Nad-e Ali Blog 4: Espresso, toast and marmalade
Leave. I've just got back from two weeks leave. Two weeks of espressos, excellent toast and marmalade, joined-up meat, movies - a glass of wine and the company of friends and family. Really fun times with my fabulous, grown-up kids, Kate and Tom. And watching City on TV (Manchester City of course). I even cooked a turkey - a first for me - for my dad and I.
I was sad to leave but felt a surge of adrenalin landing back in marble-clad Dubai on the way to dust-rich Camp Bastion and finally, by helicopter through a freezing, dark night, to cold-showers Patrol Base Shazad. Actually, adrenalin or trepidation!?
But let me tell you about the run-up to Xmas. The Support Our Soldiers Shoebox campaign was incredible with thousands of kindly, often anonymous, donors sending gift-wrapped shoeboxes addressed to "A Soldier" and containing all sorts of welcome goodies: chocolate, toothpaste, Xmas pudding..... With military colleagues I opened some and discovered, to my delight, one that had been sent from a school in my home town - only half a mile from where my dad lives. Once the Xmas holidays were over I visited to say how much we appreciated such a terrific gesture - and ended up doing a morning assembly presentation on Afghanistan to the staff and kids of the school. Great fun! So, to Highview School, again, thanks so much. It is a real pleasure knowing you guys. Some great questions: and yeah, sorry, I don't have a gun. Keep in touch, eh?
In typical conflict zone tradition, you drop your bag and start working straight away. I have never really figured out why. My stand-in, an excellent guy, insisted on a midnight "brew" (No, tea. No booze on a military base. Well, no legal booze anyway... I'm ex-Foreign Office after all, right?) and a brief on events over the last 2 weeks. Having had a 5am start to catch my flight from Dubai to Camp Bastion he may as well have been speaking in Mandarin. But, hey......
Disembarking a Chinook helicopter
|Finally turning in, I discovered, as is so often the case at this base, that everything had been moved: the loos, the washing facilities..... and I didn't know where they were now located. in the pitch black I staggered around trying to find somewhere to clean my teeth. And gave up.
And so back into it. So much happens here in the space of a few days that I feel as though I have been away a lifetime and it's hard getting back up to speed. A meeting yesterday with the District Governor (more M&Ms - see last episode) and more discussions about setting up a primary school in one of the local communities. Trying to line up the district education department, the elders and the community, the teacher, the UK-led Provincial Reconstruction Team in Lashkah Gar and the funding feels like wrestling with fog. I guess we will get there eventually. I just hope I am not totally grey by then....
So doing my washing this morning, in the open air under the cold blue skies with a busy day ahead, it was hard not to think of espresso, toast and marmalade..... it's good to be back.