KEVLAR AND KABUL          - 12/10/2010      <--Prev : Next-->

When our youngest daughter invited me to go shopping with her, I had no idea that the shopping list was going to include a Kevlar Vest !! Now I know many women the world over have precious offspring in combat zones but this little creature is only five feet tall and weighs 50kgs !! So her bullet proof vest weighed nearly as much as she did.

It was a heart stopping month. HeeHoo was stoically brave and supportive, knowing full well, having brought up this girl child, that there was no way on earth he would get her to change her mind.

Embedded with the US Marines for three weeks and a week in that most exciting of cities Kabul, her destination was Afghanistan one of the most dangerous countries in the world, so naturally we were horrified.

The camera equipment she and cameraman Mesh were taking, took up their entire travel weight allowance, so a lot of thought went into the packing.There were tense moments as Mom tried to advise on what kit to take but fortunately friend Seruscha, an ardent backpacker herself, came to the rescue and tossed out many unnecessary items !!

Other shopping purchases included the compulsory head scarves and the important burqa without which a mere woman would not dare venture anywhere in this sad war torn country. The head scarves and giant sized helmet were vital as they doubled as protection from the fine talcum powder sand which encroached on every corner and crevasse of one's body, camera and computer equipment. Many things were learned along the way.

Things like "do not believe the sleeping bag label" If it says warm to minus five degrees it is lying, no sleeping bag is ever warm enough in the desert. !!

We learned to take care when choosing ones back pack, a tiny frame needs a tiny backpack no matter how much one needs to stuff into it !!

We learned that only one pair of ankle high waterproof boots is necessary plus a pair of Bata patta patters for the shower. We learned that good socks are more important than any single item of clothing.

We learnt that when one is clearing land mines, that its not easy for a five foot nothing person to step in the exact footprints of the six foot four man in front of you !!

Another thing learnt in a war zone is that one never has enough ear plugs. In Hellmand province deep in the southern war zone, detonations occur several times a day, and a helicopter descent needs just as much ear protection. We watched with disbelief as our petite war correspondent with her long blond hair, packed ballistic goggles in favour of shampoo !!

We read her e-mails in open mouthed amazement as our little princess told us of her bathing procedure - no showers in the the far south, and a maximum allowance of two bottle of water per day for ablutions !! (Three bottles on hair washing day !!)

We read with mirth her stories of the toilet provision. A wooden seat over a hole !! Whoever invented "Wag bags" had a sense of humor..

Also called "Disposa John" or portable restrooms, they comprise two foil and plastic ziplock bags, a couple of pieces of toilet tissue and an antibacterial wet wipe. All very difficult when you are the only woman on base and followed by the ignominious "walk of shame" right through the centre of the male dominated camp, carrying ones most obvious plastic bag to the "burn pit".

One blessing in a desert is that sand is soft, so sleeping is more comfortable than on a rocky surface, but there is nothing on earth that will keep out the sand fleas !! Make up ? Well anyone who knows TV journalism understands that make up is all important when doing "pieces to camera" but even the kohl eyeliner went into the bin after a while as there were many other items to prioritize in the weight of the back pack !!

We learnt that "MREs" or "Meals ready to Eat" should be renamed as "Meals Reluctant to Exit" and that the brooklax chewing gum provided therein was in fact the most sought after food.. We learned of the terribly sad way that women are treated in many of these biblical regions, where the majority of the women live in the shadows covered from head to toe, uneducated and ignored and the animals are treated better than the womenfolk.

We learned that some of the young men on the front line in the army need much more support from their families that they are getting, so please spread the word...

It was a long month for mother whose knees were worn out at the end of it all. We sent off to Assignment Afghanistan a feisty blond princess with a taste for luxury, and got back a month later, a determined and capable young woman with hair like mattress coir and shredded feet. !!

Thank you God.