It’s not uncommon on Friday afternoons to spy bulging biceps, washboard abs or long, lean legs absorbing sun rays around the U.S. Embassy pool here. The nearby sand volleyball court is also very popular. Fitness classes are abundant, and though the main compound has limited space, the embassy boasts a number of workout facilities. Exercise is a key way employees cope with the stress of a war-zone post and separation from family, officials said. Weight gain is one of the risks of a hardship post like Kabul. Before being posted here or to other hardship posts, State Department employees are warned that they’ll likely fall into one of four categories: hunk, chunk, monk or drunk. The long hours and war environment, in other words, will cause them to seek comfort in fitness, food, isolation or alcohol. Though not as austere as many military bases in Afghanistan, the main compound in Kabul is one of three high-threat embassies where the State Department deems living conditions stressful enough to warrant extra coping resources. Some of the stresses for the roughly 1,700 people based at the embassy are seclusion and close quarters, officials said. Not only are they far from home, but people work and live together in a compound smaller than about five Manhattan blocks.
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