This story is about the anxiety I felt in certain aspects of what I was doing while working as a pilot in a Danish company. I spent many days waiting for the next flight out of the countryside in Denmark. I was alone in a strange empty house that the company had for the crew. But I was the only one there. I thought a lot about some of the flights that we did (flying Danish soldiers to Afghanistan) and what I was doing with my life. This is a story about that anxiety, about questioning my life, about war.
I was never completely happy with my work as a pilot. The inner satisfaction that someone would expect shone in its absence.
The reason for me continuing as a pilot was for the same reasons so many of us continue doing something that was not really what we wanted to do in the first place. Laziness and cowardice. I made the choice to follow the money and let my goals and wishes slowly fade into a naive youthful dream.
But now I was put to the test. I was contributing to a conflict that I was deeply against. I was at war to earn money. Nothing better than a mercenary.
Here I was, waking up on a 90cm wide bed, in a corner against a radiator, in an empty echoing room, in an empty echoing house, out on the Danish country side. Another day in the “The Shining” house.
Here I am walking around in circles in this house like an animal in a cage, just thinking about these facts. The feeling of panic as to how my life was ticking by. The waste.
I begin to walk faster and faster in circles as I get more and more convinced that this is not really what I wanted in life. Almost going crazy over not being able to just pack my things and race as fast as I could to be as far away from this place as possible.
Then comes another working day. Flying soldiers again.
It is now 5 o’clock in the morning. The sun is already high up in the sky and burning hot. It’s a mess on the radio. The newly trained Afghan controllers have a hard time running a busy airport in an efficient way. Many of the pilots work for the smaller Afghan-companies. They have a fleet of old worn out propeller aircraft that aren’t helping the situation. It makes things worse when they disobey orders and do as they like on and around the airport in the northeast outskirts of Kabul.
Kabul is located high up in the mountain tops. A city that is grey and battle scared.
When you fly in over the city for the approach, your nerves are on edge looking for anything unexpected. This region is more like a Wild West town than an organised airspace. All you can see are the hills surrounding this city which the Taliban bombarded some years ago.
The people in their houses could do nothing more than hope, as they hear another rocket closing in. Probably relieved for a short while as they hear the explosion in the distant. But if it hit another house they would become sad as another tragedy will come with it.
The grey ruins tell their story about what has been happening here for many years now. The ruins stand like grey ghosts in the sand with their tales of horror, war and suffering.
I am sitting a bit dazed in the cockpit. Preparing to get out of this bee’s nest of crazy traffic for a 30 minute flight to a military base in Mazar-a-Sharif to the north west, over the mountains. I am trying to get my brain to work properly after 8 hours of flying since the time that I put on my uniform in a hotel room in Turkey.
I look out over the dusty and messy airport. The grey concrete has yellow lines and fire extinguishers strategically placed by each parking position. There are military helicopters with their machine guns hanging under the nose. There are the American military private jets in grey and a US general or someone else important on a visit.
Suddenly the traffic freezes for a couple of minutes when two military black hawk helicopters on a mission, lands. They pick up some soldiers, take off, and fly into the horizon. Soon everything gets back to normal again on the tarmac.
I look at the choppers disappearing in the distant and then look over the barb wired fences, the patrolling military vehicles, barracks with bored soldiers walking around them, the big bomb detector that all the trucks going to the airport has to pass through, the bunkers and behind all of this, the silhouette of the grey city and the mountains behind it.
Finally, I am now in the air, sitting in a calm cockpit with the sound of cooling fans. The silent, roar of the engines. The communication-radio is crackling in the background. I am now on my way back home, watching this magnificent planet, the sun, the deserts, the oceans, the remote small villages with nothing around them for several hundreds of nautical miles floating by under me, and the cathedral of clouds over the horizon.
This is the beauty of nature. I now decided that I would not do this anymore.
I would not chase the money and go against my dreams. I decided that I would follow my dreams no matter what. I will be poor if that is what it would take.
But I would be free.
Words and photos by Christian Göran. See more work at cgoran.com
Originally published in Yume Magazine #3 (January 2012)