As a second assignment with the Agency, I think it was really one of the best choices for exercising all that I learned of my work in the prior four years. The responsibility of the portfolios are enormous and the types and degree of problems vary to the extent that one might see more than what many other would see in an entire normal 4 year tour.
"Afghanistan is a great place to learn, but the worst place to train"
This post definitely requires one to know their stuff. Knowledge of regulations, procedures, development programming, and managing the bureaucracy are paramount to effectively implementing programs. But with those key fundamentals, one can come and understand the problems and develop a solution. In infrastructure, for example, no matter how much money was spent for a good design or plan, the conditions on the ground and implementation of the work almost always will experience deviations requiring creative solutions and negotiations to resolve. Throw in political considerations that may foil the most rational or best business decision, and then you really need to put on your thinking cap and work with the team to keep things moving forward. I don't think I could have such an interesting work portfolio and thankful for the colleagues and supervisors that make things manageable.
But despite the long days working, you'll meet a lot of people and really form some good friendships. Plainly, the budget is large and the number of staff is commensurate. And as people are cycling in and out for one year tours, you'll have met and worked with a good number of people in a short period of time.
In normal posts, everyone has an expiration date as they arrive and then move on to their next assignment. This system tends to accelerate the pace you get to know people and creates an environment where people are just more friendly as they consistently must work to establish their social network for where they live. This is especially true in Kabul where you work with the same people whom you'll eat with everyday and with whom you'll hang out with. It's like a summer camp but for adults.
The makeup of people working here are especially interesting. There is a wide variety of people with equally varied backgrounds, stories, and motivations for how they come to work in Afghanistan. That would be an interesting book, I think: The stories of the people of US Embassy Afghanistan.
I still have a long way to go till finishing my time in Kabul and it gets depressing sometimes thinking about how much longer I have. I sometimes feel especially jealous of those whom are able to bring their spouses to work at the Mission as they are then able to live a comparatively normal life together vs. those whom are separated. But all in all, I think this will be valuable experience in the long-run and hopefully I won't have to serve in an assignment like this for long time in the future.
Lots of stream of conscience in this post. This is really a place one must visit to really understand.
|View of Kabul. A city I've yet to really know.|