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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Biting creature turns girl into boy.....

I'm here in the office, I've lost track of what day it is and I'm waiting for my first patient to arrive. I'm pretty sure it is monday.

I'm now slowly morphing out of my London life, no sexy dresses and high heels here; I find myself blending in with the blokes. I've got my 5.11 tactical trousers on (they had to have them tailored for me, so I'm now wearing a pair of mens trousers but with short legs) lets just say they're a bit long in the crotch and therefore look a bit like clown pants - v glam. Anyway, it doesn't really matter here and pseudomilitary clothing is considered normal. So the butch side of me is getting way out of control :).

I did have a body armour vest made for a woman (slightly more space at the front) but as I don't have much to put in it anyway I've now got one of the guys' hand me downs which is much lighter and much more comfortable. Many years ago Bonnie Langford was playing Peter Pan in Pantomime, she had to have her ample chest strapped down and I remember thinking what a good idea that seemed. Luckily my Chinese grandmother seems to have counteracted the larger chested celtic side of the family and I've no need to strap.

It's strange, in a way, as I feel quite at home, though I know that life here for most of my friends back home would seem like one hellish choice to have made. I'm happy comparing kit with the boys and I don't have to discuss pop stars or celebrity gossip or other 'girly' topics that have never really excited me.

As I lay in bed last night, the generator had stopped and the power was off - I'd just been wandering the house with my head torch on, and now I was wondering about fate and why it seems that one is made for particular things. Happiness or satisfaction in life seems partly to do with whether you can match what you were made for with where you end up. All the advice, well meaning or not, from family, friends, teachers and work colleagues doesn't make a bit of difference if they don't know you. They can tell you what they might want for you, what they project upon you, or what might be beneficial for them, but it takes a very wise person to see what it is that you need, to be able to say that what might really suit you may be quite different from what everyone else expects. Oh, and don't worry, I'm not about to come out of the closet, if that's what you're thinking ;)

All my life that I've planned for a less than easy environment. For a good couple of years as a child I refused to go to bed without underwear on just in case I got kidnapped during the night. I was of course immune to my mother's protests that it was unhygienic to sleep in your underwear. I just couldn't bear the idea of being taken out through the bedroom window, night dress billowing and no clean pants.

You might say that this is a sign of neurosis rather than just being prepared but still, thinking back on the things I liked best, really it was the torches and the pen knives, the CB radio and the camping kit that I preferred, and I'd hate it when relatives would buy me something pink and girly and my brother something that was actually useful. Saying that though, I was also probably the only tom boy who also loved makeup and was very happy climbing trees outside the house in my electric blue miniskirt from Tammy Girl, leg warmers and full 1980's kohl black eyes and electric blue mascara. So although I'm now kitted out like a boy, I hope that I can retain some of my femininity.

Although 80's fashion is back in London, the interpretation here is less than desirable; local fashion for young Afghans is skin tight stone washed jeans with lots of zips everywhere, a leather jacket and slip-on pointed cowboy shoes - everyone here looks like a dodgy Essex geezer.

For women it's much more difficult to say as they are much less visible; the younger ones are obviously really into fashion though clothing cuts tend to be long and not figure hugging so there's not a lot of variation on that front, and then there is the ubiquitous headscarf and the blue burkha. According to one of our drivers there is a place in town a street where the shops sell only burkhas, different designs for the embroidery and now some variation on the pale blue that was the only colour allowed previously under the taliban. I asked the driver if this seemed like a slightly scary concept - the street of burkha sellers... he is young and he seemed to think it was a bit scary. In my heart I was able to joke because I do not have to wear one and cannot imagine what being made to wear one would be like. In my liberal upbringing I don't think I've ever been made to wear anything more stressful than a school uniform and even then there was freedom of expression in the way that you wore your tie, your shoes, your hair.

At the Afghan Military Hospital I spotted one of the American's arriving in a burkha, all that was visible were her tan desert combat boots poking out of the bottom. I look forward to a time where Afghan fashion is truly resurgent, there are some amazing fabrics, beautiful designs but very rarely do we get to see them displayed and worn in all their glory. Pride and bearing are strong parts of being Afghan, it's one of the things that you notice about the men, they are masculine even when cycling a bike, a heavy blanket casually draped in a wrap around them. They do not wear track suits for leisure and they are not fat and lazy. The women too have presence but for many it's a confused presence; they are not themselves sure what their profile should be outside the home (or at least where I encounter them) and it hurts me that they are often so subservient and silent, as if they are safer if noone notices them.

I haven't seen or heard the cat for a few days now, but the food is always gone when I go to feed him so something must be eating it.... Maybe I should lie in wait and find out...

I got some really bad bites in bed the first night I got here, I thought either bed bugs or fleas. I've no idea what it was that bit me but must have been a little bit venomous as have a spray of wheals like a triffid strike across my left flank that just won't go away and they hurt. I'm just hoping that the skin there doesn't decide to fall off as that would be a rather boring present for christmas.

We are planning a roof top Braai (barbecue) and will hopefully go shopping for meat and stuff - cooking outside in the snow will be an interesting experience but better than being stuck in doors all day. Christmas falls on a friday this year so it's everyone's day off here. There are not that many expats left in country as most people are out for Christmas and the New Year. I'm trying to round up any orphan ex pats who have not much to do. We have a Wii here so what more could a person want than a barbecue, maybe a beer or two and an excited gathering of South Africans, Brits and Philipinnos round a Nintendo Wii? I think they thought I was being particularly British when I suggested playing sardines. I'm now going to have to put up with endless jibes about singing God save the Queen and listening to the Queen's speech on Crimbo day!

So for now, I'll continue to cause a stir by putting on my makeup in my combats whilst sitting at the ops room table; waterproof mascara is a must for any hostile environment.

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