The weather turns cool very early in Eastern Europe.
I’m sure this is not what all of my family and friends want to hear right now, because September in Texas is like the end of an argument that should have died long ago — as soon as the heat begins to fade, it seems to storm back in the room saying, “Oh and I just think it’s funny how...”
But here, I’ve been waking up just before dawn to 40 degree temps, and I’m reminded how difficult my first real winter will be.
Last week was a long one, full of travels to places that a year ago I couldn’t find on a map — places that, only 20 or 30 years ago, had a different name on the map.
Years from now, if I get the chance to meet up with some of the dear friends I’ve made, we will probably need a couple of drinks before we’ll be ready to approach the events of last week.
Don’t get me wrong, we are in no real danger — anymore than other travelers. But I am seeing scars on entire cultures that have been left by the ugliest of human behavior: creedism, racism, and other forms of blind hate.
Human nature can be sobering sometimes. We get through it by reminding ourselves that most weeks aren’t like that, that we’re truly lucky to be part of something so amazing.
We remind ourselves that we are safe, and that counts for a lot. We remind ourselves that we will never go through last week again.
We walk through the streets of the town that we are based out of for a little while longer and see how beautiful it is that there is so much construction, because every week it looks slightly less Soviet and encompasses the resiliency of the people here a little better.
There is a massive solace in knowing that in this corner of the globe, there are no frontlines.
Our presence is meant to support a healthy environment and we are not actively fighting a physical war here. I’m beyond grateful.
Returning to the base last week and falling back into the rhythm, I didn’t want to be alone in my room.
Fortunately the mail had just arrived, so there were just a few more moments of human interaction while waiting in line and having my parcel inspected. When I signed for the package I was given a large box with a familiar return address: it was from the Gazette.
The whole rest of the day I wasn’t alone. I had sticks of deodorant and crossword puzzles and snacks to pass out. Soldiers and their Doritos. It’s a beautiful thing.
When I got back to my room I had hours of reading from old issues of the paper and Seguin Magazine and was reminded how very special our town is.
Guys, we live in a strange world. People are fighting over whether it’s more American to stage and support a protest or to say that citizens should always stand for the flag.
They’re arguing whether it’s more American to view the Constitution as a living, changing document or to see it as a solid, rigid set of guidelines.
I’m going to tell you all a secret: each of these views is wonderfully American. Not one of them outranks the other.
The beauty in our country doesn’t fall on the extreme left or the extreme right, and I don’t think it ever has. It lies somewhere in the middle, where adults can have discussions but still leave the table as friends. It lies in little things that we don’t even realize the entire world is watching, like a candy being passed at a funeral.
Sometimes as soldiers, we’re so thoroughly inundated with the idea of what people think we are, when in reality we are just so very human.
We are 18 year old men who are looking over a syllabus for the first time, and grandmothers on FaceTime with their newborn grandson.
The little things keep us on an even keel, keep us connected with one another and our loved ones back home.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, thanks for the Doritos. They came right on time.
Kati Waxler is a reporter for the Seguin Gazette who is currently on deployment overseas.