Monday, December 31, 2012

Jack Frost Ripping Off My Nose

Jack Frost has moved into Kabul and made himself at home. Seriously, it's cold. I'm one of the fortunate ones because my hooch is upstairs and in the middle, so it's well insulated and doesn't get too cold or damp. My commute to the office and to the DFAC is less than 60 seconds. Same goes for the laundry hooch; however, to do laundry still requires me to bundle up in a hat, gloves, and boots, and carry a bag of laundry down the icy metal staircase of death. But I'm getting hardship and danger pay, so it's all good.

If life here was dull before Jack arrived, it's even worse now. I spend a lot of time in my hooch. And with the arrival of my NetGrocer shipment, I have one less reason to leave my hooch. When I feel especially stir crazy, I force myself to go to the gym (blech). This place needs a coffee shop, or just someplace to hang out.

Happy new year. Let's hope 2013 brings some peace and goodwill.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Diplomats often hear the accusation that we barricade ourselves behind high, concertina-covered walls. After the tragedy in Benghazi, I saw one article that suggested diplomats would "cower" in the corners of the embassy even more now. Let me dispel that myth.

I openly admit that the embassy in Kabul is not a normal place. I cannot simply walk outside the embassy gate and stroll along the main boulevards. I don't have informal conversations with shopkeepers. And there are certain times when we are not able to leave the embassy. The threats are real and I'd be a fool to ignore the security precautions designed to keep me alive.

That said, RSO has never denied my request to go off-site for a meeting or event. I have been fortunate to meet some incredible Afghans, from orphans and teenagers to media moguls. All the officers I know are eager to get out as much as possible, and I haven't seen anyone cowering in the corner.

There was an op-ed in the LA Times recently that articulated (better than I could) the balance that diplomats seek when working in dangerous locations. There is no one-size-fits-all security solution. We know the risks and we take precautions, but we're also here to do a job.