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3 June 2005

Final column in the Mountain View Voice.

1 June 2005

Getting ready to leave and finally sat down and did all the pictures from this trip.

24 May 2005

I'm leaving Kabul with a broken heart. Again.

Once again I'm awake in bed hearing the 3:45 call to prayer, thinking about everything that swirls around me here. I'm leaving in a few days with no ticket to come back. I was supposed to stay to June and get some things done and then go home. And I did, and I am. But yet that's not really what was supposed to happen.

The beauty school graduates tomorrow. Fifteen women will head off to jobs that in the best cases will support an entire extended family. In more modest cases it will help bring in enough money to keep a daughter in school. In this whole dire country 15 women isn't much, but it's 15 women who will have a better life, and things are in place for many more to follow them. In the time here I've helped to organize things for a solid future. Set up an accounting system, helped bring in around $80,000, built a website, ran around and did all the zany things it takes to make anything happen in this zany place. And the next class will be held in a beautiful building that will be our very own for the next 5 years. What won't I see? I won't see that building finished, but I've been there before with the prison. I know what it looks like in my head and I know I'll see it someday. What else won't I see? I won't see the container I spent the last 9 months gathering, packing, shipping and having a nervous breakdown over arrive. The container may indeed break out of the Karachi port where it's been since March 2nd. It may indeed break out any day. And the day it arrives here with equipment for graduates' salons, a decades' worth of perm solution, mannequin heads for the next class, a million pink rollers and my bed I won't be here to see it. I never did get to sleep in that bed, I'm still here on that mattress on the floor I thought I'd sleep on for a few weeks so many months ago.

I'm leaving a Kabul that is so different from the one I've always known. On the one hand, I have a measure of independence I've never had here. Kabul is indeed a dangerous place. Not because of bombings or kidnappings, but because I'm now driving. For the first time, I jump in a car and swerve around the potholes and the donkey carts and the person carts and the zillion yellow taxis and the bikes and the guys in the middle of the street selling phone cards and the beggars sitting in the middle of speed bumps. I do it in a stick shift no less. As I'm buzzing around Massoud Circle weaving and dodging and shifting and knowing exactly where I'm going I feel that I'm finally a true Kabuli. This despite the fact that I am quite probably the only unveiled woman driving in the city. And if there are any veiled women driving I haven't seen them. Workers fall off the back of their trucks to get a better look as I swing around them. Passing someone in slow traffic they will always point and say "khorigi", foreigner, like I'm a circus attraction. And I get a flat tire nearly every day. Not because of the destroyed state of the Jalalabad Road that I drive out to Camp Phoenix every day as I thought. Turns out that when I'm parking somewhere the police will see me get out of my car and punch my tire. They do it because they don't want me to park there, although everyone parks everywhere here, except when they're driving over the same spot. And they do it because I'm a whore. I'm a woman, unveiled, driving a car. That's not supposed to happen on either count and it's perfectly appropriate to flatten my tire just for good measure.

Yet on the other hand I'm leaving a life that is more restricted here than I've ever known. Our neighborhood, Qalla-E Fatullah, is the hip happening neighborhood for foreigners. The stodgy expats live in Wazir Akbar Khan among the embassies and new drug lord monster homes. The settled expats live in Shar-e Now where I used to live. But the cool expats live in Qalla-E Fatullah. The hip restaurants are here and our salon is here, which actually makes the neighborhood hip in itself. The neighborhood is a traditionally Shiite Hazara enclave and that also gives it a different vibe, since Hazaras are among the most moderate and tolerant of Afghan ethnic groups.  And the worst gang in the city has decided to wreak its havoc here. There have been shootings, attempted kidnappings, violent burglaries, and Clementina was snatched from my street. Kidnapped at gunpoint on her way home from the yoga class I go to. Kidnapped at gunpoint at the same intersection I drove myself through at exactly the same time the night before. Word is she's being held here in the neighborhood as well. I've always looked askance at NGO's going into lockdown. What are you doing here if you're just going to sit in your compound all day and look at each other. But now I have myself on my own little lockdown for the first time. Home by dark. Home by dark. Or out with a group that will get me home. No more running around with friends to bars and restaurants and then zooming home on the deserted streets dodging only the occasional stray dog. No more walking to a neighborhood restaurant alone. No more walking alone at all. I still live a freer life than 95% of the expats here, but it's not the life I prided myself on living here and it breaks my heart to leave a Kabul that would give me fear.

