Soviet Swimming Pools
July 13, 2007

 
I actually don't have much to say about Soviet swimming poolsŠ I just really wanted that as the title of a blog entry. Most (all?) of the swimming pools in Kabul were built during the Soviet era. You can find them at some guest houses, and there is an Olympic-sized pool at the top of one of the hills around Afghanistan. They are filled with unchlorinated, untreated water, and some men and boys actually swim in them. Yick.

I was going to call this blog "Rat on the Roof." Because we have a rat that runs around the guest house roof. The first time I heard it, I thought it was the Taliban on the roof. My neighbor - a sweet guy from Tajikistan - jokes that it's our pet.

Ofcourse, there can only be one pet in my life in Afghanistan: KABUL KITTY. Who came into my room while I was at work recently (I had left the door open so that the cleaning lady would tidy up), opened up the fridge, and stole my dinner for the evening (leftover AFC). All that was left was the plastic bag and a neat pile of fried chicken skin outside the open fridge door. I wouldn't let her in all night, I was so angry. Then I relented and gave her cat food the next day. I pity the person who moves into my room after me. She spends so much time with me now that the French guy has been complaining she's ignoring him.

Yet another friend-named-Elizabeth in Germany said, "The 'Kabul Kitty Demands' just crack me up! She seems like a woman with character, strength, and the will to speak up and get her way. Hmmm. She just might be a good mascot for Kabul- set an example for Afghan woman to follow... "

Our guest house has two community TVs. One is in a lounge next to our breakfast room. If I get there first, I put it on CNN. If the Filipino guy gets there first, he puts it on the National Geographic channel - which I normally really enjoy, but not over breakfast. Anyway, one recent morning, the cable was out, so only local TV was available. So I watched this local kids's show and it was absolutely adorable. There were three little girls sitting in a line, all decked out in their finest, talking (in Dari, ofcourse) to a puppet, who got them to say their names, say hi to their families, and to each sing a song. The smallest girl wasn't quite sure what was going on, and at one point started to kneed at her very ornate dress and then try to lift the hem up to her face in that bored little girl way. It reminded me so much of a kids show that was on when I was little, the Peggy Mitchell show, produced at the only TV station in Henderson, Kentucky. My brother and I were on that show once, and I was crushed to find out that the little dude coming out of the doll house on the show was a puppet and not real. Anyone, on the Afghan show, after the puppet moment, a little Afghan girl was shown singing a traditional song of motherhood (I guess), holding a doll that looked very much like the infamous Baby Tender Love of my youth... she was doing these little hand gestures, per someone prompting her from off camera, and it was just the cutest little thing you have ever seen. Particularly since her front two teeth were missing. And then the program host came on, another little Afghan girl who seemed to be born to the camera, speaking in a tone with no hesitation whatsoever - definitely a future Bollywood star or politician. Or both.

Afghan children and men sing without being self-conscious at all. They sing along to the radio, they sing folk songs, they sing as they walk down the street, they sing as they workŠ not in a Song-of-the-South, we-all-be-so-happy kind of way. Sometimes it's defiant. Often, it's sad. And even more often, it's just something to do. The women... well, as I've said, they sing in secret, when they think no one is around. I used to hear the cleaning woman at Assa 2 sing sometimes, far off in another part of the building.

I get a lot of questions from you all about security. I understand your concern - you read about a huge suicide bombing and think, wow, Jayne's in danger! Most of those bombings are in the South. Even when they are in Kandahar, they are usually out in the rural province, far from the town. The Taliban is not doing very well in Afghanistan, which is why they are having to recruit foreign fighters, as well as mentally-disabled people and six year olds to do their suicide bombings. I think the Taliban are a much bigger problem in Pakistan than here. But I *am* worried about security. I'm worried about the war lords and mafia types, who decide to shake down restaurants some times, lining the guests up and demanding bribes, or to terrorize the press. And I know that all it's going to take is a UN car accidently hitting a child, or some rumor about the West disrespecting Islam, for many of the good citizens of Kabul to go out on a good old fashioned riot, ala May 2006. Riots target guest houses, UN offices, international NGO offices, restaurants and shops selling Western products. And everyone I've talked to who was here for the last one says that, when the riot starts, most guards run away. I definitely feel much more secure in the WFP guest house, with it's massive steal door and barbed wire, and the Maple Leaf Hotel on the other side of us, than I did at Assa 2. But I'm hoping to never see the security tested...

Can I just say that Nathan Fillion's blog on MySpace brings me so much joy? Well, I guess I just did. He just bought an iPhone: "I have one. Can I say that it has made my day better? Can I say that it has amazed me with its wonders? Can I honestly say that it has improved the quality of my life? Yes. Whilst others click, poke and plod along with their "smart" phones, I rub, slide, flick, and pinch like I'm on a third date at a county fair." Thanks, Kendra, for bringing him into my life.

My friend Erica in DC sometimes sends me entries from a blog by a priest working with a Maasai tribe in Africa. It's a hard life, and there are many sad, sometimes brutal entries, and yet, I'm so envious of his connection to the people... I'll never have that here. And I told her so. And she responded: "maybe on your next post! africa is a much better place to be than the middle east. the women there can walk around with bare boobies."

Classic Erica comment. Erica is, by the way, African American. Don't let that pale skin fool you. Just ask her where she was born.

Before I leave Kabul, I need to check out the Gandamack Lodge, second only to L'Atmosphere as a hangout in terms of popularity. Definitely need to go before this year's riot.

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