positivity

Killing It Out There

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Quote of the day:

“You’re a good woman, Ana.”

Apparently, one of my multiple personalities is killing it out there.

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PS Marks The Spot

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There is a bit of a lull at the end of the day, and she sits and writes.

PS: The grass is mowed, front and back yards are done. Laundry is off the line and put away. Trees are trimmed, trash all gone. Kids are fed and taking a nap on this cold, rainy day. I am the man, the woman, the whoever — and I rock this life.

The key is under that big brown rock by the gate, the one you struggle to move. Get to it.

 

Dubai Night Drive with Little Omar

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burj-at-night
http://azeemazeez.com/photos/burj-khalifa-at-night/


Yesterday evening, I shared a hotel limo with a Palestinian woman and her 7 year old son, Omar. There were no taxis available at the hotel that night because it was Iftar, when the Muslims break the day long fast, and everyone was busy feasting.

The lady said she and her son were passing thru Dubai from a trip to Palestine, on their way back home to California. She was dressed in an abaya, but her face was not covered, only her hair. Her son was dressed in western clothes, and spoke only English, as far as I could tell. We got to talking in the hotel lobby after she asked me if it was my first time to come to Dubai. I told her I was passing thru as well, and that Dubai is my hub for travel coming from Afghanistan. She couldn’t quite believe that I worked there.

She and her son had an easy, loving banter — Omar was very well behaved, not once did she have to scold or raise her voice at him. He shook my hand graciously when I introduced myself to him and asked his name. He had very beautiful brown eyes, with long, sooty lashes.

I asked them to share the limo with me as we were all going to the mall anyway. The lady was glad to have company and readily accepted. They wanted to see the Aquarium, so I decided to go to Dubai Mall as well. On the drive over the lady would point out landmarks and buildings to her son. At night, the Burj Khalifa was lit up, a silver sword rising from the vast, twinkling desert. Omar said, “It looks awesome, mom!”

As we sped by the traffic-less streets, Omar looked out the window, mouth open at the sights. It gave me a new appreciation for this city that I would pass by so often, seeing it now through this boy’s eyes. It made me miss my sons, made me instantly fond of this dark eyed little boy.

Passing by yet another skyscraper, Omar pointed to it and said, “Mom, I wanna go up there, can I go up there?

His mom laughed and said, “Oh sweetie, you can go wherever you want.” She turned to me and gave me a smile, her dark eyes sparkling. I knew exactly what she meant, and I smiled back.

All Quiet on the Afghan Front

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Friday is everyone’s day off, and most of the guys here, exhausted from the 10- to 14-hour-day work week, would shut themselves up in their rooms and sleep it off. I’m the only one that takes the day off on Saturdays, so on most Fridays it’s just me out on the camp and the few gurkha guards that rotate and stay on security duty all days of the week. Fridays are time sheet days, that’s when I spend most of the day going over the hours everyone logged flying planes and choppers, repairing them, or doing other support work that is necessary in getting our birds to fly.
As a brief diversion, I like to take my coffee mug and sit outside at the little gazebo where we have our barbeques and gatherings. On Friday afternoons such as this, at 1400, with no missions, no flights coming in or out, no one else is around. I have the entire sweep of the view to myself. The camp looks abandoned, everything seems at a standstill. The gates are closed, the hangar doors are shut, the helicopters are still. Even the dust seems to have stopped its incessant swirling. I sit still and enjoy the quiet. No one will be in sight for hours, if I am lucky.
After a week of being attentive and tending to people’s needs, I feel relief just sitting here, no one to talk to, no one to listen to. Kandahar is home to such contradictions–a frenetic pace all week, and then suddenly you have this pocket of absolute quiet. The sky above is a cloudless blue, so crisp and clear it makes me think of the hidden island beaches of my hometown. Looking out on the flight line, I can almost believe there is a sliver of blue out there on the horizon, a secret beach with waters warm as milk. Almost.
I think about everything and nothing in particular, letting my mind drift and relax for a few minutes. A lot of times, I hear people complain about the bleakness of this place, how there is not much to do or see, how nothing much happens. At times like this, in the stillness of the moment, I don’t mind the bleakness as much. In fact, it is a welcome respite from all the noise of the week that was. I miss the quiet that allows for a little bit of introspection, sometimes I think I crave it.
This is my second year here, and I admit there are times I curse the luck that has brought me to Afghanistan. But for most times, strangely enough, I am grateful–glad even–to be here.

