Bad Hair Days

Deborah Rodriguez left two sons and a failed marriage behind in Holland, Michigan, when she headed to war-shattered Afghanistan in 2002 with a few weeks of disaster-relief training and a suitcase full of moist towelettes. "I imagined I would spend the month there bandaging wounds, splinting broken limbs, clambering over the rubble, and helping people who were still hiding from the Taliban," she writes. "I didn't have any idea that I'd still be here five years later doing spiral perms and introducing the art of pubic waxing."

Rodriguez was a disaster at disaster relief, but she brought along...

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