This morning, over at The Road to the Horizon, when I read this post about what it meant to be in the "deep field" and this post about the heart-lurching experience of trying to get out on RnR, I realised that Ghor - like Bor - is deep field.
Enrico's experience of having colleagues in Khartoum look at him in sympathy when they heard he was being posted to Bor is an almost perfect replica of the response I got - and still get - from Kabul (and Herat) based colleagues about Ghor.
Most of the time I disagree with them completely. I don't miss the "conveniences" of Kabul or Herat. Perhaps it is hard to get fruit and vegetables here, and finding "Super Lemon" (the local equivalent of Sprite) in the bazaar this week may have been an exciting event for me, but I feel much more accepted in the local community here and that makes up for an awful lot of missing vegetables.
The remoteness of this post, however, does bite a little bit when it comes to getting in and out of the country for RnR.
We have an airfield here in Cheghcharan, and over the summer, when the ground is dry, we have about a 50/50 chance of having the scheduled weekly flight turn up. In the winter, once the snow sets in, that rate drops considerably. If there is fresh snow on the ground the fixed wing planes cannot land and getting a helicopter up here requires a degree of political wrangling that can only be invoked a few times before you lose all credit - so I figure it is best to save that up for genuine emergencies.
Unlike Enrico, however, if my flight doesn't come there is no viable option for me to drive to the next airfield. The drive to Herat takes two days, as does the road to Bamyan. However, I think that if I was really desparate and I fed the drivers PowerBars and Red Bulls, I could pull off the Bamyan road trip in one very, very long day. Believe me, I've been through this in my head.
On my next leave I'm planning this amazing trip to the States. Getting there is quite an adventure in itself. First I have to get out of Ghor, there is (in theory at least) one flight per week, on Tuesday. This will take me to Herat to collect my pay and some warmer clothes. Then from Herat there should be a flight the next day to Kabul. Another overnight stop in Kabul and then I should (assuming all has gone according to plan so far, which of course it never, ever does) be on a flight the next morning to Delhi. From Delhi - I have just discovered, there is a direct flight to Chicago. Voila - in only four days I should have made it from home to my destination.
But it is almost out of the question that each step of the journey would go that smoothly. So instead of pretending it will and then finding myself, like Enrico, standing on the side of the airstrip wondering what just happened to my leave plans, maybe I would be wiser to drive from Ghor to Kabul. It would take three days and I'd need a security escort and permission from everyone who has a rubber stamp in this organisation. Even then, however, there would still be the risk of breakdowns or road closures due to snow or security.
So I have learned to make contingency plans and even then to hold on to my plans lightly. Be ready to release them if the stars are simply not aligning for me.
When I was on my way to my wonderful yoga retreat in Thailand, I made it all the way to Kabul with no hitch. The day before I was due to fly out I was in the office in Kabul doing some last minute work when the security guard ran in and told us to evacuate immediately, no stopping to gather our handbags, this was not a drill. Indeed it was not a drill. There was a fuel tanker parked outside our compound with an improvised explosive device attached to it. Holy crap. That's all I can say about that.
So we spent the afternoon in the relative security of a neighbouring compound waiting for word that the IED had been diffused and we could go back in. The word never came. We were eventually all told to go home. But wait. My handbag is in the office still. My passport is in my handbag. My flight to Dubai and then to Thailand is leaving tomorrow morning. I need my passport.
There is no way I am allowed back in. So I go home, figure there is nothing to be done for now, agree to go for a drink with a friend and keep my fingers crossed that the IED will be diffused over night. At 5.00am I call our driver and he takes me to the compound. I have never been happier to be allowed into the office. I collect my passport, send out the documents that I had been supposed to send the day before and head happily off to the airport where my favorite RnR travel buddy is making sure the flight doesn't leave without me.
I'll tell you two things I've learned in this country. There is never anything to be gained from fretting about what you cannot control, and it always pays to make back-up plans for your departure on RnR!