Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Part VIII: Random Afghanistan Photos

So the other day I got invited out to go to the shooting range with a bunch of Canadian Army guys. The closest ranges we can go shoot at are actually located at the Afghan National Army Training Center on the other side of town. There's an American compound within the Afghan Army compound where the US advisors live and work. The Euro-random food served at the ISAF HQ is a bit unpleasant, so we drove over as early in the morning as we could stand and had breakfast.

After a tasty breakfast at the American chow hall (including the first properly cooked bacon I've seen since I landed in this godforsaken place*) I turned a corner and saw this shipping container with a very odd looking label on its side:

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I paused for a few moments while trying to decide what could possibly be contained in this container. When I gave up on it I continued to walk past it and realized it was the funniest thing I'd seen in weeks:
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After a brief chuckle I hopped back into the truck and we drove up to the shooting range. When we got up to the ranges I snapped a few pictures of the scenery:
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I also got this winning shot of me somewhere during the day:

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It was nice to get a chance to do some shooting. I'm not sure why, but there's something therapeutic about blowing holes in things from a few hundred feet away. One of the Canadians brought along a 12-guage shotgun and some slugs, so once we'd used up a couple of boxes worth of 5.56mm ammunition we got to set the ammo boxes down range and blast a few holes in them with the shotgun. Here's a winning shot of Master Corporal Gregg Scruton (assigned as driver/admin dude for my office) with the hapless ammo box victim:
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On the serious side, I got to do a bunch of move-and-shoot marksmanship training with the Canucks. It turned out as I'd've predicted. I still suck with the rifle, which is to say I'm acceptably lethal, but not the world's best sniper. On the other hand I did pretty well with the pistol and the shotgun. The shotgun especially. It was a pump action shotgun, so I got to practice the one-handed pump method might remember from Terminator 2.** A good time was had by all, but it was time to leave all the same.

On the way back we passed a huge area littered with the burnt-out leftovers of hundreds of Cold War era Soviet armored vehicles. These are all that remains of the Russian invasion that the Mujahedin fighters managed to defeat in the 1980s. It makes for a sobering reminder of what the locals are capable of:
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On the way back to the HQ compound, I took a bunch more pictures around the city of Kabul. Here's one of the countless random people who seem to spend much of their day camped out in the center median of some of the busiest thoroughfares:

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Here's one of the so-called "jingle trucks" that are commonplace on the highways here:
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More commonplace though, are the horsecarts:
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I'm not sure why, but the local version of commerce still fascinates me. Here's another bunch of roadside fruitstands:
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This is what passes for a strip mall in most of Kabul:
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And here's a downtown stockyard where you can buy yourself some really sad-looking barnyard animals:
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I'm not sure when I took this picture, but this dude can almost always be found begging on this road out:
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Something else I'd mentioned in a previous entry is the contrast between the generally drab, dusty environment and the surprisingly immaculate local women:
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Here's another shot that makes the contrast even more noticeable:
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While the burkhas (shown above) are still in style all over town, with the fall of the Taliban regime, more and more women are adopting a more Western style of dress:
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Here's a random shot of Massoud Circle:
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A little while ago there was a car bomb that was detonated in this intersection. It killed four locals (if you count the guy driving the car bomb) but otherwise did only minor damage to some other cars nearby. I'm still not sure what the intended target was.


Leave it to militant insurgent forces to take all the fun out of a nice drive across town.

*I realize fully that I should not expect to find decent bacon in a Muslim country any more than I should expect to find a decent hamburger in a Hindu country. The problem is: every single morning at the chow hall there is bacon. Sausage too. For some reason though, the exact formula for converting it from dead pig to some sort of palatable form continues to elude the cooking staff at my base.

**Toward the end, when she'd been wounded and couldn't use her right arm for much, this was the same one-handed method Sarah Connor used when she started blasting away that the T-1000. If you don't remember it, go rent the movie today. It's still just as good as it ever was.

2 comments:

  1. I wonder if "poet fury" was by design, every now and then I run across a honest-to-God genious amongst our ranks. How do they cope with 'working' for a living instead of designing iPods with their peers.

    Kabul makes Bahrain look like NYC.

    Keep your head down,

    LT B

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  2. I don't know LT. I've been to Bahrain and I remember the bulk of the buildings having indoor plumbing.

    That, plus I'd be willing to bet that more than 5% of the population there is able to read and write.

    I'll be ranting about all of this in the next entry. For now I'm trying to find a bit more humor amidst the squalor.

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