Hello and welcome to my blog. It is a blog about an Air Force Physician that was reluctantly deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan for 6 months.

I have to admit, I did not exactly volunteer for the deployment, and I was a little anxious about how it would all turn out. I ended up making the best of it, and surprisingly, I actually had a pleasant, life changing, experience.

I decided to keep the blog up and running because I kept on hearing, "Why is it that you only hear the bad news coming from Iraq and Afghanistan." I figured that I was helping spread a positive message about what we are doing over. Even more important, I wanted to continue to spread the word about the plight of the Afghan people, 99.9% of which are the most incredibly friendly people that you will ever meet. The title picture is a great example of that. I have never encountered such genuinely warm and friendly people. It was so strange to see so many people with so little material objects, yet at the same time, filled with so much of the joy that comes with close family ties, abundant friends, and a close knit community. We could definetly learn a lot from them.

You may notice, as you read the blog in its entirety, my arc. I shift from focusing on myself and my personal comforts, to shifting my focus on the Afghan cause. It is very easy to get distracted by the hustle of daily life and the comforts that the U.S. provides. It is really a challenge to awake from that coma and to start to care and think about the welfare of other people unrelated to you. I think it really took me about 4 or 5 months before I really opened my eyes and became personally affected by what I was experiencing. I hope I was able to recreate it.

I have tried to keep the blog squeaky clean so as to not offend anyone (or get me in trouble-I am still in the military). Even though I am a political junky with very strong personal opinions I have been steadfast in keeping this site free of any politics. I was called to do a job and I tried to do it to the best of my ability regardless of my political stance.

I recreated the blog to read more like a book, or should I say blook (get used to the corniness it only gets worse from here) just to make it an easier read. I have removed some names and pictures just to keep it more anonymous. I hope that it helps in making it less about me and more about the cause.

Lastly, in the spirit of the blog, I decided to include the Chipin Widget that I used to raise money for Nazia. If I get any additional money I will send the funds to The Women of Hope Project and someone over in Kabul will discretely give it to her (unless I hear otherwise). You can also contribute directly to the Women of Hope Project website. They are a wonderful cause. If you enjoy this blog then feel free to contribute. I am sure that once you read her story you will be very moved.

So kick back. Get ready to hopefully laugh and definitely cry.
If you like what you read then post a comment. I will be continuously editing this site in an attempt to improve it. Who knows maybe one day it will become a book!

Enjoy. Thanks for reading.


Today Show Clip

Chipin Widget

Monday, April 28, 2008

Hemoglobin Juice

"The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease."
VoltaireFrench author, humanist, rationalist, & satirist (1694 - 1778)

Today we visited a supply depot that is located at the National Military Hospital (NMH). I am really impressed by the size and appearance of the hospital. From the outside it looks like one you would find in the states.
Visiting the supply depot was kind of fun. It was very interesting for me to go through all of their different meds. Take a look at a few of these.

How about a nice warm drink of Hemoglobin juice- yuck!

I did not know that you could detoxify your liver. I had a lot of friends in college that could have used this.

I am not sure that I would take a medicine with this picture on it.

How about replacing your morning coffee with some of this.

We stopped off at a little shop that we affectionately call 7-11. I bought some soy nuts.

The reason we were visiting NMH was so that one of our preventative medicine techs could pick up some vaccines. He was making a point of personally delivering something like 15,000 doses of different vaccines, such as, hepatitis B, meningitis, polio, etc. He is delivering them a smaller city outside of Kabul. The person delivering the meds is doing it by his own initiative. I was thinking about what he was doing earlier today and it just struck me what a profound impact that his efforts will be having. If through his efforts he prevents just one case of polio or one case of meningitis then I believe that he will have more of a significant impact on Affghanistan then most people have during their entire deployment. What a wonderful thing he is doing for the people, most importantly the children, of Afghanistan.

I will continue my discussion of Afghan history and culture. I copied this right out of a travel book.

The King

King Zahir Shar returned to Kabul from Italy in April 2002 after 29 years in exile. For many Afghans, especially the older generation, the king’s 40-year rule from 1933 is regarded as a period of peace and stability when women were educated and a free press encouraged. Zahir shah was born Oct 15th 1914 and educated in Kabul and Paris. He became king in 1933 just hours after his father’s assassination. But his cousin and a former prime minister, Mohammad Daud, deposed the king during a coup in July 1973 while he was receiving medical treatment in Italy, bringing to an end the rule of the Durrani dynasty and a monarchy in Afghanistan. Daud declared himself president of a new Republic of Afghanistan. In 2002 the king returned to Kabul from Rome expressing no political ambitions. Later that year he opened the June Loya Jirga grand assembly at which there were moves to have him reinstated.
I think I am officially over the deployment hump (I have reached the half way point). I can feel a light breeze on my face as I begin my initial coast down the hill. I hope that these next few months go by just as fast.
A Soldiers Angels buddy of mine sent me this great link to her website. Take a look. They are doing a lot of really great things for the troops.
Thanks for reading.


