Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Q&A, part FIVE

They're adding some new shops to KAF's boardwalk area, and I thought this sign was amusing.
It's holiday season now, and we're all spending more time on preparing Christmas carols and other seasonal songs to play for the troops. We've also spent some time doing some training with members of the nearby Afghan National Army Band, and I expect I'll write more about that as it develops. I will say that even though we have a translator, it does test everyone's skill at non-verbal communication since they don't speak English and none of us speak Dari. Now, it's time for a couple more questions!

What's with the odd time difference between Afghanistan and the United States?

I don't know how the time zones in this part of the world were established-it may have something to do with railroad schedules way back when, and possibly be influenced by the time when nearby Pakistan and India were British colonies. But currently, since Afghanistan does not observe Daylight Savings Time, the whole country is nine and a half hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone in the United States. According to this time zone map, it seems we are sandwiched in an odd area and being offset by 30 minutes was someone's attempt to compensate for this. India is one hour ahead of us, so they also are "in the cracks" with respect to the US time zones. Pakistan, sandwiched between India and Afghanistan, is ten hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone, 30 minutes ahead of Afghanistan and 30 behind India. Iran, immediately to our west, is one hour behind us, and 30 minutes behind them is Saudi Arabia. Since most of my family is in the Central Time Zone in Tennessee (one of the few states to be split between two time zones), they are ten and a half hours behind me, which makes planning phone calls on Skype a bit tricky sometimes. Interestingly, the island of Newfoundland in Canada has its own time zone, which is also 30 minutes ahead of Labrador to the west.

Do you have normal working hours, or are you "on call" all of the time?

We have somewhat stable hours most of the time, though the nature of the job can make it unpredictable. Like performing musicians in the US, our schedule is often dictated by when we have to perform regardless of whether or not it's personally convenient. On weekdays we typically all meet up in the morning to go over the day's schedule, and then again after lunch to update everyone on any changes and get briefed for the next day. After each meeting, we usually have time to do individual practice, group rehearsal, or take care of any office work that might need to be done, which in my case is usually something related to supply, i.e. filling out paperwork for the battalion requesting new ink for the printer or valve oil for the trumpets. On weekends we have the mornings off but still meet up in the afternoon. Since our performances have ranged from dinner music for a General's reception to morning ceremonies to lunch entertainment, we will often have to adjust the schedule accordingly. And sometimes they'll find ways to surprise us by springing a change at the last minute. That can make things frustrating, though such changes generally come from outside the band, and may be impacted by events and decisions that are out of our field of view. Most days, though, things have been much more stable the past few weeks than they were when we first arrived and everyone was figuring out how to best make things work. Famous last words....

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