May 10, 2011.
Dateline: Camp Phoenix, high in the Hindu-Kush Mountains
From: George Shreves, Ambassador to USCENTCOM from BS
Subject: Birds, Trees and Latrines
In the months leading up to my deployment I spent a great deal of time researching the various flora and fauna to be observed in Afghanistan. Especially birds, since most interesting mammals do not generally brave concertina wire and automatic weapons to show themselves to intrepid adventurers. I anxiously awaited my first glimpse of the elusive Corn Crake (crex crex) the giant Honey Buzzard (pernis apivorus), or even the playful Tibetan Sandgrouse (syrrhaptes tibetanus). So far I have seen two birds – a mourning dove and a sparrow. That’s it. A plain old dove and a plain old sparrow. Not even an exotic Dead Sea Sparrow (passer moabiticus), just a plain old House Sparrow (passer domesticus). Bummer. I did get to shooting the shit with the sparrow. He asked where I was from, and I told him Follets. He said he had a cousin that lived under the eaves at BS. Smart-ass.
Oh, well, so much for the birds. As you all know, my consuming passion, my avocation if you will, has always been trees. My love of trees is well known, so of course I was greatly looking forward to seeing the majestic Cedurus Deodara, towering Pinus Longifolia and the exotic Almonds that dominate the landscape. To that end, I have explored every corner of the area and have compiled a list of all the tree species that I have located and identified. Here they are:
That’s it. Two lousy trees. Trees that grow in my own back yard at home! And on top of that, Mahmood the dumpster guy told me he had never seen a mulberry tree before the Americans came. I wonder if that smart-ass sparrow snuck over here and shit out a mulberry seed.
So far, I am bitterly disappointed in my nature research product, but not without hope. Mahmood tells me he saw a strange bird just yesterday. Probably a grackle, but I’m going to check it out.
Lets talk about toilets. In the relative comfort of your stateside homes (and even the restrooms at BS), if one feels the call of nature, one simply sits and relaxes on the porcelain throne, until the defecatory process is complete. Not here. The deranged (or psychopathic) engineers that designed the latrines left approximately 6 inches between the front of the toilet and the door. This arrangement requires a latrine-goer (ha, there’s a pun there) to either sit on the seat sideways or perch like a leprechaun with feet on the seat and arms wrapped around legs. I’m here to tell you that for some reason, sitting sideways to do your “business” goes against every human instinct – if you don’t believe me, try it at home. Now I guess sitting like a leprechaun is OK for some, but if any of you can conjure a mental image of me perched on the throne like the guy off the Lucky Charms box without laughing, I’ll be surprised.
I’m working on an alternate position, but until then I’m doing the best I can with a shitty situation. General Gator has summoned, so I must go. Until next time.