My 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. We are all woken at the same time every day by the mullahs who have a special love of high wattage PA systems. I turn a tap. The women in the complex next door shuffle out to a pump in the middle of the courtyard and leverage water out of the abundant aquifer that lies under here. Later their laundry is done at the same pump and the washing up too. The pump outlet is modified by a plastic Coke bottle, which directs the water from a large 8cm outlet which would pump across the lawn, to a flow that is directed though the much narrower bottled opening and pointing down to the ground. She folds her bright skirts around her knees squats down and starts on the dishes and pans in the bright sunlight, the concrete path her bench top. Kids jump around her and play, though one is a perpetual crier. The runt of the litter methinks The washing up continues and she pays him no attention. He is soon distracted by an old bicycle and the numerous other kids at play. He rushes off but already I know he will be in tears again shortly. Mothers call. A kid inside answers without enthusiasm. I imagine him in front of a grainy TV. She calls again and he answers. She is beating a carpet over the railing and I suspect this will be his next chore. An argument erupts and voices lift, shrill and sharp. It may not be an argument of course. These people speak with great passion even when they are talking about how many toilet rolls to buy next time they are at the shops. Volume and pitch do not always mean an argument. In this case the response from the teen suggests it’s an argument. It’s the holy day mum, I should be let off my chores. I leave the kids running around under the shade of their grape vines and fruit trees. They value their privacy greatly. A wander around my own roof top is fine but too much attention is not acceptable. From the cool of my room I hear the playing and arguing continue. The runt is crying again.
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