-Benjamin FranklinUS author, diplomat, inventor, physicist, politician, & printer (1706 - 1790)
"Happiness is as a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you."
-Nathaniel HawthorneUS author (1804 - 1864)
Today we took a different route to get to the clinic and I drove the lead vehicle. This past week I have really had a chance to see a lot more of Kabul and I am sort of feeling guilty because I had developed my impression of Kabul based solely on the not-so-nice parts that I have been seeing. Just like any city it has it's good and its bad, unfortunately, it has just taken longer for me to see the nicer parts. There was actually a moment today when I was driving home and I said to myself, "I could live here, this place is not so bad."
Driving around the streets of Kabul you get this sense that the city is so full of life. There is always a ton of people walking around. There are little makeshift shops everywhere. People are on the sides of the streets pushing carts selling bananas, pomegranates, french fries, etc. Children are everywhere. Where I grew up in Southern California you needed a car to get anywhere because everything was so far and spread out. People went about their lives in their own little world. I am not exaggerating when I say this, where I grew up in Woodland Hills, California, I could not have even been able to identify my neighbors if I passed them in the supermarket and I lived there for 8 years!
Over over here in Kabul people are out and about. There is a real sense of a community. I have spoken with a number of interpreters and they have all told me the same thing that their families are not spread out all over town. They all live together in large compounds with all of their extended families around them. In Kabul they may not have a Starbucks on ever corner and they may not all live in a big homes with a green lawns but they have something more important, such as close knit families, friends, religion, and community. These are all things that money and prosperity can not bring.
I found this great article on the topic. I highly recommend reading it. It also allowed me to figure out why I liked blogging so much- it is because of the "flow" it creates. Read it and you will understand.
When we arrived at the new clinic there was this awkward but funny moment when I said hello to the person in charge. I knew that he always likes to kiss on both cheeks whenever we meet and I was prepared for this greeting. This time I made him laugh because I think made to loud of a kiss sound. I think I got it down now. You just have to touch cheeks and not really kiss. They don't teach you this stuff over at Fort Riley. Today he also called me the "quick doctor." He said that he can always understand what LtCol Johnson is saying when he speaks but he can never understand anything that I say because I talk too fast. I just assumed that the interpreter would translate everything that I said and that why I have been talking so fast.
About 15 of the key staff showed up and it was a very interesting experience. Talk about herding cats. I basically went from room to room with the blueprint of the clinic in hand telling, or I should say recommending, which office was going to be theirs. It was a funny kind of experience that only someone that has grown up in an Italian household can appreciate. When Italians communicate they do so in a somewhat loud and animated manner, hand gestures and all. To the casual observer it would appear that a normal conversation is a heated argument. When I was growing up I can recall having to warn my friends that would come over for dinner so that they wouldn't think that we were arguing at the dinner table because it was our normal way of speaking. Afghans are very similar. I would stop in front of a room and say something like, "this is where Anaesthesia is going to be." The Anaesthesiologist would pause, look at the room, then look at the clinic commander and the interpreter, and then they would proceed to discuss it's size and location back and forth for 4-5 minutes. I am sure that it would be no different opening a new clinic in the states. As a matter of fact, I'm sure that it would have been much worse.
After about 10 minutes of discussing the room the Anaesthesiologist turned to me and asked, through the use of the interpreter, the location of the mechanical ventilator. I kindly reminded him that it is supposed to be an outpatient clinic. He somewhat persisted so I asked him what he is using now at his current clinic. He told me that he is using a small ventilator. I told him that he should bring it over to the new clinic and continue to use it. He thought about it for a second and then he shook his head and smiled with satisfaction. LtCol Johnson patted me on the back for that one and told me I did a good job.
After the clinic visit we visited our friends at Camp Eggers and had a productive meeting. Tonight I will need to go to bed early because we will be doing CMAs for the next 2 days. It should be an interesting experience. I will be sure to take plenty of pictures.Thanks for reading.