Monday, August 27, 2007

Hearing Double

You have all heard of seeing double, but you may not have heard of "hearing double". This week I attended a conference on the ANP (Afghan National Police) presenting our strategies for moving forward. The audience consisted of US and coalition forces along with Afghans from the Minister of Interior and ANP. Because we have English and Dari speakers everything has to be said twice; first in English and then in Dari. You can imagine how long it takes to get through a meeting as the speakers must pause and wait for translation. It's not like we are at a NATO meeting with headphones and have an interpreter speaking in our ears. The meeting goes something like this.

US Speaker "I would like to welcome you all to today's meeting."
Translator "Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah"

US Speaker "Knock Knock"
Translator "Blah Blah"

Audience "Who's there?
Translator "Blah Blah"

US Speaker "Wooden who?"
Translator "Blah Blah?"

US speaker "Wooden you like to know"
Pause for laughter
Translator "Blah Blah Blah"
Pause for laughter

OK there was no laughter, and you can see how this would make comedy pretty tough. OK, there was no knock knock joke either, but you get the idea of how slowly this conference ensued. What would normally have taken about an hour to get through, took about three hours. Such is the way it is in Afghanistan, you must have a lot of patience.

I also attended a meeting at the Minister of Interior's office. Another opportunity for patience. We waited for almost 45 minutes to start and then the agenda was completely different than what we expected; so we really did not get anything done. Not every day is like this, but things definitely move at a slower pace. Its kind of like the difference between the East Coast and West Coast of the US... except the difference is multiplied by 10.

We had a very serious incident this week. Two of my team members were injured in a VBIED (Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device) attack. They were convoying when a car hit the lead vehicle and blew up. The two guys in the first vehicle were injured pretty seriously but survived, the guys in the second vehicle assisted getting the guys out of the first vehicle and called for help. It really hit the team here pretty hard as these were our guys that we work with every day. The two injured guys were medevaced out to a hospital. One of them was seriously injured and will require some reconstructive surgery. We are all thinking about them and praying for their recovery. It has been very active around here the past few weeks with many attacks... you may have read about them in the news. We are all well trained but it is difficult to predict the IED attacks.

Back on the homefront, the kids started school today.

Thomas is now a Third grader and Madigan is a First grader. Time flies. I am sure the house will be busy as usual as Rebecca will be reminding (that is the nice version) the kids to get their homework done.

Peace to you all,


Monday, August 20, 2007

Be Our Guest!

For those of you that have visited my blog at, you may have noticed something new. Rebecca added a counter that shows the days away and the days until my Christmas break and when I leave country. She also added a guest book where you may all write any pithy comments you would like. So be our guest, be our guest, put our service to the test. If you didn't know that is from the Disney movie "Beauty and the Beast".

Speaking of guests, we had a small guest in our office this week. His name is Squeakers and he is a small mouse who has come to visit. I named him that after the mouse on television here who is the OPSEC (Operational Security) mouse. He constantly reminds us to be careful what we write and say as someone is always listening. So he is a constant reminder of OPSEC for our office. I feed him the potato chips that were sent to me in a care package. Naming him was no easy task.

I thought of names like "Algernon" (you know, Flowers for Algernon)

Editor's Note: "Flowers for Algernon" is the classic novel by Daniel Keyes that inspired the Academy Award-winning movie "Charly". The novel was the winner of the 1966 Nebula Award. From the summary on "Charlie Gordon knows he isn't as bright as most people. A gentle young man, he can read and write a little and manages to hold a menial job. A surgical operation on a lab mouse named Algernon leaves it an Einstein of mice--can such an operation raise Charlie's intellect as well? And what are the dangers of such an experiment?" In the end both heroes (Charlie and Algeronon) have to face the cruel realities of life. Charlie watches Algernon’s enhanced intelligence fade rapidly until finally the small mouse dies. Charlie then struggles to find a way to accept his destiny of losing all the new abilities and talents he was bequethed by the experiment. One of the last things he adds in his journal: "Please if you get a chance, put some flowers on Algernon’s grave in the back yard…” hence the book's title.

or that mouse from "The Green Mile" "Mr Jingles"
or perhaps "Mighty Mouse" or an old standby "Mickey Mouse"(why because we love you).

None seemed appropriate to our situation so I settled on Squeakers. It also had a fit to my WD-40 breathren since WD-40 stops squeaks, not that I would use WD-40 on a mouse. Could be another use though. Editor's Note: Pat is referring to the 2,000 listed uses for WD-40 My personal favorite is "Keeps kitty-doo from sticking to electric cat-box rakes."

