Saturday, April 21, 2007


View from the Faisalbad airstrip

Wild tulips just outside of the Kunduz airport

Let me begin by saying that the UN people have it made. Flying out of Kabul airport is generally a chaotic, frustrating nightmare. BUT if you are flying on a UN flight, you get to bypass the main terminal completely, and while you still have to deal with the creepy Afghan security women who think searching your body for weapons consists of feeling your breasts, the rest of process is painless. Hell, there’s even a place to smoke while you wait for your flight, not to mention a bathroom with a real toilet that isn’t scary as hell.

There is no direct flight to Kunduz from Kabul, so we stopped in Faisalbad on the way. The plane that carried us on our journey was an 18 seater, every seat being a window seat. The rickety little plane really wasn’t any better than the Kam Air or Ariana flights, although the words United Nations were painted across the wing as a kind of talisman of security. As we flew into Faisalbad, all we could see below us was snowcapped peak after peak of the Hindu Kush.

The Faisalbad airport was little more than an airstrip with a few buildings and some armored vehicles, but the landscape surrounding it was stunning. It’s late spring here, and everything was green and lush, with little white and yellow flowers sprinkled all over. After a 10 minute break, we continued on to Kunduz. We flew at a lower altitude this time with the landscape changing from green, khaki and brown patches of earth of blue, burgundy and salmon colored mountains. When we finally landed in Kunduz, it was HOT. I know that I traveled about 7 hours north of Kabul (in a car), but it is much warmer here than the capitol. As we drove away from the airport, again everything was green and lush, but this time the flowers sprinkled in were red – wild tulips grow everywhere here.

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 Afghanistan….

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