Why there is no end in sight

Today, while planning our flight for tomorrow, we get a call at the “office” from one of our troops working out at some new construction; he asked if we had heard a “BOOM”.  Looking at each other in confusion, we responded in the negative and found out that the Afghans had been told to weld a fuel port into a generator fuel tank.  Well, they didn’t take the time to see if the tank was EMPTY and decided to start welding even though there was about 20 liters still inside.  Needless to say, hot welding sparks and fuel don’t mix well and the resulting explosion blew the side completely out of the tank.  Thankfully, not a soul was hurt but the fact that it still took some explaining as to WHY it exploded is an unfortunate example as to why we’re not leaving anytime soon.

I’ll leave you with a picture unrelated to the above story but nonetheless captivating:

And you thought keeping a car clean in dirty snow was hard...

And you thought keeping a car clean in dirty snow was hard...


  1. Randy in Richmond says:

    Growing up my hero was another country boy from Oklahoma, number 7 –Mickey Mantle. Thank you for what you do.

    It appears the Afghans have not learned of the magic triangle: O2, heat, and a fuel that we are taught in elementary school.
    That picture is amazing. It looks like one of the plagues God brought against Egypt.

  2. The Lorax says:

    The photo is great. I’d love to see more.

  3. Your photo gives a whole new meaning to “dust-up”

    Is the problem that the Afghans have been living a primitive lifestyle for so long that they are completely unfamiliar with any sort of technology? (We would probably have a problem surviving in their world as they live without our conveniences.)

  4. I would say it is more of a problem relating to education in many instances, especially for individuals born in and growing up in poverty. These same individuals living in poverty likely do not have much access to technology. Of course, until recently, women had a major problem attaining education, and still face challenges.

    Literacy rates in the country for men are not great to begin with, but for women it is far worse. Literacy issues anywhere in the world leads to lack of opportunities, frustration, and can eventually become a security issue for many nations. We often overlook education as being a national security issue here, but it really is. How many inmates in the United States, can you imagine, struggle with literacy?

  5. I’m going to guess language was a factor here. I assume anybody with a welder’s torch understands about fuel, but there might not be any clear terms for generator or fuel port in his language. If the man spoke Dari, chances are the message he got was to put a part on the “machine.”

  6. VonSteuben says:

    -Randy, I definately don’t deserve a place up there with MM; I’m only doing my job.

    -Lorax: More are on the way

    -To the education issue: It’s really not about education or language as there are many Afghans that are “educated” and we work with translators that are quite good; it is more an issue of desire, motivation and fatalism. I don’t have the time to go into it now (I sense a future post…) but overall, the general consensus among them is “why” or “what’s the point” due to the above reasons as well as the rampant corruption. Again, I’ll speak to this later but I thought I’d put this out there for you all the chew on.

  7. What you say about culture/outlook rings true. I was admiring an ambulance at our local National Night Out event last week, thinking how blessed we are to have a rolling emergency room and first responders who radiate “good guy.” It reminded me of a conversation with an emergency MD a few years ago. The man was from Turkey, and he commented how much work there is do in an ER here vs. in Turkey. I asked why, and he said it’s because the Turkish accident victims were typically DOA.

    Still, I find that languages are just–different. I could probably find 3-6 ways to say “rice” in Persian. If I want to talk about painting something, there is only one word and it means: “color”, “paint”, “primer”, probably even “pigment”. If the translator doesn’t spend a lot of time on context and details, I’m going to end up with four coats of primer and no paint, because when the painter asks if he has the right product, the translator will say “yes, that’s the right color.” My car, my clothes washer, my generator all have the same name in Farsi. It complicates things.