about   |   writing   |   archives

Today’s Office: Layered Security

Mazar e Sharif: today's office

The great thing about layered airport security is that you get to meet the same people over and over and over.

Today I get to eavesdrop on the minutia of the American who wore a shirt large enough to accommodate a bullet proof vest, and his compatriot who whispered to no-one in particular “this is just like basic training” as we hung onto the frame of an open shuttle bus door en route to the international terminal

This is just like basic training.

But training for what?

“There was a Major in Fort Bragg that could speak about 8 languages – Dari, Pashto, Russian, Mandarin Chinese all the difficult ones – he could be in a room with different people and switch between them without pausing.”


“Yeah, Amazing”

“He could absorb new languages like that, it was scary”

“It’s not about intelligence – some people have it, others don’t. I know some smart people who really struggle with it – take Brad, months in and he still doesn’t get it”

“My wife struggles with English on the phone sometimes, and my Arabic is not good enough either. We have to be in the same room for it to work”

“What lanaguages to they speak at the Bureau in Cairo?…”

I walk up to a guard who waves me back to an imagnary line. “Wait there”

By the time we shuffled through the forth checkpoint their conversation had moved on, and my mind drifted to the coming weeks of meetings and presentations and conferences and client pitches and hotels with showers that work and electricity that doesn’t cut out and bread that is round not flat, and where the sounds that travel over the compound wall don’t include imams, helicopters or hand-pulled ice cream carts. I’ll miss the opportunities for conversations that I couldn’t have elsewhere but I won’t miss the razorwire.

Every trip needs a bit of decompression. This is mine, right here.