The wheels touched down at Kabul International Airport and the raspy voiced pilot announced that we had all safely arrived in Afghanistan, current time 1:15pm. He reiterated the obligatory "please stay in your seat until the fasten seatbelt sign has been turned off" but he must have been speaking a dead language. It impacted no one. Everyone unbuckled and milled about the cabin collecting their military issue rucksacks or tattered parcels wrapped in bed sheets, secured with hemp rope, as the plane taxied to the shelled Kabul Airport. All were either elated to arrive home or devastated to be returning to duty.
Arriving in Kabul for many Afghan people is a return home from a long journey on business, to see family in Pakistan or Iran, or a homecoming from near exile due to the turbulent political and violent conflicts that have mired Afghanistan for decades. For westerners it is another unwanted tour of duty, high paying security contractor job, or middle aged adventure seeker, seeking to make a change in the war zone through one of the copious NGO's and government agencies established to stabilize this amazing land and its diverse and kind population.
For me, when Emirates 640 landed at 1:15pm I took the first breath of semi-fresh, stress free air is far too long. I had arrived at a destination I had been dreaming about for years. My best friend had been living in Kabul and Kandahar the past 5 years working numerous jobs for NGO's and government agencies. We had long talked about me visiting and skiing the north central region of the country called Bamiyan but it had never come to fruition until flight 640 landed.
With ski boots on the ground we were off for another adventure that would reinforce a bond between friends that is so rare in a world of social media, cell phones, text messages, and Skype. We; friends, neighbors, hooligans since the 4th grade, ski buddies since 49 Degrees North had $49 season passes, hell we both received our first passport stamps years ago on the same day, and here we were, once again, on deck to see what the world had to offer us and what we could give in return.
Although it would take pages, maybe a book, at the very least a photo essay, and for the corporate type, an elaborate PowerPoint with Fiji water and gluten free muffins to explain what I saw, felt, and experienced in Afghanistan. But I am resolute in saying Afghanistan, its people; the Pashtun, Hazara, Tajik, Uzbek, the expats, and so many others are kind, giving, fun, and full of grit.
I will return to Afghanistan for it was the best adventure I have ever been a part of and possibly the best month of my life. I am a better person for the experience and a more compassionate individual for continuing to seek how we, humans, fit together on these floating tectonic plates that make up planet Earth.
So in the words of Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller's Day Off I leave you with this:
"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."