Steve Corich said he can’t point to a single element that defines his new life overseas: Everything is a shock.
Corich, the 52-year-old director of public safety at Mesa Community College, left last month for Afghanistan to act as a civilian adviser to the Afghan National Police. He’ll remain for a year in the wartorn country, teaching local police modern public safety techniques and ensuring that, as they rebuild their country, Afghan officers understand the importance of civil rights.
Corich, a 21-year Mesa Police Department veteran, has created a blog — “A Year in Afghanistan” — to relate his experiences at scorich.edublogs. org.
He told the Tribune in an email interview from Kabul that it was difficult to determine the biggest difference between life there and in the United States.
“There is no biggest cultural difference,” he said. “Everything we take for granted in the U.S. is a major problem here. The international community has a huge task in just getting basic services up and running.”
Corich said most Afghans are poor and have a limited education. And winter is coming, he said.
“It’s getting cold here now and firewood is unavailable or very expensive,” Corich said. “Most people here cut up old car tires and burn them in their fireplaces to stay warm.”
But Corich added that he has received a warm welcome from the Afghans he meets.
“An open right hand over the chest is a sign of respect, and every elder I’ve met has exchanged this greeting with me,” he said. “I think the older people in particular understand that we’re here to help.”
On Oct. 21, Corich took a one year leave of absence from MCC, leaving behind his wife, Linda, and 11-year-old son, Adam. Linda Corich said her husband announced over dinner one night that he might go to Afghanistan.
“He proposed the idea ‘What if I go to Afghanistan?’ I said, ‘I think you’d be crazy to do that,’” she recalled. “I spent the next couple of weeks upset.”
The 55-year-old teacher in the Kyrene Elementary School District said things have been difficult since her husband left. She’s able to speak with him twice daily through an Internet video conference. Her husband’s absence means that she’s had to perform some repairs on the house. And she’s been closely monitoring her son’s behavior.
“He’s doing all right,” Linda Corich said of her son. “Kids — they don’t really show what they feel until something comes up.”
She added that she already missed spending time alone with her husband.
“Just coming home, having a glass of wine and watching the hummingbirds,” she said. “It’s no fun doing it by yourself.”
The MCC community also is adjusting to Corich’s departure, said Jerry Davis, MCC vice president.
“I do miss the guy. We totally support Steve and we eagerly await his return,” he said. “He can offer some insight into what things are like in other parts of the world.”