Karzai's a'comin'... not!
July 17, 2007

Four days until Harry Potter... anyone who sends me a spoiler, I am sending YOU a very angry Taliban fighter.

My recent blog, the one called "Random Thoughts: X-Men & my bathroom strobe light"? The one that talked about how much I hate firewalls? I went to look at it after I had published it on the YahooGroup, to make sure it looked okay. And guess what? Amid the paragraph on AIDS, the firewall blocked the rest of the blog. I HATE FIREWALLS!!

Can't watch YouTube, but I can watch videos on AlterNet. I've seen this one before, but it's so classic I was happy to see it again: Will Ferrell plays "the Commander-in-Chief of the World", talking about Climate Change.

A week or so ago, I got an email from the ministry press office, asking for help with their English translation of their Dari-language formal invitation to the inauguration of the ministry compound. And as formal Dari does NOT translate into formal English, I had to spend quite a while thinking of how to rephrase things. But what I didn't realize at the time was that I was getting an exclusive piece of information that not even my boss knew at the time: Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan, would be the guest of honor. A few days later, my boss came in to tell us the super-secret news. Then began a frenzy to get our offices and grounds looking good: lobby displays, lots of cleaning, flowers everywhere, and plans for what we would do if he actually came to our building. And I *knew* the whole time he wouldn't come. I just knew it. Afghanistan is too much of a mess for the President to be able to afford the time to be here for even 5 minutes. And if I was wrong and he *did* make it to the ceremony, there's no way he'd be coming to our office - he would blow right past in his walk around the grounds. That's how these things always work. It's like that episode of M*A*S*H where the camp goes into a frenzy because General McArthur is supposed to come for an overnight stay, and he ends up just blowing right through the camp in the back of a jeep, all of their preparations for naught.

I was so right. We ended up with First Vice President Ahmad Zia Massoud being the honored guest instead of Karzai. He is the younger brother of Ahmed Shah Massoud, a prominent (and ruthless) Mujahideen commander who played a leading role in driving the Soviet army out of Afghanistan. The older Massoud was killed two days before September 11, 2001 by al-Qaeda supporters disguised as reporters; they set off a bomb either in their video camera or in a belt worn by one of the "cameraman." There are idealized pictures of Massoud all over Kabul and Northern Afghanistan, where he is considered a national hero and martyr (not in the South, however).

The ceremony was the usual, as with a government ceremony *anywhere*: started late, began with singing by colorfully-dressed Afghan children, continued with speeches and me fighting to stay awake, then a ribbon was cut. Then the crowd of ministry employees broke up and we all went back to our respective buildings, waiting for the honored guest, each little building hoping they would get chosen for a visit. And the honored guest, as I predicted, blew right past our office as he strolled quickly through the compound, my boss and heads of unit standing in front of our doorway looking heart-broken, holding the press packet they had insisted I make... oh well, at least the offices are clean now, and I got to see everyone dressed up. I wore one of my fabulous Indian custom-made shalwar kameezes...

I finally got to make a press contact. I posted to kabulguide.net, agreeing with a post lamenting that the press wouldn't do positive stories about Afghanistan. And the Australian advisor to an independent television stations here contacted me about bringing together his national reporters and the ministry press office. So, we did! The station is seen by the authorities as very anti-government, but still, the Minister has said he would be happy to be on one of their talk shows. I'm going to try to coordinate something before I leave the country. The ministry office thinks of press relations as something very formal - you contact the press when you have a press conference or are launching something. And, ofcourse, you do. But you also contact the press to say, "Hey, want a heart-warming story of a poor rural Afghan woman who has participated in the Afghanistan microfinance program and can now feed all her children with the money she makes from her small business selling yogurt?" or "Want to tag along at these community meetings we're having next week?" It may or may not result in a story, but that constant contact will, eventually, lead to something.

Last year (or was it two years ago?) I drafted a guide to fundraising for small nonprofit organizations working in the developing world. I did it on my own time, update it ever-so-often, and offer it for free on my web site. Recently, a consultant I've worked with a bit here in Kabul wrote to ask if the ministry I support made grants to small NGOs. I said no, we had a few exchanges, and it turned out he was putting together a workshop and resources through his INGO for small organizations in Afghanistan, to help them learn about fund-raising. And so I sent him the guide and told him he could use it however he wanted, as long as I got credit. And now it looks like it is going to be used by his INGO to help small NGOs in Afghanistan. I'm thrilled, because I want to be able to do some things here that will live on without me and, I hope, make a difference for someone. *Anyone*.

Okay, I'm posting WAY too much, I know. For March, April, May and June, I posted, on average, less than once a day. No, really, it's true - you can see the numbers on my yahoogroup's home page. But for July, so far, I've posted MORE than once a day. Sorry... I guess I'm full of so many thoughts and observations because I'M LEAVING IN 35 DAYS!!! And I won't be blogging so much when I'm back. And while I'm reading Harry Potter in a few days... Did I mention that, to those who send me spoilers, I *will* send the Taliban after you?


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

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