The week began with a sand storm in the middle of the night. About 2 AM on Sunday, I woke to a great rumbling. It sounded like a storm, like some strong winds pounding against the buildings outside. But, we are in Afghanistan, so you never know what those loud sounds in the night might be. I decided it was best to stay in my room. Going outside to check out the noise could not be good. If it was a sand storm, I could not make it better by going outside. And if it was something else, going outside was also not going to help.
Welcome to “the 120 days of wind”. An Afghanistan phenomenon, the winds usually last between June and September. According to one newspaper article, they are both a blessing and a curse. With speeds topping out at 110 miles per hour, they can lift twenty-foot containers in the air and drop them on their sides, destroy tents and make it near impossible to breathe. How are they a blessing? They actually reduce the intensity of the heat. The article I found is here: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1817&dat=20020525&id=a240AAAAIBAJ&sjid=S6YEAAAAIBAJ&pg=5517,3665834 if you are interested in learning more.
I can attest to the decrease in temperatures. On Monday morning, I woke to grey skies, heavy with clouds. Clouds? In the middle of the desert, in June? Yes, really. It even sprinkled, for all of three minutes and thirty seconds. I could not believe it.
And guess what? The rest of the day was downright pleasant. OK, “pleasant” is a relative term. With mid-day temperatures regular cresting 110 degrees, anything that drops the temperature under the 100-degree mark is great. The next day was equally nice, only interrupted by a mid-afternoon sand storm.
Watching the sand storm move into camp was an amazing sight. You can see it roll across the desert. Around 3 PM on Tuesday, the Marines were out in full force – with cameras, IPADs and Smart Phones – anything to get a picture of this first (daylight) sand storm. They only rushed into our “offices” (twenty-foot shipping containers converted into office spaces with air conditioning units and wooden desks) when the sand and wind rolled in on top of them.
We spent the next 90 minutes or so isolated from each other by just a few feet. Even in the metal shipping container, the storm made its presence felt. We turned off the air conditioning units because they brought dust in through the air vents. We shut the “doors” (just sheets of plywood with hinges) as well as we could, but sand and dust still came in. The Marine sitting closest to the door was covered in dust in a matter of minutes. It was hard to breathe, even inside.
For those who have ever been through a hurricane or other such storm, the feeling was very similar. We had nothing to do but sit and wait, keeping ourselves occupied until the storm passed. By the time it was over, I felt like I had finally arrived in Afghanistan. I’d survived my first (again, daylight) sand storm, and was none the worse for wear.
We had another one this morning, though it was more wind and less sand. I am getting used to them now, and appreciate the associated drops in temperature. Perhaps I’m acclimating? Scary thought, but possible. I admit that I still prefer to be too hot than too cold! My skin is quickly getting brown, with some awesome raccoon eyes where my protective ballistic sunglasses usually sit. I’m so happy to have the sun on my face everyday and to be warm all the time.
In other exciting news, I got some additions to my room! The old crew departed for the U.S. this week, and left behind many things. I got a folding camp chair (ah, heaven), a coffee pot, a yoga mat, some plastic drawers for clothes and a MICROWAVE. It really is the little things that make all the difference. All of you who have deployed before know how much I love my handy dandy “new” folding camping chair. Tomorrow, I get to play in the wood shop, and build myself a desk. All in all, a good week. Till next time,