Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Too much to bear

Yesterday a suicide bomb exploded at a sugar factory in Baghlan, a town north of Kabul in Afghanistan. The targets were senior officials from the various ministries who had come up from Kabul to inaugurate the factory. School children had been prepared to meet the local officials, holding flowers and dressed in their nicest clothes. Of the 60 or so people killed, the vast majority were the children. This was the worst attack in the country since 2001. Hamid Karzai declared three days of mourning and in Washington, the incident was called a despicable act of cowardice. No group has taken responsibility for the attack; Taleban and Al Qaeda are being suspected.

What do these people want? What are they after? Where does their ideology come from? As a Muslim, I'm repulsed, saddened and ashamed to share the same religion as these people. Afghanistan has made so many strides since the Taleban were deposed and these 'insurgents' are wiping it all off cavalierly and with no thought to the consequences. And what can we do? We are helpless to watch, wait, and postulate.

I send out a prayer for the families of the victims and hope to God that the people who are responsible recognize the errors of their ways.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Blue skies

Three days ago, I was in Kabul, marveling at the blue of the sky over there and wishing I could take bring back some of the gorgeous weather to Dubai. Today, driving on Sheikh Zahid Road with my Jeep's top down, I was amazed to see a sky as blue as the one I left behind in Kabul. Could it be possible that Dubai's sky is actually visible? In my 10 months here, I cannot say that I have seen a cloudless, blue sky, but the last couple of days have been amazing. Feeling the wind in my hair and the sun on my face and arms, I felt good to be in my car on Sheikh Zahid Road. Hope this weather stays with us for a while...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A day in Kabul

This is my second trip to Afghanistan in about as many months. On my first trip out here, I was in based in a province called Baghlan, about 4 hours from Kabul, for a month. This time however, I have spent more time in Kabul. I have to admit I was a bit nervous coming out here. All of my information on Afghanistan had come from the scary media reports of NATO troops being attacked by suicide bombers, foreign aid workers being kidnapped by militant groups, and instability and chaos reigning supreme.

Although there are many problems in Afghanistan, security issues being top on that list, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Kabul does not look like a war zone. It is a hustling and bustling city with lots of cars, shops, restaurants, people, homes, trees, etc. In other words, it looks like many of the cities in this region, namely Karachi, Pakistan. Although if you ever come here, you shouldn't really say that as most Afghanis have not yet confirmed how they feel about Pakistanis, but most of that feeling is quite negative. Anyhow, last night I went to a Lebanese restaurant with some work colleagues and sitting outdoors in a giant tent eating our shish tawook and sipping on mint lemonade under the warmth of outdoor heat lamps, I forgot that I was in Kabul. But then I stepped outside and saw the two security guards with their AK 47s and the sign posted on the restaurant that said: No Locals Allowed.

The divide between the expats and locals is quite obvious. Expats live in the richest part of town, eat at the most expensive restaurants (a typical dinner in Kabul at one of these restaurants can cost as much as 20USD, which is a crime, I think!), and have the higher paying jobs. Foreigners are running the Ministries of Health, Education, Interior with the support and blessings of the Afghan govt. of course but I wonder how the locals feel about this. And there is rampant poverty everywhere. Little children scamper on the busy streets, selling everything from chewing gum to used clothing. Of the 31 million people in Afghanistan, almost 44% are under the age of 14.

Today, when we went out to get lunch, a group of small children huddled around us, peering at me and my two Tajik female colleagues. They may have been staring because we were speaking in English, but I think it was just because they were surprised to see women who looked Afghani but were dressed differently and speaking a different language. They didn't try to sell us anything, or ask for money. They ranged in age from 4 (rosy cheeks and the longest eyelashes I have seen on a little boy!) to 10 (a young girl, dressed in rags, with eyes that looked much older than her age). We asked them their ages, whether they went to school, where they lived. The girl said she had never been to school and didn't know how to read or write. She said she has to take care of her two younger brothers and stayed out on the streets all day. She said she lived with her mom; her dad had died. What could we do? I didn't want to give them money, and we couldn't just buy food for one or two of them. During the time that we waited for our sandwiches more than 12 of them had gathered around us. The young son of the sandwich shop owner finally came over and shooed the children away. One of the little boys followed us to the gate of the park, but didn't come out. I couldn't help but look back and saw him standing between the iron posts of the gate, a pair of filthy men's slippers in his hand, and a sad look on his face. This has been a day in Kabul for me.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tales-Chapter 2

Taking the advice of a few of my fellow bloggers, I will quit whining about my new place of residence and instead regale you with stories of places I have worked in.

