In more somber news, there's a BIG problem here in Afghanistan (oh, geesh, another one?!?): Western forces have been killing civilians at a faster rate than the insurgents have been killing civilians. The U.S. and NATO say they don't have civilian casualty figures, but the Associated Press has been keeping count based on figures from Afghan and international officials. As of Aug. 1, the AP count shows that while militants killed 231 civilians in attacks in 2007, Western forces killed 286. Another 20 were killed in crossfire that can't be attributed to one party.
Afghans are getting angry... we don't want Afghans to get angry...
In other news: Sunday, Aug. 19, is Afghanistan Independence Day. No work! But I don't understand the difference in this and Liberation Day (Feb. 15) and Victory Day (April 18).
I went to dinner at Istanbul, a really terrific Turkish restaurant here in Kabul, with the head of "my" ministry's media relations office (I think he's got a very big future in front of him). He told me lots of great behind-the-scenes stories of the recent jirga. Cool stuff - even some hopeful stories.
I continue to try to make the drivers laugh. I don't know why. I guess because they don't speak much English at all, and it's my way to connect with them. The other day, I started making vroom vroom and screeching sounds to go along with whatever the driver was doing. Daud kept laughing in disbelief. I'm so weird.
A few weeks ago, I got invited to the UN Volunteers two-day retreat by the UNV Program Officer here - I visit her whenever I'm on the UNDP campus and always greet UNVs I meet here with a lot of enthusiasm and respect, and she calls me her honorary UNV. UN Volunteers often do *exactly* the same jobs as UNDP contract holders and consultants, and have just as much professional experience (or more), but get a *fraction* of the money and benefits, but, sadly, are often treated like low-level cheap labor. I went all day Thursday (Friday is my only day off, and I'm selfish - that's my day for brunch with cranky Graham, who is mentioned again later in this blog). There were about 40 UNVs from all over the world gathered at the almost quaint Heetal Plaza Hotel - in the rather snug meeting room. I had sooooooo much fun. I felt valued and energized. I remembered what it was like to work at UNV headquarters under Sharon Capeling Alakija and with so many, many incredible people during International Year of Volunteers 2001. I remembered why I wanted a career in development. UNDP should throw out all the international consultants, myself included, and replace them with international UN Volunteers. Not to save money - rather, to get people who remember why we are in Afghanistan.
Thank you to Betsy for the heads up regarding the photo on the Showtime web site to herald their new season. Oh la la... I think I made a noise when that photo finally downloaded. And if you saw it, you know why...
Per a city in Alabama voting on whether or not to ban alcohol sales, a Fark reader is suggesting renaming the state to "Alabamastan." It so fits.
Another observation about Afghanistan: the young Afghan guys love fitted orange shirts. These can be button down short sleeve shirts or t-shirts. Either way, they love them. And in addition to those two Kentucky sweat shirts, I have also seen t-shirts given away to participants in all sorts of fun-runs and marathons to raise money for various charities that happened in cities all across the USA. The other day, I saw a guy up ahead riding a bike and the word "VOLUNTEER" was emblazoned across his back. As we passed him, I turned around to see what the front of his shirt said. It was for that huge International Catholic Youth Day in Germany a while back.
Gotta talk Elvis again: I was too young for the Elvis's 1968 Comeback special. But I remember watching it with my family as a rerun, and my father explaining to me why it was such an important show, explaining to me the idea of "comeback." BBC Radio 2 has an AMAZING radio documentary about how this special came together, and the impact it had.
Yet another example of how great Elvis was, and what an evil, evil man Colonel Parker was - I hate that man so much. Shocking trivia: the director of the show, Steve Binder, directed the unbelievably and notoriously *awful* "Star Wars" Christmas Special featuring Bea Arthur! (George Lucas attempted, and failed, to buy up all master copies of this special to ensure it was never broadcast again).
Let me say it again: BBC Radio 2 has been such a lifeline while being in Kabul. It's my R & R without leaving my room.
Thank you, Reb, for this link. I'll definitely be making one as soon as I buy and learn to use a sewing machine.
Graham Wood, otherwise known as "the old man of Kabul" or "Jayne's Friday lunch partner" or "Give me a coffee *now* or I will kill you as I am consumed with caffeine withdrawal", has been blogging on a special Reuters site about Afghanistan. He's a very good writer. For a brit.
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