I’ve talked about how difficult this process has been moving to Afghanistan. It’s still strange to say it, to realize I’m not on some movie set—I’m far away from home. I could not give up and just walk. For me to actually get home takes over a month of planning. I’m not going anywhere for awhile.
One of the most difficult parts of this journey has been entering the DFAC every day. The DFAC is the chow hall. It’s made up of two kinds of people: contractors and military. We do not really blend. The military is jealous of us (and its members have said this to me) because we make better money and we can go home anytime (within reason, see above). Contractors are jealous of the military because, well, there is no reason. What I’m jealous of when it comes to the military is the camaraderie, the brotherhood and unity.
The military always have someone to sit with in the DFAC. I usually sit alone.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy sitting with the guys I work with, it’s just I see them all the time. And I want to branch out, make some friends. But at 38 years old I feel like the kid in crutches at the new school, or Forrest Gump wandering on to the bus, looking for a seat.
It’s a bit lonely here.
Now in pure geek fashion, I have retreated to the arena of wearing my iPod Shuffle and listening to podcasts.But I hope to sit with someone and have an actual conversation about nearly anything. But the contractors stick to themselves, eat robotically (some have been here in this base for 3 years), and the military have their own jargon and look at me like I’m Joe Privileged.
I am Joe Privileged.
And I have to eat 1,020 meals here in the DFAC (or on another base) and most of them I’ll eat alone, listening to my podcast, watching people laugh and joke at tables. I’m working on sitting with people, making an introduction, being friendly, saying hello, but it’s hard. And coming from my own universe of collegiate housing, I’m looking for “programs” to be a part of. Events where I can just hang out, make some friends.
For example, tomorrow is a poker tournament. I will be there. I will shake some hands, say hello, how are you, my name is Ryan.
It’s just the yearning to be known, the longing to be welcomed and invited to sit and eat is about as primal as you get. And I’m unsure how I’ll adapt to year of this kind of isolation if it doesn’t change. Now, I’m trying, and I don’t expect it to shift over night, but I find myself looking more and more for other podcasts.
Because that is starting to be easier.