I think it’s Wednesday, which means that we have been in the process of arriving in Afghanistan for a while. We are still waiting. I should admit that I don’t mind this particular wait. Kyrgyzstan is beautiful. Despite the rain and fog which greeted us upon touching down at the airport, the weather has taken a pleasant turn. Yesterday morning’s sunrise revealed that we are on the edge of an amazing mountain range. Ninth grade geography didn’t equip me with much knowledge of Kyrgyzstan, so I am not sure what these mountains are called. They are snow covered, massive and a breath taking reminder of the natural beauty of this region.
Right now our neighboring countries are China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. I have been telling people for weeks that our transit station was in Uzbekistan, so it shouldn’t surprise me that I was completely unprepared for a visit to Kyrgyzstan. The people look very Asian and speak both Kyrgyz and Russian. As one woman working in a coffee shop told me when I asked which she was speaking to her co-worker, "It’s a mix between Kyrgyz and Russian... kind of like Spanglish."
Another surprise has been the presence of soldiers from across NATO’s ranks. Between the Polish and the Romanian soldiers and then the different branches of American forces, both enlisted and officer corps, it’s hard to tell when to salute. So far my strategy is to stick with my company commander, who is a West Point graduate. When she salutes, I do too. It’s worked well so far!
Spending two nights on a plane and moving higher in elevation has meant that most of us are pretty tired. After confusing sugar for salt and putting it on my salad (which I ate nonetheless though I don’t encourage the combination), I called it a night at 7:30. Honestly, I don’t know if I have ever gone to bed that early. I am hoping that after a few more days, we will have all adjusted! We also had a carbon monoxide "scare" in the middle of the night, which meant that we all went to the chow hall at 1AM to wait for the people to come and test our tent for a gas leak. When the alarm went off, none of us paid any attention, until one young lieutenant announced that the fire department was on the way because the carbon monoxide alarm was going off. She didn’t have to say that twice. Now, I don’t know much about carbon monoxide poisoning but I figured that because the alarm had been going off for a while, I might not have much time left before sudden death. I held my breath, grabbed my shoes and ran for the door to breathe the outside air before running back inside to grab the rest of my undergarments. My priorities were straight, breathing first, getting fully dressed next.... I have decided that one of the gifts I will give my soldiers is that I love to make fun of myself. I have told the story a few times, and every time we have ended up crying with laughter.
It’s amazing how quickly we have become a close knit group. The hardest moments of our deployment so far were the minutes leading up to our departure from the parking lot at Ft. Sam. Families and friends had all gathered to wait for the few hours that it took to get 100% accountability and load our duffle bags. At first, we were in great spirits, giving each other high fives. But, as the leaving hour neared, there were more and more tears. I was doing fine, even as others around me cried, that is until Fisch, and I had a moment alone. I went to check in with him, and he, still being very brave, indicated that he was struggling. He had just called home to say goodbye. As soon as I opened my mouth to respond, I started crying. It was just us, and I figure, in a way, it was exactly what should have happened in our unit ministry team. It was hard and sad. Even remembering our exchange causes me to pause and take a deep breath. I know over this year we may experience, side by side, a whole host of things. And, we will go together. I guess, in that moment, I realized that as much as he will protect me, I must also take care of him. I will lead us into places that neither of us can yet imagine.
So our traveling continues. We are definitely in this together. And, every time I hear from a friend from home, I realize that it’s more than just my unit who is on this journey. These reminders never cease to give me just the encouragement I need! Thank you!