When my co-worker first showed me where I’d be living during this deployment (see example photo—not exact area, but same), my heart sank and I just had to laugh. My first thought was that I was not in Infantry Village as it’s called, but more like the slums of the movie, “District 9.” And then I saw how close I would be living to the outer perimeter fence. Um, seriously? I could throw a rock over the concertina wired-top—and my last name’s not Manning. But ok, I can deal with this. I then saw my match-box sized room. Literally the length of the twin-sized bed and about7 feet wide. No windows. A swinging piece of plywood for a door, a bent nail as my inside door “handle”. And the highlight? An extension piece from the air conditioner that leaks onto my bed, yea!
Fun stuff. But it’s all part of the adventure, right? And it’s all about perspective. My fellow Soldiers have shared with me about the tent housing they live in on smaller posts (I’ve lived in them too as I travel) and when out in the field, they feel lucky when they are the fortunate one to get the spot next to the warm muffler of the vehicle while asleep on the ground. (Yes, I thought about what they are breathing in too!)
Luckily, due to roommates moving, I was recently upgraded room-wise. I now have a room with shelves and a desk built in and my bed is built up high off the ground so I have room under it for more space. I was very happy about this. Now my door handle is an actual hook! I have no leaking water on my bed! Talk about luxury….I was thrilled. Then the next adventure began…mice.
It seemed to happen overnight, but suddenly in the evenings mice could be seen everywhere. I saw one at the bus stop. I saw one run across the floor in the computer lab of the education center. I saw one on the front steps of the BHut next to ours. I then saw one…run under my door and into my room as I’m getting ready for work?! I watched in horror, trying to remain quiet so not to disturb my sleeping roommates on the other side of the plywood walls. He scurried to where my duffle bags are under my bed. But I knew he would find nothing to eat in my room—I cleaned it prior to moving in days before and any snacks I had were stored tightly in containers. I had nothing on the floor for him to hide or bury himself in. He tried to scurry out twice, then looking up at me and darting back under the bed. Finally he built up the courage to skedaddle across the floor like a flash and back under my door. I looked out into the tiny hallway after him but before I could do anything he scurried under my roommate’s door. And there he remained because she was already gone for the day. Two of my roommates and I decided that evening to go get mouse traps from billeting. You see, the mouse is one thing. But it’s what will likely follow him that’s the true scare: cobras.
Just 2 weeks ago Army Preventative Medicine personnel were called to a living area because a 7-foot long cobra had been chasing a mouse for his dinner and had gotten himself lodged in the plastic trap. SEVEN feet long, people! He was chasing a mouse through a mouse trap. Um…I don’t want to look down at my floor to see a cobra slithering across my floor. Another roommate told me about a 10 year old Afghan boy who’d been asleep in bed and bitten multiple times by a cobra and she had helped with his medical care (he survived and recovered perfectly). So we placed the sticky traps (that was our only option, much to the dismay of 2 mouse-loving, kinder-hearted roommates) under our doors and sure enough, 2 days later our little furry friend got stuck on a roommate’s trap. Another roommate released him outside. Hopefully he’ll tell his friends to leave this Hut alone. So far, so good—no more mice have been seen inside the BHut.
No sooner had that little BHut adventure taken place but a new one occurred. One night this past week I was watching a DVD in bed. I felt the bed shake beneath me. Only this time it was much more severe than the normal little shake I get when an armored vehicle rolls by or when someone slams the front door or when a jet rumbles the Hut from a nearby runway. No, this shook my bed much harder and for a longer time. My immediate thought was impact from an explosion (particularly since we’d had 3 in the last week) but dismissed that quickly as the shaking continued more than a couple seconds.
My next thought? Well, let’s just say there aren’t too many possibilities and so my next thought was that my young, flirty civilian roommate had snuck a guy in. Sorry, but I didn’t know what else to think! (I felt much better when I heard from numerous people in the next couple days that they immediately thought the same about their roommates.) I took my headphones off to listen for noises that would help explain the noise. Nothing. Silence. Then about 10 or so seconds later, the shaking stopped. I listened, still nothing. Hmmm…I concluded it was a burst of wind—it had been very windy during the day. It wasn’t until the next morning I learned the shaking had been a 6.2 earthquake about 150 miles away in the Hindu Kush. Ha, being a Texan the possibility of an earthquake never had entered my mind. I’m experiencing many new things here in the mountains of Afghanistan, that’s for sure.
Natosha Monroe is an Army Reserve Mental Health Specialist stationed in Afghanistan. She is a counselor and PhD candidate passionate about increasing Troop access to counseling services. Her blog contents are not representative of the Army or Department of Defense in any way.