10 August 2010

A New Start in Phoenix

I've left the crowded boardwalks of Bagram for the sunny, dusty streets of Camp Phoenix, just off the Jalalabad Road, on the outskirts of Kabul.  Phoenix is quite a bit smaller than Bagram, and so far is much more pleasant.  I live in what is called a B-Hut.  Basically, it's a plywood cabin filled with (in my case) 11 plywood cublicles.  On the upside, I have my own room.  There are a lot fewer people here and it's been easier to find my way around.  There is also no dedicated air strip at Phoenix, so instead of planes, we have helicopters that rattle the B-Huts when they land.  Finally, the food is actually much better, even if there is only one DFAC.  That said, I reamin under-proteined.  I'm an arugula girl in a meat and potatoes world.
B-Huts at Dragon Village in Bagram

Since arriving at Phoenix, I've been engaging in some on-the-job training with my bosses, Steve and Bob.  We finally worked out, more or less, what I'll be doing, and now I'm just waiting for them to leave3 so that I can actually get some work done.  Of course, it would help if I had an actual desk.  We're quite pressed for space around here, and right now my work area generally consists of perching on some file cabinets and commandeering someone else's internet connection where I can.

The upside of all this training is that we've been running around to various company sites all over Kabul (in what's known as the Kabul Base Cluster, or KBC), and I've been able to experience the bedlam that is Kabul traffic.  The Jalalabad Road is a main thoroughfare, ostensibly built to be two lanes in each direction.  Operationally, though, it is usually four to six, and drives are not bound by such plebeian notions as driving on the right.  Donkey carts are particularly notorious for driving straight down the middle of the street, going the wrong way.  Other sites to see include the so-called 'Jingle Trucks' that have really lovely art work painted all along the sides, fearless pedestrians peddling gum, car washes, and phone cards to drivers, round-abouts, and, of course, military convoys.  There are also myriad checkpoints manned by the Afghan National Army and Police (ANA and ANP).  Our drivers habitually carry extra water and gum to offer in exchange for smooth passage.

The checkpoints are a bit disconcerting, but I understand the desire for water.  While not overwhelmingly hot, it is dusty here.  Really dusty.  Really, really dusty.  Actually, between the dust and the rampant smoking in the military, I've almost forgotten what clean air is.  But the bases all have massive pallets of water everywhere; I don't think I've ever been so well-hydrated.