Afghan Chronicles: Nearing the End… and Liking It

July came and went. As did the latest package full of goodies sent to me from Paris. Made it here but was sent back for some reason and that made for a very, very angry sailor. Let’s hope the post-office doesn’t fail me again… But something happened and I loved hearing it: we’re almost done. And I’ve learned quite a few things the past few months.
Working with people you live with becomes a challenge very quickly. It becomes even more of a challenge when there are significant age and cultural differences, and everything you do as an older person, including reading books or studying, might be labeled as ‘retardation’ in young people’s parlance. It’s a scenario worthy of a Back to the Future scene; I’m propelled back to forlorn high school days, and fighting both emotional and speech  regression is an exhausting daily exercise.
That’ll teach me to join the military in my thirties…
Deployment has been in this regard, a particularly socially testing time, one during which I am required (or expected) to make compromises not everyone is always willing to reciprocate but I guess this, too, is part of being in the military.
Next come the rodents. I hate mice, rats, rodents in general. I don’t just hate them, but developed a nearly mortal terror of those utterly useless creatures early on. The Afghan desert seems to have plenty of them stored in it and many made it to our camp. Beside the inconvenience of walking in one’s tent greeted by the stench of a dead rodent that had been stuck in a trap for days (I am now familiar with the indescribable reek of decomposing organic matter), we have had a few encounters with the snakes that eat mice for lunch. Or dinner. A mere walk to the showers or the bathroom has now become a succession of careful steps while on the lookout for vipers. Still there isn’t much to complain about… We are alive when so many of our brothers and sisters at arms aren’t, and that alone, is much for which to be grateful.
Then there are things I do to make time go by faster. When I first informed some of my superiors that I would like to continue pursuing another degree while deployed, they warned me about logistical roadblocks like inconsistent internet and long working hours. They didn’t overstate but I guess they also didn’t know how much of a challenge-loving hag I am. Internet here is one of the most unreliable commodities on camp, which can be a problem for a demanding distance learning program. Making the most out of my time in the military, meant keeping myself intellectually challenged and abreast of progress made in the fields of international relations and international law. A candidate for a Master of Arts in Diplomacy and International Conflict Management since last December, I am now taking my third seminar (International Law) while deployed. And overseeing the French translation of my book. Sure, it all makes for a crazy schedule and requires tremendous after-work focus; but it also provides for ways to escape and focus on things other than where I am. Studying, along with running, has kept me sane, allowing me to isolate myself in the world of academia and receive the intellectual stimulation lacking while I’m working. The 4 to 8 hours I spend every day working on assignments like my life depends on it, allow only for 3 to 4 hours of sleep every night but it paid off; I was invited to join and approved for induction in my alma mater’s chapter of Sigma Iota Rho, the national International Affairs Honor Society. Once a nerd…
For now, the news flash is that I’m nearing the end of this adventure and that alone, is cause for celebration. Even a quiet, solitary one.


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