Lieutenant Tenisha Cawte
Postcard from Afghanistan
by Lieutenant Tenisha Cawte
It was late October when I finally set foot on Afghan soil. My new home at Kiwi Base in Bamyan province is surrounded by a mountainous landscape. It was covered in sand and dust during our first month here but is now covered in powdery snow, giving all of us hope that we will have a white Christmas.
Having now settled into my role as the S1 (a Human Resource Administration-based role) for CRIB 21, the last New Zealand Defence Force contingent to the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan, I have had an opportunity to explore the Bamyan township. I have mingled with the locals, tried - and enjoyed - Afghan cuisine, and caused some hearty laughter when I was recently invited to a homestyle type restaurant. The invitation was for lunch so I did not expect the feast our Afghan hosts had laid out for me. We had fried rice, lamb skewers, bread and dips, soup, salads and fruit. When my Afghan hosts encouraged me to eat more, I politely refused, saying "I have a small stomach," which made everyone chuckle.
Lt Cawte fires a M72 rocket launcher, proving that Navy personnel can be just as skilled in combat situations as their Army counterparts.
The Bazaar, which is a strip of shops in the heart of Bamyan, is the shopping hotspot here. The shops sell fine carpets, pashminas, stone goblets and chess sets, jewelry and many more beautiful things, which make for lovely gifts for loved ones back home in New Zealand.
I have climbed to the top of famous landmarks here - the Shahr-e-Gholgola (a fort high above the town that gives some of the best views of the entire valley) and the Buddhas. The Buddhas, in particular, offer remarkable views. I often wonder how these sculptured monuments looked like before they were destroyed by the Taliban.
As you can see from the snapshot, I have conducted live firing at the range and can now proudly say that I have operated more weapons than my father and brother, both of whom are extremely envious. I have also conquered "PT Hill" - the hill behind Kiwi Base - many times. It is very challenging, given the high altitude, and quite frustrating as it never seems to get any easier, no matter how many times I've reached the top. However, I have been told that once I get back to New Zealand, I will notice that I have become more fit.
My role here is an extremely rewarding one. I am responsible for arranging the air transport of personnel and mail. It feels like Christmas when the mail arrives from New Zealand every week and I see faces lighting up or breaking into a smile. I am also responsible for sorting out accommodation, finances, leave and other administrative matters. Because of the welfare aspect of my role, I am the lucky recipient of donated clothing items (including knitted hats and sewing kits) from charitable groups in New Zealand, which we have been giving to the local community.
I am extremely grateful for having been given the opportunity of a lifetime to be acquainted with the Afghan culture and to see that their way of life has improved vastly, due in part to the support that the New Zealand Defence Force has provided in the areas of health, education, agriculture and infrastructure.