This was my fourth Christmas away from home in the last five years. Sure, I’m not a real Christmassy guy. I’m not a Christian and I think a real tree is a pain in the ass. I deplore shopping at the best of times but the crowds of Christmas shoppers, madly searching with their desperate eyes as they clutch bags of Chinese made shit that they would never buy for themselves and their absolute inability to get the fuck out of my way, make me hate the human race…yeah, even more than usual. The one year I did try and do something extra Christmas decoration-y for the kids I ended up taking down a sun bleached plastic Santa and reindeer in April. But…
I like being with my wife and kids when no one has to work or go to school. I like having a little (or maybe a lot) too much to drink with friends I don’t see often enough. I actually like buying the perfect gift for people and seeing their reaction to it. (Yeah…I said buying…not to be confused with shopping. I carefully decide what to get someone then just go fucking buy it…in and out.) Christmas is the season when all the people I like and love have agreed to kick back and just relax, visit and overindulge.
I’ll digress for just a minute here for anyone who might be thinking “Hold on there a second! You said you’re not a Christian! Why would you celebrate Christmas if not because of the birth of baby Jesus?” Well, first off…see above. I don’t need to believe in any supernatural gobble-de-goop to enjoy any of that stuff. It’s a completely secular holiday to me. Second, I grew up with these traditions…it’s part of my culture. And third, listen to my favourite Christmas carol; if that doesn’t capture what your Christmasses are about…then they must suck.
In KAF, Christmas is, to a large extent, just another day. Oddly, the Taliban don’t celebrate it. I suspect this is because they’ve been naughty so they realize that all they could expect is coal in their stockings even if they did hang them. So the war goes on. There are many efforts to encourage the Christmas spirit around here, however…
The first sign of Christmas in KAF this year was the arrival of cranberry sauce at the Northline salad bar…oddly, it was only there at breakfast. Don’t get me wrong, I fucking love cranberry sauce…but on my eggs? As Christmas approached, L produced, seemingly out of thin air, a box of that British Xmas treat…mince pie. Don’t ask what’s in them…you don’t want to know…just chow down and be content knowing that, in only 4 of these tiny pies, you can get your entire daily sugar requirement along with 1/2 of your fat needs.
The Big Day
On Christmas day, most of the DFACs served a DFAC version of a traditional Xmas dinner between about noon and three. As we were working at providing a better future for the Afghan people, D, K, C, L, R, and I had our turkey at the Northline. Once again, the primarily Indian servers were dressed for the occasion, sporting festive Santa caps. They’re good sports…Many of them are likely Hindu or Muslim so that cap must look pretty ridiculous to them. I can only imagine how bemused, confused and somewhat embarrassed I’d feel if I had to wear a Diwali themed hat to work.
The turkey was incredibly adequate as was the stuffing. The mashed potatoes were, as usual, a bit of a soupy mess. The sweet potatoes were pretty good if somewhat undercooked and the cranberry sauce was great…even without eggs. A little added bonus was the sparkling grape juice. Except for the taste and complete absence of alcohol it was just like wine…i.e. it was purple. I’m sure there are those who appreciated the thought but, just for the record, here’s my official ranking of drinks: 1. Beer 2.Rye 3. All other liquor 4. Wine 5. Water 6. Diet Coke 7. Juice 8. Poo pond water 9.Non-alcoholic beer 10. Non-alcoholic wine.
Ok, maybe my heart is three sizes too small but as soon as I heard the live band playing Christmas carols, I desperately wanted to yell “SHUT THAT BLOODY BOUZOUKI OFF!”. This all stems, of course, from the trauma I suffered as a Woolco employee 32 years ago. At the beginning of November each year, they would start playing Muzak Christmas carols over the store speakers. They had a two hour loop of them. I worked 8-10 hour shifts 5 days/week. You do the math. Parum-pa-fucking-pum-pum…ugh.
Yeah I know, there are people who get right into all the Christmas hoo-de-doo. Even K, who cultivates a grumpy, ol’ army guy image, was sporting a flashing Santa hat and decorating his office with lights and shit. My office decorations consisted of a 1 foot plastic tree duct taped to the top of coat rack that the Canadian military left behind. A dragged it out of the storage room before going on leave so he can put it the fuck back upon his return. Anyway, the Yanks at the next table got into the spirit and sported the festive paper hats that Northline had provided. I did not.
