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.
Only two years ago, we spent Canada Day on the front lawn of Parliament in Ottawa when Kate Middleton and Prince William were in town. What is normally a huge event anyway in the capital was especially packed with thousands of people from all over Canada and the US to see the young royal couple. That was one of the weekend trips Kimberly was able to make to see me while I was posted to Kingston, Ontario. Since then, Canada Day has been just a little more special to us and adds to the happiness of celebrating our awesome country.
This Canada Day falls only a short time before I will be deploying to Afghanistan on the final Canadian mission in that country. As daunting and difficult as this this next challenge feels, we feel more empowered than ever given how we’ve prepared ourselves for it. From planning a perfect pre-deployment vacation, preparing the house for new renters, storing my car, storing our stuff, freezing the dozen or so phone/TV/internet/mail/etc. accounts that are easy to lose track of, and just finding time to enjoy each other’s company, this kind of pace might turn most people into a ball of stress; and I can’t imagine adding children to the mix. We have just felt like it puts us on a roll and can get so much done together. Still, I just wish there was more time.
Time is so valuable, especially when spent on such a priceless thing: each other. Kimberly has been more supportive than I could ever expect her to be with the near-heartbreak she must be feeling. We spent a large portion of our early relationship apart, and it really doesn’t get much easier over time. She knows how hard it will be, and even so, she doesn’t want to make it more difficult for me. So, she puts on a tough face and tells me that we’re doing great. And, we are. We really are.
Sure there will be dangers and the unknown can bring all kinds of surprises. But, we have been able to retain the appreciation for everything that we’ve been able to do, and for the kind of life that we’ve been given in this world. Living in Edmonton has been wonderful, spending time with our families is a blessing, and we are so thankful that we can enjoy all the little things that life has to offer. I couldn’t have been more content sitting on the grass with my wife, watching the Canada Day fireworks in Edmonton, and wondering how lucky we are to be here. I look forward to next Canada Day, wherever we might be spending it, and to think back at how Afghanistan made our little family a bit more worldly, and how thankful we should be to have been a part of it; whatever it turns out to be.
When summer leave was granted and we realized that ticket prices hadn’t yet skyrocketed, we quickly decided that going to this beautiful Mediterranean corner of the earth that I call my childhood home was going to be the trip of a lifetime. It absolutely was, and I could never have predicted to what degree it would be a beautiful trip. Getting the chance to show Kimberly my birthplace has been something I’ve been longing for; she as well. Not only that, but I haven’t been to Greece for at least 4 years and I had been feeling the pull for a while now to go feel the dry heat and swim in the salty sea.
We spent half a day in downtown Athens which is a necessity for any first-time visitor to Greece. As hot, congested, and smog-filled as it is, there is nothing that compares to the history and architecture that pack this metropolis. It leaves you in awe imagining a different age when people walked around here many centuries before the birth of Christ, going about their daily routine. Although I’ve been to the Acropolis about a dozen times, it never gets old and I love going back.
I could go on at length about Athens, my childhood playground (Petroupoli specifically is where I lived.) My deeper family roots extend to the magical island of Santorini, where my father escaped as a 4-year-old in the last major earthquake, and my grandparents owned several shops. This island seems to host just about everything you could imagine for such a small place. That includes beautiful beaches, ancient cities, good people, and rich flavorful food.
It’s hard to describe, but there seems to be a richness to most meats, fruits, and vegetables that is sometimes attributed to the dry volcanic soil on the island. The wines are another story and are unfortunately hard to find outside the island. I wish I could have imported about a dozen bottles of Nykteri, and maybe another dozen bottles of Vin Santo(desert wine sweetened with honey.) I’ve taken much away from this culinary inspiration and hope to try and cook more island-inspired foods at home for Kimberly.
Besides our week long trip to Santorini as tourists, we managed to dig into my family history a little. I took a rare opportunity to ask the owner of a small bakery in Perissa whether or not he knew my great grandfather. After looking at a picture on the wall showing the bakery in 1935, I figured it was impossible that he wouldn’t have, as my great grandfather was well known in the area and had a house where he lived into the 1980s. The kind old man at the bakery shared all kinds of stories, but the most profound thing was how he described our family relations and the fact that dating several generations back, our families are linked. So now the nice lady from whom I bought frozen freddoccino (like an Iced Cap) every morning became my cousin.
It remains to be seen. One day, I will look back at this post and wonder what ever compelled me to want to start my blog. But like many things, one must start somewhere and I don’t expect this to be anywhere near my most interesting or open minded posts. Indeed, let’s see where this goes.