Some people come back from overseas posts with beautiful Persian carpets, delicate ceramics and expensive thankyou gifts from their staff. Others come back with fat payouts in recognition of being in a hardship posting. Some come back with bonuses for completing their contracts. Most, at least, come back, with bottles of duty free whiskey. Even most aid workers come back and get a debriefing, a medical and sometimes a settlement grant to help with fitting in.
We came back with no settlement grant, no debriefing and no medical. I did however, in my last weeks in Kabul, pick up an enduring ear infection, duty free. It is now in its 14th week, and it shows no signs of fading. What a lovely memoir. Without being too graphic, the gooey ooze that has leaked from my ear the last month would be enough to ice a wedding cake with. My pillow gets crusted nightly with the discharge and in the morning looks like a snotted handkerchief. Friends have had to get used to me walking round with my head on one side, or with cotton tips poking out of my ears. My family have graciously gotten used to me being deaf and grumpy. But I have not got used to it, and today after seeing the specialist for a second time, I pulled over to the side of the road and found myself pretty weepy. I think it symptomatic of the strains of life in Afghanistan the last year. My dentist, last week, found that I have been grinding my teeth at night, which over the years has eroded my jawline, so I am now in danger of lockjaw. He attributes it to stress, which he gently suggested could be alleviated by not going back to Afghanistan, again.
Lock jaw and thick of ear. My very own Afghan take-home gift.