June 2004 Afghanistan Blog
The blog is posted in reverse chronological order, so if you want to read the stories in order scroll to the bottom of the page and start there.
Saturday, June 26, 2004
Dubai Saturday Night
Well the big conversation for a few days before your flight is what time the flight will leave. International air travel is so constrained because they insist that you publish a flight schedule and say what time you're leaving and arriving on any given day. For Ariana this is just a petty formality and departure time is more like a serving suggestion. You need to call them the day before to get the actual departure time, but depending on what time that day you call, you get different times. The trick is to call close enough to the time they close to get what may be the final time. Then show up plenty early in case that's not really it. Over the course of 24 hours people were told that the flight left at 9am, 10am, 11:30am, 12noon and 3 pm. My ticket said 11:30 and I planned to hand out the cerfiticates to the canning teachers at their meeting before I left, but the best information we had by friday night was a 10am departure so I only had time to run by the French Bakery, pick up some pies for the trip and hit the airport. And then that left plenty of time to relax at the luxurious Kabul International airport waiting for the flight on In Sh'Allah Air. In Sh'Allah your plane will leave and In Sh'allah your plane will land. It really is a great time to just hang out and talk to people who are basically as nuts as you. Was sitting with a guy from Kentucky I met at the Kerry event the day before. You get 2 people together who've been to Afghanistan over the last 2 and half years and it's a painful experience for everyone within earshot who is tortured with the "remember how it was" stories. We were laughing at Tim from Washington State sitting with us who dared compain about how crowded and uncomfortable the airport was. No mercy for him when we started on the remember when the airport had no chairs? Remeber when the airport had no windows? Remember when the airport was just one big cavern and they threw your bags into a hole in the wall from outside? And on and on. At what point did I become an old timer? The guy from Kentucky is an ag worker up in Kunduz and he had the best story of the day. He's out at some ag project site and a car with 3 women and a driver comes out to the site. They are local women who work for the NGO and were gathering some information but were burqua'd up because Kunduz ain't Kabul. After they left one of the Afghan guys said to him, did you see those 3 beautiful women? And he said he saw three women, but they were in burquas so how did you know they were beautiful? Oh, the Afghan guy said in an awestruck voice, they had beautiful hands and their feet were clean. At that point I'm doing the burqua tease to Tim by showing off my ankle and I quickly hid my feet under the chair and stuck my hands under my chador because after 2 weeks of no hot water I failed that beauty test miserably.
Dubai was everything I dreamed and more. Hot shower. Clean sheets. Hot shower again. Good food. Hot shower just because you can. Gold Souk for a little pretty. And finally a a hot shower. Had a great time hanging out with Tim, the DoD contractor from Kandahar I met in Kabul. I did my usual elf services and helped him pick out jewelery for the women in his life at the gold market - I have excellent taste when I'm spending other men's money. We're at one of the stores and I'm waiting for him to pay for a necklace and there's this water cooler, I fill a cup with water and it turns out to be the first cold water I've had in 2 weeks and I get a massive ice cream head rush. I almost fell over. Had a steak dinner, Tim got on the plane and I got a half-night's sleep before leaving for my flight to JFK. Dubai seems like a pretty soulless place, but after 2 weeks in Afhanistan soulless is almost comforting. If Afghanistan has only one thing, it sure is soul. I stood at the top of the stairs before I boarded the Ariana flight and thought what would happen if I just turned around and walked back down the steps, through the airport and back out into the city? It was almost overwhelming. How could I leave? I love it here so much. And when will I be back? In Sh'Allah but never soon enough.
