Friday, February 4, 2011

Afghanistan Through My Eyes - smells

The smells of Afghanistan gave it a ribbon of foreign taste.

The flight into Kabul from Dubai filled with Afghan men smelled liked goat. But not in a bad way. It was warm and cozy. I could understand a goat herder wanting to snuggle down in the cold with the warm animals and sleep under a blanket stars.

Inside the Military Base in Kabul it smelled like snow. The ground was damp from the cold humid air. The earth still warm from the fall smelled like the fresh unspoiled dirt of a farm with jagged rock mountains rising up behind.

Camp Leatherneck was about 30 degrees warmer. It smelled of jet fuel and dust. Planes, helicopters and jets were landing and taking off twenty-four hours stirring up the find khaki colored sand. Some roads had been oiled which added to the machine shop smell.

When I got out of the dusty convoy at Camp Spenghar it smelled like someone was grilling chicken. The warm sun beat down upon the rock road created at the entrance and the smoky fire smelled so good I commented. Then I was informed it was the burn pit. They burned all the refuse. After I heard that I could detect a sour note in the smell. From then on the smell became distasteful. The other distinct smell of Spenghar was plywood curing in the sun. Plywood barracks had been built within the compound.

The air was so pure and clean deep in Helmand Province you could smell the earth being tilled from the nearby farmers and the grilling of beef kabobs for their dinner.

When I sat on the bench I occupied from noon until 3:30 when the sun disappeared, the sun kissed my face and I smelled the cigarettes of the Marines. I'd close my eyes and huffed the mud brick compound. I tried to smell the blood that had been spilled and imagined the smells of past Afghanistan and felt that nothing had changed in hundreds of years.