03 September 2011

Clement Weather in Kabul

A sense of renewal pervades the streets. Ramadan has ended and August's heat has been washed away and given way to September's forgiving embrace. And while our time winds down in Kabul, its rhythm and language has found place in our optimism.

Wandering today, we chat with our hotel guard, nod to friends by Shar-i-Naw Park, haggle for carpets on Flower Street, and drink tea with a group of men. And while my Dari is limited to a few phrases and choice words, I know how to smile and wink, complain about high prices, and tell someone "I hope you're always warm in bed." To their laughs, we can bond. And Edward's Dari no longer elicits blank stares from the occasional bi-lingual Afghan who then says in English, "What language are you speaking?"

When stopping at a food cart and buying soup, a base of shredded potatoes topped with hot chickpeas and broth and seasoned with a couple mysterious sauces in dirty jars, we spy a rival vendor 30 feet down who had over-charged and under-served us three days before. That vendor had charged, to our protest, 40 Afs (80 cents) for half-full bowls. To the chef in front of us, charging 30 Afs for heaping bowls, Edward correctly strings together a complicated sentence construction. "Your soup is better than that man's soup. And he charged us 40 Afs." Two bowls each and a fair 120 Afs later, we continue on our way.

In preparation for our departure in two days, we take some final illustrative photos of Kabul and shop for souvenirs. A friendly ANP officer humors our desires for a picture. And one of the numerous sport shops, which are universally staffed with English-speaking Afghans, sends us on our way with soccer jerseys emblazoned with Afghanistan. Finishing at the carpet shop, we select a couple area rugs, requiring 20 days of labor to weave, and bargain the price to a reasonable $65.

Seeking refreshment, we purchase carrot juice. Made on the spot, it's somehow consistently delicious across Kabul--and also consistently served in an ambiguously clean glass stein. While enjoying the drinks' cappuccino-like froth, the surprisingly sweet majority, down to the closing sediment, curious Afghans approach us. Throwing in an early "I don't understand", I banter, talk some English and discuss the Taliban. Tea is proffered. Edward practices his Dari and I overhear some familiar words whose meaning I don't know. Conversation continues. We find the bottom of the tea pot and then the bottom of our tea cups. Seeing tea leaves there, I enjoy their presence. As my energy dwindles, we rise, say khuda hafez and return to the hotel.

What a remarkable country. Despite 30 years of war, the halcyon character of 1970's Afghanistan is still here. And while corruption and problems are pervasive, so too is hope. Every Afghan I've spoken with wishes for security, opportunity, and peace. A month here, an incredible experience. Thank you Afghanistan.

2 comments:

Bob G. said...

I enjoyed the writing, the photos and the video - quite an experience.

Bob G.

petalsunleaf said...

Beautiful.