I'm leaving behind my 2 puppies. I've always loved dogs, but never had a life that lent itself to the responsibilities a dog entails. Debbie wanted a dog. Actually, Debbie wanted a camel and a dog seemed like a good distraction. So off I go with Debbie to help get this puppy out from under a jet fuel tank. One that had been offered to her by the jet fuel mogul the night before at the German bar. As logistics manager it was of course my job to stay up all night with this terrified little thing in my arms. No one explained to me this made me its mother. And no one explained how the sight of an adorable puppy falling over itself to reach you when you get home and covering you with wet kisses melts your heart. I was worried that Tequila would be lonely, so the animal shelter provided a second adorable puppy, Kahlua. They fight constantly but I think they are happy to have each other. Tequila is now running in her sleep on her cushion alongside my bed, and Kahlua is snoring against my leg up on the bed, where she knows she doesn't belong, but yet somehow knows that she'll get away with anything the next few days. How did these animals capture my heart? How will I leave them behind?

But none of this really really broke my heart. This is Afghanistan and every trip here has taken its toll on my emotions. It's what brings me back time after time after time. No, I'm leaving Kabul with a broken heart because I found the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with and he decided to spend it with someone else. But that's a story for another blog.

I'll go home to Mountain View and cry for awhile. I'll miss my cute house there but I'll crash with friends and catch up on all I've missed. I'll make some jam, I'll go to a few baseball games. I'll look for a job.

Back in Kabul they'll be putting the floors in the new school. The container will arrive. Soldiers at Camp Phoenix will eat burgers. Tequila and Kahlua will entertain the bodyguards while the German Ambassador gets his hair cut. Things will get better or worse leading up to the election this fall.

And the same as always, I will have left my heart in Kabul. Just this time, it's truly broken.

13 May 2005

Here's my fourth story in the Mountain View Voice

10 May 2005

Those sons of bitches of bastards bombed my internet cafe. I lived at that internet cafe. I've been going there for 2 years. We didn't have internet at the house for the first 2 months I lived here this time and I was there every single day. It's where you went when you needed to see someone because if you sat there long enough everybody came through eventually. I spent so much time with the guy who worked there he almost had to marry me. The internet at the house went down (again) at about exactly the same time the bomb went off. An hour later would I have been there? You know you are in a Kabul state of mind when you go down and stand there and look at the bombed out place and your mind is calculating: hmm, if the bomb went off in the bathroom, and I always sit here, and here's where the ceiling collapsed, and look, the table I sit at didn't collapse, but the window next to me blew to shreds...And you're running through all the variables. And then you calmly walk away thinking, ya, I probably would have survived. That's when you're in a Kabul state of mind.

25 April 2005

I have 52 birds and a dancing plumber.

Just hit the 3-month mark here in Kabul and life is really pretty cool. Or should I say warm. Spring is turning into summer as it gets toasty in the afternoons. Mud has turned to dust and there was a dust storm the other afternoon that stopped everything. But mostly, not much to complain about except the traffic. And Iíve always said if thatís the biggest thing you complain about then things are going fine.

We have electricity practically 24 hours a day now. Ismael Khan is the Minister of Mining which means he's in charge of electricity, of course. He was a warlord in control of Western Afghanistan and President Karzai brought him onto his cabinet to keep an eye on him. Khan could be running for Mayor of Kabul - he promised to turn the lights on and he has. He may be a right-wing religious fanatical warlord, but getting the power on here will get you a lot of votes, including mine.

