The smells of Afghanistan & filthy space communists
June 22, 2007

 
Some final thoughts before I head back to Germany for my next leave:

I've gotten about a dozen emails from strangers who have found my public Afghanistan blog on my web site - the more sanitized version of my exploits in this particular 'stan, as opposed to the uncensored accounts family and friends have gotten... the comments have all been really nice, and most of the readers are people about to come here themselves, and who appreciate the advice. Others have already been here, and have written some nice things about feeling the same way about this or that. But it's only a matter of time before someone writes and says I'm:

As I say on my Afghanistan home page, these accounts are my experience, but they aren't necessarily anyone else's. These are my own opinions and impressions. I make no claims to being accurate nor impartial. But I hope I come from a place of honesty and sincerity.

Across the traffic plaza from the UNAMA compound and an ISAF compound is a place that calls itself the World Philosophical Mathematics Institute. What *is* "philosophical mathematics"?!?!?

The smells of Afghanistan:

What I have never smelled here: flowers, trees, cut grass, clean air, dogs... I've only smelled water once, when I was at Kargha Lake. But now I *have* smelled a very dusty cat (she comes to visit almost every day after work).

Rumors are rife here right now about the Kabul police - or people dressed as police -- raiding restaurants in Kabul and robbing people there. I've heard they've done it at Bayou Blues, just a few nights after I was there having a very quiet dinner, and Coco Loco's. But I can't find any information online - these stories are all coming word-of-mouth. And I don't trust word-of-mouth. It makes me nervous, both that this might be happening and that I can't find anything in writing online about it.

Afghanistan is ruled by rumor - people here believe something they heard from a cousin or neighbor rather than what they see on TV or in the newspapers or hear on the radio. Riots start because of rumor. Aid workers are turned away because of rumors. Aid workers are sometimes attacked because of rumors. And sometimes, aid workers sit in their guest houses, afraid of going out, because of rumors.

Speaking of guest houses, WFP guest house 2, my place, has a lovely courtyard, and I haven't spent nearly enough time in it. I recently sat outside, drinking some red wine and gossiping about restaurant raids. The volleyball net went up yesterday, and I'm getting lots of peer pressure to play. Have I mentioned lately how incredibly happy I am that I moved to this guest house?

I did get a very green moment in Kabul: I went to a meeting with some government officials, and my MRRD counterpart, a young national with great ambition, said, "Hey, let's have the meeting outside!" This particular office is housed in the grounds of what used to be the prime minister's home. The buildings are nothing to write home about, but the huge, tree-covered park... absolutely no dust... oh, yeah, that was awesome. I haven't seen so many trees that tall, old and altogether anywhere else in Kabul. We sat in chairs on the roughly manicured lawn, under the shade, and I had trouble paying attention. It was so lovely, so relaxing... until the three distant explosions. We didn't get any word otherwise, so we think they were controlled explosions - found bombs from previous conflicts that were detonated. I'm all packed up. I'm taking a huge amount home - one very full large suitcase, and one VERY large duffle bag with four carpets and a rug. I went to Najeeb Zarab Market to buy carpets today; it is the BEST place o buy carpets in Kabul, because it's got about a dozen carpet sellers all in one place - if you don't like a price, you leave and go elsewhere. You drive through a driveway under the building and then you are surrounded on all four sides by about four stories and storefronts full of carpets. Much better place to buy than Chicken Street. I'm going to sell at least one (Thomas - you can choose which one when you are at my wedding in October). I couldn't leave Kabul without buying carpets, and I didn't want to wait until the last time I leave Kabul -- my goal is to take back in August the same amount I brought in March, if not less: two suitcases and my laptop.

It was recently pointed out to me that there are poppies growing in a most barren field near our office. They must be leftover from another time.

It was also recently pointed out to me that YouTube has some Government Cheese videos! Unfornately, both the guest house and work have blocked YouTube...

So, as many of you know now, I am obsessed with icanhascheezburger.com web site. I'm on page 45. Scary but true.

Most recent headline on Fark.com that made me laugh and laugh: "I hate Star Trek. Here's someone else who hates Star Trek. Go hell filthy space communists"

See, I *love* Star Trek... and also delight in making fun of the fans.

So, that's probably my last blog until I'm back again July 3. I will check my regular email while I'm home. No plans while I'm home other than to delight in the things I've bought, be proud of my contributions to the Afghan economy, and give oh-so-much attention and love to my man and my dog.

(if you want to help regarding the stray dog and cat situation in Afghanistan, please make a donation to the Mayhew Animal Home and Humane Education Centre, and tell them you want your gift to go to their efforts in Afghanistan. They are working to help spay and neuter dogs and cats there, to train Afghans regarding veterinary medicine, and to change Afghans' cultural practices regarding dogs, which have no basis in the Koran. I have spoken numerous times with a representative of this organization; they ARE making a difference, and your support will help them do even more!)

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