A huge gift -- Tashakur, whomever/whatever
April 8, 2007

I GET TO GO HOME FOR ALMOST TWO WEEKS!!! I'm sitting here crying. I can't believe it. I thought I wasn't going to get to go home until May - and it was going to cause me to lose one of my three R & Rs (six day leaves), because you have to be in the country for 42 days straight to get R & R. But it's turned out that I will do my trip South and then my trip North, all here in Afghanistan, in a much shorter time frame than I thought. So.... I'M GOING HOME!!! I'm taking five days of vacation to make the visit longer. I leave on April 21, change planes in Dubai, and fly straight to Düsseldorf. Then I fly out of Düsseldorf May 2 on a red eye, arrive in Dubai at dawn, and hang out in terminal 1 for four hours, then go over to little terminal 2 for my flight to Kabul. That means that two of my days will be spent on planes or in airports. Yuck. Oh well. I get to see my husband, I get to see my dog, I get to eat pizza, I get to walk around outside, and I don't have to wear a headscarf!!

Did I mention I'm crying? Big tears are rolling down my face. I am the definition of joy. It just changes my whole outlook, because I *know* when I'm going home to my little family. And I know now that I get to go home once more as well, in June, before I go home FOR GOOD in August. Crying, crying crying. Joy, joy, joy.

Okay, on to other things...

Laurie, newly of DC, has twice written me with a list of questions about life and work here that have prompted me to write many of the things I have in my posts here. So, if you have questions, send them! Make me think...

And, ofcourse, comments are always welcomed. Full-fledged emails telling me what's going on with you are REALLY welcomed.

Oh, and another reminder - I don't hang out on Skype. Quit looking for me there. I hang out on Yahoo IM. So, put me in your IM address book (Yahoo and MS are cross-platform), and if you want to talk to me on Skype or iVisit (so far, the latter is working better), just drop me an IM and let me know. Then I'll jump on whatever software you want me to and blah blah blah.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the last Harry Potter book, is due to be released on 21 July. I just know that if I wait until I get home a month later to read it, SOMEONE is going to spoil it for me. It could be a casual comment from a friend, it could be a news item on BBC, it could be a blurb on Yahoo news. And if you know me, you know I *hate* spoilers.


It took me many days after arriving in Kabul to realize that the door slamming downstairs at work was not an explosion. It took about a week to realize the kids throwing their ball on the metal roof outside my guest house was also not an explosion.

When you hear an explosion, you know it. There's no question. You don't say, "Was that an explosion?" You KNOW it was. It's not how loud it is - it's the volume, in terms of the space if fills up. And you always think the same things:
-- How close was that?
-- Will there be a second one?

The first explosion I heard here was that ammunitions shop blowing up earlier in March. My second was near my office on April 1. On both occasions I froze. For the second one, I was sitting at my computer, and after freezing, said a four-letter word that begins with S, thought the same two thoughts everyone else does, and looked out the window. A few people looked out their windows too. But then, everyone WENT RIGHT BACK TO WORK. It was as if nothing had happened. There was a story on the wire a couple of hours later that said an explosion had rocked Kabul, that neighbors were shaken, that details would follow... and details never followed. I finally wrote security and asked what was up. Turned out to be a controlled explosion, which usually means a land mine or other unexploded ordinance was found and the military blew it up.

I could live the rest of my life quite happily if I NEVER had to hear an Indian soap opera dubbed into whatever. I don't know if what they show here is dubbed into Dari or Farsi or some Pakistani language or Arabic or what, but I swear to you, the dubber is ONE person - a man - and he's dubbing *every* character. And for any woman under 30, he uses this high-pitched, completely outrageous voice. It's like listening to Beeker from the Muppet Show. Some of the men at my guest house insist on watching it during supper. Why can't they watch cricket? I watched the BBC coverage of cricket, but no actual World Cup matches. A guy hosts a show called "My Cricket World Cup," and he is a one-man ESPN, in terms of wit. He's *hilarious*. Speaking of cricket, a little game broke out in front of our building recently - one of the guys at our office is on the Afghanistan national cricket team. I've uploaded pictures and narratives to my Flickr account -- enjoy