Friday, June 25, 2004
Party right out of town
Friday is fun day here in Kabul and I'm all about respecting local custom. Friday morning hit the Kabul for Kerry breakfast, met a bunch of cool Americans and learned a little more about how rotten the embassy treats the expats here. They treat the locals lousy too, so at least they're consistent. Then off to brunch at the Hotel Intercontinental. It was a beautiful day and no one is sitting out on the huge deck off the dining room. They're trying to seat me inside where you could die from the smoke from the German ISAF guys, God bless them, before you finished your orange juice. So I made them put me outside and before you knew it all the tables were filled. I was waiting for Jennifer, but all the Roshan phones were down and we couldn't call each other and she was home sick in bed so I had a quiet bruch. Quiet except for the international incident when I told the big Russian guy to move to another part of the terrace for sightseeing - he couldn't figure out how I got to claim the balcony rail until I threatened to throw the cigarettes he was smoking 2 feet away from me over the cliff. Americans are quite famous now for their non-smoking insanity. Unexpectedly, leaving the Intercontinental saw the mysterious black mulberry tree. Yes, indeed, blackberries grow on trees here. Went back to the house to check on Jennifer, nothing time, orange juice and good drugs won't heal. Then went off to Chicken St. to say goodbye to my buddy at his shop and he gave me a lovely set of sandals that his father made for me. He drew my foot on a piece of paper the other day and they were made to fit. Except that the paper is only 2 dimensions so the straps are a little loose, but they're great sandals and I can get them fixed at home. Then over to Deb's place for a going-away party. A great bunch of totally cool people, including an Afghan American from San Jose. Wine, food. music, dancing all outside in a lovely garden on a lovely night. Deb says that Afghanistan is a country of goodbyes and I can see the feeling. People are always coming and going and you never know when you'll see them again. I get that feeling. It has been the most wonderful trip ever and just fora minute I wanted to pack it all in and stay. But I know that my joy comes from being here for a short time and living it to the limit while I'm here. Deb decided that I needed an Afghan husband and invited a really cute Uzbek cousin of her husband's to the party. He was sweet in that way you can tell someone is even when you just sit there and look at each other the whole night. He gave me a ride home from the party and evidently the only English he knows was to invite me to spend the night at his office. I graciously declined but I think I may be engaged. What time is that flight to Dubai tomorrow?
Thursday, June 24, 2004
Thursday is Friday here and I was getting ready for the weekend(day). Since I'm leaving on Saturday, Thursday would be my last day to get stuff done. Spent the morning sorting through everything getting ready to pack, what I'm going to take, what I'm going to leave. Stopped in on class for the last day I'll be here just to check everything out, it was going great, it's always fun to see things taking off without you. Then off to the dvd store to order some more English books and tapes for the hairdressers. Then off to pick up my buddy Zarlasht so I can see what outrageous adventures we can come up with. Went off to Khair Khana hospital to see what they needed, turns out they needed a water pump. So off we went, Zarlasht and I, a guy from the hospital and our intrepid driver. Me and Zarlasht are watching about 20 Afghan guys arguing to the death about the relative merits of various water pumps. Guys. So 2 and a half hours later I've purchased a $530 water pump. And I keep asking, where is the water pump? I keep looking in the back and seeing only this little box thinking we're going somewhere else to pick it up. Turns out the $530 water pump is the size of a doorstop. Then we stopped at a stand selling mountains cheap plastic crap to buy some garbage cans. They load up these 15 huge plastic garbage cans, negotiate the price in Afs and then I get ready to pull out my dollars. I get the calculator, divide by 50 and give the guy the dollars. He starts arguing that the exchange rate is 48. I spend enough dollars in this town to know that if you're going to be giving somebody a hundred bucks for cheap plastic crap they're going to give you 50. So I tell the driver to take the stuff out of the car, pile it on the side of the road and off we go. Then back to the wonderful medicine guy we worked with last time. I felt bad I didn't have very much money left but got a couple hundred bucks worth of medicine for the childrens ward. Then back to the hospital where it took forever to get the stuff locked up in the directors office. Then off to the beauty school so Zarlasht could have her interview as an English teacher. Since I was doing the hiring it went very well. Deb was doing up a wedding party so the salon was full of women and it was so much fun. The bride was an Afghan American from Ventura so we just sat and yakked the whole time she was getting her hair done about her coming back for her wedding and how she was going to dance at her own wedding she didn't care about what her cousins said because she was going back in 3 weeks. Right on Sister. Then back to the house because Fasal's sister made a mountain of mantu - a type of dumpling that when homemade melts in your mouth. And then since there just aren't enough nights left Jennifer and I went off to Rachel's to have dinner THERE. I made the Italian pasta I brought in my suitcase and homemade tomato sauce from the tomato paste I made as a canning test the day before. 12 days into it I was ready for the emergency pasta. I finally hit the wall. I was sick of it taking 3 hours to buy something because these guys have to have a pissing contest to buy a freakin' toothbrush, I'm sick of this tablecloth on my head, I'm sick of always being thirsty and there never being any cold water, I'm sick of wearing enough clothes to spend October in Ithaca. I got to Rachel's and tore off my chador, threw it on the floor and stomped on it. I felt much better. That and a half bottle of Italian wine I got at Supreme. Saturday Dubai. Saturday Dubai.