What with all the time we save not feeding heating fires and fueling generators we have so much more time to party. Social events are a huge part of life here and the warm weather brings out lots of energy. Our salon/house has been security cleared so many folks who canít go to restaurants can come to our place. And we throw a great party. The huge kebab grill is going outside, plates of food are lined up along the pedicure baths, drinks roll around on perm rod carts, guests roll around on perm rod carts, and the best musicians in town provide the music for dancing. Dancing is so spontaneous here, Iíll be working upstairs, hear music and come down to find the whole salon dancing and clapping. Doesnít happen at SuperCuts. But thatís nothing compared to the dancing at parties. Everyone gets into the spirit, but there are dancers and there are dancers. Most men here are excellent dancers but our plumber is incredible. Our bathroom sink has been leaking for a week, but who cares.

Afghans love pet birds, and they were outlawed under the Taliban so everyone is enjoying having them back in their homes. We have about 52 of them at the moment and the plumber built an aviary outside the salon window. It gets a little loud early in the morning but that wakes me up in time to let my puppy out. And did I mention we had a sheep we were bottle feeding?

We actually get some work done once in a while. That stupid container is still stuck in the port in Karachi about to hit its 8-week mark. I fired the original person who was supposed to be handling this, but our half-ton crate of pink rollers and my bed arenít any closer to Kabul than when we packed them up in Oakland in January. The feelings of helplessness and frustration are good for my character Iím sure, but Iím enough of a character already I think.

I headed back to New York for a fund raising trip and the day after I left the evil, evil landlord evicted the beauty school from the building. So Iím trying to raise $20,000 to build our own building for the school. Weíre doing classes at the salon on the days weíre closed and itís working out well since they were at the practical/testing part of the course and they have all the equipment here. Still, itís pretty crazy. The place is packed with women and then they bring in their practice models, who bring their children, who are terrified of Tequila the puppy. So then the kids run away and Tequila thinks they are playing catch so she runs after them. Much screaming and crying ensues and Tequila is spending a lot of time in my room.

In case the DEA wants to know, I figured out who is laundering the drug money for the Afghan warlords. Iím in New York trying to beg money from beauty companies and go to Commerzbank to transfer money into my account in Kabul. Iím standing in this massive marble lobby across from where the World Trade Center used to be and canít find the bank name on the directory. So I call and ask for directions. Turns out Iím in the right building but they wonít let me come upstairs to the bank. Iím standing down in the lobby with a check in my hand and they wonít let me upstairs. Oh, no, absolutely not, you canít come upstairs, you canít see us, we only transfer funds electronically. Or in crates of cash, I bet. Then I go to another bank to transfer money into another account here and sit for a half hour drinking tea and chatting about all the happenings in Kabul. The money took 2 weeks to get here as opposed to 2 days with the money launderers, but it was way nicer. Those launderers may know how to move money but their customer service sucks.

Overall, life is nice. Made French toast for breakfast the other morning and it was so relentlessly normal that for a minute you forget where you are. Then you go outside and traffic is stopped because some cart being pulled by a mule has a broken wheel and you remember. School is in session and every afternoon you see hordes of young girls with their black outfits and white headscarves and bright backpacks running down the sidewalks laughing and it takes my breath away. Literally. I see them and remember why Iím here. Yep, life is nice.

1 April 2005

Third story in the Mountain View Voice.

18 March 2005

My feet were on international television.

Life here veers from the heartbreaking to the ridiculous in 30-minute increments and getting a pedicure on the Fox News Network isnít even the most ridiculous thing to happen in the last week.

One thing you quickly figure out is that you never really finish a project here. Two years ago I came to help rebuild the interior of the womenís prison downtown. Since then Iíve visited the prison regularly, brought supplies and watched it gain international attention and aid to turn into one of the better places a woman in trouble here can find herself. When it came to light that some of the women were being moved from downtown to another facility, I was one of 4 women granted access to one of the most feared places in Afghanistan.

Pul-e Charki prison was built before the Soviet invasion to house the most heinous criminals, the most heinous being political dissidents. Over the next decades, tens of thousands of Afghans disappeared from their homes behind its walls. A few have lived to tell their stories but most are believed to lie in the mass graves said to fill the dusty, barren fields that you drive through to reach the gates.

