I've said a thousand times that we don't even get clouds in Farah, much less rain, so when it rained -- rained hard! -- for five days straight, it was something resembling a natural disaster. Half the districts in the province claimed flooding damage, and the Province's Emergency Disaster Response Committee was convened and the whole thing took over our collective lives. The mountains that ring the FOB were wreathed in clouds, and being outside was eerie.
The rain turned the Afghan moon dust into a thick sludge, and large swaths of the FOB itsflooded. The maneuver unit (which owns the FOB) had to dig drainage trenches in the gravel, and the floors of my office and bedroom were covered in mud that got tracked in. In my bedroom, it dried into cakes that disintegrated back into rough powder, and no amount of sweeping is enough to keep it from clinging to the bottom of my feet and working its way into my bed. I've changed my sheets twice since the rain, but it still feels like I'm sleeping on the beach.
The weather kerfuffle happened to coincide with the end of the month of January, which our men and women in uniform -- or more accurately just the men, since none of the half dozen or so women here participated -- refer to lovingly as "Manuary" and celebrate by growing truly awful mustaches.
Growing mustaches for major events is a surprisingly large part of the military mindset. When the 4th Infantry Division ("Straight Arrows!") took over for the 82nd Airborne ("Stay All American!") as the maneuver unit on base, they promptly began growing "deployment mustaches" that lasted until people got tired of looking ridiculous and shaved them off. That was followed shortly thereafter by both Playoff Mustaches (kept until favored teams lost) and then the great month of Mo'vember, which, like Manuary, requires a mustache.
PRT participation in all of this was all but nil until Manuary hit, and then some primal urge kicked in and half the people around me grew awful mustaches. Some only lasted a few days, and others were picked off over time as trimming accidents took away too much from left or right and it was deemed unsalvageable. But more than a few hearty souls kept it up the entire month.
Engineer Lovesalot grew a particularly luxurious mustache (no doubt in part to spite Captain Adventure, whose scraggly mustache grows nearly straight out from his face, parallel to the ground); he began carrying around a fine toothed comb in the velcroed chest pocket of his uniform, and took to sneaking it out during staff meetings and surreptitiously combing his facial hair. "I started this as a joke," he said. And then guiltily added -- "but...but it feels really good."
Lieutenant Dracula, over in Supply, kept his mustache until he went on leave. "Is it normal to miss a mustache this much?" he opined after shaving it. "My upper lip feels so cold and afraid."
(Lt.Drac is of some vague Eastern European ancestry that actually has nothing to do with Transylvania -- but his first name is Vlad, and so Dracula it had to be. "I'm Ukrainian," he told me, but I don't see why that matters).
I myself did not participate in Manuary, as I'm already the proud owner of a significant quantity of facial hair and even trimming it too short causes Afghans consternation: they like full full beards. I did feel a little bit like I was missing out, but Drac's office mate (Petty Officer Moonshine, who owns a distillery in Breckenridge and has promised me a tour and some Bourbon the next time I'm in Colorado) consoled me: "It's not that you lack a mustache," he said. "It's just that you've got mustache all over your face."