Some of the people here think I should set mouse traps out and kill him and I know Rebecca would definitely want to get rid of him. Back home when we had mice in the garage, I would set traps and kill the mice leaving the carcass to be discarded. When I was there I would take care of them, as I am gone now, Rebecca pays my son Thomas a dollar to throw them away. Right before I left, Rebecca bought a mouse zapper that does precisely what it says it does.
It zaps the mice with electricity when they enter the machine. Not sure if that is more humane or not.

We also had some other guests this week from the DOD IG. These are the Dept of Defense Inspector Generals, basically government auditors who were here to look over our processes regarding weapons and ammunition. You may have seen the news regarding Iraq and the huge loss of weapons that was reported; you can understand why there is a lot of attention to this topic. I think I like Squeakers better. Actually, they were pretty good guys and we walked them through all our controls we have for weapons and ammunition.

This week I made a couple of trips to storage sites. One trip to an ammunition storage site was quite beautiful. The site is located just outside the city and has several hills within the compound. A group of us drove up to the top of one of those hills and the view was spectacular. There really are some pretty areas of Afghanistan if you can find them. We looked out on several mountain peaks and the valleys were actually green in places. The fact that we were overlooking many ammunition bunkers did not detract from the beauty of the landscape. It was nice to see some scenery that was different than what we normally see. I also went by Camp Phoenix and saw my old stomping ground. Had not changed much.

Back on the homefront, the kids finished vacation bible school this week. Not nearly as much fun as laser tag or magic class was for Thomas. The school year will be starting pretty soon so they all better enjoy themselves while they can.

Remember to think OPSEC, Squeakers would want you to.

Peace to you all,

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Afghan Girl: Then and Now

You may not remember the 1985 cover of National Geographic depicting a young Afghan Girl, but it sparked a lot of attention back then. A few years ago the photographer sought out this girl and found her 17 years later. This story is from 2002 but still interesting, part of the story follows.

The young Afghan refugee who stared from the cover of National Geographic in June 1985 was an enigma for 17 years. What was her name? Had she survived? This past January photographer Steve McCurry joined a crew from National Geographic Television & Film to methodically search for her. They showed her photograph around the refugee camp in Pakistan where McCurry had encountered her as a schoolgirl in December 1984. Finally, after some false leads, a man who had also lived in the camp as a child recognized her. Yes, she was alive. She had left the camp many years before and was living in the mountainous Tora Bora region of Afghanistan. He said he could find her, and three days later he and a friend brought her back to the camp. There, the remarkable story of this woman, Sharbat Gula, began to be told. Take a look at the attached pictures and you might remember the face. Life in Afghanistan was none too kind to this woman as she aged over the years. George Stutevillefor National Geographic News September 9, 2002 Since Sharbat Gula, the Afghan girl with the fierce green eyes, was "rediscovered" earlier this year, her story has moved thousands of people to contribute nearly half a million dollars to a fund established to prove the lives of girls and young women in her war-ravaged country. The portrait of Sharbat staring from the cover of National Geographic in 1985 touched millions of people around the world and
became a well-known icon.

Behind the Search for the "Afghan Girl"

A Life Revealed

Afghan Girl's Story Sparks School-Fund Donations

The photographer who took the famous picture tracked her down after 17 years, and she appeared again on the cover of National Geographic last April. So many readers were eager to help Gula's family and others like them that the National Geographic Society joined with The Asia Foundation in creating the special fund. By last week, about 5,600 donors had given $475,368 to the fund, including a $100,000 gift from the Society, said Mark Longo, director of development operations for the National Geographic Society.The money, he noted, is already being used to establish the National Geographic Society Girls Education and Training Center in Kabul, Afghanistan. The center will provide educational opportunities that were denied to Sharbat but which she said she wants desperately for her own three daughters, Longo explained. "It was Sharbat's desire and her wish that we use the funds specifically for this purpose. She knows about our efforts and is pleased," he said. The daily life of women and children in Afghanistan has been disrupted by decades of turmoil stemming from a bloody invasion by the former Soviet Union, violent civil strife, and the crushing ideology of the Taliban.

Back in present day Afghanistan; I am still working too much. Such is life here. I did a couple trips this week to do tours for a General along with a working trip to identify construction projects we are working on for the Afghans.

We have received in a lot of new people to CJ4 and so I have been spending time with them to get them integrated into the team. It is nice to get more resources of course it will be short lived as a bunch of people are rotating out next month. For now we are a little crowded, soon we will be short staffed as more will be leaving than coming. This will make it a little tougher around here.