“Yak roz didi dost. Digar roz didi brodar”
Friendship grows into brotherhood
Literally: One day you see a friend. The next day you see a brother.
-Afghan Proverb

Last night I decided to go see Bill O’Riley just for the fun of it. I am not really a fan of his show but I thought that it may be a fun to see a celebrity. I walked down to the coffee shop called The Coffee Bean. Right away I saw a long line. I was not sure if he was going to give a little speech or what but I was curious so I decided to wait . Shortly after getting in line I saw him walk towards the back of the line. He was with a small entourage and was being escorted by a General. He must not of been in a very good mood because had an obvious scowl on his face. When I snapped a picture he stopped in his tracks and gave me the stink eye. I am not sure why. He might have been jet lagged so I will give him the benefit of the doubt. It ended up that he was only signing books and mugs so I decided to leave.

The next morning I saw his crew in the Goat House which is one of the two places around here where you can eat. I had to laugh to myself because they, of course, are from Fox News and CNN was playing on the TV. I had a really nice breakfast with 2 Albanians.

I just moved into my permanent housing. I have a descent size room with a very nice roommate. I really can not complain. I helped LtCol Johnson move into his new room and I visited my friend Adam. Here is a picture of him in his room.

Adam is an absolute crack up. My other good friend Puffy had to go back to the states for family medical reasons. He should be coming back by the end of the month. I am looking forward to it.

I thought that it would be fun to discuss some Afghan history and culture every so often. I will do it in pieces so as to not bore you too much. I find it to be extremely interesting and I hope you do too.

Buzkashi is the national sport of Afghanistan. It is usually played around Oct through Nov. 20. The way it is played is 30 horsemen will split into 2 teams. This is not an absolute rule because at times hundreds even thousands of horses and riders take part. The aim is to get a decapitated calf weighing around 150 pounds to a heavily defended marked point and back again to the starting point.

Here is a Wikapedia article on the topic:

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. "
Ralph Waldo EmersonUS essayist & poet (1803 - 1882)

Ok, that picture up top has nothing to do with Kabul or Afghanistan. Never the less, I thought that it was really neat and worth posting. That a look at it from both sides.

Today was a significant day in the clinic. We actually turned over all of the keys. The facility no longer belongs to us now.

I helped out with a nighttime convoy so I got in a little late tonight. I am a little tired right now but you know what they say, the blog must go on. Tonight was one of the first time that I traveled at night. We had to drop off our teammates at the airport. They are going to deliver the vaccines that were picked up yesterday.

Traveling at night was interesting. The streets are just as busy as during the day. We got to ride in style in an uparmored SUV. On the way to the airport I actually saw some Christmas lights which was somewhat surprising. The airport is called Kabul International Airport or KAIA (pronounced KIA). If you have orders to come to Kabul this is the airport you will be flying into.

We had a chance to eat at their dinning facility. The food that they served was pretty good. The food is prepared by European contractors. After we ate we stopped by a place called Air Force One. They serve food and they have some recreational activities.

I loaded a new picture book today. It was a long time coming. I discovered a bunch of old pictures that I thought were lost. The pictures are of Fort Riley and of the Oz Museum. Yes, that's right, Kansas has an Oz Museum. It was in a little strip mall. It was as you would expect a little museum in a small town in Kansas would be. I still had a great time and enjoyed the trip.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Computer Lesson

"I could dance with you until the cows come home. On second thought I'd rather dance with the cows until you come home."
-Groucho MarxUS comedian with Marx Brothers (1890 - 1977)

Sorry for the quality of that picture. We shot it as we were passing by in a car. As many times as I have seen it, I still can not get over seeing the hanging meat.

Another long day. I MOVED AGAIN. I think that I have moved 3 times over the past 4 days. Moving is not an easy task. I probably have about 10 different bags. One thing is for sure, I am not moving out of this room. Speaking of all of the bags, no one could ever say that the government does not equip us properly. I have so many uniforms, so much cold weather gear, the most advanced body armor, etc.. Even the cars we drive are all brand new. We are really well taken care of over here. Even the food is plentiful. I consider myself to be an all-you-can-eat buffet affectionado . We have a Las Vegas style, all-you-can-eat buffet three times a day. I am surprised that I can still fit in my uniform the way that I have been eating.

