Saturday, May 26, 2007
Another thing people keep asking is how I feel about leaving Afghanistan. I am thrilled to be going home, at least for a while, but I suspect I'm going to get itchy feet pretty quickly. Will I miss Kabul? I'm not sure. I'll certainly miss Nathan, and the sense of purpose that I had while here. I will definitely not miss the airplanes and helicopters flying low enough to make the floorboards shake. If I'm honest, I suppose I will miss the 'get out of jail free card' that I feel like I have here - things that I haven't dealt with or have been put on hold can't wait anymore. Betsy has a saying - only missionaries, mercenaries, misfits and the broken hearted work in places like Afghanistan. It's not that I've been running away from anything in particular, but it is nice to be 'away' sometimes...
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
When W turned in her resignation I was asked to delay my vacation again until the end of July. What could I say? It was obvious we were in a bind, so I agreed. Then, W changed her mind at the last minute and decided to stay. This made things awkward, to say the least. I can't really get into it in a public forum, but management kept changing their minds about what to do with me - so I made the decision for them. I'll be coming home in a few weeks - for good. Or, at least until I find my next job... I'm sad to be leaving the project because I've really put a lot of time, energy and creativity into it, but the work environment was getting uncomfortable to the point that I wasn't enjoying my work anymore. And lets be honest, if you don't like your job here it's not like your social life will make up for it.
Yesterday we ran an all day workshop for our staff, sharing the findings from the gender strategy and working together to find solutions for some of the major gaps. I'm really happy with the way it turned it - it was my first time really designing an all day workshop, and my sessions went extremely well. It's frustrating when W takes credit for my work, but I know what I've done, and I've learned to let other people know as well...
So, I'll be home in June. I have some money saved up and I'm kinda looking forward to taking a break. I'm sure that won't last very long; I'll start getting nervous about my lack of employment and stir-crazy in the family house, but at least the idea is nice for the moment. I am looking for jobs now, but I'm not feeling very motivated. I think I need a break - maybe after some time and perspective I'll have a better idea of where I want to be, whether that's in the US, the Middle East or back in Afghanistan.
Saturday, May 05, 2007
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Tonight I watched Mrs. Henderson Presents. I’d had a frustrating day at work, and I felt like vegging out to a movie. The movie is about a lot of things, and it is set during WWII. During the movie they were showing brave young men in uniform, air raids on
A few nights ago there was a huge firework display to celebrate the anniversary of the mujahaddin running the Soviets out of
Lately I’ve been having the most disturbing dreams – from dreaming that I’m in
I can’t help but wonder how much I’ve changed during my 8 months here, and how it will effect me when I go home – whenever that is. How difficult will it be for me to readjust to the American lifestyle? Will I want to? I guess I’ll get a taste when I go home for vacation in May or June. I imagine the reverse culture shock will be, well, shocking.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
I spent most of my time in Mazar in the city visiting partner organization and talking to them about their views of our program - what they like, what they'd like to change, etc... it was interesting. We did drive out to the desert to see the wild tulip beds, and we went the the shrine at sunset the day before we left and the following morning. It was HOT. While we were at the Mazar I got labeled as a Kharijee (foreigner) for trying to take pictures inside the shrine/mosque. I've never been in a mosque where you weren't allowed to take pictures, including the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Oh well, first they tried to kick me out completely, assuming that if I wasn't Afghan then I couldn't possibly be Muslim, but we convinced them to let me stay. I've also never been in a mosque that did not allow non-Muslims to enter, except during prayer times.
After a quick stop at the office we headed to the UN airstrip in Mazar to catch our flight back to Kabul. Now, these little airstrips are exactly what I used to envision for airports in the Congo - just a small building and a runway. The flight back was uneventful and my five day escape from Kabul ended too quickly. Luckily, I'm scheduled to head to Herat fairly soon, so I'll get to see the western most part of the country before I leave.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
at a Kunduz women's shura
Today didn’t start out too auspiciously – the wedding celebration ended around 12:30, only to be followed by about 90 minutes of cleaning and rearranging the wedding hall, directly above my bed. Every time I dozed off before 2:30 a loud bang or the shreek of metal scraping on metal would jerk me awake.
