Sink or Swim – Part 1

I decided that I did not like the blog prompts much on BlogHer. So I have decided to find my own. I think the idea is to just write every day and I think that’s all that matters.

So today’s prompt comes from The Daily Post @ WordPress.com called Sink or Swim. Tell us about a time when you were left on your own, to fend for yourself in an overwhelming situation — on the job, at home, at school. What was the outcome?

This was a decision I made so in a way it’s not really “sink or swim” but in a way it is. Depends on how you look at it. Once I got there and realized where I was and what I was doing, it really did become a “sink or swim” situation. Jury’s still out on the outcome.

In March of 2009 I hopped on a plane in Ottawa and flew to Dubai, United Arab Emirates and then on to Kandahar, Afghanistan. My mission? To work on the base in Kandahar for 6 months as civilian support. I was 29 years old and this was the furthest from home I had ever been. I only had one week preparation before being shipped off with about 15 other men and women I did not know to a place I had never been to a climate I was not prepared for and a situation that kind got out of hand.

To my credit I did do my research and my father who is ex-military had been to Qatar almost 20 years before. He was familiar with what the housing, food, and “community” living was going to be like. He knew the climate, what I would need to bring with me to wear, what other things I would need with me. So I felt like I was all set.

The plane ride to Dubai was very typical if not a little turbulent. As some one used to being on planes and in the air there was no surprises, just an excitement about what was to come. I couldn’t wait to get there. And I was missing my family and (current) boyfriend already.

In the airport in Dubai we shuffled into a few cabs and hightailed it to the most magnificent hotel I had ever stepped foot in. The hallways and foyer floors were all marble, there was real gold accents everywhere, beautiful crystal chandeliers and accents with water colored by emerald color lights. Outside the hotel the sidewalks were also marble! I was so amazed.

The inside of the hotel room was just as luxurious. My room had 2 king size beds. A Jacuzzi tub, a beautiful marble shower with gold accents. White silk bedding with luxurious cotton and silk sheets. And bath towels so big I could wrap myself 3 times in them. This was the “calm before the storm”. We later found out the company payed more then $600 per night per person.

Back at the airport the next morning and after green McDonalds Chicken Nuggents, we loaded onto a plane that looked like it was out of a bad movie scene. The paint was peeling. You could see where at least 2 other airline logos had been on it and the wings had dings and dents.

Inside was not much better. About 15-20 rows from front to back. 2 seats on each side so I’d guess maybe 60-80 seats if that. The carpet was torn and stained and I swear when you looked down at where the seats were bolted to the floor you could see outside (no joke!). I sat down beside a guy that looked like he was out of an Indiana Jones movie and buckled up.

Shortly after I sat down and while they were still loading a plan a girl (woman) walked on the plane. She was about 19 or 20 if I had to guess. She was dressed in black shiny leggins, a pretty sequined top and 6-7 inch heels, a shiny leather looking surely designer cary on bag. Indiana Jones looks at me and says “I hope to god she’s getting on the wrong plane” and goes back to his book.

We take off and the inside of the plane shakes so much I swear I see bolts coming loose. Indiana Jones smiles at me and says “hold on!”. Oh believe me… I am.

It’s an hour long flight and I am listening to music on my little ipod nano mini and about 40-45 minutes into it I hear a loud whistling sound though the music. I look to my left out the window. I was in the outside seat on the right side of the plane if your heading down the aisle from the front. Indian Jones says “that’s a rocket (missile) , they are trying to hit the plane, don’t worry we are too high up. It’s the landing you need to be worried about”. I put my music back in my ears. 10 more minutes (which seemed like hours), Indian Jones touches my hand to get my attention.

He says “Buckle up Hun, put all your gadgets away, tuck your bag under the seat and hold on”. I shuffle to do this and hold onto the seats with white knuckles. My dad told me about the types of landings the planes need to do in order to avoid the missiles and stuff. Nothing prepares you though. We make a spiraling decent out of the movies and land with a thud and squeal on the tarmac. I grab my stuff and get ready to go. I get as far as the door of the plane and on the boarding ramp (stairs) and half way down when the sirens go off. Indiana Jones who is still with me grabs my arm and steers me under the body of the plane and as far from the wings as possible as the first missile hits a ways away. The ground shakes. And so am I.

We walk double file across the tarmac after the all clear siren goes (you learn the difference between the two sirens as well as any others pretty quickly) and head for a little gated area off the side of the building where we wait for about 40-45 minutes while they slowly trickle us through. Finally I am through the gates. Welcome to Afghanistan! I am finally here.

I think this is going to end up being a multi-part post due to the fact my hands are cramped. I will finish tomorrow. Forgive me for any typos, I’ll fix em tomorrow if there is any.

2 Comment

  1. I’ve thought about taking a contractor job overseas in Afghanistan because the pay is so good. But I don’t know if I could handle the constant threat of danger. You are definitely brave I look forward to reading the rest.

    1. I loved it honestly. I sometimes wish I could do it again. But really when you are young and trying to make your way in the world or just prior to retirement when kids are all grown and spouses either want to come with you or could handle you being there part time, is the best time to do it. It’s an experience I will never forget and never regret. :love:

      PS – I am working on Part 2 now. I think it may end up being a 3 parter, we’ll see.

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