initial afghan thoughts…

it’s only been a couple of weeks and it already feels like it has been months… afghanistan, or kabul since that’s all i’ve seen so far, is not like i expected. I didn’t expect that a lot of people would speak basic english or Urdu, and I definitely didn’t expect it to be so busy. first the airport was a bit chaotic… to start with, you have to go through the passport check like any other place, but the process is a bit funny. first, they give you a landing card to fill out, and since some of the people on the flight were illiterate, i was filling cards out for others – so obviously, since it was easier to make up professions than to try to communicate with the people , I had some fun with it… i filled in one for a doctor, a teacher, an entertainer, and a clown πŸ™‚ anyway, after filling that in, you wait in line and hand it to a guy who validates it and your passport, then you go in another line where another guy validates your entry visa in your passport, then you stand in yet another line where some guy again looks at your passport, but i couldn’t figure out his purpose.

When I finally got out, for the first time ever I had a guy waiting holding a card ‘MR. <my name here >’ – felt like a big time movie exec… Kabul Citybut then the reality hit me as I walked to the car when literally about 20-30 kids ran up asking for money, even trying to prevent us from closing our car doors. The afghan lady accompanying the driver just looked at me and said ‘Welcome to kabul’. Then she asked – ‘Are you Ismaili’ (the type of muslim that my family is) which when I confirmed she told me she was as well which got me bit worried – I thought she might expect me to go pray every day or something, but i’ve been ok so far πŸ™‚ It is actually quite interesting to meet ismailis out here, since they haven’t really met many from outside afghanistan, so they find it exciting. and it is cool to see that in general it seems that nowΒ they can say they are ismaili muslim and they are pretty well accepted by the larger community since they weren’t under the taliban.

the city itself is definitely depressing – although it could be a great looking place. It’s surrounded by snow capped mountains and it is usually pretty sunny although it is cold right now and most of the historical sites are destroyed or crumbling. Actually, I’ve seen pictures of the city when it was ruled by the Russians and it was impressive – but after 25 years of bombs, all that is left is a completely destroyed city – most places have walls falling down on them, many people live in russian style apartment complexes, mud houses or shacks, and many shops are just made of make shift walls and doors – our offices are in a building which his half in disrepair, but when you walk into our area on the top floor, it is like walking into a secret room in a bond film. The area which houses the computer equipment is state of the art and fully equipped. but in general, the city is just a big dust bowl – the amount of dust and dirt in the air is disgusting – if you think london is bad, this is way worse. After the first day when I blew my nose, it was gross — I think a stone came out… yeah, like i said – gross..

Kabul Traffictraffic here is nuts–without exaggeration, sometimes the traffic is worse than london Piccadilly circus on a saturday night. and the worse part is i don’t think anyone here knows how to drive. it’s not like other developing countries where the drivers are just crazy, here they’re just lost. first of all, most of the cars have the steering wheel on the wrong side (the UK side) but roads are split like Canada so they drive on the right side. then, absolutely no one ever looks – this includes the people walking and the people riding bikes. the people on bikes change lanes and turn without even looking as though if they hit the car, the car will go to the hospital and not them… and the funniest part is how everyone is just playing chicken – everyone keeps going straight at each other until someone chickens out and turns or stops… oh, and the way they use roundabouts is great… they use the roundabout if they want to go straight or turn right, but to use it go left, well that would be just dumb.. so they just bypass it… better yet, the lanes are dynamic. imagine there are three lanes in both directions (yes there are roads that wide here, although i’m not sure what is road, and what is the sidewalk…) and if in one direction all of the lanes are full, you just start using the lanes for the other side.. and to add to the fun, there are no lights to help anyone… needless to say the trip back and forth from the office is always fun…

What is good to see is that in general, the afghans are all working hard to restore their city and country. Lots of afghans who expatriated over the years, are coming back educated and are really trying to make changes. The restaurants are also pretty good – there’s an indian restaurant, some italian restaurants, a couple of chinese restaurants, and a thai restaurant that has been opened up here by a family that travels all the war torn countries. The last restaurant they opened was in Bosnia – something wrong with them i think.. maybe next they’ll go to the congo.. I also heard that it serves two purposes – a restaurant, and the other ‘export’ of thailand, but i’m not planning to find out…

overall it’s alright here – what’s funny is that all the people from North America and Europe find that things are tough here, but that most of the people from the UK think that it isn’t that bad… too funny – luckily for me, i got myself used to these conditions by living in london, so it’s not that bad for me either πŸ™‚ i’m half expecting that they will start applying a congestion charge here too…

the only difficult part is that you work and live with the same people… so you can’t really tell a person they’re an idiot at the office, because in the evening you’ll be eating dinner with them… although i’m already thinking there are a couple guys who I may need to encourage to sit elsewhere…

well that’s all now – if you’ve read this far, i’m surprised! my next project is to get a visa to go to india – imagine what an indian embassy in afghanistan is going to be like… great…

– take care, ra

btw – if you don’t mind getting these, just reply back, otherwise i’ll keep you off the future mass emails… πŸ™‚

2 Replies to “initial afghan thoughts…”

  1. Administrator

    lol – ok, ok, i’m sure that there were more people trying to avoid sitting beside me at the dinner table than the other way around… thanks for pointing that out πŸ˜‰

  2. someone

    do u think its possible that u thinking that someone is an idiot may have something to do with yourself. just a thought. liked the rest of the post.

Comments or Questions? Voice them here!