After downing a cup of coffee and some nan we headed over to our partner’s office to begin the day with a 3 hour interview for our gender strategy. It was an interesting process since our strategy consultant speaks Urdu and Pashto and the people we were interviewing spoke a mix of Pashto and Dari. She needed translation for the Dari speakers, and I needed it for everyone since no one spoke English. Needless to say it was a frustrating process, especially since my translator was by no means fluent in English.
The rectangular meeting room walls were covered in poster paper the women used to create community appraisals of problems, the roles of men and women in their community, their problem identification lists and embroidery patterns. While we sat on low cushions on the floor and the women talked about their organization kids peaked in through the one window, climing on top of each other to get a look at the kharijee (foreigners). After we left that shura we visited a second one the next village over that was very similar in set-up, wall decorations and issues. Apparently they thought that we had come to solve their problems (i.e. give them money) so I’m afraid our visit was a little disappointing, but it was very interesting. Of course, it would have been more interesting if I had understood what was being said at the time.
Next we visited a conflict resolution program funded by my organization. Many of these women were members of different shuras, but in this project they come together to talk about problem solving within their families and communities. It was great to watch the women, many of whom are illiterate and had little opportunity for schooling in their lives, become animated as they participated in the discussions.
Let me begin by saying that the UN people have it made. Flying out of
There is no direct flight to Kunduz from
After checking into the Kunduz Hotel, which looks like a public high school but is tiled like a swimming pool, we stopped by our partner’s office to introduce ourselves and then went to visit one of my organization’s grant project. Next, we drove around the “city” which looks like something out of the 19th century except for the occasional all glass building artfully placed between mud brick huts. We stopped at the best place in town for ice cream, which was cardamom flavored and quite yummy, but I’m sure I’m going to regret eating it tomorrow.
Now, I’m sitting in my moderately clean hotel room listening to the music pounding from the wedding that is taking place directly above me. I’m kind of itchy, and I’m hoping it’s from how hot and sweaty I got today, and not from bed bugs…As a funny side note, one of the security guards (yes, we’re traveling with security guards) knocked on my door a few moments ago with a sheet and stapler. My room is on the ground floor, facing the front of the hotel and apparently men were trying to see in where the curtains part and don’t stay shut. So, thoughtful man that he is, he stapled a sheet to the curtains to keep them closed and prying eyes out. Only in
Friday, April 06, 2007
This is the second bomb in our neighborhood in two weeks - and we're on the quiet side of town. I guess being close to the Parliament building doesn't help. I assume the Parliament was the target because the cop stopped the car just a block before it. We're on lock down today because there are so many checkpoints set up all over our neighborhood after the explosion, which is unfortunate because I had plans to meet a friend for brunch. Hopefully they'll let us out tonight, but I think we'll be locked down for 24 hours.
In other news, I'm scheduled to travel to the provinces in the coming weeks to meet with our Afghan NGO partners. I'm super excited about getting out of Kabul - I've been here for 7 months now and the only place I've visited is Jalalabad. The trip will be touch and go based on the security situation, especially since 5 NGO workers were kidnapped in Helmand yesterday. Seems like I'm playing wait and see in all parts of my life these days...
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Well, maybe not so little, but relatively minor in Kabul. I guess it was a 6.2 on the richter scale in Badakshan (northern Afghanistan) but in Kabul the ground only shook for about 2 minutes. Long enough for everyone to run out of the buildings and watch the satellite dish tremor. Then it was back to work as usual.
Speaking of work - I turned down the regular staff position offered to me by my NGO. I was ready to stay, but the position they finally offered me was not what I originally negotiated. In the end I decided it would be a smarter career move for me to look for something elsewhere, where I don't have battle intern syndrome. Intern syndrome, for the uninitiated, is when you've interned for an organization and they continue to think of you that way, even after you've proved yourself to be a quality, hardworking employee over and over. So, I've extended my consultancy contract until mid-May to get things in order - then I'm off to new adventures. There is a chance that my NGO will counter offer with something better, but at this point I'm inclined to look for something new. We'll see what happens...
I went to Kuwait for a weekend at the end of March. It was great to see my Dad and Lujein, and Abdulla was visiting from the US, so it was even better. I had a nice time with my Kuwaiti family (nice than usual, to be honest) but I was glad it was a short weekend. I got a lot of comments about how it's time for me to be married off to nice Kuwaiti man... ack!
Otherwise, I've had a nasty cold, which is part of why I haven't blogged in a while. Also, our internet connection has been beyond sketchy. Hope you all are doing well...
