i am alive. i have spent the better part of the last year living, not writing. there is something to be said for that. but also, without some means of expression or reflection what is the point of the experiences? someone said to me recently that it's unfair for me not to share my stories or myself with others. i love to read or hear the stories of others, it really is an important part of being a human, this exchange. my problem has been a lack of time, energy and unwillingness to prioritize writing, eventhough i truly feel it is one of the most worthwhile uses of time. but i am going to try again. that's all you can do, right?
so since last august, almost one year ago today (my last blog entry!), what has happened? i stayed in afghanistan until the end of october, spent a few weeks being restless and unpleasant in scotland at my mom's place, though i enjoyed walking around and going to cafes. then i took a last minute trip to canada to see the rest of my family and my friends who i missed more than ever before in my life. it was a splendid time, full of hippie food and skateboarding and art and music and bicycle riding.... some wine and a nostalgic movie with a good bud. all that fine stuff. i wish canada was a country in the vicinity of afghanistan. maybe a stan. like canadastan? i would for sure take a weekend trip there from time to time, to remember who i was, and what that means for who i am now and tomorrow.
then a one month trip to south america. motorbike riding mostly, small crash that set me back $450, deathly fear of sand tracks, fondness for llama meat.
and back to kabul, round 2. well good and bad, highs and lows as always. me, very productive and determined to make things work, to overcome the daily trials of accomplishing ANYTHING in this context. seriously. have i mentioned before what oliver told to me the first week i arrived, and which kept me and many others going at the toughest of times? basically, that to accomplish anything, no matter how small, in afghanistan is a huge accomplishment, what we do in each day to day is actually an unbelievable feat. anything on top of that is incredible. being away from afghanistan right now for a month, i can clearly see how true this is. it seems like an exaggeration, aggrandizement but it is a simple truth. 3 weeks ago i was in cambodia, helping to set up a new project similar to the one in afghanistan, and i don't want to discount the work of others in any way, but it was like a dream compared to kabul. logistics, security, social conventions, infrastructure - you name it - things were so different and so much simpler.
but back to kabul round 2. in the first month i dealt with "monitoring and evaluation" for a government grant, revealing just how deep the sea of bullshit in the aid industry is, the waste and inefficiency and the game that is played but we refuse to play. i also contracted "chilblain's" - which as far as i can tell is some disorder that people regularly had in 18th century europe. the constant cold and lack of proper heating anywhere in kabul meant that my feet were too cold, and due to my poor circulation i ended up getting swollen toesies and nasty blisters and pretty soon i couldn't fit my feet into any shoes except some castaway size 11s. teaching skateboarding wasn't an option, i wore flipflops in -20 celsius and i guess probably fit in a bit with the many afghans who wear sandals year round. so given the local propensity to also have cold feet it's not surprising that i found my solace and cure with an afghan doctor, not a western one. the grumpy, curt lady at the german clinic gave my feet a quick peek and proceeded to prescribe me a couple antibiotics, a painkiller and some anti-inflammatory. didn't work. the feet got bigger and redder. i got sad and crazy and winter in kabul was hard, so soon. then mama m saw my eyes and my ridiculous feet in ridiculous cheap flipflops that were starting to break from wear and said "i know a doctor, and afghan skin doctor and he can fix your feet" - well to that effect but her english was limited (i never had a problem communicating with her despite this, and honestly i miss her, but you can only keep a corrupt and aspiring tyrant, who happens to also be an inspiring lady, around for so long). so mama m brings me that afternoon to this fantastic doctor. his office is close to our guesthouse, it's on a street full of other doctors, such as a foot clinic directly across (i remember thinking if it was better to go to a foot guy or a skin guy for my particular problem) and pharmacies galore. we walk into a narrow cement hall, dungeon-like, but full of people. then behind a curtain is an overflowing waiting room, burka ladies and burka's brought back over the head and small babies and just moms wanting to sort out whatever myriad of skin problems are affecting them. being the lone foreigner (quite possibly ever) in that waiting room i get to jump the line (mama m will gladly use my foreigness to advantage, even though i feel bad about it). the doctor is great and speaks good english. he takes a considerate glance at my feet, which are now purple and ballooney, and tells me i have chilblains, i need to always wear warm shoes and wool socks, keep my feet warm. so i feel very silly having worn sandals for the past 2 weeks, this has undoubtedly made my condition far worse (the cold helped me deal with the itchiness however). that's it. no antibiotics or painkillers. just wool socks!
hm, after that the following 5 months were very tiring. i was quite stuck in my head and didn't feel great some days (understatement).
so this time, after my holiday, i am determined to be happier. to be positive and take more enjoyment from the moments. there is only so much within one's control. and it is far far far less control than i'd like to believe i have. there is a girl coming to live and work with us who is into meditation. i should try to get some tips from her, although when i took yoga classes during lunchhour in college i most often fell asleep, to the chagrin of the teacher. maybe i am ready now?