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Jeff's Afghan Diary: Water and Bees; Fire and Ice
June 12 , 2007

      Water is necessary for all life.  No where is this more evident than in a desert.

      Afghanistan is mostly one big desert.  Certainly Doa China is as arid as most deserts – it hasn’t rained for over a month, except a sprinkle or two, and the temperature has reached over 100 degrees F for over a week.  It’s been hot, dry, and miserable, and we go through gallons of water every day.

      Even if the water is hot, we drink it.  We drink it conscientiously.  We drink it unconsciously.  We drink it by habit – every Soldier is trained to drink water until their urine is clear (this is a sign they are well hydrated; a dehydrated Soldier becomes a heat casualty fairly quickly).

      There is a refrigerator in the kitchen where we put water to chill it.  It never gets cold, because Soldiers take it out almost as fast as it goes in.  On rare occasions, I get a half-liter bottle (we drink bottled water, for health safety – we don’t know what water is safe to drink) which has actually been in the fridge long enough to get cold.  It’s like having champagne, it’s so good.  I drink these fast, before they get hot, like all the other bottles of water I drink.

      The ABP are continually asking us for water, too.  We pump well water for them (they seem to have antibodies to anything that might be in the water – they never get sick from it), and by mid-day, all their water containers are dry.  They ask us for bottled water, too – perhaps it tastes better, or perhaps they think it does because we drink it.

      The Afghans use water each time before they pray, which they are supposed to do five times a day, per their religion: they wash their hands, their face, their arms, their neck, and their feet.  They bathe by taking sponge baths, squatting near the ground, using a pitcher.  Of course, they also use water for cooking and clean-up.

      The inside of our new wooden hooch gets unbearably hot during the day.  I sit in front of a little fan, letting hot air blow on me.  Sometimes I fall asleep in the folding chair by my bed, to escape the feeling of me being cooked slowly.

      The heat brings animals out, too, especially insects.  The flies have become very aggressive, trying to bite us on the sly before we catch them.  We have a parade of small ants inside our hooch, and an occasional grasshopper.  Bees have become a problem as well.  At night, we are attacked by moths drawn to our lights.  The screen on our doorway doesn’t seem to be able to stop the insect onslaught.

      I’m reminded of Robert Frost’s poem, “Fire and Ice.”  The poem speaks of the world ending either by burning up or by slowly freezing to death, and which he would prefer.  As far as seasons, I’m not sure whether I would prefer to roast or freeze.  Right now, freezing seems preferable.

-- Jeff Courter

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Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and Executive Director of
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).  
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here.
God and Science (Hypertext Edition, 2005).
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion:
Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).

Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.  

For more information about Charles Henderson.