I decided to be a good friend to LtCol Peters and give him my old room so he does not have to walk as far in his body armor. It was an act of pure selflessness (not to mention the other room was private and also came with a TV, but that in no way factored into my selfless decision). Entering my new room was almost comical. Again, like always, I have to preface this by saying I appreciate my living conditions because most people do not have it this good. I walk into the room and I turn on the lights and I hear a loud buzzing sound coming from the light fixture and then the light just flickers instead of coming on. The room looks like an old Motel 6 hotel room but 1/3 the size. It is really not that bad. Here is a picture.

Today at the clinic I sat and had chai for about an hour with one of the Orthopedist. A large part of creating success in Afghanistan is about building good relations. When you meet with someone you should not rush and discuss work matters, rather, you first need to sit down and discuss how they are, how their families are doing, and then the work gets discussed a little later.

A son of one of the people that runs the clinic came to visit today. He is about 12 and speaks pretty good English. I sat down with him in front of one of the new computers and I thought that I was going to teach him a thing or two. He quickly reversed the roles and was the one that ended up teaching me. I had never seen anyone so fast with a computer before in my life. He would open different screens, click here, type there, all with lightening speed. We even made a short movie with windows movie maker all in 5 minutes. It had music, pictures, special effects, and even credits (I was the executive producer by the way). I was very impressed.

Coming home today I saw this same homeless family that is always in the same spot whenever we pass by. I am not exaggerating when I say this, the mother and father actually sit down in the middle of a busy and chaotic street. They have 2 children that walk from car to car begging for food or water. For some reason seeing them today really struck a cord with me. I kept thinking about the two children all day. They are 2 little girls probably around 10. Both were filthy. Their hair was all in dreadlocks. They have just been born into such unimaginable hardship. At least the children in the orphanage that I visited were housed, fed, and bathed. These children not only did not have any of these things but they are also forced to beg for food and water in the middle of a busy street. I am going to try and do something good for them. I can always ask the interpreters to drop something off for them. It obviously would be too dangerous, not to mention against the rules, for us to stop the convoy. I will also try and see if I can get some pictures uploaded. If anybody wants to send them anything I would be happy to deliver it to them.

Someone was asking for my email. Here it is I would prefer if you posted a comment on the guest book or in the comment section of the post. Emails are great but they get deleted and no one else gets to read them.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, April 25, 2008


"One kernel is felt in a hogshead; one drop of water helps to swell the ocean; a spark of fire help to give light to the world. None are too small, too feeble, too poor to be of service. Think of this and act."

-Hannah More

My favortie 8th grade class from South Carolina actually left a comment on my guest book. They said that they have a way to check my blog out from their class. How exciting. Hey guys, did you get the package that I sent you?

Today's post will be photo heavy. LtCol Johnson and I decided to donate some money to help out a homeless family that sits in the middle of the street everyday. That photo at the top of the blog is the image that haunted me all day yesterday. The mother of that child looks almost like a ghostly figure. She sits on the street under the burqa waving her cane at the passing cars. Meanwhile her two children are always doing the same thing. They are moving their hands to their mouths signaling that they want food from the passing motorists.

It really does not take a lot of money to make a big impact in Afghanistan. A typical physician makes $80.00 per month and lives fairly well. So a $10.00 donation goes very far to feed a family. I also gave them some donated gifts from back home that people did not want. For instance we were sent laundry detergent but we have people who do our laundry for us. I hope the people back home do not mind.

The interpreter was nice enough to go out and buy the supplies and donate them for us. This picture is of the vendor selling him oil and rice.

Here they are receiving the supplies.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, please try and give that one kernel of food, that one drop of water, or that one spark of fire to people that are less fortunate then you. If everyone helps out just a little bit then it will end up making a great big impact.
Thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!!

"Dear Lord, I've been asked, nay commanded, to thank Thee for the Christmas turkey before us... a turkey which was no doubt a lively, intelligent bird... a social being... capable of actual affection... nuzzling its young with almost human- like compassion. Anyway, it's dead and we're gonna eat it. Please give our respects to its family..."

