12 August 2011

Observations


A quiet part of Kabul
I'm sloowly easing into Afghanistan life and the security concerns here in Kabul. As I wrote previously, we were spirited directly from the airport to our nondescript guesthouse. Here we stayed behind the walls, avoiding even a quick kite-flying in the street out front. Waking the next day, we were discouraged from a short walk by ourselves and were offered a driver/security detail for our errands to buy some SIM cards and Afghani clothes. Wanting to see the town, sans escorts, we inquired where a safe place to walk by ourselves might be. After some prodding, suggestion was given and we slipped off. Oh, the streets of Kabul! Vibrancy, trash, police, and burqas. Bicycle shops, lumber row, wooden carts with wheels flagging. I could hardly catch my breath; and that's not including the terrible dust that whipped by. As we walked, my eyes darted around, appraising the situation. We kept to ourselves, surprised that no one approached us, begging, saying hello, or the myriad reasons why one is accosted on the streets of third-world cities. After avoiding traffic that's a combination of French disregard for pedestrians, Italian disregard for safe speeds, and a general disregard of anything but chaos, we had some sense of bearing.

To cross the street, one doesn't wait for a lull (won't happen) but instead launches oneself into the maelstrom. Vehicles pass in front, vehicles pass behind, vehicles sneak in from the side. Horns blare, lights flash, bicyclists add another dimension.

Students, Mahmud-i-Raqi
Yesterday we went to Kapisa province with an NGO that was dropping off some school supplies at a University and an elementary school. It's incredible how inefficient the process is. Second hand books and reams of paper are fundraised in the US and then flown to Afghanistan. Then there's a whole charade of caravaning 2.5 hours to get to the schools, wasting money on driver and car. Finally we arrive, meet with university president and school principle, and take some victory pictures. I'd say the process is about 5% efficient. I feel guilty throwing down $77 dollars to go on this visit, when double the amount could have purchased most of the supplies. Anyway, I'm transitioning from observing to doing some analysis of all that's happening here.

Today, on a walk across town, we took in more sights. Most notable was the number of walled in embassies, government buildings and military installations. All with concertina wire set on 20 foot walls, set back from hesco barriers set on the edge of the street. The threat of IEDs is clear to see in the defensive configurations.

Coming to a fork in the road on the way home, I chose the right hand street--different from the way we had come. Little did I know that a combination of the above defenses conspired against us. Although my map showed an easy way through, crossroad after crossroad was blocked. So rather than a shortcut home, we went north for a mile before being able to head the direction we needed.

Dinner tonight was some fantastic Afghan stuffed pastries washed down with water at a street side restaurant. That on the heels of me eating 7 peaches. With Ramadan going on now, eating/drinking on the street does not happen. So I had to wait until home to hydrate and eat. Those fruit allowed me to do both. In recent days I'm guilty of eating and drinking between dawn and dusk. During our time in Dubai we did practice, though here with the lack of air conditioning, things are tougher, especially because we're busy traveling around.

More fragments in the future.

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