Monday, May 21, 2018

Life on a NATO Base

Life on a NATO Base from authenticcollaboration.org #teachingabroad #military #afghanistan
For the last month, I have been stationed at a NATO base in Kabul. There may be changes down the road as our education program expands, but I have been happy to be settled here for a while. The base itself seems to be run primarily by Turkish forces, along with British and US forces as well.

I'm getting much better at identifying the uniforms of each of the different NATO nations. There are soldiers here from Australia, Germany, Slovakia, Macedonia, Denmark, France, Norway, Ukraine and many more. There are also several non-NATO nations that are also here in partnership with Resolute Support. There are contingencies of Georgian and Mongolian soldiers and I'm sure there are even more nations that I haven't met yet.

There are two Dfacs (dining facilities) on base. One is an American one and the other is Turkish. I've been eating at the Turkish Dfac most recently because I find the food much more flavorful. If I ever get tired of eating at the Dfac, there are a couple of restaurants on base that I can try out, including several coffee shops, a Lebanese restaurant, a Thai place, a Mexican café, a Pizza Hut and a Burger King. There's also a small PX that sells some basic snacks, along with a small number of toiletries and household items.

There are a variety of housing facilities on base, ranging from basic tents to two-story brick buildings. Your housing assignment depends in part on how long you will be staying on base. Generally speaking, the transient accommodations are not quite as comfortable as the long-term assignments. I'm currently housed in one of the nicer, brick buildings on base. Our rooms are about the size of your average shipping container, shared with one roommate. Almost everyone here has at least one roommate or more.

There is a full service laundry facility that will wash and dry your clothes along with a self-service laundromat if you're interested in washing your own. Many of the larger countries have a space for soldiers to gather and relax - for the US soldiers, there is the USO with a bunch of movies, video games, board games and American snacks. There's also an MWA that is open to all with table tennis, foosball, pool and a mini-internet café. There's also a community center that hosts religious gatherings (along with the occasional movie night) and a beautiful mosque on base as well. 

When I'm not teaching, I usually spend my time reading or hitting up the gym. Given that the Dfacs are all-you-can-eat, I try to make it to the gym as often as I can. The gym is not so different from gyms stateside, except for the fact that it is housed in a couple of giant tents. The also have an informal gym set up next to one of the outdoor soccer fields. This outdoor workout space is affectionately known as the 'prison yard' and seems to be best suited to those who are really into Crossfit and enjoy throwing big tires around. I'll probably stick with the tent gym.

I'm getting used to the constant whir of helicopter blades and the occasional rumble of MRAPs. I've never been to the UN before, but I imagine it might feel somewhat like life on a NATO base, apart from the military overtures, of course. I enjoy being surrounded by dozens of languages and cultures every day. There are so many opportunities to learn and I look forward to taking advantage of them in the months to come!

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