One of the more enjoyable aspects of my current job is the opportunity to get off the FOB and see the countryside and the people. Personally, I enjoy face-to-face and in-person. However, if that is not possible, the next best way is from the gunner’s hatch of a HMMWV. Just a simple ride from Qalat to Kandahar is full of interesting sights.
Today was typical of the sights along this road. The nomads were on the move, and we passed several caravans of kuchis, the Afghan nomadic tribes. To me it looked like something out of Biblical times; loaded donkeys, walking women and riding children. Following some distance behind were the men and boys, herding the sheep.
Of course, some kuchis commute in the “modern” way, by tractor. Here, everyone gets to ride, except the dog! You can see these tractors everywhere in Afghanistan, often pulling a trailer. Sometimes I wonder just how much they can carry on one tractor. Whatever the maximum limit, they get that and more, I’m convinced.
And continuing upward on the scale of modernity, we find the bus car-carrier. The bus makes stops along the highway, whenever necessary. I have not seen established bus stops, but I’ve seen bus passengers waiting along the highway for a bus to come along. I think the cars on top are just a way to make extra money. I’ve seen many items on top of buses: cars, bags of grain, farm supplies and just about anything you can imagine. I always wonder how they get the cars on top. Is there a ramp somewhere, just the right height for driving a car on to a bus? Do they use a crane or a forklift? And of course, how do they get them off again at the destination?
And I’ve mentioned before the ‘jingle trucks”, the decorated cargo hauling trucks that run throughout Afghanistan. They vary from plain to fancy, but almost every one I’ve seen is decorated to some degree. This first one is one of the fancier ones I’ve seen, and as you can see it is stacked high with something. The afghans decorate everything: trucks, cars, motorcycles, bicycles and wheelbarrows…I’ve even seen “jingle” rifles!
And finally on today’s trip, not even 10 miles from Kandahar, another kuchi camp, complete with camels. Again, I can’t help but think that these nomads must live like they have for generations. I’m sure some things have changed, you can often see a motorcycle or tractor in camp, but some things are probably the same as they have always been.
And to ride around in this country you have to dress for success. SGT Streiff and I were seen off on this convoy by our friends Joe (the tall, bearded man, a contractor from South Africa) and LT Saef, an officer in the Jordanian Army. Whatever you may read in the newspapers, I think we are well equipped and supplied here in Afghanistan. We don’t have everything we want, but I think we have everything we need. Personally, for the scale of what we are trying to do, I think it’s going amazingly well, all things considered.
Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers. I’ll be going home soon, after 15 months in Afghanistan. It has been a great experience, but I am ready to go home, ready for a new adventure. I will blog until my last day here, but after that I don’t know what I will do. I think going home again after being gone for a total of almost 18 months will be another adventure, but more personal, less public.