Prior to moving to Dubai, I worked in Tajikistan, in the Gorno Badakhshan region, a country that I spent 2 amazing years in. Every time I try to write down my experiences of living in that country, I fail, because the sheer beauty and fullness of my life there are difficult to put down on paper. I wish everyone could visit Tajikistan at least once in their lifetimes, to witness the beauty, serenity and hospitality of the people who live there. I learned so much from my time there, professionally, as well as personally. I have never felt fulfilment in my life like I did there. There are no gadgets, gizmos, distractions to life. I felt like I actually experienced LIFE there.

For example, one evening, when the electricity had shut down (at 5pm), after dinner (sardines and naan again), my friend and I decided to go for a walk. It was October, just beginning to get cold, but not so cold that you couldn't enjoy a nice evening walk. We left my neighborhood and headed towards the airport. The leaves on the trees had started to turn yellow and orange and we crunched through them on our way towards the outskirts of town. Headlights of the occasional car would make us turn the other way, to the mountains of Afghanistan and the scattering of lights of homes with electricty. After walking for around thirty minutes, we came to the lookout point. In the dark of twilight, the darkest dark I have ever been in, where it is hard to see even your own hand, we climbed the rough rocks of the mountain to the flat space that afforded us a view of the entire valley and Afghanistan beyond. We had clear views of the majestic Pamirs, the river Panyj and the night sky which at this time was a remarkable shade of blue. Not quite indigo, not navy, but something in between. Stars, (so close we could touch them couldn't we?! ) were everywhere: bright, big, luminous, gorgeous. And the silence. If you have never experienced absolute, utter silence, it can be quite freaky. It was so quiet that we could hear the river gurgling down below, we could hear the marmots rummaging around in their homes behind us, and the tumble of rocks as some nocturnal animal made it's way around the mountain. Isat there, in this peaceful place, filled with happiness and wonder at the world, at my life, at the fullness of it all. And I wondered, how little one needs to feel truly alive.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Tales of a Bored Wife

I am bored. And I am a wife. Welcome to Tales of a Bored Wife, Chapter 1.

I used to lead a really cool and exciting life. I was still a wife at that time, but living apart from my man. He was in the town of skyscrapers and I was in the country that was called the roof of the world. Things were really good. He had stuff that he was busy with, I was working with an amazing organization, we got to see each other often enough, and let me tell you, distance does indeed make the heart grow fonder, especially when the hearts are in the bedroom...enough said.

Flash forward to 2007. My gig atop mountains is over. Now I am here. The husband is here. But he's not. Because he's constantly at work. What little time we do have together we spend wondering what to do with it, besides shop and eat, because those two items do not count for recreation in my book. Alas, spending money on food and material items is what makes this town tick, so, add to the Bored and Wife categories, Disgruntled.

Check back in for Chapter 2. Who knows what crazy things I'll get involved in next...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Reminds me of Seattle

Looking outside the window, I'm reminded of Seattle, the city where I grew up and which is still the place I refer to as home, even though I haven't lived there in so many years. Growing up, I used to tire of the gloomy, overcast, rain-filled days and but the overcast skies never bothered me that much. But after living in other places, more sunny places, going back to Seattle's rain and constant greyness fills me with dread and sadness.

So this weather that we've been having lately, of immensely thick clouds and heavy fog (or is it smog?) is making me feel pretty blue. The lack of color, the absence of the sun bouncing off the waters in the marina and ocean, the reflective windows without their reflection, the city has an eerie feeling, like something bad is about to happen. At least in Seattle the greyness was tempered by the lush foliage--Evergreen trees, Elms, Firs. Here it's just cranes, construction, and dust. What's the name of that syndrome that some people suffer from--Seasonal Affective Disorder? I think I have it....

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The blogosphere

With all this new found time on my hands, I'm delving deep into the world of the (add scary jaws music) BLOG. I'm trying to make my page look cool and funky like so many of the others out there but I can't figure it out. Does anyone have any easy instructions on how I can customize my page? I tried the built in blog customizer thing but it was very complicated for me. That's an indication of what you're working against, if you decide to send me suggestions--I am not a tekkie nor do I have a lot of patience! But I am a fast learner. And really cute too :)