NOT be very close to a horrible attack of some kind. I’m OK with knowing that it’s coming at some point. I just don’t know when. But like any other situation in life, all you can do is go about your daily routine, work hard, be kind to people, and pray for all good things. I sincerely hope nobody becomes more worried after reading this. My message is really that preparedness is better than crossing our fingers and hoping nothing happens. Be it mental or physical.
Now, I’m looking forward to my morning coffee in several hours and hearing Kimberly’s voice. Good-night, good-morning, or good-afternoon depending when you read this.
Still, there is so much to comprehend in the first few days of deployment and it’s a challenge to think back and put the pieces together. From Edmonton to Kabul, there were many hours of flying, what felt like just as many hours of waiting for flights, and then waiting some more to just get settled into a new routine. In total, there were probably around 2 straight days worth of flying, and this time I changed my sleep strategy. Normally, I set my watch forward or backward to the time of my destination, and do my best to follow that schedule from the start. If it’s 9 am at my destination, I’ll refuse to sleep, if It’s 11 pm, I’ll try to force myself to sleep. It usually works, but it always takes a couple days to adjust. This time, it was so much different. We had no idea where we would be in the coming days, and what kind of work schedule we might be on. I was just as prepared to go straight to my camp and take a few days to relax as I was to sit around in a transient warehouse-type building and sleep on floors while waiting for the next stage of the “trip”. The latter was closer to what actually happened, and so my new plan was to sleep at every possible moment throughout the trip. It was definitely a smart move. On every flight, while waiting at airports, and even in vehicles between places.
Now, the difficulty is getting into a healthy and normal routine. Life in general is so so so much different. Going from having my car to drive around, house to hang out in, wife to be with, grass and trees to look at etc, to being in a heavily secured environment with concrete barriers, guns, dust/dirt/grime everywhere is a change. It’s an easy routine, but it’s important to set one early. With Kimberly, I’m hoping we can talk at the same time on most days so she can prepare for it, and I am not fighting to get the deplorable internet service to work during peak hours. At the same time, I know that she is doing the same in re-settling with me gone. It’s saddening not to be there to help her through it. But, the way I see it is that this is OUR deployment and it’s not just me that had to serve on this tour. She’s facing just as much challenge as I am and we have to get through it together.
At the very least, I hope to make this a very personally enlightening experience for us. This kind of thing is usually a once in a lifetime experience, and the memories will last a lifetime. This is just the beginning though, and I hope to be able to tell you more about my quest for normalcy in this abnormal environment. Now that my sleep times are getting back to normal, I think it’s time for bed.