03.23.2007

We’ve just celebrated the Persian New Year “Nawroz”, which means “New Day” in Dari. The Persian calendar is a solar calendar which begins on the vernal equinox, and the new year is 1386. On a more personal level, we’ve been very concerned about violence in conjunction with the holiday, and explosions masked by celebrations. Fortunately, it’s been quiet. We’ve actually had a couple of days off because Afghanistan has taken this time as a national holiday, which has been awesome. Luckily my birthday fell on this time off, and that made the long weekend even better. We’ve spent today reading and catching up on domestic chores. I made sun tea in a jar I scavenged and cleaned and we’ve socialized outside. It’s been nice having time to recharge.

We’re trying to finish up our major projects with the Afghans, and prepare to hand over the operation to our replacements. It’s pretty disruptive having a complete personnel turnover of an institution, and the HR piece alone is huge. Since that’s my part to handle, I’ll be really busy until the last day. On the Afghan side, the numbers of recruits we’re training keeps getting bigger. By the time I leave, we will have mentored the training of 25,000 Afghan National Army Soldiers and Officers. Since the total number in the Army is only ~35,000, that’s a huge number. The first photo is of myself, Ajmal, and LTC Shamsuddin (both of whom I wrote about in the last email) distributing Soldiers after the last graduation. I’m also trying to finalize my business plan for returning to real estate in Jacksonville in 4 months. The tricky part about deploying when you work on commission, is that even though your employer keeps your job waiting, there’s no guaranteed salary to return to. So my wife and I have been planning on a 6 month period of little income. The pieces are starting to come together, but it’s complicated. I did have the opportunity to submit my first offer on a property in awhile this week, thanks to some very loyal customers, and I’ve referred out a couple of new listings this month.

Last weekend the Florida Times-Union ran an article I wrote regarding the humanitarian mission we conducted at the refugee village. You can read the article here: http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/031707/neR_8565776.shtml. Jacksonville was not alone in donating clothing and school supplies for Afghan children, or for US service members. I’ve received donations from 13 states, and we all really appreciate everyone’s contributions… especially the latest influx of Girl Scout cookies. We’ve all had to increase our workouts, though to balance out the Somoas and Thin Mints. In the second photo I’m wearing my body armor, while ordering an Espresso at the Green Bean coffee shop at Camp Eggers in downtown Kabul. Thought you’d enjoy seeing a little civility in a combat zone.

I’m heading to bed early tonight. Vanderbilt, my alma mater plays Georgetown in the NCAA “Sweet 16” at 3:30 AM local time, and I’ll be watching it on the Armed Forces Network. GO DORES!

If you’ve missed updates you’d like to read, surf to www.jonsingleton.com to read past updates, see the pictures and to post comments. Feel free to forward this to anyone who may be interested. If an email of your’s is kicked back by my SPAM filter, just resend with the word “ADD” in the subject line, and I’ll receive it. Raise a cup of Starbuck’s for me, and I’ll hurry home