-Berke Breathed, Bloom County Babylon

Happy Thanksgiving. Today's post is only for the most dedicated 6 M.I.K. reader only because it is fairly long. I will spend the first part discussing our Thanksgiving. Second, I am not sure if you remember, but I had a long discussion with one of the interpreters the day the clinic opened. That day I asked if he could type up a summary of his experience about when the mujaheddin came and took over his country. Remember, it was the mujaheddin that was fighting the Russians who had been occupying Afghanistan. When the Russians left the Mujaheddin fought a civil war up until the Taliban came along and took over.
I read his email last night and I was just floored. He has been through such unimaginable events. Last night we had a "Hail and Farewell" party which is essentially a welcoming and going away party for incoming and outgoing people. The same interpreter got up and gave such a moving speech. He thanked the people that were leaving for what they had done. He also described how we are making history and that we should be proud everything that we are doing. I can not even come close to recreating the moment but it was really a moving speech.
I was walking towards the office this morning and I came upon a 5K Turkey Trot that was going on. Later we had an "All Air Force" meeting where a 3 star General, General North, and his staff came and spoke to us. He is the head of all the Air Force personnel in all of Afghanistan and Iraq. He gave a really great motivating pep talk. It is always nice to get those every so often. It recharged our batteries, if you know what I mean.
After the meeting we went to go eat lunch. Maybe I am just easily impressed but they really had an impressive spread at the Goat House (the chow hall). It must have taken 3 weeks just to carve out all of the figurines. There were ice sculptures, every kind of meat you can imagine, a big bowl of peeled shrimp, ice cream, egg nog, etc. I must have eaten 4,000 calories.

Here is a picture of my plate.

Here is a big leg of roast beef. The guy actually smiled in the second picture but it was unfortunately blurry.

This is just a very small sampling of the cakes and deserts.

The ice sculptures were amazing.

They made a little turkey house. The roof was made out of pasta.

Here we are, minus Angela.

This was the best part. I had to include it.

Egg nog!!

Zalmai’s Tales: Life in Afghanistan by Zalmai Yawar

In early 1992 everything changed for the worse. The mujaheddin who were fighting against the communist government came to Kabul. Even before they entered the city, some parties started fighting each other. We happened to be living in the western part of the city which was controlled by the Hazaras of the Wahdat party. By this time fighting was going on in different parts of the city. The government forces (Jamiet-I-Islami) were fighting in two fronts, against Ezbe Wahdat of the Hazaras in the west and against Ezbe-I-Islami of Hakmatyar in the south. Due to the fighting, a lot of non-Hazaras had to leave their homes in the western part of the city. The Hazaras killed a lot of people and looted many homes as they left. My family is Pashtun. Therefore we had to leave, and went to Logar, the province were my father and my mother were born. But not all of us could leave all at once. I had to stay at home in Kabul, to look after our house and our belongings. I was seventeen years old and spent more than nine months by myself in our house. Our house was near Kabul University and when the university library was looted by the Hazaras, they sold a lot of the books in the shops. People would stand by the side of the road and buy them when armed men brought them in sacks. But in those times, books were more valuable as household goods than as literature. The men would remove the hard cover from the books and sell those separately to people who were making shoes and used them as soles. The paper of the books was bought by women who were making bags. It was very sad to see so many good books destroyed. The books were sold by weight. The price for 7 kg books – which was called a ser – was just 700 Afghanis, roughly about 16 cents. I bought a lot of books. I would collect the best ones and put htem in the scale and buy them with some of the money that was sent to me for food. I made a new cover for the books at home. Because I was alone, I kept myself busy reading English books. The books gave me heart. I would say things like, “Well, there were other times in the past when innocent people suffered for one reason or another.” For example, the book The 25th Hour told me the story of a man who was a Jew and had to suffer because of it.
* * *
One day my younger brother Masoud came from Logar and wanted to stay a few days. I did not like this idea because I did not want anything to happen to him. When he was leaving for Logar a few days later, I went with him to the city. On our way we were stopped at a checkpoint and taken to a car. We were taken to the front line which was located behind the Ali Abad Hospital. The armed men who had taken us would not go with us. They told us to go ahead and then turn right where we would find shovels and pickaxes. We were asked to dig our share of the trenches and come back. We went to the place where the shovels were and looked up. Armed men from the other side were watching us. They belonged to the Jamaiet-I-Islami party. They were aiming right at us. If they wanted to shoot at us they could, but they were just looking at us. If they had mistaken us for Ezbe-I-Wahdat men, they would not have missed us. The Amherst Story Project - 2004 Our hands were shaking as we tried to tell them that we had been brought there by force by armed men. We were really scared. But we were not as frightened of the people who were aiming their guns at us as we were of our captors. The whole area got very quiet. Suddenly, we heard an explosion and some gunfire. The thump of an explosion was followed by the rat-tat-tat of machine gunfire. Mortars and machine gun fires whistled through from both sides. We did not know what to do. We were in a far more dangerous place than those who had brought us there. We ran toward a room near us. We just sat there in the corner, scared. A lot of bullets were hitting the walls of the room. The fact that we were in a room and not outside comforted us. We sat there for just a few minutes. But the minutes seemed like ages. The exchange of machine-gun fire and mortars continued. We could hear when the other side fired a mortar and cringed because we thought it would land on the room where we were, but thankfully it would hit somewhere else and we would be relieved. I do not remember how many hours the fighting lasted, but when it got quieter we left the room and tried to go back to the place where the men had left us a few hours earlier. After so many mortars, we were not afraid of machine-gun fire, so we started running towards the main road. The front line was a residential area. They had dug holes in the walls of houses. One could go from one house to another through these holes. One our way back we also had to jump from roof to roof with some roofs as high as three or four meters. It was something which I could not do in ordinary circumstances, but fear gave me strength. Eventually we got away from there and arrived in a place which was still occupied by families, and we felt safe.

