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Justin M. Stoddard

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Dispatches From Afghanistan #34
December 9, 2009 — 9:08 pm

Subject: Winding Down

So, if I go by my calender, I have 12 days left until I leave Kabul. Depending on how long it takes to get a flight out of Afghanistan, I may or may not be home in time for Christmas. Only time will tell.

This will probably be my last long email to everyone before I leave as I expect I’ll be farily busy preparing for my replacement and getting all packed up. I just wanted to write down some thoughts I’ve been having.

  • The Day Care project we undertook here was successful beyond what I could have imagined. So far, we’ve received well over 50 boxes of supplies ranging from pens and pencils to winter hats and gloves to clothes to cool toys. To date, we’ve delivered about half of those supplies. We are planning on another run down next week. We have also received about $1,500. This was completely unexpected to me. At best I thought we would be able to get MAYBE $100 for various supplies. Though I won’t be here to see what that money is used for, I suspect we can now seriously start thinking about rebuilding the classroom that was mortared several years ago. At the very least, we can get their building repainted and work on some basic repairs.

    I know I’ve said it before, but thank you to everyone who took time out of their lives to help out. I’ve always believed in a a sort of “cosmic” underlying benevolence (those that really know me, know how silly that sounds coming from me, but there’s no real good way of putting that thought into words in such a medium) and you have all validated that belief. Since I’m leaving soon, I’ll be passing everything over to my friend, Scott Poole. He will be here until March. I will also be asking my replacement if he would like to take up the cause when I leave. Again, thank you. I hope that I’ll be able to see each of you in person soon to pass on my gratitude.

  • There are a couple of projects I want to work on when I get back home. Some of you know that I’ve spent the past four months purchasing equipment needed to do photography/film/audio documentary work. I’ve had a fascination with my family (both sides) for some time, now. I’ve always warned my mom that someday I was going to write a book about my family. I think she has always been amused and slightly horrified at that prospect. I don’t believe I have the talent needed to write any sort of book, but I do seem to have a knack and a passion for documentation (through photographs, video and audio). Over the next couple of years, I’d like to travel around the states and get an oral history of my family…but that’s only half of what I want to do. While out and about, I think it would be fun to be the modern day John Steinbeck and just experience America. I couldn’t verbalize what I have in mind, but it’s all in the back of my head…swirling.
  • (Those of you who are uncomfortable with personal stuff may stop reading now, but you are all friends and family…so I don’t think you’ll have a problem with this). It’s time for me to find my partner in crime, so to speak. I recently watched a video from the Rev. Tom Honey (a Vicar in the Church of England). In it, he was discussing the “nature of God”. He had some rather surprising things to say and I would encourage anyone to watch the clip, as it was rather moving to me (an avowed Agnostic/sometimes Atheist).

    In it, he said (and I’m paraphrasing here), in order to know the nature of God, we must cultivate our own inwardness, through quiet meditation and gently setting aside our passing thoughts. This, of course, speaks to the introvert inside of me. I’ve spent years “cultivating my own inwardness”. What he said next was profound to me…though not overly profound as an overall thought. Once we have cultivated our own inwardness, once we have recognized the God inside of ourselves, we must move out into the world and establish intimate connections with others. We must allow our inwardness to touch the inwardness of others. We must allow the God inside ourselves to touch the God inside others.

    Of course, I don’t do this thought justice. Rev. Honey explains it much better than I. And, I know to many of you, this probably sounds like metaphysical claptrap. Perhaps. But, I find it an utterly beautiful thought. There is an Indian (the sub Continent) custom where two newlyweds will look at each other for hours (days) to attempt to recognize the God within them, therefore recognizing the God within themselves. I believe this transcends what we know about our own trifecta in the field of psychology (the sex drive, romantic love and long-term attachment).

    So, where was I before I went off on what seems like a “self help” lecture? :P Oh, yes…a partner in crime. One wonders….one wonders…

  • There’s a good chance that I may be coming back here for a few weeks next year to conduct more training. But, I think this will be my last deployment for a long while. Though I had a wonderful time over here, I just hate to be away from my daughters for such a long period of time. But, we are going to have a good time getting to know each other again when I get back.

So, that’s it for now. With any luck, I’ll be back in the states in two weeks time. It’s going to be great getting back into a regular routine…warm showers, a variety of food, supermarkets, etc…

Have a wonderful day! As always, I love getting emails from all of you.

Talk to you soon!

— Justin M. StoddardComments (0)

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