We went to visit the women who had been moved there from the jail we monitored downtown Ė most of us had known many of these women for almost 3 years. I saw a baby that had been born when I first worked in the prison grown to a toddler having spent her whole life in prison. The UN is monitoring and rebuilding the prison now and frankly the conditions are comfortable for Afghanistan. The only complaint the women had was that is was too far out of town for their families to visit Ė hence my next project to try and get a weekly shuttle bus from the central city funded.

That day left me physically and emotionally exhausted, but I had to regain my energy for the huge project of buying a clothes dryer. We got funding from the US Embassy to buy a washer and dryer for the school since we use mountains of towels and washing them all by hand takes one person most of a day. Only problem was that the ďprocurement specialistĒ at the Embassy here is an Afghan man who had never actually seen a clothes dryer and didnít know what it was. The Afghan man at the appliance store who he went to for expert advice assured him that a clothes washer/spinner combination was what we were looking for. Washers here donít have a spin cycle, they just swoosh the water around and then you drain it out. They sell separate devices that spin the water out. No amount of argument from some foreign woman was going to contradict his information that a spinner was a dryer, so I was left with wet towels. I was desperate for a machine the likes of which I was assured by the Embassy procurement guy didnít exist in the city.

Found one in reasonably short order but when we got it home it didnít heat up. Off I went back to the appliance store with my driver, plumber, electrician and his son to discuss this cold dryer. Doesnít everyone bring their electrician to the store to complain about a dryer? The guys in the appliance store didnít understand what my issue was, but my Dari was sufficient to get across that the thing was supposed to get hot inside. They pulled out another machine and fired it up. They told me I had to wait at least 5 minutes for it to get hot so I said weíd wait. No less than 15 Afghan guys are standing around a dryer the size of a dorm refrigerator with their hands over the back vent waiting for the warm air that never came. Off we went to find another, bigger dryer. After 2 days, 4 blown power strips, a smoking generator and a UL-condemned wiring configuration we have clean, fluffy towels.

Back at the beauty school, in between the Fox News journalists, the women are learning how to cut hair and are practicing on each other. After the perms they gave each other last month this is actually a merciful thing.

Spring has arrived, finally. The Kabul River is flowing for the first time in 20 years and people are saying it is Allahís blessing for peace. For the past 26 years spring here has brought violence and bloodshed. Weíre all holding our breath that the New Year this week be the start of a blessed, peaceful year.

6 March 2005

I kidnapped a Talib at gunpoint. Guess I'm fitting right in here.

So we haven't had internet at the house for 2 months because we haven't had a phone line in the house for 2 months. No problem with the phone, everyone uses mobiles, but we want to use the digital phone line for dial-up internet. The house we're in used to be a Taliban house and when Debbie rented the house last year this smelly bearded Talib had been squatting in it for the past year. He had run up the phone bill over three grand and never paid it. When we went to get it activated for internet they told us we'd have to pay the balance. So we were going to have the number disconnected and just get a new number. Except there aren't any more digital numbers available. So Haji Sher told the Talib he better fix this. So for the past 3 weeks I had been riding around town to the Communications Ministry and the Kabul Municipality and everywhere else with this smelly bearded Talib to get a new phone number assigned. Allegedly the phone number was from the son of the Talib's boss who gave him a number he wasn't using to get the Talib out of the mess. After pages and pages of signatures from everyone but the guard outside the communications ministry the issue was supposed to be resolved. Until the electrician came to install a new outlet and test the phone. The line was dead. Back I go to the comm ministry to hear that there is a balance due on this line as well. So now I'm good and pissed because I've been going to the internet cafe for a month and a half. So I grab the Kalashnikov (doesn't every home have one?) go storming out of the house with the plumber trailing warily behind and jump in the van with the driver and head off to find the Talib. The three of us track him down at Charyi Haji Yacoub, one of the busiest intersections in town. While the plumber stands by and the driver hides in the front seat I'm holding the gun screaming  full bore at the Talib using every American obscenity I've ever heard. He keeps telling me to call his boss who will straighten it all out, but the boss doesn't answer his phone. So I scream at the Talib to get in the van and we're going to see his boss. He's a little hesitant, but I tell him I'll shoot him if I don't get my phone line and he better get his boss to fix this. Off we go to the Siemens office about 30 minutes away. I left the gun in the van, but the guards at the complex are still not anxious to let me in and try to get us to wait outside for the boss. I go storming into the complex yelling a the top of my lungs that I want to see this guy. His staff tells me he's in a meeting and tries to get me into his office luring me with tea and biscuits. I'm standing in the middle of the complex screaming that I don't care who this guy is in a meeting with he better get out here now. So out comes the mild-mannered telecommunications manager, a distinguished German-Afghan who speaks perfect English. After some initial confusion on his part he realizes that the bearded Talib has used the boss' name and position with his friends at the comm ministry to get a stolen phone number assigned to me. Good thing I left the gun in the car or the boss would have used it on him before I could. He yelled at the guy so bad it made me look calm, then started slapping him. Then he apologized to me, there was nothing he could do, but he would try to speak with friends at the ministry to help me out. And invited me to dinner Thursday night. So we all walk out of the Siemens compound chatting happily. The driver, the plumber and I get in van and leave the bearded Talib in the middle of the street 10 miles out of town. Still no internet here, but bet I won't have any trouble getting that cable modem connection when I get back to the States.