I found the internet cafe, more like a room with some computer stations. I am trying to find the time to set up my camera so I can do a webcam with Rebecca and the kids. I also need to get some pictures sent home so Rebecca can post them. I am sure I will get around to it.

Back on the homefront, Rebecca and the kids are busy as ever. Our nieces left and are travelling the Northern route back to Boston. I heard they went to Salt Lake (said it smelled) and also went to see Mount Rushmore. I have never been to Mount Rushmore, I will have to put it on my list. The kids are busy in summer camps and having a fun summer. The two of them keep growing. Madigan is now tall enough to ride the "Indiana Jones" ride at Disney and she lost her second tooth. Thomas is now tall enough for the "Maliboomer" at California Adventure and his belly button now reaches the top of the pool table at home. This was a rule that Rebecca had as a child, you could not use a pool cue until your belly button reached the top of the pool table. I guess I will have to teach Thomas what little I know of pool when I get back. Also his shoe size is now a 4, when I left I think he was a size 2. Time flies, can't wait to see them at Christmas.

Peace to you all,


Sunday, August 5, 2007

I'm going to pump you up!

No its not Arnold or those guys from Saturday Night Live doing the workout sketch, just little ole me, Pat Wade, from Afghanistan. I thought I would share with you a little story that Rebecca found about gyms in Afghanistan.

Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of Biceps
These men, and others like them, have started a muscle revolution in Afghanistan. Their thinking: If they can build their bodies, then maybe—just maybe—they can rebuild their nation.

By Oliver Broudy, Men's Health

In Mohammadi's office an assistant serves tea. Someone had referred me to him, thinking he might be able to shed a little light on a question I had about the recent fitness craze sweeping Afghanistan. Since the fall of the Taliban, 80 new gyms have opened in Kabul alone, up from a total of 15. You see them everywhere, tucked into garage-size storefronts beneath huge pieces of plywood bearing the hulking likeness of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ronnie Coleman, or some other bodybuilder. The gyms have names like Gold Gym, Super Gym, and Super Gold Top Gym. They stand in the shadow of shattered buildings, beside other shops selling sacks of cement and cases of Coke - the foundations on which all great nations are built.

"The private gyms are suddenly everywhere," Thomas Gouttierre, director of the center for Afghanistan studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, had told me before I departed for Kabul. Indeed, during my 2-week stay, it seemed as if a couple of new ones popped up overnight. Other evidence of the get-fit revolution here: Workout gear has replaced burkas on store shelves, protein powder tops every gym-rat's wish list, and the Mr. Afghanistan bodybuilding contest has become the hot ticket.

So I can't vouch for the popularity of Arnold in California, but he is somewhat popular here in Afghanistan or at least Kabul. I had noticed the signs with pictures of hulking men, but did not think anything of it until this article.
Just the other day, I was with my interpreter, Hameed, when he asked me to buy him some muscle building protein powder at the exchange. Hameed is a 20 year old kid who weighs maybe 130 pounds and he obviously wants to bulk up. I bought him what they had in stock and hope it works to add some pounds to him.

For you muscle heads who want to read the entire story, here is a link.
On to work. It is busy as ever and I am just trying to keep up. Everyone works pretty long hours in our department here at Camp Eggers. I am still hoping we will smooth things out and have some more free time. I spend most of my days going to meetings, working on tasks and keeping up with e-mail. Hey, it sounds just like real work. I do make time to go out and do site visits to better understand all our operations. Getting out is difficult though because you really have to plan your trips and always be aware of the dangerous environment. You can't just run out and meet someone. You have to plan ahead to make sure you have the right number of vehicles and personnel to do a convoy. It certainly does make progress a little slower.

Back on the homefront, Rebecca took our nieces to Mexico (Tijuana),

just to experience what its like in Mexico. I told them Tijuana is far ahead of Afghanistan. I don't think it resembled anything like Girls Gone Wild, but at least the girls got a chance to see what it was like in part of Mexico... on a Thursday afternoon with their aunt.The kids are doing well and my birthday present for Madigan finally arrived; a bit late.

Editor's note: Patrick sent Madigan a beautiful pair of ruby earrings.

We also went down to Imperial Beach for the US Sand Castle Competition last weekend. I have to share because it is absoultely amazing what people can do with sand and water:

This is Mount Rushmore:
And this is the backside of Mount Rushmore:

Peace to you all,