Saturday, November 11, 2006

Rain or Shine

Yesterday I volunteered at the base, as usual. Unfortunately, it started to rain around 2pm (ironically right at the time I skipped out to get some coffee with my new friend Paul). Of course we were set up in a place without any cover, so we had to haul everything to a partially sheltered area. I say partially shelted because the tables and the customers were under cover, but Betsy, Mahboob and I were barely under the overhang. Add a little wind, and you can imagine how wet we were. Amazingly, we still managed to sell a lot of stuff - we almost tied our best day so far, in spite of the weather.

Kabul desperately needs rain, so it is actually a really good thing that it rained. Admittedly, the entire city turns into a mud pit, but at least it damps down the dust a bit.

At 4 we packed everything up and left the base. Then, we stood outside in the rain (now it was just sprinkling) for a half hour waiting for Mahboob to hail a cab. They all seem to disappear when it starts raining. Eventually, we squelched into a cab, heaved a premature sigh of relief. Premature, because when we got to Betsy's street the road was flooded. Because rain in relatively infrequent in Kabul, many of the streets don't have drainage systems. The taxi plunged into the water - at the deepest point the water was just below the car doors. I could feel the water flowing beneath the floor boards.

The water in front of Betsy's house was at least a foot deep, so we got the driver to drop us off a little further up the street, and we used a back side entrance to lug everything inside. As I stood in the mud waiting for Betsy to unlock the door I realized that the water flowing down the street was a mix of rain runoff and sewage. It was the smell that gave it away. Once we got inside we put on dry clothes and drank hot chocolate - thank god for hot chocolate.

When I dragged my slightly air-dried self back to my house, I was greeted by my good friend from DC, Scott, who arrived in Kabul on Thursday. After 1o minutes of talking, and my explaining my job situation, Scott recommended that I go out for dinner with himself, his new boss and Nathan. Scott insisted that his boss, Lorenzo, could be a vital networking link for me. Since Lorenzo is leaving Afghanistan for about 20 days tomorrow, it was a now or never situation. So, I dragged my soggy self upstairs and took a (mostly) hot shower. The light blew out in my bedroom, so I got dressed in the dark and we went out to dinner at an Iranian restaurant. I was so tired I could barely follow the conversation, much less impress Lorenzo with my charm, intelligence and overall employability. But, I did give two people my business card, so hopefully I made a better impression than I think. . .

When we got home I crawled upstairs and was getting ready for bed when a heard two bursts of machine gun fire. Close. I instinctively rolled onto the bed and away from the windows. I laid there with my heart pounding for a minute before it clicked -- wedding. Afghans, like Palestinians and many other cultures, celebrate weddings by shooting into the air. Amazingly, I crawled into bed a few minutes later and passed out immediately.

***Pic is a minivan stuck on Betsy's street in water almost up to the tail lights. Unfortunately I was shivering so hard I couldn't get a clear shot.

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