In other news, got my second story published in the Voice, here's the link.

In yet other news, finally got the pink rollers out through customs at the airport, it only took 8 more signatures, convincing them my name really was Palwasha and slogging through 6 inches of mud to the container alongside the runway. Get the crate to the salon to open it up and discover the mannequin head donation we were waiting for were African women mannequin heads. The hair is entirely different evidently, so they'll be put away for a specialized workshop.

The current signature treasure hunt is to get the 40-foot container from Oakland out of customs in Karachi. The first stop was the usual jaunt through the Ministry formerly known as Planning. It's now known as the Ministry of Economic. No joke, Economic. Guess since it's a new ministry they're only giving them one to start with. Then on to my friends at Finance. Done in a couple days this time. Now off to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since I need a letter asking Pakistan to let it pass through their customs duty free. Except there are medical supplies in the container and foreign affairs wants a letter from the Ministry of Public Health. Except it's 11:00 on a Thursday morning and everything closes at noon and won't reopen until Saturday morning. Several calls to the Embassy gets this advisor to the Minister of Public Health from Fremont who knows of me. Walks into the meeting that the Minister is in at the Embassy, hands him the phone who tells the guy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get the letter out. now. thank you. So I'm all ready to get my letter faxed to Karachi before the weekend. Except that there's no power in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs so they can't print the letter out of the computer and they can't fax it. But at this point they're afraid of me and I don't even have a gun. So the guy says he will stay in the office past the noon closing to wait for the electricity. I call him every hour, but finally we both give up after 3:00. The letter got faxed on Saturday but now I'm waiting for the money from the Embassy to pay the shipper. And I'm waiting for the container to get through customs in Karachi. I'm not going to Karachi for pink rollers, I can tell you that.

More stories? Of course, but the battery on my computer is running low.  Ismael Khan is now the Minister of Mining. Which means he's in charge of electricity, of course. He must be running for Mayor of Kabul because the power has been on every night until almost 6 in the morning. He may be a right-wing religious fanatical warlord, but keeping the power on all night will get you a lot of votes, including mine. But for some reason the power went off early tonight and I'm awake worrying about the container, and the bills, and everything I need to get done before I leave in 2 weeks. I'm coming home for a visit in 2 weeks and I thought I'd be counting the days in anticipation. But really I'm just counting the days in stress, wondering what is going to be left hanging while I'm gone. It's home here now. I'm happy, I'm busy, I'm a gun-totin' logistics manager. Aside from Mayor of Mountain View and minor league baseball stadium announcer, it's the only job I can imagine having right now.

17 February 2005

Oh my God, who broke into my blog and wrote that stuff?

The weather is getting marginally warmer, the days are sunny, the snow is turning into mud and most nights I'm out and about doing the Kabul-schmooze. Just like a Chamber of Commerce mixer but a lot more people are armed.