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Can I get any busier? Started out the morning with an apricot crisis. Turns out there are 5 different words for apricots because there are lots of different apricots here. So off I went to the fruit carts with Aziz to check out the wares. What I didn't realize was that he took me to the lousiest fruit vendors and we ended up buying 6 kilos of green apricots of various varieties. When I started cleaning them and trying to make jam it was a disaster. 4 hours of making jam out of crappy fruit just ruins my day. And later on I was passing more vendors and what do I see but piles of the most beautiful, ripe, orange apricots. I was in a frustrated jam fury. But I was also doing a tomato paste test and that made up for it. I very seldom get homesick and don't remember being homesick at all this trip, but when I stuck my head into that pot and got a noseful of tomato smell I was in my Mom's kitchen. And just kept thinking that next Tuesday I'll be eating her spaghetti! Speaking of which, I've got to quit sticking my face in pots. Smell is a really important tool in making jam and I get my nose right down in there. I was trying to figure out if a student had burnt their jam the other day so I stuck my nose down to try and catch the burnt smell, which is sometimes the only clue, and as I did it the jam bubbled up and a wad hit me in the eyelid. Hurt like hell, but really scared the crap out of the poor student. Early in the afternoon presented the girls from the shelter with all their books, we got them English lesson books, Dari story books, purses, book bags, dictionaries, a whole pile of stuff for them. Then rushed off for errands but with a stop at the French Bakery - they were out of pizza by then and I was devastated and was forced to try the meat pie and yogurt. Oh. My. God. Then off to the dvd store again to pick up the boxes of English lesson books and tapes for the beauty school. Went over there to interview the English teacher we were supposed to hire. Only one problem. She didn't speak English. This is just a little problem here. Evidently the inability to speak English is not considered a disqualification for a position as an English teacher. I'm so picky. So I called up my translator from my last trip, the fabulous Zarlasht and I think she may be able to fit it in. Then the biggest treat ever - I got my face stringed. (strung? strunged?) They loop this thread and put one end of it in their mouth and then catch hunks of hair in the loop and then pull the string back and forth to yank the hair off your face. My eyebrows look fabulous. Then off to Microrayan to Dr. Homa's for my bulani-making lesson. I'm standing in the kitchen of a soviet apartment block stuffing dough with potato. Am I in Bratislava? Warwaw? They came delicious despite my ineptness at pierogi making. Then we ate dinner and watched her wedding video. So I'm watching this video from 1991 and thinking what a classic tacky Jersey wedding I'm watching with the early 90's dresses, hairdos, suits and dancing. And then it hits me that this COULD have been a wedding in Jersey. The women are wearing regular dresses with short sleeves, dancing with guys and everything is just Jersey normal. HomaJan just sighed and said how everything was good during the "Najibullah regime". History may not agree with her but life for Afghan women sure seemed better. Then back to the house for an evening of paperwork, trying to get all my stuff put together so I have my last few days of fun, fun, fun!
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
Just another day in Kabul
I might be getting just a little sick of making jam. But not quite yet. Problem is, everybody is going to be expecting me to be cranking up the jam factory when I get home and I don't know if I'll have it in me. We'll see. Maybe if I just don't have to look at mulberries I'll be ok. Made a big test batch of plum jam, turned out yummy. It's a little scary - the teachers have started wearing dishrags on their head like me instead of their scarves. And I'm so proud I was able to describe the entire plum jam recipe with instructions in Dari. Lunch I grabbed on the run, a pretty foreign concept here. Ran into the French Bakery here in Karte Char - distinct from the horrible Frenchized bakery in Shar-i Now. It is the most incredible place. I had a piece of their pizza. Oh. My. God. If you've ever had the green onion focacia pizza at the Liguoria Bakery in North Beach in San Francisco you won't believe me when I tell you it was better. I am now going to eat that pizza every single day that I am here. Why didn't I find this place 10 days ago???? Met a cool Afghan American guy from Laguna Beach. I was on the run because I was going shopping with ladies from the beauty school. We bought supplies for the salon, they are doing real business charging for doing weddings to earn money for the school. Having been at my share of Afghan weddings here, the purchases didn't surprise me - and if they're going to shoot an episode of I Love the 70's here in Kabul anytime soon we got the makeup covered. There are pictures of me wearing that shade of blue eyeshadow and they need to be destroyed. A Little Help is also funding an English teacher for the students at the beauty school as well as the books and tapes. Preserves classes, beauty school, English lessons: whatever gets these women a job they can earn some dough at, that's really what helps the most at this point. Then the evening at the Elbo Room - the hippest Kabul hotspot opened by an Afghan American from Vegas. Directions to the Elbo Room are "between the Chinese Embassy and UNDP there is a little driveway, go all the way to the end and there is a big white gate." Classic Kabul. Our driver was actually allowed down the driveway to pick us up, he didn't have to wait on the street outside the Embassy, but he couldn't come all the way down inside the gate. You had to have a white Landcruiser or a flag on your SUV to get that far. I had a cosmopolitan and spaghetti carbonara. Just as yummy as Vegas and about the same price. Had dinner with Jennifer and Kathleen and Khaled, an Afghan American from San Diego who's with the Foreign Ministry. Kathleen just got back from 2 days at Baghram and was on some helicopter flights. That settles it - next trip I'm coming back with a press credential, I don't care if it's from the Old Moutain View Neigborhood newsletter.
