I actually had a nice Birthday here in Afghanistan, spread over two days! My birthday began in the middle of working a night shift in the ICU. I was caring for a 10 year boy with severe nausea and vomiting after having his stomach repaired. He had a fragment wound to his stomach from an IED blast. He was so cute and we kept laughing, trying to figure out what we were saying to each other in our own respective languages. He was only allowed small sips of water, but one time, when I had my back turned, I caught him sneaking out of bed and grabbing a water bottle from the bedside table. He poured himself a new cup of water and feverishly guzzled it down! Then he just looked at me with a big smile on his face. He would try to have full conversations with me as if I understood exactly what he was saying. He went from feeling very sick to looking 10 times better by morning, so he helped keep my spirits up when I had to pick up a second patient who had his brains blown up by an IED.
Once off work, my friend Brenda and I went to the Dutch restaurant called All Season’s Café where she treated me to dutch pancakes. Unfortunately, they were all out of syrup and the pancakes weren’t anywhere near as good as Dutch Mother’s in Lynden, WA, but it was nice to sit and chat on this sunny morning and, hey, what else can you expect in Afghanistan? At least pancakes are an option. Then I went home and slept for a few good hours. On my way to work, I stopped off at one of the jewelry shops on the Boardwalk where, a couple days earlier, I had seen a necklace I really liked. The shop owner had actually set aside the necklace for me, “just in case you decided to come back for it,” he said. I guess he knew I liked so much that he assumed I would come back to get it. It is made of Topaz pear-cut stones with small Tourmaline teardrop shaped stones in between and then uncut garnet, my birthstone, running up each side to the back. All three of these gems are mined here in Afghanistan.
After my jewelry purchase, I went to work only to find out that I was given the night off because they had enough nurses! My friends Sherry and Sydney, both getting off day shift, took me back to All Seasons for Near Beer and cheesecake. We sat on the overstuffed leather couches in the middle of the restaurant and chatted for a while. I showed them my necklace and, Sherry, who has become somewhat of an expert at buying jewelry around here, said that she thinks I got a good deal!
Later that night, back in my room, I was able to talk to Thomas, who was working in Seattle because it was daytime there. This is when I received the best birthday gift yet; Thomas told me that his request for a transfer to the Bellingham area was approved and the official report date is set for February 28th! This means that we are permanently moving back to Bellingham to live in our beautiful home again! I will miss many things about living downtown Seattle, but we can still go stay one weekend a month in a really nice hotel for much less money than it has been costing us to pay both rent in Seattle and our mortgage in Bellingham. Besides, we can now start thinking about starting a family!
The next day, Friday the 7th, the birthday celebration continued. I started my morning at the gym and then went over to the British compound to their coffee place where Sherry, Sydney and I sat outside in the 65 degree sunshine and dipped Biscotti into Cafe Mochas. It was very nice and relaxing. Then we hit the jewelry stores again, just to look and see if there was anything else eye-catching. No one bought anything, but it was still fun to look! I went back to my room and Skyped with Thomas for about an hour and a half even though it was the middle of the night for him. I then rested for a couple hours before getting ready for a birthday party at the hospital for Sherry, me and one of the male Dutch nurses.
The party was great because CDR Beasely from Trauma grilled up the most tender, delicious-tasting chicken I have had in the past 5 months. He also made Paella with shrimp that was so yummy I had to go back for seconds. Our friends also had several ice cream cakes made for us by the ice cream shop on the Boardwalk. Lots of people came from all areas of the hospital, including the Dutch nurses. And after we were all done eating, several of us went out to the flight line and smoked Cuban cigars and warmed our hands over the grill as we watched the jet engines light up the sky as they took off for a night mission. Eventually, as the temperature dropped into the 30s and we became chilled to the bones, we began dispersing and wandering back to the warmth of the NATO dorms.