The hard part about doing this blog is that this isn't some 2-week trip that I want to capture and then come home and talk about. This is my life. I guess people do a blog about their daily life but it always seemed silly to me. And everyday has story after story. Life here is one big story. So I'll try just to capture a few of the random stories from the past few weeks. I've only been here 3 weeks. 3 weeks. I have to check the calendar to believe that, it seems like I've been here forever, but not in a bad way, just that I can't really remember what it was like at home anymore. This place sucks you in. And that leads me to the main news item:

I fell into the sewer. 

Kabul is a huge city without a functioning sewer system. Imagine a gulley between the sidewalk and the street 12 inches wide and up to 18 inches deep. Through it run raw sewage, street garbage and this time of year, snow. Occasionally there will be a chunk of concrete from somewhere thrown over it, but most of the time you have to keep an eye open and make a leap for it. I was hurrying out of an internet cafť one dark evening, went to get into the car parked at the curb and my eye didnít catch the sewer because it was full to street level with dark water and blended in with the dark mud of the street and sidewalk. Down I went at full speed into the ditch in water up to my thighs. My Afghan driver rushed over as did everyone else at this major intersection in the city. He carefully took my purse off one shoulder and put it in the car, then carefully took my computer bag off my other shoulder and put it in the car. Then this wonderful man who had been indoctrinated that you donít touch a woman who isnít your wife anxiously waited for me to climb out of the sewer. But I had knocked the wind out of myself, twisted my ankle, smashed my knee and tweaked my wrist. I wasnít going anywhere under my own power. And so in sight of dozens of people he reached down and gently lifted me soaking wet out of the sewer. His pride suffered the greater injury.

Oh, and did I mention it was Ash Wednesday? So I already had dirt on my forehead and when I got home covered in, well, shit, Haji Sher thought I had hit my head too and wiped all the ashes off my forehead before I could stop him. So then the plumber rushed to the wood stove and brought me a tissue full of ashes which I then had to put on my forehead.

Other random sagas include trying to get a box out of the airport. A beauty supply company in the states sent Debbie a box of combs, rollers and other items potentially sensitive to Afghan national security. It arrived at the Kabul airport on 17 January. Except that you have no way of knowing when it arrives because no one will tell you. So finally off I go to the airport to track it down. First of all you can't drive up to the airport anymore, they make you park a mile down the street and there is a lucrative market of guys schlepping baggage down the street in wheelbarrows to waiting family. You can drive up to the airport though if you're an obnoxious white woman smacking people around with an American passport. You can get places in that airport an unarmed white girl alone ain't never been. Somehow I ended up through security and was greeting the arriving passengers from Dubai as they got their luggage before customs. Then I was out next to the runway, how the hell did I get there? Then finally I ended up in the cargo barns. These are huge metal barns that look like they were built in WW!!, with holes in the roof and dirt floors. I'm wandering around trying to find my box, pretty much stopping business in the process. At one point I end up back in the kitchen where these 2 old men are cooking for the cargo staff. I must have come as such a shock that all they could do was sit me down and feed me lunch. Major good baked beans. So then on a full stomach off I go again in search of a box and find the desk where they claim to have it and give me a piece of paper to prove it. And off I go to customs to try to trade the paper in for box number 1. Except that we shouldn't have to pay customs, it's educational supplies and should be duty free.

So the next day finds me at the Ministry of Planning to get a letter saying I'm an NGO. Except that the Ministry of Planning doesn't exist anymore after the new cabinet reorganization. Except no one told the Ministry of Planning. So there I am in a Ministry that technically doesn't exist listening to them tell me the 845 things I need to do to get this letter. 844 of which I've already done, except that they're in English and now for the first time in 2 years it has to be in Dari. And I'm treated to a 20 minute lecture from some badly-dressed cousin of somebody important about how I'm in Afghanistan now (really?) and I should be speaking Dari and why aren't I submitting paperwork in Dari (because for the last 2 years you've required it in English?) and on and on. This was to the huge entertainment of all the other badly-dressed cousins of somebody important sitting around in the office all day doing who knows what. I could have almost taken it seriously if after all this a woman working in the office didn't corner me in the hallway as I left and take both my hands and beg me, I mean BEG me, to get her into the English class at the beauty school. As always, it's the women who know how things really work.

