Has it really been that long since I posted? Wow!
The end of pregnancy has brought with it long, activity filled days and forgetfulness (now, where did I put those car keys??). Things are going well, though. I'm still feeing healthy and with each visit to the midwives I am reassured that the baby is doing great. Kate, the midwife that I see most often, always tells me that "we're perfect," which no pregnant woman in her final month can hear often enough if you ask me! Sleep has become a bit more sporadic and the Pea gets bigger and prefers that I work on her time schedule as opposed to the one that the extra-uterine world works on. This is just one of the reasons that I feel blessed to have been able to cut down on my work hours throughout the pregnancy. It gives me the time to "do what I need to do" to take care of myself, which often means taking a nap around Tea Time. So, we're on the 4 week countdown :)
George and I have been fortunate enough to talk on the computer almost daily for the last two weeks. He's generally wrapping up his day around my lunch time and we chat for sometimes 1-2 hours. The "real time" communication does a lot to keep us updated on each other's lives, but it also really helps us feel more connected. So, we can each get our fair share of harassment in ("Uh, babe, did you get your weapon cleaned today?..no? Why not?....How about your laundry? and..."Nik, you're a little punchy today, did you take a nap? ....no...well, maybe you should head to bed for a bit and rest the Pea's pod.") It's great!
I am planning on working next week and then heading to an amazing ashram in Buckingham, Virgina for a 4 day silent retreat. I've participated in a 10 day retreat before heading to graduate school and it was a memorable experience. I'll put me in a great space to focus and assist with a easeful, peaceful delivery. After my return I'll make a better informed decision on when to actually stop working.
I hope that this posting finds everyone doing well. I deeply appreciate the word of encouragement and support. Feel free to give me a ring!
Here is Geo's latest:
Dear Family & Friends,
The weather has been nice and there is a lot of green. The Afghans say that this is unusual, but there has been a 10-year drought. In some areas, the Mullahs are looking at the beautiful spring as a sign from Allah.
Things are pretty much business as usual here. We sort of had a two-day weekend because in addition to the usual Fridays off for the Afghans, which we usually enjoy too, they also took last Saturday off because it was the Prophet Muhammed's Birthday.
1SG Walter has been doing a lot to improve the quality of life at our camp. We have a barber here twice a week, today Finance is here for guys who want cash, and we get mail and newspapers (Stars & Stripes) regularly.
There was a MEDCAP (Medical Civil Assistance Program) Thursday and Friday that many of our guys volunteered to assist in. It was right outside the back gate of the ANA's camp, and almost 4,000 villagers were seen (see attached photo, the near woman in the burqa was brought to the MEDCAP in a wheelbarrow). These are really for temporary care, often dispensing only drugs for what ails people at the time, but a couple of people were sent by ambulance from the MEDCAP to the hospital.
The parade practice is really ramping up for our ANA brigade, and they spend a lot of time marching in formation. We found out today that a large group of them will be driving armored vehicles in the parade, even though they are not qualified to operate their systems. While we often view this as a "dog & pony" activity, the truth is that the Afghans are very proud of their multi-cultural army, and they want to be able to showcase the Army in their country and around the world. Thankfully, the parade is at the end of the month, and then we can really focus on training them.
This coming week we will be receiving a French Army ETT on the brigade team. We met some of their soldiers this past week, and although I am sure that we will have to work through some cultural challenges, the soldiers come from their elite parachute unit and are highly experienced and qualified. One of the Master Sergeants with their group has had 15 deployments (they usually only last 6 months though). We will train and integrate them into the team the week after next.
I am glad to see that some people have registered for our new FRG website. I hope that we will be able to share a lot more information with each other using that.
GEORGE M. SCHWARTZ
1st Brigade, 201st Corps (ANA ETT)