I PETTED A DOG!!! (16 days to go)
August 5, 2007

I petted a dog!!! She's a gorgeous German Shepard mix, owned by the owner of Le Bistro, which I went to for the first time on Friday. And while the restaurant is not UN security approved, a person in a leadership position with the UN was there, so I guess I was okay. Not very good food, but such a beautiful place. AND A DOG!!! Oh, she's lovely. And she gnaws your wrist when she loves you, just like Albi. Who I miss so much... sometimes I call my cat here Albi by mistake... I was in a great mood the entire day. I wanted to make sure the Afghan male staff saw me fussing over her, how a simple "yipe" from me makes her stop gnawing, how sweet and loving she is... She is a former mine sniffing dog. She was injured when a mine blew up behind her. She could no longer work, but someone spent a lot of money fixing her up; I couldn't tell at all that she had ever been injured.

Kabul Kitty has a *real* name she responds to. It's C.C. Or Sissy. I've never asked Anne for clarification. Anyway, Anne named her that. Anne had her at the other World Food Programme guest house where she lives, and her house mates demanded she get rid of the cat because she jumped up on a table laden with food. So Anne brought her here to this WFP guest house about 10 months ago, because it has a big garden, and various people pitched in to take care of her here. C.C. had forgotten her name by the time I moved here in June, but I've re-taught it to her. Meanwhile, several days after Anne got rid of C.C., her guest house started having mouse problems, which are ongoing. Ha ha.

After Le Bistro, I met up with Anne to visit the other ISAF market, which I didn't even know existed. I like it much better than the other - this one is mostly covered. Almost all of the military people walking around are USA soldiers, and armed, and that is somewhat disconcerting... Americans are very nice people, but I don't like being around armed people, regardless of nationality. What I did like was I saw some genuine friendships going on between some of the soldiers and shop-keepers. I guess for a lot of soldiers, outside of patrols and fighting, the ISAF market is Afghanistan for them.

A really good FAQ about what the security situation is like in Afghanistan, how people feel about the Taliban, etc.

My cultural learning for today: people in Afghanistan like to make fun of people from Vardak/Wardag province, kind of like how people from the USA like to make fun of people from my home state. And people from Vadak province like to make fun of *themselves* the same way... kind of like people do from my home state about themselves... The province is South West of Kabul. I've never been. I was supposed to go but, what else, got sick...

I've known three Iranians here in Afghanistan. And like Iranians I've met anywhere else in the world, whether in the USA, Germany or England, they have been the most well-rounded, calm, educated, kind-hearted people I've ever met. They value education, knowledge and wisdom more than any group I've ever met. That's *my* stereotype of Iranians. And we have all had a lot in common: we're not terribly fond of our current leadership in government, nor how religious groups influence such...

I've come up with enough to do to keep me busy for one more week. About half are for work, and the rest are things I need to do for myself. My paperwork is all done except for the walk-out paper, showing I've turned everything in. And I can't do that until my last day. My last day full day at work, and my last full day and night in Kabul should be Aug. 20 (I fly out the next day). And since I have to turn everything in on Aug. 20, I won't have a computer that evening. I may not even have a phone then (I'm trying to negotiate turning my phone into the driver at the airport when I leave). I'm going to feel very, very unconnected.

But I'm not leaving yet... I'll be here for the big Afghanistan-Pakistan peace forum, known as the Pak-Afghan Jirga, which starts Wednesday. It's an effort to resolve the very deep divisions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Hundreds of politicians, intellectuals, tribal elders, clerics and media professionals from both sides would take part in the jirga. Security for the three-day session will, no doubt, be insane. And as my office is down the street from where the Jirga will be held... well, it's going to be rough.

Still thinking about the Koreans. I'm both worried about and angry at them. I guess that sums out how most aid workers here feel about them. I get sad when I think of how they are suffering (several are rumored to be very ill, and I'm sure it's the same as what I had) and how scared they are, and I feel awful for their families. I get mad when I think of what an idiotic thing it was to do to drive from Kabul to Kandahar and how many lives are now in danger because of them, including their own.

Tensions are very high in Kabul right now. There's worry in the air. And a LOT of dust...

(if you want to help regarding the stray dog 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 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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