A new day begins and with it likely a new adventure; just like every day. I talked in a previous post about the start of RIP/TOA (Relief in Place / Transition of Authority); today the process will be finalized and the day will be capped off with a ceremony. We anticipate many unit commanders will be present from the surrounding area as well as the heads of Afghanistan medical command. Our FST is an important part of the larger medical chain and many take interest in our success; RIP/TOA assures a seamless transition between teams. Fortunately we have been on the slow side of trauma during this process to acclimate to our new environment, but we know this can change at any time. Personally, I’m a little stir crazy at the moment and look forward to getting busy. I feel like I’ve been on vacation and it’s getting old and worn. Let’s break this rusty cage and move on.
Last night I had an interesting experience. The base has a “Stress Relief Center” (SRC) for soldiers. One of the many options offered is massage therapy, and if you know me that not going to go unnoticed. I scheduled an appointment with the expectation of previous experiences; did I forget I’m in Afghanistan? I entered a make shift house that was badged with a sign in bright red letters “THE SPA”. “THE SPA” happened to be located in the central portion of the FOB near the airstrip. An Asian lady with very poor english greeted me at the desk, had me sign in and directed me to a chair in the waiting room; asian pop music in the background, a sign on the wall says “Relaxation Massages”. As I wait I notice about 3 other women in the facility. Interestingly each woman seemed to be of a completely different nationality and by the looks of it their accent and language matched. As I sat there I noticed each of the ladies used english as the language they communicated with; the problem was they were all bad at it so every conversation turned into a frustrated rant in their native language; it was pretty entertaining. After about 5 minutes an older blond lady approaches me and introduces herself to me in a very thick Russian accent. Her name was Olga, and she was a burly old Russian. She leads me through a door into a large room that was separated into smaller rooms by white linen sheets that hung from the ceiling. She used hand signs to direct me to a selected room; her english was very poor. Once inside she pointed to the bed and left. Five seconds later she quickly opens the door and in her broken english says “Please leave shorts on”. I guess some are expecting a happy ending so she feels the need to address it; I almost laughed. I undress, lie on the massage table and await her return. While waiting I can’t help but notice the surrounding sounds that emanate from the other white linen rooms. Sounds of massage therapists beating backs, the occasional vocal wince from someone during their massage and tacky Asian music filled the air. Minutes later there is a knock on the door and Olga returns. She starts the massage and not 2 minutes into it a C-130 lands on the airstrip. The building shakes, the Asian music is drowned out in deafening prop blast; but Olga continues like it was never even noticed. I don’t know what the C-130 schedule was but like a well-rehearsed act the planes landed about every 10 minutes during my hour long massage. In the end Olga was excellent; I’ll just remember to bring earplugs to my next relaxation massage and check the C-130 schedule.
After a day devoid of trauma it is almost time for the RIP/TOA ceremony. It’s still 110 degrees outside; right where we will be standing in formation for the 45 min to 1 hour the event takes. Prior to the event the other surgeons and I socialized with the people that mattered. We were trying to forge a relationship so that if we needed something in the future we were on first name basis. After 20 minutes of rubbing elbows we proceeded outside to the inferno. I’ve used the phrase “Hot as Hell” in a post previously about Kuwait; guess what it’s still “Hot as Hell”. Maybe the raw Temperature is not 126 degrees but 110 degrees with humidity had me fantasizing about ice cubes falling from the heavens above all over my body. I would love to describe to you what I was thinking about every speaker as they kept us baking in the sun, but I’ll take the higher road this time; I just smiled. We finished after an eternity and headed back into the now “near erotic” air conditioned FST. Our ceremonious group then headed to the DFAC (cafeteria) for an exclusive dinner of military grade mashed potatoes and mystery meat; only the best and nothing less.
I’m calling it a night, talk to you tomorrow.
P.S. I miss my beautiful family