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Monday, August 25, 2008

Combat Missions and Mud Storms

The Afghanistan National Water Polo Team tryouts definitely did not go as planned today. The 201st Corps of the Afghan National Army, which resides on the Pol-e-Charki Base, was deployed on a mission to fight the Taliban (Which are called the “enemy of Afghanistan” by all Afghans I encounter). It was a hectic day, trying to get the 201st Commando Kandak (Batallion), that I mentor, out the door for the mission.

With no Afghan soldiers or commandos attending today’s tryouts, it will be difficult to remain objective and will seem unfair to the “civilians” trying out. What if a civilian does not make the team but one of the soldiers do make the team? The “civilian” will complain that the tryouts are unfair and that the soldier was not even there to tryout. We will just have to see how the rest of the week works out. After yesterday's incident, who knows how this will come together.

What may be perceived as lucky for someone, it was unlucky for us with the tryouts. The Pol-e-Charki Base Commander, will not let any of the civilians on the base today because of security concerns. At first it was implied to me that he just did not want to go through the security screenings like yesterday but when I went with Reshad to speak with him, he told us that he was not allowing any visitors to the base because of security reasons. That sounds fair to me, he has to protect all personnel on the base. The Base Commander also offered us to stay and have tea. Because of my track record in the past with him (Of not staying to drink tea. Maybe that has been the reason why he has been not letting civilians onto the base), I quickly thanked him for the offer and we sat down with him and drank tea.

Even if there were no missions for the Afghan National Army, the potential of the other athletes feeling that it is unfair that the soldiers did not tryout and their expectations of having better placement on the team, and that the Base Commander did not let the civilians on the base, the tryouts would not have even commenced. At about 2:30 PM, a wicked dust storm came out of nowhere. It was no ordinary dust storm, I would venture to call it a mud storm. It started with a lot of wind and the clouds started moving in. Then it started to hail heavily, with pieces of hailstones ranging in size from small specs to pieces the size of a child’s hand clenched in a fist. As the hail was pelting down, I was getting stung on all areas of my body by these hailstones. The hail soon turned to rain. A few seconds after, dust started flying everywhere. This dust mingled with the rain and mud, the size of raindrops, started falling everywhere, to include all over my body as I was walking, and now running, from the Commando Kandak S-1 to the Special Forces compound where I lived. The distance of these two points is only about 300-400 yards. That is how quickly the storm went from nothing to mud. My arms and head had some red marks afterwards from the hail, I was filthy from the mud rain, and in about five minutes time, it started to flood all over the base. Huge puddles filled level areas, and the river bed that runs dry through the base this time of year was halfway filled with rushing water. It was at least seven or eight feet deep in such a short amount of time. It has been raining all evening and it does not look like it will let up soon.

I hope that any and all of these issues do not happen again this week. Since Ramadan starts next week, and pools are not open from that time until next summer, it will not be good if we cannot complete the national team tryouts. Even though we are looking for those who are fast and strong, we are especially looking for those who will be great teammates, have the desire to do something great for their country, and those we feel will be able to pick up the fundamentals of the sport with ease and be able to continue building themselves as individuals and as a team.

We will see where tomorrow leads us.

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