Finding The Beautiful Parts

C-130 in Afghanistan, snow-capped mountains

A soldier wrote to me about the snow-capped mountains in Afghanistan, “it’s too bad we don’t get along, I would love to snowboard there.” Another spoke of a local shopkeeper who served him tea while hand-carving a box he was buying. Yet another told me about a warm encounter in a bread factory in Kabul. These sound like very little things but they made me happy. I was glad that even in a combat zone, these troops still noticed the beautiful parts, whether in nature or simple human connections with strangers.

With all that we know about PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and the real threat strangers can pose, I think retaining the ability to find the beauty around you is important.

Hand-carved box made in Afghanistan

Hand-carved box made in Afghanistan.

Kabul bread factory

This is a story Col. Mike, one of my Cup of Joe soldiers, shared with me:

We inspected a bread factory in Kabul where they make all the bread for the police in the city. The bread factory is in a huge building that was built by the Russians over 35 years ago. They have 5 giant ovens and machinery that mixes the dough. Machinery inside a bread factory in KabulWhen I walked into the bread factory, there were the usual flies and there are birds that fly in through the broken windows pecking at the fresh baked bread! The women who were working there told me about how they wrap their hair with a scarf so their hair doesn’t get in the dough. I told them that I didn’t have that problem and they had a good laugh over that!

The workers shape the bread into different forms, some is flat, others are in loaves and they also make a sweet bread that is my favorite! All the bread tastes great and is a main part of every meal. Most of the workers are women and were very friendly. They were really proud of their work and kept asking me to sample the different types of bread. After every bite, I’d say “Xhoob as!” (That’s good!) and they would just get the biggest smiles on their faces!  When I tried the sweet bread, I said “Beeseyahr xhoob as!!” (That’s very good!)  I think they were just happy to get visitors. Unfortunately, the place was pretty run down and showed the years of use, and the strains of the turmoil over the last 30 years. But in spite of all that, they still made some of the best bread I’ve ever tasted!

Fresh baked bread in a  Kabul bread factory

In spite of all that…

In spite of all that, there are still moments of warmth to be shared and natural wonders to be appreciated. These things may be a small defense against disconnecting and feeling numb from the bigger and more dangerous moments. But as long as these troops are still noticing and connecting, that makes me feel like they’re going to be okay. And that’s a beautiful thing.

19 thoughts on “Finding The Beautiful Parts

  1. Gina, thank you for sharing this. It is good to know that every once in a while there can be a moment of clarity or normalcy in their lives.

  2. I have fond memories of every one of my deployments. It’s a personality thing. If you’re the type to gripe and grouse about everything, then that was a miserable experience. If you’re the type that looks for the best, that chooses to laugh instead of cry, you’re going to find some good. Obviously those are extreme circumstances and a lot of bad can happen, from all sides. Passage of time helps to take the sting out of the bad as well.

    • It’s great that you have fond memories from every tour. And you are very right when you say that personality has a lot to do with it. Many of the troops I’ve “met” have made me laugh. I think the reason the “snowboard” comment struck me the way it did was because this soldier had a few, “bad things happen” in a row and this was the first really positive thing he had mentioned in a while. Since then, these moments stick out to me. Maybe because as a civilian I can relate to them. Or maybe cause it makes me feel like their transition home will be a little easier. I’m rooting for all of you guys and I’ll take a “Yay!” wherever I can find it! And yes, I think time helps a great deal…that’s true for us all.

  3. Regardless of whether two countries are at war, people are still…people. Your post does a nice job of highlighting the fact that beneath all the politics and agendas, we’re human beings who share common interests.

  4. Gina, I think most people want peace and warm human relations. There probably never will be an end to war, but neither will there be a end to the kindness and humanity which transcend it.

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