I was so pissed off I came out and taught my driver that the English translation for Wazarat Palang ( Ministry of Planning) was a-hole. So when they asked him where I was the next morning he told them I was meeting with a-hole. And right he was. 4 hours in the A-hole Ministry with a wonderful young Afghan woman finally got me my coveted letter. And now I'm off to take that letter to, no, not customs, but to the Ministry of Finance. These are frickin' pink rollers for crying out loud.

On the social scene I'm meeting lots of interesting people. A huge percentage of whom are armed for reasons I still can't figure out. As far as romance I've decided to institute the home and away rule. If they wouldn't date me at home I'm not going to date them here. The Dyncore guys especially have a colorful reputation here. They're all gorgeous, which seems to be a job requirement. But in the interest of the female ex-pat community I think they should be required to tattoo their marital status and number of children on their foreheads before they leave the US.

Other random happenings include the Shiite martyr holidays. I'm in a Shiite neighborhood and they have a tent set up on the corner where they'll be beating themselves for the next few days. I was stuck at the Ministry of A-holes when the big parade and sheep slaughter took place yesterday so I was doubly pissed.

More stories, but no more battery and the generator isn't on yet, so that's it for now, but check out the new website for the beauty school.

9 February  2005

Why no blog?

On my usual trips to Afghanistan, I would be headed home already and have written pages and pages of funny stories about my adventures doing projects, eating at restaurants, gallivanting with friends and generally living la vida loca in Kabul. So why has it been 2 weeks and not a word? This trip has been different. First of all, I'm not headed home right now. I'm not headed to Dubai for a scheduled break. I'm not headed anywhere except back out in the cold and the mud and back home for another night of trying to keep a wood stove burning with gasoline-soaked tissues as tinder. or is it kindling? Living here is different from visiting. Winter is different from summer. And knowing that I don't have my cute little house in Mountain View to go back to is making it all that much tougher to weather.

Bottom line I'm homesick and depressed. Not so much homesick as housesick. I miss all my friends, but I know I'll go back and pick up with them right where I left off with stories to trade. I damn sure don't miss city council meetings. But I miss my house. I miss my kitchen, my couch, my tv, and my bed. I miss my privacy, I miss my washing machine. I miss being clean and warm and not blowing my nose until it bleeds.

I've been busy doing lots of cool stuff. I designed 3 brochures for the salon. I designed business cards. I prepared a report and pictures of the beauty school for an agency. I wrote a magnum opus grant proposal for USAID. I'm learning my way around and through the bazaar where you rarely see a foreigner. I've seen people who remember me from past trips greet me like a long lost friend. I've seen the prison looking better than it ever has. I had my first newspaper article published (read it here). I've laid awake at night, like now, listening to the call to prayer. Met tons of cool people. Got my heart broken already. I know the best places to buy false eyelashes and Canadian Club whiskey. I've gone to Mass on the military base, gotten my press credential, fell into the sewer. I've met tons of people from the Embassy; good people doing the job I dreamed of doing.

But I can't quite lift my heart. I love this city. I drive through and see all the places I love and know I'm getting stuff done. I do something worthwhile everyday. But I'm not having the fun I usually have. I haven't been out much with friends, I haven't had much good food, I haven't found my groove. I dread getting email from friends because it just reminds me how much I miss the life I had. I especially dread that someone will call me and I'll hear a voice that yanks me out of just trying to make it through another day and night.

I can't worry about whether I should have come here or not, I didn't have many options. Living here on no salary is more productive than living in Mountain View on no salary.

Things will get better. The weather will get warmer, we'll hire a decent cook, I'll start taking my laundry to the military base, I'll make new friends, and old ones will start coming through town. Just right now it's tough knowing that flight to Dubai left without me today and I won't be heading out for sushi to tell the tales.