Monday, 29 April 2013

Today was just one of those classic Afghan days where so much happened it's hard to wrap your head around...

This morning after my shift ended I had decided to make my way over to the Korean Hospital, which is maybe a two minute walk from both the office and my bhut. I did not know much about the Korea Hospital, but I did know that like the Egyptian Hospital I was going to the last time I was in Afghanistan, the Korean Hospital is a medical facility open to the Afghan public.

With no real plan in mind, I walked up to the guard at their compound gate and explained that I was interested in volunteering. He wasn't quite getting what I was saying (I couldn't quite place his nationality, but definitely not Korean!) but in the most serrendipitous coincidence, he gestures behind me to a group of Koreas and turns out one was Program Director. She led me into her office, made me a cup of tea and then we had a really scattered conversation about the hospital and volunteering as she zipped in and out of the office meeting other people and answering questions.

She gave me a tour of the facility which could not be more different than the Egyptian Hosptial. Funded by the Korean government, their hospital is a two story brick and mortar structure, the lower level serving as an outpatient clinic, the second floor equipped with an operating room and 16 outpatient beds.

I spent an hour from 9-10am sitting with the techs in the large waiting room/reception area, learning how their system worked - from the extremely intensive security check by the US military, to the reception area where patients explain their ailment to an interpreter who decides which of the 9 clinics they should attend, to the lab station where I was sitting which takes height, weight and a thumb prick before they are allowed to go to the clinic specific waiting area. The techs also ask the Afghans if they are diabetic, apparently Afghanistan has an unusually high diabetic population do to their diet.

I stayed about an hour in the hospital before I had to come home and go to bed before the night shift, but I can't wait to head back again and will definitely follow up on those visits.

Then, after about 8 hours of sleep I woke up around 6:30pm and when I tried to boot up my internet I received a message from the internet carrier stating their was a basewide blackout as ordered by the Garrison command. Having just slept the day away I had no idea what might have warranted the blackout, but I soon learned about the plane that had gone down on the base, just a few hours before I woke up. You can read more about the crash here:

My heart goes out to their families

Saturday, 27 April 2013

To each their own....

Friday, 26 April 2013

So I wanted to get this post done last night but after working for nearly 22 hours I gave in to the sandman, ahh the deployed life :-/

Anyways! Yesterday morning was probably the most incredible Red Cross event I have ever attended in the history of my 4 deployments. The outgoing Red Cross team who we replaced had organized a 5k base run in partnership with the Army Reserve Office. They had 500 people registered for the run and had booked a gigantic MWR (Morale, Wellness and Recreation) tent called The Clamshell where they had a band playing, tables full of drinks and food for after the run and another set of tables where runners could collect their shirts after the race. They also organized prizes for the top finishers and a raffle.

The most incredible part about the event however was the unprecedented opportunity for the Red Cross to talk about our mission. Because we only deploy in teams of four members - in many cases the only four Red Crossers in the whole country - people often don't know what we do until they need a Red Cross message and they don't know about our work with the hospitals and morale building because we don't have the man power or resources like the USO.

This event was unlike anything I've seen before- having a team member of the outgoing team address an audience of 500 people and explain our mission. It was the first time I've ever seen that kind of recognition for our work and after so many deployments, I have to say it was really heart warming.

The race itself was a blast and afterwards I was responsible for the table that was distributing the t-shirts which was wonderfully frenetic and fast-paced. Then, in true deployment fashion, with the race started at 6am, at 7am the outgoing team raced over to the PAX terminal to make a flight with a wheels up time of 8am. Rumor has it they held the plane for them...

I can't think of a more appropriate swan song then an audience of 500 applauding your work :-)

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

24 hours in Afghanistan and already we've had dinner parties and natural disasters!

We arrived around 6am the morning of Tuesday the 23rd, after flying over night from Kuwait, first to Kandahar and then on to Bagram. After arriving we did some necessary admin errands and then got checked into our billeting to catch a few hours of sleep. I came into the office around 4pm to work as much of my shifts as possible. Our shifts are constantly fluctuating at the moment, trying to find a good fit for the team. I know for certain I will be working the night shift, but we have nailed down a good fit yet.

We are located in one of the only standing Russian buildings located on base, fondly known as Motel 8. There are several other offices in this building with us and our first evening here, the officers and higher enlisted in the building held a huge dinner party in honor of our transition. They set up a series of 6 foot tables down the one long second floor hallway, covered them with white table clothes and transformed the hallway into a banquet hall. They served steak and lobster and by all accounts was a four star dinner party by Afghan standards. They even had the French doors open at the end of the hall, with the facade of the Hindu Kush mountains in the backdrop, marked by the most electric streaks of lightening.

After my shift last night, I came back and crashed and had to be up "early" (the middle of my night) at 9am to take the mail class - yes, you have to take a class out here to pick up mail ;-) After mastering the mail, I came back to my bHut to catch a few more hours of sleep, but that was not to happen. First, there was a controlled detonation, signaled first by the amplified voice that presides of the base, then the boom of the detonation a few minutes later. Then sometime after I was woken up by a roommate coming back to the BHut. I room with 3 other women and I am the only day sleeper. THEN I am awoken a third time by 10 seconds of constant shaking, the walls jittering back and forth and my waiting for the "Incoming" alarm. But nothing sounded and turns out there was a deadly earthquake in Jalabad today, felt as far away as India!

So needless to say the first 24 hours in Afghanistan have been pretty traditional, the earth shakes, you follow procedures that don't always make sense and people are wonderfully hospitable.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Back at Benning

Hi there,
Just wanted to give a brief opening update that my team and I are currently processing through the abyss of paperwork, skin pricks and heavy lifting that is Ft Benning. On my fourth go around, I have to say I think by this point I have squeezed every last drop of fun out of this place and am ready to get in country!

Also, I hope you like the little face-lift I gave the site. was practically begging me to update the design since it's been a year and a half since I've been on here ;-)

Hope you like the new look!