* * *
Sometimes the fighting would be brief. But usually it would go on for days and even weeks. I always kept enough food supplies to last for at least three weeks. To get to the nearest bakery that was still baking bread, I had to walk about 45 minutes. One day, the government forces (Jamiat-I-Islami) launched an offensive to capture Kabul University from the HEzbe-I-Wahdat forces. The fighting was intense and went on for weeks. I did not have the chance to buy bread, which was the only thing that I had to survive on. I spent most of the three weeks of fighting in the basement of our house. It was dark, damp and smelly. My food ran out. All I had left was wheat. For days I boiled wheat and ate it three times a day. The Iranian Embassy negotiated a truce, but even that truce did not last long.

* * *
I saw so many people killed by bullets fired from the top of the hills surrounding the western part of Kabul. You would be walking on the road and all of a sudden a man or two or sometimes even three would fall down to the ground and then you would here the sound of the guns that had fired the bullets. People would run and hide behind trees, walls or anything that would give them protection. Getting injured or even killed was so common. Yet it never occurred to me that I would be one of those people hit by a bullet or that I would be in one of those houses hit by a rocket until it almost happened. It was the winter of 1993. I woke up from the sound of shooting and rockets. It was four o’clock in the morning and I was in bed. I covered my head with the blanket. Part of me said to go downstairs to the basement, but I got lazy and decided to stay in bed in the upstairs room. The fighting got more intense and the explosion of mortar shells got nearer and nearer to my house. I decided to go downstairs but I The Amherst Story Project - 2004 made the decision a bit too late. I went downstairs and took a few steps towards the entrance of the basement. I heard an explosion and saw a big blast about thirty or forty meters away from me. I saw pieces of bricks flying in different directions and heard the sound of shrapnel hit the roof. Just about four or five seconds later, another blast came much closer. I pressed myself against the nearest wall for protection, then tried once more to get to the basement. But there was yet another blast. Before I could do anything I felt a hot wave of air hitting my face and I felt something hitting me on my thigh and my groin. I did not feel any pain. It was like a bee stinging you. My eyesight was blackened and that is all I remember. The last mortar shell had landed on meter way from me, behind the corner of a room on which I was leaning. When I opened my eyes I was staring at neon lamps. I was puzzled because we did not have power at home, let alone non lights. Just then I heard people talking. My mouth was dry. I saw other people lying on beds. I found out that I was in a hospital and then remembered the events of the morning. The first thing I did was to move my hands to make sure that they were still there. My body felt heavy. My legs were still there, too, but my right leg felt strange. It felt as if there was an iron bar in side it. A nurse later told me there was nothing serious, the shrapnel had been removed. She also said that I was brought to the hospital by my neighbor. I also had a burn on my face which left a small spot on the white part of my right eye. When I was brought to the hospital my eyes were full of gunpowder. The nurses were washing my eyes with a kind of solution. Other patients in the ward were more wounded than I. When we left the hospital, we went to Logar. My mother, brother and sister were really happy to see me. I was also very happy to see them. By this time our house, which was unguarded for several weeks, had been looted. We had lost literally everything – all of our furniture, books, clothing and family photographs. I felt despair. All those troubles that I had gone through had been for nothing. My mother told me that she did not want anything. She said the fact that I was alright was everything for her.
* * *
During the five year the mujaheddin were in power, the city was reduced to ruins. During that time more than 40,000 innocent people died.
* * *

Throughout the twenty-six years of my life, I have felt like a ship sailing in the ocean. A ship with no skipper, blown about by the arbitrary direction of the wind. I am waiting to see whether the sea will calm down or whether we must endure more devastating storms in the future.