Monday, June 21, 2004
Plums and Parties
Funniest quote heard at a party: "Smoke Marlboro help America, smoke hash help Afghanistan." Offered to great laughter when someone bummed a cigarette. They guy currently crashing in the White House is referred to as "Double Bush" as if one if him isn't bad enough. I'm reading a cool novel about Pakistan and funniest book quote of the week: "Can you loan me a couple bottles, my bootlegger is on Hajj." We did the big taste-off with the cherry jam I made earlier and decided on the softer, sourer version. Everything so far has been received rapturously regardless of the glitches. The first day of real classes went well, I just observed a couple times and tried to stay out of the way. I was in the back slaving over the famous plum butter. The plums here are incredible, they seem to have more pectin that our plums. Life is tough here and even the plums are sturdier. I've been developing the class instructions and now am documenting the recipes for the other products, hopefully it will be a useful package when translated. Jennifer has been proofreading and is so picky - she dared question whether I really wanted them to wash their hands with soup and water. I pointed out it's cheaper than soap and I was just trying to be sensitive to local conditions. The afternoon was totally fun, stopped by the beauty school just to say hi and it was so great. You stepped in off the dirt street and it looked and SMELLED just like a beauty parlor! Then off to a book store to buy some english language workbooks for some girls at a shelter, then off to Chicken Street! It was the coolest thing, my favorite shopkeepers remembered me, they kept asking how my holiday was, they thought I had just been away on leave. Then off to the dvd store to buy tapes for english classes and more workbooks. That evening Jennifer and I went to Shandiz for meat on a sword. Then finished the night out at a party. I might have had fun.
Sunday, June 20, 2004
Welcome to the kitchen, guys
The new trainers had 2 classes to practice on staff before the real classes start and it was pretty hilarious. Everyone around the center has been so interested in how to prepare jam so anyone who expressed even a polite interest and didn't get away fast enough got rounded up to be guinea pig students. Drivers, house staff, guards, cleaning woman, translators. The guys were bewildered, they kept saying how much work it was - welcome to the kitchen, guys. I was at the back station trying out different recipes for sour cherry jam all day and "observing" the teachers. I had to jump in only a few times. They let one of the guys burn his jam, which of course I had to turn into a teachable moment when I made everyone come over and stick their head in the pot and learn the smell of burnt fruit. Then in the afternoon, the teachers had too much of the "responsible person" quality. Being the "responsible person" is a very important status here and is taken quite seriously. Resources are so scarce that if you are put in charge of something that is very much an honor. The teachers see themselves as the "responsible person" for the ingredients so at one point I look up and instead of the students at all the scales weighing and measuring their stuff, they were all lined up and the teacher was meticulously doling out the ingredients. As for me, I won't be coming home making sour cherry jam anytime soon unless I'm bringing home the 2 assistants who pitted 5 kilo of them for me. Tried 2 different recipes to test the ratios and timing. Trying to make sure the results are culturally appealing - by general rule folks like things much sweeter here and the jam should be a little thinner than we would have because they scoop their jam with their bread rather than spread it. Spent the evening with my friend Halima, the last time we had been together was at an IHOP in San Jose. She and her husband are working for a media developement NGO starting Afghanistan's news wire service. She's so incredible and the work she's doing is totally amazing. They're staying at the guesthouse of the woman who runs Kabul's beauty school! I got to spend a bunch of time with her talking all about the beauty school training. She had 400 applicants for her first class of 25 and didn't even advertise. Beauty schools are still a little sensitive because salons were targeted by the Taliban and before that were often thought of as fronts for prostitution. She hopes that by providing business as well as technical training she can help the women provide a professional appearance and practice for their salon.
