Wow, time is flying--I didn't realize it's been ten days since my last post. Recent days have been busy, between rehearsals, a Saturday lunch performance with the Brass Quintet, and the band's latest project: a building. Or, rather, tent.
One of the biggest obstacles we've had to overcome since our arrival is that Kandahar Air Field has not yet had a band stationed here. Because of that, there is no facility set aside for the band to use. The various ensembles in the band have used classrooms, dining halls, the Fest Tent, the Morale-Welfare-Recreation center, the USO reading room, unoccupied sleeping quarters, bomb shelters, and open parking lots to rehearse, practice, and prepare. Doing so has meant that we have had to lug our instruments and equipment everywhere we go and that our work schedule is often at the mercy of what room is available and when. And with the recent dropping of temperatures, coupled with a few days of very dusty air, practicing outdoors is not as feasible as it used to be. Almost since we got here we've been negotiating and maneuvering to get a location just for us.
That began to become a reality this past Saturday, December 11 when the workers from the KAF carpentry shop arrived to start laying down the wooden floor in an open spot we were able to reserve. We had picked up the lumber from the freight yard a few weeks ago, and in that time they had cut boards and supports to build a floor.
Sunday, the tent arrived. The entire complex and all the necessary gear to set it up fit on a medium-size trailer. First, a tarp was laid out on the wooden floor, and a large deflated black ballon (or bladder, if you will) was placed on the tarp. We wheeled the main tent structure, which was "collapsed" into a tall column, into the center of the floor. Several of us pulled the edges of the tent to the edge of the floor, stretching the outer skin and making visible the support trusses that would give it stability. An air pump was connected to the bladder, and in a matter of minutes the tent began to take shape as the balloon stretched the structure to its full size. The full procedure took about thirty minutes. We actually had to deflate the tent the first time to get the front and rear entrance points attached and aligned properly, so it took two tries before we could begin deflating the balloon. Once deflated, it was simple to pull the balloon out, leaving the tent standing on its own support structure.
The rest of Sunday afternoon was spent hammering in stakes around the perimeter of the tent to hold it firmly in place and attaching the interior metal supports to keep the roof from collapsing. By the end of the day, the civilian experts who were assisting us with the tent decided that the floor was a little too small for the tent and we'd need more lumber.
Monday morning, we started inside to finish the interior supports and began setting up the environmental controls. The tent has its own generator for power, with large tubes connected to an air conditioner/heater. We installed the porous flexible tube that substitutes for air ducts, and hung the flourescent lights from the ceiling. By that point, the carpenters were back, cutting more wood to extend the floor around the tent. This meant that all the hammering we had done Sunday had to be pulled up and redone, but by the end of the day we were finished and the tent was solidly in place.
I haven't even mentioned the Velcro. The front and side entrances are attached with Velcro. This is not Velcro like you see at craft shops, or even the Velcro that is used on our uniforms. This is heavy-duty, massively strong Velcro. I think I could attach the Velcro on my uniform sleeves to the Velcro on this tent and hang from it. (Note: I did not actually try do this.) We spent much of our two days unsticking and resticking Velcro, and I think we are all pretty much tired of dealing with that substance for a while.
But we have a "home," for the time being. While it is not the best permanent solution, it gives us our own place to do much of the work we are here to do. Stay tuned, as we hope to install some practice rooms before too long....