"I have lived in Kabul my entire life"
"Here's Habibia High School in Kabul, where I graduated. It was really hard to go to school under the Taliban with all their ridiculous roles and regulations, like growing a long beard and memorising long verses from the Koran. It was a nice building before the war, but the bombing destroyed it."

"The other day I took a picture of it again after it was renovated, so it shows what peace can bring."
"About 14 years ago, the only bus you could find was like this. People called them pressure cookers because they had no ventilation and the windows were sealed by pieces of irons and were very hot. I remember my aunt saying, 'Masoud, can you check the tires of the bus and make sure that all the four wheels has its nuts!'. Often, in the middle of a journey, the tires would go flat and their nuts loosen and fall off, adding one or two hours to your already boring journey."

"I have experienced the horrible years of civil war in the early 90s and the brutal rule of the Taliban. Despite all the hardships that I and most of the people living in Kabul went through I managed to go to school."
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Women of Hope Project

"Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition."
Timothy LearyUS psychologist & promoter of mind-altering drugs (1920 - 1996)

Today I got caught up with thank you and Christmas cards. I think I sent out 30 thank you cards and 50 Christmas cards. My tongue is really sore right now. Those cards were just to people that have written to me since I have been deployed. My wife will send out cards to our friends and family back home. I apologize in advance if anyone is Jewish or Muslim because I wished everyone a Merry Christmas. I would love to get Christmas cards but please do not send me any gifts. It would only make me feel guilty. I would love to receive stuff that I could donate to poor Afghan families or soldiers located on smaller FOBs. Read further if you would like to learn more.

Since today is Friday it is a “low tempo day.” I am really excited because I made a couple of really good contacts. The first one was a nice lady by the name of Betsy Beamon. She is the Director of Woman of Hope Project. She has a small booth near the main bazaar. The things she was selling really caught my eye because you could tell that they were hand made and of really good quality.

I starting talking with her and it turns out that she is a civilian who, after Sept 11 2001, decided that she wanted to come to Afghanistan to help out. She has been here for 5 years and has started an amazing organization. She has dedicated her time and efforts to help out poor girls and women throughout Afghanistan. She has about 50 women who each have about 7 women that work for them. They create crafts, cloths, dolls, and embroider material which she then sells for them. The organization takes a 10% profit, a large portion of that is put towards other goodwill efforts. She also goes to refuge camps and teaches them how to grow vegetables via a hydroponics method. Apparently, the soil in Afghanistan is really high in fecal material, I believe something like 75%, and this causes a lot of dysentery in children. She showed me pictures of how many different women have created these beautiful hydroponic gardens where they grow all kinds of vegetables. They also are developing a literacy program as well as a small business loan program where the women pay pack their loans as their business earn money.

I also met someone who is in charge of a military sponsored charity program. Every week or so they go out and donate all of their goods that they collect from people back home. Sort of what I have been doing but on a lot larger scale. Today they visited a refugee camp and dropped off a bunch of supplies that helped out about 50 families. I think next week they will be planting a bunch of apple trees. I would like to get involved. Here is their warehouse.

In addition to helping out local poor Afghans they also run a program where they send “down range” donations from home to soldiers located on smaller FOBs, with something like 100 to 200 people. I hope that you guy do not mind, but I will probably give any additional care packages that I receive to these programs so they can forward them on to smaller FOBs. If you like you can keep sending me stuff and I will gladly pass them along.

I have a great idea for holiday gifts. You can buy something from the Woman of Hope Project. Not only will you be giving a present that is unique and hand made, more importantly, you will be helping to support low income Afghan women and children. Here are some of the gifts that you can buy.
Hand made wall rugs.

I really like these. They are so colorful.


Table cloths


Nice cloths for your kids. Very unique and one of a kind.

More cloths.

Handmade Christmas ornaments.
Dolls with Burqas.
A burqa for wine bottles. Now wouldn't that be a great gift.

More burqa dolls

Oven mits

Pillows and decorative embroidery.


If you want to buy any of these things you can email Betsy Beamon at or and let her know what you want. The prices are pretty reasonable.

Here is their website in case you would like to learn more about their organization or donate money to their cause.

I have been into little mischief lately. Whenever we open our doors or windows in our office we smell all of the smokers downstairs from us. I decided to create my own nonsmoking zone. I posted the sign late at night and I think that it has worked.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

....and a multivitamin!!!

"Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards."

-Vernon Sanders Law

My job has started to get a lot more fun. I am finally done with the boring part, which was the setting up of the new clinic. I now have started to do the "mentoring" part that I was so looking forward to.