Doing The Two-Step

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Here, there are times when even the most ordinary of days offers up a surprise. Case in point: I had a minor dalliance at the PX store today. I was standing in line along the candy aisle, waiting my turn at the cash register. A trooper walks in front of me, wanting to cut across the line so he could go to the next aisle. I step to one side, he does the same, I step back, and he steps back too. We do this two-step routine a couple of times, until finally, I stand still and motion for him to pass through.

He looks at me, smiles, and then says, “What? Oh, I thought we were dancing.”

Girl, Up In The Air

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I’ve never spent so many hours in the sky until I got here. Early this year, I began working for a company that flies US government missions–oftentimes people, sometimes just cargo, sometimes I don’t care to know what–all over Afghanistan.  I did expect to do my fair share of flying, but not as often as I have been doing lately.

There was that hectic week where I flew in to Kandahar in the morning, dumped my clothes and what-not in a gorilla box, and was rushed to the waiting plane less than 20 minutes later via a Gator, to fly back to Kabul. I flew back and forth, Kabul to Kandahar twice in a week! I saw the mountains change from bare to snow-capped. I flew on four different types of planes, most often the only female in a planeload of men. I have gotten used to all the curious glances and the bug-eyed stares.

Kabul to Kandahar by plane takes at the most, two hours. On the B1900, it’s close to an hour and a half, on the AN-26, probably 1 hour and forty-five minutes, the DC-3: two hours, practically. I love the Dash-8 best, since it takes less than an hour. I have flown on all our aircraft, and was among the first passengers to go on the maiden mission of the Dash-8, our newest plane. I didn’t know my job would entail this much flying, but I’m certainly not complaining. I’ve flown so many times the load masters working our flights tease that I must be accumulating a lot of reward miles.

All flight durations depend on the weather, of course. You would think that in this place, which is mostly plains, desert, and mountains, weather would be a constant thing—but no, the strong winds and resulting dust storms play havoc with flight schedules. A plane set to take off on a bright, sunshiny morning can get grounded by a sudden dust storm. Or one that’s already up in the air will need to turn back, unable to land in the zero visibility of swirling, brown-orange dust.

Flying has always been a thrill for me. I actually enjoy the sensation of getting off the ground, and I’m never anxious during take offs. My excitement would rise as the plane taxies down the runway. I would watch, smiling unabashedly from the window and get a palpable rush the exact moment when the plane makes that breakaway push from the tarmac. I love that feeling of sudden lightness, of being free from the earth. I think it is so heroic, that act of defying gravity to surge up the skies in one thrust.  My rational mind scoffs, it’s all just physics. I know that, of course, and yet for me, there remains a certain romance to flying, how one’s feet are finally unfettered, how we all become just bodies floating in the air.

When I am on a plane, I am neither here nor there. Not yet in the destination, and yet no longer in the place of origin—suspended in the sky with reality and all its travails left far, far below. From this vantage point, I am free to imagine what lives the miniaturized world continues to live down there. Flying over Afghanistan, I see the lay of the land, the expansive plains and valleys that unfold in the cradle of jagged mountains. It is a terrain that will never be conquered, I think, and looking down, one can see why. The logic of it is simple; this place’s defense is rooted in terra firma. Even if you bomb everything–for instance, the vast expanse of plain populated by civilians–the mountains on the fringe of all that space will remain a steadfast refuge. Good luck finding the Taliban or any other declared enemy in the myriad nooks and crevices of the Hindu Kush. I keep this opinion to myself, though, since this is not my war.

When I look down at villages (cities, perhaps), the series of walled compounds and concrete barriers that define the maze-like spread of Afghan civilization makes me wonder how, for centuries life in this place has gone on, mostly unchanged. Various legions of invaders have plowed through these cities time and time again, and yet they spring back up to reclaim the same kind of life, even as the last war-weary soldier leaves.

The dreamer in me imagines how, as we fly overhead, we pass over houses that sit peacefully on meandering streets that echo with the noise of children running and playing. We arc over backyards a-bloom with pomegranate trees, see women flinging colorful bed sheets and clothes on the line. The plane drifts by and I glimpse open doorways where bearded men squat, a few of them talking, their hands making emphatic gestures. It is a sleepy world filtered through the window of the plane, a world that appears complete in itself, oblivious to the drone of the beast in the sky.

As we glide from up high, I imagine that for the world down there, there is only the blue sky above, the endless horizon as far as the eye can see, and the ever-present dust, descending softly everywhere.

Life’s Lemons

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In what constitutes a complete departure from our regular programming, here is a graphic that made me smile today.Anything that alters this somber mood is always welcome. Could it be that pop of yellow that’s so uplifting? No? Could be the premise that you can turn any situation into an advantage, if you do not dwell on the negative. Maybe so.

Mostly though, I think it is the promise of a drink that made my heart beat just a little bit faster.