Today I celebrated my first Christmas in Afghanistan. All in all I think that I can say that it was a pretty good holiday. In the days leading up to this holiday my team and I spent a lot time in and out of the field. Each time that we would return home we were blessed to have received several care package boxes from our friends and families, as well as random strangers wishing to spread Christmas cheer. I personally started running out of space in my room for all the great treats and gifts that I've received. One advantage about all the time that we've spent in the field recently is that we were able to consume a lot of the snacks that we've received.
The start of my Christmas holiday was something I'll be able to talk about for a while. Even though I am not Catholic I went to my first mid-night Christmas Mass. What was really unique about it though was that it was spoken in Croatian. All that is except of a reading of the Epistle of the Apostle Paul to Titus, which I read out loud in English. The service lasted about 45 minutes, and I'm sure was similar to many other midnight services that were performed across the english speaking world. A lot of singing, reciting of verses, and concluded with communion. Upon conclusion of the Mass, I joined my Croatian friends and enjoyed a meal that they had prepared of small steaks, and naan bread.
This morning I rush to the Morale-Welfare-Recreation building to use one of the phones to try and call my family. Since I decided to take the morning off and not visit the Kandak, I had the time to call my family. Best of all though I knew I could call my family and they would home and awake. The SPAWAR phones that we are truthfully are kind of crap. They are a voice over internet phone, very similar to Skype, and anybodies guess if it will be a good connection or not. Because the calls would drop I had to call each of my family members about three times each in order to talk to them. Non-the-less it was my Christmas treat to be able to talk to them. My sister, Stephy, asked me if I had anything special planned for the Christmas. My response was that being able to talk to my family was my best Christmas Gift. From what I could tell everyone seemed to like the Christmas gifts that I had sent home. After almost a bit more than a half hour chatting with my parents, sisters, niece, and nephews my time on the phones was done. I then was able to find some time on one of the MWR computers to chat with a friend back in the states. Instant messaging programs are blocked on our work computers, so to chat or Skype with friends or family we also have to use an MWR computer. The past few days Skype has been working poorly, but I was able to connect with my friend and spread some Christmas cheer via a keyboard.
Upon returning to my room, I was surprised at my good fortunate as I had received several letters from friends on Christmas. Additionally I received a Christmas gift from my parents which arrived in record time, eight days. Additionally I received 28 packages from Soldier's Angels, which tomorrow I will hand out to the members of the team. If any members of Soldier's Angels should happen to read this, please know that we greatly appreciate your kindness.
I spent a portion of my day helping one of my terps work on his Visa Packet, played Farkle with my friends, and enjoyed a nice Christmas meal at our dinning facility.
While I wish that I could have been home to spend with my family, I was fortunate to spend this sacred holiday with my extended military family. I hope that everyone back home was able to enjoy all the blessings of the Christmas and Holiday season.