This project focuses on documenting, through art, the trials and tribulations of Canadian soldiers.

Friday, April 8, 2011

April 5, Kandahar, Afghanistan

Today we have a day off. Well, kind of. Basically, the Public Affairs Office (PAO) has nothing for us so we stood down and took it easy for the day. I still got up at 6am (I’m not sure why I can’t sleep in any more) and came down to the media tent to get some work done. I let Shaun sleep in because I’m sure the ride out from the FOB the night before shook something loose.

The media tent is pretty basic. It’s almost a piece of history unto itself as the all war correspondents have worked out of here for the last 6+ years. Every reporter seems to have left stuff here and the place is littered with old helmets, body armor, hard cases for video cameras and even racks of video boxes. Its dusty but everything here is dusty. I had to scrub down the desk I was working at because based on the dust accumulated, you’d think nobody had sat there for 30 years. Nope, that’s just Afghan dust. The reporters in the media tent are a quirky bunch. Matthew Fisher from Canwest is gruff, outspoken and swears like a former soldier. And he’s also brilliant, professional and extremely knowledgeable about the war. He is Canada’s most seasoned war correspondent and has covered every war, conflict and engagement in recent history. It was an honor to meet him. Tara Brautigam is a staff correspondent with the Canadian Press. Great guy and I appreciate him sharing his space and faux beer with us. We also hung out a bit with Jeff and Crystal from Global. Great people one and all. Thanks again for your hospitality.

I know we’re not media but it’s been fun to be treated as a reporter, at least up to the point where you have to interact with the soldiers. When they think you’re media they tend to be apprehensive and aloof and rightly so. Although the media has been generally supportive about the war, soldiers remember Somalia. They know that when the media is around they have to be on their best behavior and present a positive picture regardless what they think. When we explain to them that we’re not really media and that our project is about document the real experience (their experience) then they tend to loosen up and let us in on all the good stuff: stories about their experience, what they’ve seen and done ect. Its not newsworthy but it is story-worthy and that fits with our goals.

Shaun makes the best use of his time finding everything and anything to photograph including some great photos of the base graffiti. Brilliant stuff. I’ve created a couple of decent little watercolors so far and I’m hoping to do a few more with my down time in KAF. I predict a lot of down time in KAF…