Pollution index: Horrible dust year-round plus additional junk in the air in the winter when everything that can be burned for fuel is. During my winter there, a visitor asked, “What's that smell like sh** burning?” The answer was, “Sh** burning.” If you exercise outdoors, you're likely to cough up black gunk afterwards.
Security concerns: Rocket attacks, IEDs, suicide bombers—your basic war zone.
Housing: Huge inequites. Either you will live in a large one-bedroom apartment in a reinforced building or you will live in a 10-by-15-foot non-reinforced hooch (trailer) and listen to your colleagues complain about everything they think is wrong with their apartments.
Is this a good city for families/singles/couples? It's currently an unaccompanied post. Spouses are allowed only if they're employed at the embassy. It's a good post for anyone who doesn't mind spending a year in a minimum security prison.
Interesting/fun things to do in the area: Check how many days are left on your tour tracker.
Items you would ship if you could do it again: As many dirt-colored clothes as I could find. The dust and dirt are unrelenting. It's impossible to keep anything clean. I threw away lots of clothes and shoes at the end of my tour.
English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost? Does Stars & Stripes count as a newspaper?
Is high speed internet access available? Cost? Internet service is provided free in all apartments and hooches, though the system is frequently overloaded and slow. Sometimes it goes down completely when it rains or snows…or when someone in Poland sneezes in the wrong direction.
Entertaining/social life: The “drink a lot/sleep around” contingent (made up of singles and marrieds alike) appeared to be quite active.