Friday, March 16, 2007
We held the conversation in a mixture of English and Dari, with different women translating at different times. At first only the bilingual women would speak (although I insisted on constant translation) but by the end all the women were contributing, albeit with some encouragement. One of the women who is a housekeeper at the other staff house said that she works because there aren't any men in her family, but that she loves working and is glad to have the opportunity. Our office cleaner, a fun spunky woman, said that her in-laws talk about her because she refuses to wear the burqa and she works outside of the home, but that she doesn't care. Her husband is an actor, and she said her children also wanted to study acting, but she couldn't let her daughters because of the gossip and problems when they lived in the refugee camps in Pakistan.
Overall, it was a very successful event, and I think we're going to start doing it monthly. It was nice to be able to interact with my co-workers in a more personal way. I've had a very difficult time bridging that gap with most of them, even though I've been here for six months now. I can see I have a lot to learn from them...
Thursday, March 08, 2007
My thoughts and condolences go out to his family, friends and coworkers.
Police don't seem to think that the attack was from the Taleban. One of the things that is not reported on enough is the increase in criminal behavior in Afghanistan. Areas that aren't controlled by the Taleban, and where there is little government presence are becoming increasingly anarchic.
Monday, March 05, 2007
Thousands of people protested after yesterday's disaster, but things seem to be fairly quiet after today's civilian death toll. The calm before the storm? Tribal leaders from the districts effected by yesterday's shooting are coming to Kabul to meet with Karzai about the event on Saturday - rumor has it that demonstrations will hold off until the results from the meeting are know. If the results aren't satisfactory to the tribal leaders, violent protests are expected...
I heard that the UN declared "White City" today in Kabul - the second time since I've been here. This means UN staff are on restricted movement. Another rumor says that 25 suicide bombers have infiltrated Kabul city, and that their target is ministry buildings. I didn't leave my little neighborhood today, but co-workers said police and military were out in force today. The ministries are off limit for our staff until after tomorrow.
The tension is rising in Kabul, but it isn't anywhere near the feeling in the city Friday before last, when everyone was expecting violent protests. International forces are clinging to a slippery slope, and the events of the last few days have made their footing even more treacherous. Hopefully things will be quiet tomorrow.
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Al-Jazeera reports that 16 civilians were killed and at least 24 were injured in the shooting. The ISAF soldiers claim they were caught in a crossfire, but witnesses say there was no attack aside from the suicide bomber. One Afghan man lost 5 members of his family today.
My coworker and the new consultant (this is her first trip to Afghanistan) were on the road, but far enough back that they were caught in the traffic jam instead of the gun fire.
Protests swept through the districts neighboring the incident, with hundreds of people in the street shouting, "Death to America, Death to Karzai."
I feel bad for the ISAF soldiers - most of them are younger than I am, and scared to death, not that they'd admit it. All it takes is one person to pull a trigger for the entire situation to fall apart. That said, the international troops are supposed to be here to make the situation better, not worse. Rumor has it that ISAF is going to close the road between Pakistan and Afghanistan for a few days until things calm down. Interestingly, the area where the suicide bombing happened is an area that has been experiencing the ISAF poppy eradication programing. Something worth pondering...
Saturday, March 03, 2007
We teamed up and figured out the bureaucratic morass together, and booked flights on a different airline for the following day. I went over to HOPE for lunch on Wednesday, and we made plans to do a little exploring today. This afternoon I went over for lunch again, and then Leon, Jason and Kelly (recently arrived from the US), Anthony (Australian) and myself headed out to Darelman Palace and the Kabul Museum. After that we drove out to Lake Qargha (still my favorite place to visit) and mucked about in the mud. Our driver decided to drive, or slide rather, right to the shore of the lake. There were a few sketchy moments where I wasn't sure we were going to make it back up to the main road, but the four wheel drive won out in the end.
All in all it was a great weekend - dinner with Cory last night, exploring today. I even got up early and did some work before my afternoon adventure. It's amazing how much better I feel after getting out for a bit...
It looks like this month and next month are going to be extremely hectic at work, so my posting may decrease (even more than it already has). We'll see - of course I'll post if anything eventful happens...
Friday, February 23, 2007
Lebanese citizens returning from the rally on February 14, the anniversary of Hariri's assassination