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New U.S. embassy signals change in Afghanistan

Nov. 11, 2005

by DAVID KAYE, columnist

It's easy to forget the fact that I'm 10,000 miles from home as long as I stay busy.

But in the last week, there wasn't anything I could do to get my mind off of it.

My 22nd birthday was Nov. 4. Everyone asks what I did to celebrate, but the truth is that there is nothing to do. Luckily, the timing worked out perfectly and I received gifts from my family on my birthday. Other than that, it was just like any other day.

Everyone in my family sent me a card of their own, and just reading what each person wrote made me miss them even more. It's going to be a long three months until I get to go home on leave in February.

I came to work early one day last week so I could get online to check my e-mail. When I logged on I found at least 20 e-mails from students at Baylor I don't even know, all wishing me a happy birthday.

I've been asked many times why I am willing to go into debt to attend a school like Baylor, and the best thing I can think of is that you'd just have to go there to understand.

Those e-mails are the perfect example of what separates Baylor from so many other universities.

Thinking of Baylor just gives me one more thing to look forward to about going back home when this is all over. That's what gets me through the day, staying busy and thinking of all the things I can't wait to come home to.

There's a new American embassy being built here in Afghanistan, and while that's a sign of progress, it also means there's a lot of work to be done.

We've spent the last week taking communications systems out of the old embassy and installing them in the new building.

The new embassy looks somewhat out of place. It's painted bright colors and stands taller than any building in sight. It's like a shining light in the middle of an otherwise dull area.

Guards are everywhere you look, and we had to go through at least five checkpoints just to get near the building.

There is a hotel and apartment complex being built next to the embassy. It reminds me that I plan to come back in about 20 years to see the progress Afghanistan has made.

If you haven't been here, you wouldn't know it, but Afghanistan has the potential to be a great country. I just hope that our work here will get the Afghan people on the right track so they never have to go back to living under hostile dictatorships.

The weather here is starting to change. The other night was the first time I've seen rain in the last three months. The guards said the snow might start to fall in the next couple of weeks. Unfortunately, we won't be getting days off because of snow like we did my freshman year at Baylor.

It's starting to get scary because things have been quiet for a while. That's actually a bad thing because we tend to get complacent and forget that we're still in a combat zone.

We make sure to keep out eyes open and do everything we can to prevent attacks, but there's only so much that can be done. It's hard to defend against a suicide bomber detonating himself next to your vehicle.

The best thing we can do is stick together and pray for protection. We have arguments like everyone else, but our group has quickly become like a family. It's a great experience to live with so many people from so many different backgrounds.

We're all in this with the same goal. Complete the mission and bring everyone home to their families. We've got three months down, and less than nine to go.

Army Spc. David Kaye is working with military communication. He's a junior journalism major from Katy.