like a kaleidoscope...

"Kabul is like a kaleidoscope, always changing. People coming, people going..." - Marc (who just left for Haiti after two years here)

obligatory arrival in kabul plane photo

i live near the kabul wedding hall strip.

the frontyard at our guesthouse.

bottle burka?

extraordinary balance and skill!

I can't believe I've almost been here for a full month already. Like the various military and UN helicopters in the skies day and night, my time here in Kabul has been flying by. You'd think that working somewhere six days a week, nine hours a day would get repetitive, boring. That is certainly not the case. Every day is same same but different from the last. The NGO is work for is small and there are only so many people to take care of many, many tasks - which I actually quite like because we have so much freedom to make the school into anything that we (and the kids) want it to be.

Looking at the photos in this post, maybe you think Kabul looks like what you imagined: dusty, mountainous, traffic filled, full of goats and signs of war. But it's also much more than that - from the Las Vegas style strip of wedding halls with bright lights of all colours (as long as there's no temporary power outage!), to the modern shopping malls with any clothes, shoes or makeup you'd find in other major Asian cities. I've seen a young girl (one of our students, in fact) ride a little bicycle (a BMX!), though I'd heard so often that girls here never, ever do such a thing. Yesterday, on our day off, there was a big (wedding?) party at the house behind ours, and this constant drumbeat was accompanied by women singing, laughing, children yelling joyfully... This is not what you hear about Afghanistan. But this is it. Life, family, food, music, glittery high heels and silly mobile phone videos.

There was a bombing in Kabul this afternoon. A suicide bomber, but apparently there were no serious casualties or death except for the bomber himself. And then there was that one a couple weeks ago that killed about 60 people. But I was talking to a co-worker, an Afghan who lived in Kabul as a teenager under the Taliban, and he says that compared to those times, when you couldn't leave the house, even to get food, let alone work, when you hid in the basement and kept glued to the radio in case there was a day of ceasefire to go get some supplies... he said that "now it is like peace... compared to the Taliban times everybody lives like a king."

I wrote this earlier when I heard of the most recent bombing but was unaware on the casualty situation:

"To be here though is to still feel a significant removal from the news that hits the international papers and television sets. There have been a couple bombings since I've been here yet you become, very quickly, somewhat blase - hearing about it and moving on with daily tasks. There was a suicide bombing 15 minutes ago on Jalalabad Road, near Supreme market, which we were just talking about checking out yesterday. Simon told us the news then he came back into the room two minutes later and said he had to go, he couldn't do the classes he usually teaches on Saturdays because one of his housemates was shopping at Supreme and now they can't reach him. It's sobering to think how close to home these incidents now are for me. two degrees of separation to a potential victim. I hope that's not the case, but the fact is it so easily could be."

Simon's friend got hit by some debris and went to the hospital but is thankfully okay.

I really don't want to paint a negative picture, and I hope in the future through this blog to emphasize the positive, day-to-day existence here in Kabul. On the whole I have never had a moment where I felt scared or in danger. It would be easy to feel that, I'm sure, if you so desired, and I know people probably want to freak out and tell me I'm being naive. But I haven't felt I had any good reason to be scared yet, and for many many people, including my new friends, this country is their only home and they don't have the luxury to leave.

the next post will be about a beautiful motorcycle trip from a couple weeks ago to the panjshir valley.


from one dusty corner to the other.

girl in truck, baharaya oasis, egypt.

so i made it to kabul, afghanistan, after a hectic month of planning and getting ready while trying to have as much fun as possible travelling egypt, israel and berlin! i'm going to be volunteering here with an NGO. Since getting here sunday morning (after an overnight flight from frankfurt) i started teaching classes, which run 5 days a week, and am starting to find out more about the media/writing role i'll have while i'm here.

kabul is insane. it's dusty, filled with traffic, and built around foreign money (contractors, big NGOs). it's rained a lot since i got here which i guess is unusual, causing the streets to flood because the drainage is sketchy (as is much of the infrastructure here unfortunately). i saw an SUV that had been parked on the side of a dirt road and when the road flooded it sunk on it's side halfway covered in muddy water. all the women including foreigners wear headscarves, and many still wear those iconic blue burkas. i went into this clothing store the other day to get some long shirts and it's a kind of upscale one so they have gifts you can home as presents. one of the pieces were "bottle burkas" which are mini burkas that you can put on your bottle of wine to hide it! if i bring back any souvenir it will be that one, no doubt about it.

oh yeah, and yesterday i went on an independent afghan television network's cooking show as a guest judge... the other female international volunteer here, sophie, was too busy to make it so i agreed to it despite my aversion to being the one in front of the camera. the other judges were a female member of parliament (mariam something.... ) and local restaurant owner and pal, abbas, who drove me there and showed me the oldest streets in kabul, with cement structures still standing after a couple hundred years.

i don't have any photos yet from kabul on my computer so here are some more from the baharaya oasis in egypt (including the one of us in "explorer stance" below that i stole from erika). more to come soon....