….and the story continues. (I almost missed the van this morning, so you know that means I forgot my camera cord for a second day in a row. Hopefully my words make up for it a teeny tiny bit…)
So, I’m riding from the airport into Kabul’s busy, frenetic, streets. I have that BLUR feeling again, so I’ll just transcribe my very first thoughts.
- DUST! LA’s smog is bad, but this right here is…. Eye & lung burning DUST. Dust. dust. dust….. floating every. where.
- They’ve got Mexico beat by a longshot on the harrowing driving style. To my Mexican friends: …. read my typing A. LONG. SHOT. Cars and dust and cars and dust.
- Men, men, men, is that a woman? no MEN, men men. Oh there are some women! wow! men, men men.
- Oh, okay – I guess in order to cross the street you just pray up to Allah and make a go for it.
Pull up to the house. DOGS! We’ve got guard dogs. Only, they’ve got to be taught that I live here too now. …. I have a fear of dogs so, they put them away and save that lesson for now.
I enter the house. And while on paper it sounded like the United Colors of Beneton would be living there – I quickly learn that I was pretty much the only one who didn’t speak German. Meaning, everyone else in the house was German, Swiss, Austrian or from some other country where it is customary to know German. Even the Austrailian man seems to be in on the whole German thing. Whelp, add THAT to the list of things to learn while here. This is REALLY going to be interesting.
Everyone was super sweet and excited to meet me. I got a quick tour of the house and her many many quirks. **ahem** and then it was dinner time. YES!
So the rule of the guesthouse is: everybody takes a turn cooking one night of the week. Rumor has it that there are some good cooks and some pretty bad ones in the group…. I wonder which side things they’ll find mine.
Anyways, tonight’s especially special because we’ve got one housemate and another friend of the house leaving leaving Kabul the next day. Everyone’s merry – someone makes cupcakes, it seems like a party is about to start. I should mention that the friend of the house is an American dude from the midwest. Totally the type my friends in LA swoon over. He digs up old land mines and swears it’s no more unsafe than working in your average American factory. Hmmm. Okay, well since I won’t be doing that job anytime soon, I believe him. It looks like he’s the guest of honor at a couple of spots around town, and we’re all invited to join.
If I were in a John Hughes movie – this would be the moment I turn and do an about face to camera. See, at this point, I’ve been traveling for somewhere in the 40 hour range with little to no sleep. Not to mention carting all those fantabulous bags around. But, the Niki in me can’t watch everybody else making merry and then sit alone in a new house. Not. gonna. happen. I hop in the shower.** Throw on whatever the first thing my hands touch, and am out the door into a cab with these people. Yes, that’s right into a cab at night in Kabul, Afghanistan. I will say that there were more men than women, and many members of the group have lived here over 2 years. So…. I went for it.
I somehow got up some sort of miracle energy and had a really great time.
There was something absolutely surreal about the last place we went to. We were in some place that was basically European. There was an odd mix of individuals I won’t even attempt to try and explain. Folks in “uniform,” (for what country, I don’t know because I’m 75% sure they weren’t American) people I’d assume were reporters, other forms of war profiteers, a dabbling of locals in the know…. Very, very interesting.
Here’s what I noticed. And this was just my first dog tired night in town – so I may recant this observation. But. I noticed that there is some sort of odd tension between the humanitarian/NGO community and the “profiteer” community. Yes, there were a good number of Americans. However, folks didn’t organize by country like that. It was more: Are you here to help or profit? Very interesting indeed.
At some point I realize I can’t take another step. I must get sleep. Finally. It was about that time for everyone it seemed. We hopped in a cab, and in moments we were back at the house.
I did not wake up again until 3p the next day. Boy did that feel good.
I spent the day chit chatting with a reporter staying in our guesthouse from Nepal. I think we watched movies the rest of the day/night. It was the perfect way to wind down and kind of gear up for all that was to come the next day.
I was really really sore from the infamous bags I am now swearing never to bring anywhere else ever again.**
** Yeah, yeah, yeah. Quirks of the house. Well, it’s like camping in here. You’ve got to go on the roof and plug in the water pump to get pressure enough to take a shower. You’ve got to fill the gas furnaces with fuel so they’ll work, but they run out usually 2/3 of the way through the night. As much as I’m still cursing those bags, and the Germans laugh at me about them, I will say this: I am so so so very thankful for the things I brought. Especially, the super thick Thai blanket that makes me forget that its freezing in my room. I think I’d carry alla that all over again to know I had a warm bed. Not to mention, the water HEAT has now been out for two days. And while we can take warm showers in the office, the truth is even washing your hands in freezing water and taking sponge baths leave you cold cold cold in the end. So, I’m lying in this blanket right now elated at that choice. Yay me.
Since this trip is about learning, here’s my status so far:
Learning German – they teach me in the car. But it’s only a word or phrase at time. I think I’ll have to push them to teach me another way. They’re going to get tired of me – and one girl even asked why I cared to learn. Hey, if I’m gonna be surrounded by a bunch of folks who know things I don’t – I’d be a fool not to at least TRY to learn from them.
Learning Skateboarding – take THAT naysayers… I can go straight and kick, push at least twice in ONE LESSON! Imma get it, just you see. After six months of training with the real deal dudes, I can’t wait to see how much I learn.
Learning Dari – The kids I think are eager to teach me…. but, they speak English more than the Germans. So, I don’t know if any real Dari will be passed along. We’ll see what I get in the end.
Learning Afghanistan – well – I HAVE been asking the people I can what their impressions of the US & the war are. I think many, many people would be shocked at the answers I get. Wow. I don’t feel right posting that here in my blog. I think in a way, I’ll save that for the personal conversations I have with friends who know me. This is probably a wise decision.
I’m tired now, and will have to continue tomorrow. But let’s say, yes, there is lots and lots of learning happening here. I love that!
PS: its 4:45a.. ADAN (azan) time! I’ve heard plenty of adans being called in my day. The Afghan version isn’t quite as pretty as the ones I’ve heard. Maybe it’s the echoing across the mountainside? I also can’t make out the Arabic like I can in others I’ve heard. This just sounds like moaning. Oh well.