I saw my first demonstration... from a distance. It wasn't violent. A group of us were coming back from lunch, barreling down Darulaman Road as usual, and we all saw the road blocked by a huge crowd at the same time. The driver turned around and went another way, down various dirt roads and what not. It was cool to get to see more of the neighborhood that surrounds the road up close. Everything's behind walls, ofcourse, but occasionally, a gate will be open and you can see the house or little garden inside. I forget there's anything green in Kabul... the protesters, all men, ofcourse, were there to petition the parliament to free their war lord leader. They were very peaceful, and came down from wherever they were from in mini vans flying Afghan flags. When we got back to the office, I had an email in my in-box, telling us that the protesters were headed our way. After their protest, they hung out for another day across the street from the parliament. Just sitting around. Would loved to have taken a picture. Tonight, as we were coming home, I noticed that they had all left. Then we were back in downtown Kabul, and we turned down a little street to take someone home - and there they all were. We decided they were getting something to eat and doing a little shopping on Flower Street before heading home. For some reason, it was riotously funny at the time.

So, what new things can I tell you about Kabul... well, in addition to the Great Wall of Kabul that I pass every day on my way to work that everyone gets to see up close but ME, I also pass the "knowledge and wisdom minaret." No, I don't have a photo - no stopping allowed on my way to work. Particularly since there have been two suicide bombers who've used my way to work to do their evil deeds since I arrived. I'm sure if you Google it, you can see a photo by someone else. On my way to work, I also pass the German Afghanistan Automotive Academy. Haven't checked for a photo of that yet.

My officemate/savior is gone until April 21. My Kenyan colleague leaves for Kenya on Tuesday. And my long lost former colleague is about to leave for two weeks in France. I'M GOING TO BE ALL ALONE!! I have three girlfriend here and they have all abandoned me!! If you are a woman, the key to working in a developing country, especially one where your movement is so restricted, and not losing your mind, is to have girlfriends. They should put it in the briefing paper for aid workers. In addition to creating a supportive, comfortable, non-leering atmosphere, girlfriends also help me not obsess about how much I miss Stefan. And I really, really miss Stefan... who is in France as I write this, on a little Easter motorbike trip.

I don't see my three compound dogs much anymore... I worry about them often... There's so much landscaping going on all around the compound, with so many people everywhere, that they don't show up as much. I just wish I could make friends with them, but if I walk out of our building too fast, they run away. If I look at them, they run away. I leave hard boiled eggs in various points and hope that they get them when we all have left for the day and the compound is empty. When my Kenyan colleague sees them, she says, "Oh, look, there are your friends!" And the driver looks right past them, looking to see who she's talking about, but he doesn't see anyone... I've seen enough dogs with broken legs, suffering on the side of the road, to make me cry every day for the rest of my life.

Oh, and really interesting reactions to my effort to shame fat Afghan pre-teen dog torturer into changing his ways. I got six impassioned emails or text messages cheering me on, and one telling me it was wrong to get angry. I'm just not one of those people who thinks anger is bad. It's a natural human emotion, and it fuels the fires that change things - that end slavery and female genital mutilation and genocide. Even Jesus got mad and turned over tables. Would I ever *actually* smack fat Afghan pre-teen dog torturer upside the head? Only if he was in the actual act of torture, and only if me telling him to get the h*ll away from the dog NOW didn't get the message through. HURRAH FOR ANGER! HURRAH FOR EMOTION - just as long as you don't hold on to it, and let it pass when it's time is over.

And just in case you missed it the other two times I've mentioned it: there is a well-established British animal welfare group working right here in Afghanistan. Mayhew Animal Home and Humane Education Centre is doing great work -- tieing their work to local veterinary training programs, and spaying and neutering dogs and then trying to find homes for them (mostly with expats, but they've had some success with local Afghan families). You can read more about them below, and I'm asking you to PLEASE consider making a donation. This money will make a different right here in Afghanistan. (and, yes, I've made a donation). Be sure, when you make your donation, that you say you want the money to go to their efforts in Afghanistan.

So many times, I hear people say, "I'd like to give money, but how do I know it will really make a difference?" This is a way to REALLY make a difference.

But back to happier thoughts: I'M GOING HOME!! I'M GOING HOME!!! And now, I shall dance around my little room... I go South tomorrow. I'll see even less there than I see in Kabul... I have to go North to get the freedom I'm craving.


If you have read this blawg, PLEASE let me know.
Comments are welcomed, and motivate me to keep writing --
without comments, I start to think I'm talking to cyberair.

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