Wednesday, July 29, 2009

It’s 1:30 a.m. Do You Know Where Your Kids Are?

I’m writing that half-seriously and half-facetiously. I don’t remember what well-intentioned commercial owned that line, which was supposed to encourage improved parenting, but it sticks in our society, an imaginary finger wagging at us in admonishment.

I’ts about 6 in the evening here, which makes it 1:30 a.m. Kabul time. Zach is in the helicopter. He likes night flights.

Why? Well, among other things, it’s much cooler. The weather forecast is mid- to upper 90’s every day, but drops to the mid 60’s every night. That’s 30 degrees of heat that drifts off with the night air. Subtract warmth due to the wind-speed at which they fly, and add the heat of the helicopter, and you have a nice temperate flight.

Part of this story is about big thoughts, and part of it is about small details. The tiniest, most insignificant facts of daily life will give us a greater sense of what their deployment is like, so expect to read many little daily-life descriptions here.

One of them is about rack space. Older soldiers and environmentalists, buckle up: their tents are air conditioned.

The soldier whose bunk is below Zach’s is due to head back to his permanent duty station as his deployment ends. He is going to give Zach his bunk (rack) which is lower to the ground. So it’s cooler. Easier to get into and out of. Quieter, as it’s not right under the blower. All in all, that 3-foot change in real estate makes for a far more comfortable rack than what he has now. So he’s looking forward to that. And in typical guy style, the incoming fellow who gets the top bunk next…well, too bad for him!

Another little detail is what it’s like to mail a letter. He wanted to send a little present to his girlfriend that he bought in Bagram, and went out looking for the post office. In a camp which is rapidly growing in size, Zach apparently looked for over an hour and still couldn’t find the post office.

Was he walking? Are there buses that go about the extensive camp? We don’t know. There are so many, many things, little things, that we don’t know about their lives. I know the camp is experiencing booming growth, as the troop surges happen. The infrastructure must grow very quickly with it. I don’t know how big the camp is, or how people get around. And the phone calls are too short, too valued, to waste time asking detailed questions.

I do know that to get from “work” to their sleeping tents, they have to take a bus. I don’t know how often the buses run; I know they have to wait for them.

They have access to email, but for many it’s a long hot walk to the crowded computer center. I know that emails we send to the address Zach can get often bounce back; we’re not sure why.

And I know that to make a phone call, he must sign up for a time slot. The time slots are for ½ hour, but it seems as if he doesn’t have a whole half-hour to talk. I don’t know if all the guys there have access to the same phones, or if Zach’s office responsibilities give him easier access.

So many little, mundane-but-important wonderings. We share the same ones as other parents.

One father said he thought he hear bullet fire in the background as he was talking to his son. I would say to him that he may have heard the constant sound of chopper rotors. I may be wrong, but what an awful thing for a father to wonder about and worry over.

The proximity to phone and email does kind of give us an illusion of security. But these much-appreciated communications seem to affirm that once the adjustment to life on deployment happens, once they get to work, they relax a bit and their natural personalities show up again.

For my son, it's a strong focus on work and responsibility mixed with an easy sense of humor. It was delightful to get an email from Zach today, and to read his words. He sounds relaxed and at ease:

“I’m sitting at work with nothing to do…we are launching late tonight and won’t be back till sometime in the morning. I think I’m going to take a nap in a bit. It’s my first night flight in a while, and the first time I’ve landed in a dusty desert since Arizona in May…should be interesting.

I talked to [my girlfriend] again today. She’s doing well. It’s always so good to hear her voice even if it’s only for a few minutes a day. I’m looking forward to getting my packages from you guys and her. I have some stuff to take care of and I want to get a bit of sleep if possible before tonight’s flight.

Thank you so much for checking in.

No comments:

Post a Comment