My Neighbours

June 27, 2014

nbour290My neighbours? My neighbours are no different to your neighbours. Sure they live in a rabbit warren of mud roofed, grass sprouting houses all interconnected by covered walkways. Probably a bit different to the McMansion or Californian Bungalow or nondescript Australian Housing Estate Modern style over your back fence. But their kids play and shout and wrestle like your neighbours kids. They chase each other and play tag like yours do. They climb trees and raid fruit like the neighbours kids do. Though in this case they are nicking their own fruit – the walls around their compound are far too high and precarious for them to get up and over into the neighbours place. Knees are skinned, heads are bumped, cats are tormented, bicycles crashed and girls are teased by the boys. My Kabul neighbours are no different to neighbours anywhere. Well, mostly. Read more

Seven Steps to Security Serenity in Kabul

April 23, 2014

kabul290You can find humour anyhere. If you look for it. In fact in this place, to which we should ascribe ingrained sadness, there is a vein of light heartedness that everyone is so ready to tap. As friend Ray noted last week, these people are so quick to laugh and smile, unless and until you put a camera in front of them. Then they become as grave and as implacable as a thirteen year old girl with braces that went on only yesterday. There is even an ironic humour contained in the ‘seven steps to security serenity’ to which every departing traveller using the international airport is subject. It goes something like this. Read more

Hair Trigger

March 29, 2014

trigger 290As we roll into election week there is a fragility of life that stabs us every day, despite the so necessary ‘get on with living’ attitude that pervades this place. An attack yesterday – or was it the day before, it’s easy to lose track – on a guest house is applauded for its failure, for the efficiency of the security forces  (rightly so) and for the survival of the intended targets. Yet a ten year old girl, an unintended target, died. Found in a ditch nearby after the security forces finished off the insurgents.  So too a couple of local lads employed as guards.  Both dead.  I look at these people in the street and wonder what their hopes and dreams might be. Not the collective ones of nationhood and security, but the personal ones.  I wonder that about these three that died. What were their hopes and dreams?  Who loved them with a brotherly and sisterly love, that love now turned to mourning? Who loved them as lovers, heads together as they dreamed shared dreams? Read more

Between a Brick and Hard Step

March 8, 2014

brick290I come up the stairs at the end of the day, negotiating a brick that is placed on the marble step least I step on a pattern that is remarkably akin the Arabic script for God, past the kitchen from which leaks the strange sounds of a woman singing over a crackly radio, and I head to my quarters. It’s been a good day and I feel like I am getting into the business of the place. The brick impresses me. Read more

What’s It Like Living in Kabul?

November 22, 2013

city290What’s it like living in Kabul I am asked? I have no idea really. The people in the old city live with no electricity or running water, walk miles to get to the markets and freeze in the depths of winter in their mud brick houses.  Oh, you mean what’s it like for me to live here? Well, I’m not really living here. Just passing through. It’s the story of Afghanistan you know. Everyone just passes through. The Americans are the latest to come and go. The Taliban had a brief flirtation, the Soviets before them. The British and Russians. Genghis Khan. Persians. Aryans. Alexander the Great and a whole host beside, not counting the merchants who walked east and west along the silk road that cuts from east to west a stone’s throw north of here. Seeing evidence of the Soviet occupation gives the experience a Far Away Tree feel to the place, for I have been here before, even though this is my first visit.  Read more

A Night in Kabul

November 12, 2013

street290In the same way that Baghdad left me with the enduring image of ordinary folk trying to get on with their lives Kabul is impressing me with the same. Grandma wobbles through the mud on her pushbike. A mother hurries along the sidewalk. A boy wanders along adjusting his kameez, followed by a bear of a father who is carrying an enormous bundle over his shoulder and a lovely walnut stocked hunting rifle in the other hand. The boys across the road are tossing bricks up into the building where yesterday they were mixing and pouring cement.  Unlike Baghdad however there is a vibrant flurry of enthusiastic business and construction activity, some of the latter no doubt attributable to the pending winter months. Read more

Welcome to Afghanistan

November 7, 2013

kabul290My last night before heading to Kabul tomorrow On an airline that I don’t know owned by a government (or at least flagged by them – turns out it’s privately owned) which any number of ratbag elements would love to target. Of that I have no doubt. I have always wanted to visit this ‘great game’ of a place and had even attempted to do so when Franko was there. But those plans didn’t come to anything unfortunately. Tomorrow it all happens and I am very much looking forward to it. Mind you, so many people have expressed alarm at the idea I have have been tempted into thinking I need my head read. Fortunately I have none willing, or more to the point, none able to read my head so off I go, trusting to God and pushing the envelope a little. Once more. But even as I write that I know this is no more a big deal than travelling to the south side of Washington DC to talk to potential healthcare clients. Coming to harm in that place was so real a possibility my cab driver didn’t stop to allow me to alight nor did he want his change. I had to jump from a moving car in order to make my appointment. Read more