Here's Jennifer's report on the day's activities.
Saturday, June 19, 2004
The big news for today is that I'm vertical. Not for extended periods of time, but some facimile thereof. Interviewed 11 women who wanted to teach the canning class and chose 2 teachers and 2 assistants, I think they're going to be great. Then I wrote the class curriculum with basic instructions and then a reason for each instruction such as "#1 - Wash your hands with soap and water. It is important that your hands be very clean when working with food." They are going to be translated so I'll have to post the Dari version for your future reference. Went to Chelsea market to buy some entirely unnecessary western items. I think the powdered chicken soup is going to be useful if I can't kick this nausea pretty soon. Then off to dinner at Delhi Durbar. You know I can't ever pass up an evening out at a popular restaurant, so there I was propped up in the chair drinking lassi and eating mushroom butter marsala. In very small portions. But it was great to just get out of the house and pretend to be normal for a few hours.
No pictures, but here is the progress report Jennifer wrote on the first day of the class.
Friday, June 18, 2004
Lady of Leisure
Friday is Saturday/Sunday here, so I had TONS of plans of fun things to do on the one day off. But you just can never plan things here for certain and I ended up spending the day with some old friends: ciproflaxin and lomotil. We were having a pleasant enough time, but when our pal vicodin joined us things got way, way better. I watched 8 hours of dvds until my dvd drive gave out on my computer (again). Then I remembered I had wireless internet so I switched over to listening to radio shows online. I was supposed to have dinner with my friend Halima and was expecting her to call, but she couldn't get through on the phone and showed up at 5:00 to see me in a lovely state. She had been sick for 4 days last week though so she totally understood. If you have to be flat on your back (alone) for 36 hours it sure helps to have drugs, movies and wireless internet.
(What are you looking down here for? You DON'T want to see pictures from yesterday.)
Thursday, June 17, 2004
Son of son of jammin'
Did I mention I was here teaching jam-making classes? Did I mention we are making jam out of mulberries? Day 3 of tout-fest '04. Fruit mystery that needs to be solved is what are these things they call black mulberries. They look and taste like the biggest, juiciest, sweetest blackberries you've ever had, but they claim they grow on trees. Jennifer and I are skeptical so we said we need to see these berry trees. Stay tuned. One of the afghan women who works at the center brought a tub full of them for me to make jam out of. I ate most of the tub so no jam was has yet been made from the mystery fruit. The third day of training went really well, we've got the class down to 2 hours, and since the real class will be 3, that is going to work out perfect. In the evening we went to a party at a store that sells rugs and crafts directly from the workers. It's run by an NGO with the idea that the money will all go to the craftspeople. I was there 2 years ago on my first trip so it was cool to go back. They had the shop all opened up and served food and had musicians. Small world: I'm sitting outside eating and it's all foreigners so we're talkinga about where we're from and what we're doing. I gave my little bit about where I was from and what projects I had done and this guy goes "I've heard you speak." He was at a fundraiser I spoke at in Mountain View last December, it was organized by my friend Jane and then I took the money to buy stuff for the hospitals when I was here in March.
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Son of Jammin'
The nights have been so hot, and in the morning when the sun comes up it just gets hotter. Even though it's hot, they make this warm sweet milk at breakfast and it tastes great. I bought French butter at Supreme so we're having fresh bread, French butter, homemade tout jam and warm sweet milk for breakfast. It's a mighty nice way to start the day. A second great day of making tout jam. I'm getting the class process down better and making some changes to improve the timing. It's funny because the water here is very hard and the jars get that white powder on them like they do sometimes at my house. At home I usually call the city manager and complain, but I think I'll let it slide this time. Went off to the Park Net Cafe later in the afternoon, because I had to upload some big files for the O'Brien's supermarket website and the wireless connection at the house was too slow. It was fun to be back in my old neighborhood and the guy at the Park Net remembered me from March. Then walked over the Rachel's where I used to stay and we hung out all evening just yacking and eating and yacking. Doesn't sound like much of a day but it was a really wonderful day. The driver who took me to Char-i Now didn't know where the internet cafe was and I was able to give him directions and get him there in Dari. And walking from the cafe to Rachel's was just like walking somewhere familiar and at home. And crossing the street came back to me as soon as I stepped off the sidewalk. Good thing, too. Did I mention it was hot?
