Thursday, July 15, 2010

"There's 950 mgs Of Salt In The Rice Pilaf"

Post report, U.S. embassy in Kabul, July 2010:

What are the special advantages of living in this city/country? If you work for the U.S. Embassy, it's possible to save a lot of money, what with hazard pay, post differential, etc. Lots of leave time (up to 65 days/year) is another perk. Plus, telling people that you live in Afghanistan is a real ice breaker/conversation stopper!

What is the air quality like? Poor, poor, poor. We're breathing-in all sorts of pollution, dust, smoke, smog, and fecal matter. The smell is terrible in the winter, and the dust is very uncomfortable in the summer.

What is the climate like? Weather patterns? This past winter was pretty mild. I'm from upstate NY, so I didn't find the cold to be unberable. Summers are hot and dry, with thirty-degree swings in temperature from day to night. Summer nights are almost invariably windy, starting at about 5 pm.

What kind of insect problems are there, if any? Nothing too bad in Kabul, but some field posts deal with malarial mosquitos, scorpions, and other icky, creepy crawlies.

Are there any special security concerns? You could be blown up or rocketed at any time. It's a war zone.

Is this a good city for families/singles/couples? Singles seem to do okay here. Guys outnumber girls by a wide margin, so there's lots of good hunting if you're a single girl. But since there's no going out at night, the dating scene is limited to drinks at the Duck & Cover. Life for couples is both good and bad. The good is that you're together. The bad is that you're together ALL THE TIME. This can put a lot of strain on a relationship, especially as there's nowhere to go when you need time apart to cool off after a fight.

What difficulties would someone with physical disabilities have living in this city? A person with slight physical disabilities could do okay if living on the embassy compound. Living in either the city proper or out at a field post is impossible. If you can't run from an attack, don't come. You'll be endangering not only your own life, but the lives of the soldiers who will have to try to save your behind.

Interesting/fun things to do in the area: The embassy compound has a pool, a tennis court, and a sand volleyball court. There's a bar on the compound, and sometimes we have special events (dances, happy hours, etc). There's also quiz night once a month. Other activities depend on the talents of embassy staff. We used to have a weekly salsa night, but the I think the staffer who was leading it departed post. Some people go out to "official" events in the city, hosted by outside contacts (contractors and other diplomats). And the other embassies sometimes host events. Other activities on the compound include movie watching, board-game playing, and working out. On Fridays there are bazaars at ISAF and Camp Eggers. But be prepared to work very long hours, leaving little time for play.

Are gyms or workout facilities available? Yes. There's also a weekly yoga class.

How much of the local language do you need to know for daily living? Almost none.

Size of expat community: Large and getting larger. I think we're close to 1,000 embassy staff on the compound.

Morale among expats: Variable. Some thrive here. Some hate it. It depends on who you talk to and whether there are any crises unfolding. The food offered in the dining facilities gets everyone down.

Entertaining/social life: Depends on how comfortable one is with pushing the rules. There's lots of drinking on the compound, if that's your scene. Contractors and other embassies host events as well.

Any health concerns? What is the quality of medical care available? Don't come if you have serious medical concerns. The med unit only offers the most basic of care. Any remotely serious medical concerns and any type of dental work require a medevac. Also, pregnancy is not allowed. Any woman who becomes pregnant is given 3 days to leave.

You can leave behind your: taste buds. The food in the dining facilities is awful --- very high in fat and calories, and sky-high sodium content. Seriously, there's 950 mgs of salt in the rice pilaf. Daily recommended allowance is 1,000 mgs. Also, leave any clothes that need dry cleaning. The dry cleaners here will just ruin them. Usually they just throw the clothes in water. Leave behind any thoughts that this is going to be an exotic post, unless you're out in the field. Life on the Kabul compound is like living in America's tiniest, most poorly stocked college town. Interaction with Afghans and local culture is limited for most people.

Knowing what you now know, would you still go there? No.


Anonymous KAIMU said...


Has the US Congress made an official Declaration of War yet? Can it still be called the WAR ON TERROR if no War is declared?

What does Obama call it? Is it the CONFLICT ON TERROR? Maybe he could call it the "DIRECT INTERVENTION IN NON-DEMOCRATIC

Meanwhile over at the US Embassy in Iraq they are planning an expansion to include up to 4,000 embassy staff and military personnel. The USA hands out three times the amount of foreign aid to Iraq than it hands out to the entire rest of the World. a little stimulus called "Shock and Awe" created jobs! Maybe Obama should bomb Florida so we can create construction worker jobs! We get jobs on both ends when we bomb things. We get more Defense worker jobs making bunker busters as well ...

As of Wednesday, July 14th, Obama's US Treasury has spent YTD for FY 2010 $308BIL USD on Defense Vendors. That is more than Bush and Cheney spent in FY 2009 in the same time period.

On July 5th one of my nephews friends, Spc Jerod Osborne, who was a combat medic with the 82nd Airborne was killed with a IED in Iraq. Too bad Obama did not keep his campaign promise!


7/16/2010 9:21 AM  
Anonymous judyo said...

Someone's got a lot of free time on their hands.

7/16/2010 7:26 PM  

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