Before my departure for the airport I was called to a debriefing at USAID. I had not seen the US compound since I left nearly two and a half years ago. The sight (and site) was astonishing. We are building a city inside a city, more city than it was before. Several enormous buildings have gone up to house God knows who and what. Maybe the short termers will finally get proper rooms rather than the hooches they sometimes had to share with several others.

Once inside the section across from the embassy, the place had turned into a city with lanes, balconies on the two-story hooches gave the place a flavor of New Orleans if you imagined the balconies to be wrought iron rather than plain metal. Enormous 16 x 32 feet (?) photographs of the most beautiful places in America adorned the (now painted) concrete walls and you could pretend you were looking out over a misty coast of Maine or sunny Hawaii. I wonder whose idea that had been; whoever it was had recognized that some things of beauty were badly needed to save the souls of our compatriots making difficult decisions from a place that was steeped in ugliness, having little to do with the inherent beauty of the country that hosted them.

The entrance to the US compound was thick with melting snow mixed with mud, the famous Kabul khak. By the time I arrived at my seat in the airplane I had left a thick trail of chunks of mud and my shoes, boot and pants had taken on the color of khaki (named after the Dari word of mud, indeed). I cleaned them up with kleenex in the plane’s bathroom, a messy affair which had to be repeated in another bathroom in Dubai.

I managed on my own the trail through various security checks (none as stringent as getting into the US compound) until we arrived in Dubai where I had requested assistance as the walks can get rather long. A young Nepali man wheeled me through backstage doors, with security waving me through without having to take my boot off. I felt a little undeserving of the sympathy but it was nice nevertheless to transit so painlessly.

And now I am in Amsterdam waiting for the homestretch to start. I hope to outrun the snow storms that are raging around the east coast as I am not interested in any further delay to my homecoming.

1 Response to “Khaki”

  1. 1 Isabella Bates February 12, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    Welcome home my friend. Mend and rest and we’ll be in touch soon. Isabella

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