Afghanistan: A Clothing Guide For Broads
June 4, 2007

 
So far, that lake visit I wrote about earlier has been a turning point for me here in Afghanistan: I've been busy at work with assignments I find really interesting, I feel like I'm making a bit of a difference here, and I haven't been anywhere near as low as I was my first two months here. Hope this feeling last. And, no, I will NOT be extending my contract and I'm still happily counting off the days until the contract is over.

And now, what you have all been waiting for: my explicit tips for dressing in Afghanistan (Mos Eisley) for non-Afghan women (or, at least, for me and most of the international women I work with). Another woman may tell you to dress even more conservatively, and yet another will tell you what I'm saying is way too restrictive. Just whatever you do, get your advice from a woman and not a guy (they have no clue, Afghani or not). Also, none of these rules apply to security (MOSS) approved-restaurants, however, where women can feel comfortable wearing just about anything.

I also have three long cotton button down shirts, each extending down to my knees. These are great to wear over light summer tops that don't meet the aforementioned length requirements.

Believe it or not, these rules are much, much less restrictive than Iran these days.

The Afghan women I work with follow all of the above rules, except that, instead of dressing casually like the international women, they are always dressed to the nines. They also always have on either a large, long jacket no matter how hot it is -- or a long, sweeping scarf that covers both their head and their entire upper bodies. Many have fallen in love with Western pant suits, in deep, rich colors (even red!), ala Angela Merkle. They wear their headscarves loose around the office, and let them fall when it's just us gals. And they all wear very fashionable shoes. None wear burkas outside the office. In fact, outside the office, on Darulaman Road, I'm seeing more and more women's hair... Go, girls!

As I've mentioned, I wear the headscarf in the truck on the way to and from work, but around the guest house or *at* the MRRD compound, I don't at all. I also let it fall off while shopping at Kabul City Center, the ISAF market, or most any shop while I'm inside. When I'm out in the provinces, I wear it at all times, except in the SUV if it has tinted windows.

I wear my Tevas every day to work. Toe nail polish is acceptable (it wasn't at all under the Taliban), but I haven't tried it here yet.

For the Kabul women that do still wear the burka, it's fun to check out what kind of shoes and toe nail polish they are wearing: since they don't show anything else, the shoes are often incredibly fancy, and the toe nails are BRIGHTLY colored. Especially on Thursdays.

So, there's my observations and advice on dressing in Mos Eisley. I mean Kabul.

An out-of-the-blue fact: next year, UNFPA will undertake a national, comprehensive census of the country. Everyone is oh-so-busy with preparations.

An out-of-the-blue comment: I could not survive in Kabul without Fark.com.

Recently, it dawned on me after Thomas of France sent that "Why Why Why Delilia" video that something I have wanted to see for more than 10 years was now possible, and had been for some time: to see a *moving* image of Gram Parsons. I've got all the music, I've seen all the photos, but what I've never seen is video. It dawned on me that if one exists, it's on YouTube! So, off I went to look for such. There's pretty much just one on YouTube -- Mr. Parsons with the Flying Burrito Brothers, singing "Christine's Tune." It took more than a dozen attempts over three days to finally see the whole thing at my old guest house. I think I saw the first 30 seconds 10 times. And every time, I sat here like a little wide-eyed nutcase, seeing Gram Parsons sing... well, lip sync... for the first time ever. You just can't really call yourself a twang girl unless you've gone through a crush on Gram Parsons. Or if you're a boy.

Speaking of twang... I so miss singing. I may not sing here. Not even in my room. At Assa 2, the walls were paper-thin, and I didn't want to disturb the Dutch tax-advisor next door, or anyone else, for that matter. At my new guest house, I might be able to get away with it if there's no one next door and I had my front door closed... but a woman singing is considered a *very* inappropriate thing here, unless you are Indian actress in a Bollywood movie at the time. The only woman I've heard singing is the cleaning woman at Assa 2; she sang inside, where no one could possibly hear her from outside, and when she thought all of the guests were at work and when there are no Afghans staying there.

One evening after work, I sat in my guest house listening to my little music library that I brought with me, and for some reason, while listening to The Best Of Mountain Stage - Volume 2, when John Prine started singing "It's a Big Old Goofy World," I burst into tears. I suddenly missed my husband, my dog and Austin more than I could bear. More than anything, I wanted to be with the people I love, in a world I love. A world that might not make any more sense than here, but at least it's goofy. And has John Prine in it.

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