I brought with me to Kabul with a number of old medical texts and medical related CDs. After I arrived the Army provided me with a number of new books, some of which cost almost $200.00. So I decided that I was goint to give some of my old text books to some of the providers in the new clinic. You would have thought that I gave them Rolex watches. The ER doc in particular was the most appreciative. You could see his eyes light up when I gave him the ER text. It is probably the only medical book that he owns that was written in the past 20 years. He was so excited that he had me write a little note and sign the inside cover.

My first order of business was to gauge the doctors level of medical knowledge so I could see where my focus should be. I went through a medical text and ask questions like, "Abdominal pain, what is your differential diagnosis for this location?" "How would you treat a myocardial infarction?" For the most part they got most of the answers right. A couple of answers threw me for a loop though. We were discussing the treatment for back pain and the ER doctor initially gave me all of the right answers. He said that he would use an anti inflammatory agent, then he mentioned a muscle relaxant, then he threw in, ....."and a multivitamin!!" I said, "a multivitamin, why a multivitamin?" He went on to give some explanation that did not quite make a lot of sense. I just smiled and gave him one of my funny looks. I figured if the medicine didn't hurt the patient then I will pick my battles.

Like I said, he did pretty good with all of the medical questions that I quizzed him on with exception of one big one, diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Usually when someone with Type 1 diabetes is first diagnosed they come into the ER with nonspecific symptoms like confusion, fatigue, increased thirst, frequent urination, etc. Their symptoms are related to their blood sugar being too high because they do not have insulin to process it. When I asked the ER doc how he would treat a patient with DKA he hesitated for a second and thought long and hard. After about 1 minute he came back with, "A diuretic!"A diuretic is the opposite medication that you would use. You would not want to give it because patients are usually severely dehydrated. We spent some time discussing this issue.

I now have identified a few areas that I need to focus on. Tonight I am going to work on some lectures and load them on to my thumb drive so I can do some more teaching.

I am trying to load a picture book of the volunteer community relations (VCR) project that was done yesterday. They delivered some cloths to some really needy families. In addition, they also delivered a bunch of balloons and bubbles to kids. Most of those kids had never played with bubbles. The pictures that were that taken were some of the best that I have seen so far. It just continues to amaze me how, where ever you go in Afghanistan, no matter how terrible the living conditions are, the kids are all the same, happy, laughing, and smiling. Adults could really learn a lot from them. They really know how to make the most out of really bad situations.

That reminds me of a conversation that I had with one of the doctors the other day. We were talking about his son and how his son is always distracted and never wants to do his homework. I asked him why, and whether or not it because of a computer or video games. He answered, no, he was too busy playing with his marbles. That gave me a big laugh. So, no matter if it is video games, computers, or marbles, kids are the same where ever you go.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Pomegranates, Kite Flying, Buddhas of Bamyan, and Marjan the Lion

"Food is our common ground, a universal experience. "
-James Beard

"Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside. "
-Mark TwainUS humorist, novelist, short story author, & wit (1835 - 1910)

The training went well today. It is kind of funny because there are a number of doctors in the clinic and they all want you to come into their office and hang out and have some chai or have you teach them about different topics in medicine or even about computers. I spent some time with the female OB/GYN doctor. Today was the first day that she ever touched a mouse. I was prepared to go over a prenatal lecture with her but instead I ended up teaching her the basics of using a computer. She was very appreciative. She told me that she has been delivering babies almost since I have been born (1978). Whenever I approach doctors like her, that have so much more experience then I do, I try and tell them that we are going to learn together. She will teach me and I will try and teach them something.

I discussed chest pain and myocardial infarction (heart attack) with the ER doctor today. He does not know how to interpret an EKG so I am having to start with the basics. It is also hard because the do not have a lot of modern meds that we use in the states- not to mention they did not even have oxygen at the old hospital. You could tell that
he was very receptive to my discussions and was able to pick up most of the information. I will have to see how much he retained tomorrow.

As I was in discussion with the ER doctor when the Orthopedist came in and asked me to come up to his office. I told him I would after I was finished with my discussion on chest pain. I was walking up the stairs when the Anaesthesiologist snagged me and tried to hook me into his office to help set up his computer. The Orthopedist ended up winning the battle by offering me pomegranates. He must have know my weakness. Here are some pics. They were the largest and the sweetest pomegranates that I have ever eaten. He said that they came from Kandahar which is in the southern region.

