Welcome to my blog where I will post commentary on issues ranging from fiction to public policy. Tucked away in the Idea Boxes are “how to” tips on a variety of projects that have become part of our family’s culture over the years. I hope you’ll find some useful ideas there. My blog will take you through the fantastic journey of writing and publishing fiction, as well as commentary on politics, cultural trends, book reviews and family.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Living on Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan

My good friend and today’s guest blogger, Nancy Glaser, Senior Economic Advisor for USAID, tells about everyday life at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan
One of the most interesting experiences I never anticipated was being assigned to live and work on Bagram Air Field for my 12 month tour of duty with USAID in Afghanistan.

When I arrived here on June 20th, 2012 I was amazed by the vastness of the physical space as well as the number of people living and working here. Of the estimated 30,000, the U.S. military makes up the majority (the “green suiters”) of which 90% are male.
Bagram is located in the “high desert” (5,000 feet high) and it is dusty, especially in the summer which requires wearing glasses 24 hours a day.
Our housing consists of living in my personal “hooch”, an 8’by 20’ metal “dry” container. Our shower and bathroom facilities are in a separate building which we share with female military and civilians. We live on the flight line and air craft are taking off and landing 24 hours a day. This includes helicopters all the way up to the Boeing B-17. Wearing ear plugs to sleep at night is recommended. We have TV and internet access. 

We civilians are embedded with the military both at work and other activities. We all eat together in the DFAC (Dining Facility) where up to 1,500 people eat together. The food is amazingly  good and there is a good variety for every palette including vegetarians.
There is a “spa” on Bagram that offers hair and nail services as well as massages. The women who work there are all from Kyrgyzstan and speak Russian. They do a very nice job at very good prices (shampoo, cut, and blow dry costs only $14).
I get “out” about every other week to visit provincial governors, line directors and business men. My position as RC East Senior Economic Advisor for USAID is to promote private sector development. This is not the easiest job in a war zone, but some progress is made day by day. I travel by MRAP, “fixed” wing small Beechcraft planes or helicopters. We are always accompanied by military and military police. I actually feel safe traveling this way.
Sometimes I feel like I am in a movie.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Mother's Day

As Mother’s Day approaches, I am of course reminded of my own mother, who died way too young, almost 50 years ago.

Now that our children are grown, this holiday for us is mainly about the bird’s eye view of parenting that comes from watching them raise their own kids.  I’m sure there will be many cards and hand-crafted treasures bestowed on the young mothers in our family on Sunday.

Billy Collins’ incomparable “The Lanyard” comes to mind:

       She nursed me in many a sick room,
       lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
       laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
       and then led me out into the airy light

      And taught me to walk and swim,
      and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.

The real giving, with all its obsessive fretting and pride and hope, flows down and down to the next generation.  Among my loveliest memories are the faces of our children watching their children walk and run and dance, with so much amazement at each miraculous stage of growth in these young lives they brought into being.

They are so busy, these young mothers, and you wish you could somehow will them to slow down, to savor it, to forget about rushing out the door to buy the next birthday toy for the classmate. 

Life is long but childhood is short.

Happy Mother’s Day, one and all!