Sunday, November 12, 2006
Well here I am again at the Park Palace Guest House and on temporary assignment in Kabul. It is cooler now than during my last trip which was in August 2004 but it still warms up in the afternoon to a nice sunny 60-65 degrees. However, Winter must be coming-- it has started to rain over the past few days and this morning I spotted snow on the Hindu Kush mountains, the very high mountain range that crosses Afghanistan from East to West, just North of here. I haven't found it too cold yet even as our rooms are barely heated. But winter, I am told, gets cold enough and I will likely experience it while here.
Kabul is still the same. It is less of a shock the second time around. The city is still a messy and dusty city with retail tents everywhere along the streets. There are no traffic regulations just an occasional policeman who directs traffic at rotaries...(There are no traffic lights and no lines on the road defining lanes etc...) During morning rush traffic, cars manage to merge together, get through intersections, and get across the city with relatively few accidents. I sometimes cringe when I see my driver move into the lane of oncoming traffic to get around some cars. A few days ago I saw the city's first traffic light had been installed near my hotel. My driver ignored it and just drove through the red light. We are betting that the traffic light will cause more accidents than before. The main streets are paved but all the side streets are dirt roads. By 5 pm, that dust mingles with exhaust from the cars and is hanging thick in the air. Sometimes the dust and smoke overcome us ans we start caughing. There is a good reason for men and women to wear scarves here and to cover our mouth with them. Now that the rains have started, the dust has been replaced by pools of water and mud on all the side streets. But that is a minor inconvenience--- the streets are also full of wonderful scenes of the Afghan people getting on with their daily life and engaging in work or shopping activities. All businesses and shops also have signs in english as well as Dari and Pashtu. It is a sign that they like us here and want to welcome us into their shops. A young afghan man riding in the car with me this morning, said that when the Russians were in Afghanistan, no shop owner or businesses has signs in Russian because they did not want them here. I get picked up and travel every morning to CNFA where I work. This office is in a beautiful house (see picture on the left...)where the country director and the deputy directors live. Even at this time of year, there are roses surrounding a green lawn. Decking is made of several types of marble....Because of the amount of dust constantly in the air, windows are washed every few days.
My weeks here are looking like they will be full of events. There is a nice cameraderie between guests and international workers here at the hotel and a small social life. Many are getting together for dining or shopping excursions and whenever there is an excuse, there is a party. We plan to celebrate Thanksgiving by cooking ourselves a traditional Turkey dinner. Am looking forward to it. I also hope to have a few more shopping excursions to the International Forces (ISAF) compound where we can do some craft shopping. On Fridays, they bring in a whole bunch of Merchants... rug merchants , gemstone merchants, and lots of crafts people, there must have been 40+ retail tents set up there last week.. I bought a bunch of jade and lapis lazuli necklaces (for gifts). Afghanistan has a lot of precious, semi precious stones -- they are one of the sources for Lapis and they have lots of other nice stuff too like tourmaline and rubies. They also have the most beautiful carpets I have ever seen.
In my next blog , I will describe how we "foreigners" spend our free time in Kabul.