While we ate the pomegranates we had a great discussion about a number of different topics because I was finally given my own dedicated interpreter. One of the main past times in Kabul is kite flying. I find it to be very interesting. Every Friday a lot of people gather at the main stadium and engage in a kite flying competition. 2 kite flyers fight with their kites and attempt to cut the others string. It sounds really fun. There are different dirty little tricks that you can play to gain an advantage with your opponent. The interpreter was explaining how you can embed fine glass particles into your string by gluing crushed light bulbs to the string. The interpreter said that he will try and take a short video of the flying and I will try and load it onto my site.

We also talked about the famous Kabul museum. Before the Taliban and the mujaheddin came it used to be absolutely amazing with all kinds of really old artifacts. Remember, Kabul is 3,000 years old. A lot of the artifacts were Buddha related and the Taliban did not like it so they destroyed a lot of the pieces. I am not sure if you remember but the Taliban also destroyed the Buddhas of Bamyan in March of 2001. Here is a link to a Wikapedia article on the topic.

Here is a word-for-word summary on the topic from Wikapedia.

"The Buddhas of Bamyan (Persian: تندیس‌های بودا در باميان tandis-ha-ye buda dar bamiyaan, Pashto: د بودا بتان په باميانو کې De Buda butan pe bamiyano ke) were two monumental statues of standing Buddhas carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamyan valley of central Afghanistan, situated 230 km (143 miles) northwest of Kabul at an altitude of 2500 meters (8,202 feet). Built during the 6th century, the statues represented the classic blended style of Indo-Greek art.

The main bodies were hewn directly from the sandstone cliffs, but details were modeled in mud mixed with straw, coated with stucco. This coating, practically all of which was worn away long ago, was painted to enhance the expressions of the faces, hands and folds of the robes; the larger one was painted carmine red and the smaller one was painted multiple colors[2]. The lower parts of the statues' arms were constructed from the same mud-straw mix while supported on wooden armatures. It is believed that the upper parts of their faces were made from great wooden masks or casts. The rows of holes that can be seen in photographs were spaces that held wooden pegs which served to stabilize the outer stucco.

They were destroyed in 2001 by the Taliban. Japan and Switzerland, among others, have pledged support for the rebuilding of the statues. "

Lastly, we also talked about the Kabul Zoo. The interpreter made a really funny joke when he said that there is not very animals left in it, maybe a dog, pigeon cat, etc.. At one time there was this well known lion named Marjan. He was half-blind, lame and almost toothless. The story behind Marjan that had made him so well known stemmed from an incident that occurred while the Mujaheddin was in power in the early 90s. A member of the mujaheddin had been high on hashish and decided to enter the lions cage and challenge him to prove his bravery. Marjan ended up killing the man and the next day his brother returned to the zoo and threw in a grenade which caused his injuries. He ended up become somewhat of a symbol of endurance for the war torn city. He eventually died in 2002.
Here is a link to an article

After we ate the pomegranates the head nurse decided to treat us all to lunch. We had a delicious meal of naan, lamb kabobs and rice. The rice is a very important staple for ever Afghan meal. Rice and naan is pretty much what is eaten every day. Here is a recipe for the rice.

Qabeli Pilau (Yellow Rice with Carrot & Raisins)

1 lb (2 ½ cups) long grain rice
4 oz black seedless raisins
6 tablespoons of vegetable oil
2 tsp char masala or cumin
2 medium onions, chopped
¼ tsp saffron
1 ½ - 2 lbs lamb on the bone or 1 chicken
2 large carrots

Rinse the rice and leave to soak for at least half an hour. Heat 4 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a large pan and add the chopped onions. Stir and fry them until brown. Add the lamb. Brown well on all sides in the oil. Add about 1 cup of water, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover and simmer until the meat is tender. While the meat is cooking, wash and peel the carrots and cut into pieces the size of a matchstick. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a small pan and add the carrots. Cook the carrots gently until they are lightly browned and tender. Remove the carrots from the oil, add the raisins, and cook these gently until they begin to swell up. Bring 5 cups of water to a boil and add about 1 teaspoon of salt. Drain the rice and add to the boiling water. Parboil for 2 to 3 minutes before draining the rice in a large sieve. Put the rice in a large casserole and sprinkle with char masala and saffron. Then place the cooked meat on one side of the casserole and the carrots and raisins on the other. Cover with a tightly fitted lid and place in a preheated oven at 300 degrees F for about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and serve."

This recipe was copied directly from The Survival Guide to Kabul website. Let me know how it turns out if you decide to make it.

We have started to get into the Christmas spirit over here and we have put up our Christmas tree. A very nice person from back home sent us one. Take a look.
Thanks for reading.