My time in Kabul is now over and I am heading back home. Its been an amazing time.... Making an analysis of Afghanistan's vegetable sector and trying to find information that will help better understand the supply and value chains. Afghanistan has great vegetables and just about everything can be grown here because of the varied climate --amazing for a country with only 12% arable land. But there is enough vegetable that some are exported during the Harvest season... then gets imported back into the country from Pakistan during the off -season. Many say that Pakistan which has storage facilities simply provides storage then sends it back. Selling vegetables when the price is low and buying back when the price is at premium is a problem that needs to be solved in Afghanistan. It started to snow during my last two weeks in the country and even a little snow caused havock. You can see some of it here on the right at my hotel--the Park Palace. There were still roses blooming but we had several days of snow. It turned the unpaved street to mud. I visited the wholesale vegetable market and there was mud to midcalf from some of the traders. It also caused the airport to shut down for a few days and many flights cancelled. I wondered if I would leave on my departure date-- but luckily the sun shone on Dec. 5 and I made it to Dubai.
In spite of mud and snow, my time in Kabul whizzed by and many activities filled my evenings and days off, thanks to great friends at the hotel who saw to it that I wasn't bored. There were several wild nights listening to our hotel band (a few of the hotel guest have hidden talents as rock musicians and play at local restaurants...) and drinking--because it the sale of liquor is prohibited here by the Minister of Vice and Virtue. We had a family thanksgiving dinner cooked by Jim and Tim--a mining engineer and ag extensionist who turned out to be star cooks and gave us turkey and trimmings including all the traditional side dishes. We also had many Friday excursions to the craft markets as we dumped some of our earning on Afghanistan for beautiful scarves, shawls, and local stone jewelry. And then there were the carpets... I am now trying to make my way home with too many and very heavy luggage I can hardly handle.
And there were the wonderful Afghan people. Those who are trying to make their home country better in whatever way they can. They are unforgettable. And the beautiful children who are playful and trusting and want to make contact with the foreigners who have invaded their homeland. They like to have their picture taken if their parents or guardians let them. On these rare occasions your just seize the moment as these opportunities don't come along often.
In all its been an unforgetable five weeks here. And even if I had to spend 7 hours standing up waiting for my boarding pass at the Kabul airport because a few snowy days caused some cancelled flights, I will soon forget the mess that is Kabul and remember only the good days when things worked right and people showed faith that you would make a difference.