Tag "Travel"

Staff Sergeant Miller drops me off at the terminal at four forty-five. I’ve just woken up from a jetlag-induced afternoon sleep and still feel groggy, my eyeballs par-boiled. The tent is large and cylindrical and the dozen people there seem half-comatose themselves. I collapse onto a seat and try to read some of the great gonzoist but can’t keep my eyes open. I don’t know enough about the 1972 election cycle to follow what he’s saying anyways.

An hour and a half later they call us up and we slug into our flak jackets and helmets and stumble in a line through the door. There are no other civilians on this flight, a first for me. Usually at least a contractor or two, which pretty much everyone takes me for most of the time. It is already full dark.

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Arrived in Kabul. Immediately set off in the wrong direction, on foot, and found myself accompanied by seemingly friendly young policeman intent on leading me to a car. Got increasingly far from signs of military or police presence. Asked, “Do you know where the main military gate is?” Response, “Haha! Yes, yes.” Considered this. Asked, “Do you understand what I’m saying?” Small frown, “Aha, yes, friend. Car.” Recalled scene from Nicole Kidman flick about mail order bride. Asked, “Are you a giraffe?” Response, “Oh, yes, yes.” Frowned. Policeman sped up, carrying my duffel with body armor. At least too heavy to steal on foot.

Didn’t trust him so asked a white guy driving a truck in parking lot where I ought to be headed & whether I should trust this cop and car he is leading me to. White guy and comrades definitely military contractors, tough British types with aggressive tattoos and scarves for concealing non-Afghan-ness. Eyeballed cop and gave me a once-0ver. Took pity on obvious cluelessness and moderately stranded situation and agreed to give me a lift to the military gate, a good mile and a half away (not in the airport, as I had been led to believe).

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The layover in Munich has been relatively painless, despite a jarring time difference and increasingly pressing need to shower. My first flight carried a healthy ladle of military contractors, identifiable a mile away by their buzzcuts, black knapsacks, and distaste for German beer (“They don’t have anything like a good Budweiser,”). The US government’s use of these gentlemen in lieu of regular troops (most, it should be noted, recently were regular troops) has been widely discussed and often criticized, but I’m going to refrain from weighing in on anything until I see some in action.

We landed in a fog so thick I thought we were still descending through the cloud later when we hit ground. Perhaps five feet visibility, about thirty to see the runway lights, a miraculous feat that the pilot landed us at all. Munich has been a blur of cobble stones, coffee shops ,and cold weather, a never-ending search for viable internet access  that eventually led me in desperation to McDonald’s, who have become renowned among backpackers as a world-wide source of free wifi. German McDonald’s, though, have pre-empted the influx of odorous dreadlocked Australians by requiring a German cell phone to use their internet (they text you a temporary password, cleverly disguising their xenophobia behind a façade of savvy marketing). In the end I remained unsuccessful, and had to upload this in Dubai.

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