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
What a day. Started teaching the first class of trainers today, they were totally fun. It took a little to get started, it always does here. They were still putting the screens on the windows as we were working, but the classroom is really coming along. We just need shelves and screen doors and it will be as good as the home ec room at Paly High. Without hot water. We did the first run-through of the class for making tout (mulberry) jam and I definitely had them cook it too long, those berries have a good level of pectin. It was really a blast though, the women are so cool. They were asking me if I was married but I told them my father couldn't find anyone who would marry me and now I'm too old, 41. They said don't worry, just have him tell them you're 30! It was 35 degrees yesterday, I don't know what that is farenheit, but trust me, it's freakin' hot. And I'm in a room with 14 boiling pots on gas burners. Then off to Supreme, which is the British PX where they sell all kinds of necessities, most of them 100 proof. Then back to the US military base so Kathleen could get her credential, she is going to be able to do some cool stuff, I almost begged the Mountain View Voice to make me a stringer so I could get in on the trips. Next time, next time. Got to hang out with Captain Eckhart who heads up the military press office here - cool reserve guy from Oklahoma. When Kathleen said how jealous she was that he got to stay here a year, he didn't miss a beat and offered her a trade. Then hung out at the Wardak home, spending time in the yard with a sheep. We just sat there wondering if the thing knew that tonight was its last night. Then off to dinner with Drs. Momand and Laila our dear friends. Amazing food - these huge meatballs with a whole hard-boiled egg in the middle. Not sure how I ate 2, but I had to be a gracious guest. That's my story. Trying to sleep with the generator screaming is a little bit of a challenge, but when your choice is the generator and a fan, or just the still, quiet, blast of hell that is night here you put up with the Pratt and Whitney.
Monday, June 14, 2004
Like I never left
Today was the day to get ready for the canning classes. Hit the market to buy some tout (mulberries), sugar and lemon juice. Except the bottle says lemon juice and there is a picture of a lime and the stuff is green. Go figure, it will work. Spent the afternoon testing my mulberry jam recipe. Ok, making up a mulberry jam recipe. It should work, I just need to start thinking in metric. I had a cook and a cleaning woman to assist me, and it got a little crowded in the kitchen but it turned out pretty good. Happy Hour at the Mustafa Hotel wasn't very happy. Just a bunch of pissed off western contractors who were not having a good time here. Guess all that money doesn't make up for not liking where you're at. Got out of there pronto, I can be ignored by guys in a bar in San Francisco. Headed off to the US military headquarters with my buddy Kathleen from Santa Barbara. She works for the ABC affiliate there so she needed to talk about a press credential and doing the whole media thing. Then dinner with her and Nilufar at Shandiz, the great Persian place with lamb chops on a sword. Then about 11:00 ended up at a party drinking Johnny Walker straight and catching up on the local gossip. The local story about the 12 Chinese road workers who were killed is as follows: it had nothing to do with politics. The Chinese underbid everybody and are getting all the international contracts. The attack was to scare them into pulling out and making it easier for others to compete. When I was here in March I was talking to a vendor who was telling me that all the cheap plastic crap which used to be brought in from Pakistan is all now from China. It really is noticeable how much stuff is from China. So, as usual, there is a great local version to every story here. Make that 18 great local versions to every story.
Sunday, June 13, 2004
Well, it only took 2 days to get here, that wasn't too bad compared to last time. Oakland on JetBlue was cool with the whole DirecTV channels, I thought. Until I got on Emirates Air. I could just fly from JFK to Dubai and back for a vacation. They have the most incredible video/audio system. Literally hundreds of channels. ANY album you want to listen to, ANY movie you want to watch. I couldn't begin to pick. Then of course there's Ariana. Nothing fell off the plane while in flight as far as I could tell and that's about what you wish for. And believe it or not my luggage got here with me. Got a cell phone, of course, if you'd like to give me a call I'm at 011-93-79-183544. And the coolest thing yet, wireless internet. Should have made that Fry's run before I left home, but just ran out and got a card when I got here. Did I mention how yummy the food is here?