We had dinner at the Monti that evening. Hardly worth mentioning except that I suppose the DFACs used up all their good stuff for the earlier meal. You can tell the menu is pretty unappetizing if, after about 5 minutes, you’re still wandering around with an empty tray and run into your coworker with a similar dearth of comestibles. “It’s all shite” L grumbled as she pessimistically trudged by me, foodless, for the second time.
There were a couple of highlights of our Christmas evening meal, however. Along with Dan’s “French fry flavoured egg roll”, I gotta give props to the melon carving guy or gal. I can’t even cut an even slice of bread so how one does this shit is beyond me. Heck, I wouldn’t expect the DFAC guys to have even heard of Zeus or Aquaman…much less be able to carve them into melons. Awesome!
A big thanks to JA for spearheading our XMas celebrations. When he suggested that we have a BBQ and see about getting permission for 2 beers each, I thought “Fuck, this’ll be a pain in the ass” but quickly realized that JA, as our only non-ex-military (and youngest) employee, wouldn’t recognize the old “Excellent leadership opportunity” ploy which is, essentially, a way to dump all the work and responsibility onto the guy who has the good idea. Wisely, he quickly enlisted the assistance of L who pretty much knows how to get anything done on KAF. He got permission from COMKAF for the beer and, with L’s help, got it flown in from Dubai. At $378 for 24 beer ($36 for the beer + $342 duty, taxes and shipping) it’s a good thing the company picked up the tab. We got together with our Australian military friends and had a great night talking about how much we would like to have more than 2 beers.
Prior to the beer call, the Aussies invited us for a game of cricket. It’s no more understandable a sport if you actually play it. It was disturbingly reminiscent of the shuttle run fitness test I had to do each year in the Air Force. I kept hitting the ball and think I was doing pretty good…gamely running back and forth whenever an Aussie told me to. I started to get really winded, however, and that familiar “Fuck, I can’t breathe; am I gonna throw up?” from my shuttle running days started to creep up on me. Finally, the reasons for which I remain blissfully ignorant, an Aussie told me I was “out”. Panting, I started to hobble to the sidelines. “Hold on, there mate. You’re still up” I’m inexplicably told. What the fuck? “I’m out but I still have to bat and run?”, I ask which elicited some completely unintelligible explanation involving woozles, googlies or some such. Yup, I hate that fucking sport.
The next night, JA, assisted by Ski and Donny (they’re leaving so no more incognito for them), laid on one hell of a good BBQ, Ski wrapped the DFAC supplied turkey breast in bacon and foil. It was the first moist turkey I’ve had here. I, along with a few others, agreed to shave our heads if JA managed to raise more than $1000 in our charity raffle. The fucker raised over $1200. Yeah, it had to be the coldest night of the Afghan year when I lose my lustrous locks. Before the shave, I commented that “I don’t have the right shape of head for this. My ears are too big.” As the deed was done, D said “Yeah, your head isn’t the right shape for this” and L chimed in with “I see what you mean about the ears.” Thanks for the words of encouragement, assholes. Someone came up with the ridiculous idea of drawing a name to see who got to cut my hair. Tom (who’s now left KAF) won. He seemed to think that because his wife is a hairdresser that he’d know what the fuck he was doing with an electric razor. He didn’t. Thanks to one of the Aussie guys for cleaning up Tom’s butchery so I now look merely ridiculous rather than shabby and ridiculous. The prize for the two raffle winners was the right to select which charities would get the money. Legacy and Beyond Blue are both receiving over $600…I guess that makes having to wear a toque, for both warmth and dignity, worth it
New Years Eve consisted of an online game of scrabble, correcting people commenting on internet news sites who were wrong, and going to bed around 9:30. Not much to celebrate…New Year? Pffft. I knew that no matter what the calendar says, it’s still 680 CE in Afghanistan.
I’d rather be home at Christmas.
“Some of the hymns that they sing have nice chords but the lyrics are dodgy” – Tim Minchin