The Kandahar summer is hot - over 100 degrees most days, but it is tolerable once you get used to sweating constantly.
My unit is part of a construction battalion. We have been busy building base camps and checkpoints all over southern Afghanistan. It is exciting but tiring work.
The country is poor - in money, and in land. It takes a lot of arduous labor to coax crops from the dry land. Years of poor farming practices and overgrazing have eroded the soil to desert.
The people are poor but resilient. Only the hardiest survive in this climate, through decades of war and generations of poverty. Tali-ban literally means one who is on a journey, but the vast majority of the country are just concerned with surviving, and improving conditions for their children. Once one can get past the cultural diferences, it is easy to see that people are the same here as they are anywhere. Childen still laugh and play; they have yet to learn to hate and kill. Women buy groceries, albiet with their face and body veiled, and men work fields.
Violence is born out of desperation, a sense that there is no alternative, no peaceful way to affect change. There is no forum for public discourse -- no way to voice a dissenting opinion without dire consequences. The modern world of mobility and global communication has disrupted millenium-old tribal traditions. Women wearing burkas living in mud homes may now use cell phones. A day-long trip into town now takes an hour thanks to a second-hand motorcycle.
I think a big source of unrest here and in other developing nations is this rapid change. Western states made this rocky transition over the course of two centuries, countless wars and much social upheaval that finished before most of us were born; Afghanistan will come crashing into the modern world in a quarter of that time. It is not unexpected that they would have trouble with the transition. Each generation will be better adjusted than the last, but progress will likely lag behind the developed world for the foreseeable future.
I pray everyday for the safety of my soldiers, that they return to their families with ten fingers, ten toes and all their wits. I also pray for the future of Afghanistan. I pray the people of this storied nation find peace with each other and find their way into the global community. I pray that the violence ends and people can cease living in fear.
I thank everyone for their support while I was in Afghanistan. Notes from home really mean a lot when one is stationed halfway around the world. Now, we are on to Memphis, Tenn., for new challenges and new adventures. Hope to see you here!