Saturday, September 25, 2010

Kabul in Hiding

I am in my apartment alone; it is quiet save for the honking horns, men talking, and occasional call to prayer. The brown light of the afternoon peeks through my opaque windows. Mountains on the horizon beckon to me; I wish I could bound into the the afternoon heat and run up to the radio towers that grace the hills. I would say a little prayer of freedom and gaze upon this broken city with eyes wide open. But for now, I inhale the dusty inside air and tell a story of hiding...

I am one of the lucky ones and so are you. Although this lock down is only temporarily my life, for most people here it is all they know. I have been an honorary Afghan woman for the past five days and I can barely imagine what this life looks like permanently. Venturing outside of the cool concrete walls of my apartment complex only can happen when I am going to work or a meeting. At that time, I must be with a guard and a driver. I haven't experienced a day on campus as a professor yet, but I imagine this is where I, along with the students and other professors, find daily freedom of movement and thought. I wonder if Maya Angelou was speaking of Afghans when she wrote "I know why the caged bird sings?" Here, I think everyone is a caged bird.

There are holes everywhere. Bullet holes still litter most of the older, taller buildings in town. It is evident that they have been patched, but with cement and spackling that cannot stand up to weathering; most of the patch work is crumbling anyway. Potholes are the roads. My driver mentioned that the roads were nicely paved before the Taliban came and ruined everything. Now, on the side streets there are remnants of concrete, but for the most part dust and dirt have engulfed the once-smooth thoroughfares. Bricks and cinder blocks have been piled into the biggest of craters, constant reminders of a tumultuous reality.

But if you look closely enough, there is life hiding everywhere, trying to fill the holes which 30 years of war has left.

Indigo silhouettes of women tip toe through mud in their high heels; although burqas hide their faces, their shoes give away their spirit.

An old man whistles a sweet song as he ambles along my road. He smiles broadly at me as I try to hide the fact that I just took a picture of him through the only open window on my stairwell. I blush.

Across from my building, on the roof, I notice boys congregating with kites as the sun sets behind black hawks buzzing through the dusk.

I enjoy my first "Afghan-style" meal out in the secluded garden of Sufi Restaurant. Who knew that this lush garden with trees, flowers, fireside tables, and traditional Afghan music existed among all of this dust a rubble?

Upon first glance, Kabul is a dusty, desolate place...But slowly, I am discovering that the real Kabul is in hiding, waiting to emerge from this dark time. There is no way, with the heart and spirit of the Afghan people, it won't. Just as the sun rises anew each day, I have faith that Kabul, and Afghanistan, will emerge from this long night soon enough.

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Final Supper and...lift off!

The twelve disciples would have loved this supper much more than the last one they attended. Absent of bread and wine, we indulged in paleo goodness instead. Wild caught salmon drizzled in coconut, lemon, cilantro sauce with a side of asparagus, mashed cauliflower and tomato and cashew gravy was the main course. Later on, our night cap was gluten free muffins with cashew butter frosting, fresh strawberries and coconut ice cream. Yes, yes, I will remember my final supper in America fondly. My dear friends and colleagues from Santa Barbara City College, Marit (along with her husband Eric and daughter Evelina) and Gail sent me off with a nice taste in my mouth! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

With that yummy send-off behind me, tomorrow I am heading for Afghanistan. It will take almost two days to get there with a one night layover in Dubai (which I am looking forward to). I will arrive in Kabul on the heels of the parliamentary elections. Although all of the reports you have probably read in the news have been of Taliban kidnappings of candidates and random violence against civilians coupled with a low voter turnout, there is a bright side to this. There were just free elections in Afghanistan in which many women voted
AND were candidates (386 ran for office, to be exact)! What an amazing time it is for me to be arriving in the country. Starting in a few days, I will get to be part of the nation-building that has been underway in Afghanistan for the past few years. Although I know it will be challenging, I am looking forward to all of the unknowns and interesting experiences that are about to come my way.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

About to go

One week and counting...

My new official leaving date for Afghanistan is Monday, September 20th. Due to a travel blackout (I don't quite know what a travel blackout is, but I am probably safer not arriving during said blackout), I have to wait a little longer to start my journey to the land of...mountains? I guess I will be able to better complete that sentence once I am actually in Kabul.
So, what does one do to prepare for a teaching fellowship in Afghanistan?
Search online for clothes to wear there, of course. See above.

One week and counting...