Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Suicide Bomb

A suicide bomber detonated himself just outside the U.S. air base in Bagram, killing more than 20 people, most of them Afghans who work on the base. Hundreds of villagers _ almost all men _ poured into the area to seek news of their relatives. One man ran up to the base entrance, crying, moaning and wringing his hands.

One woman ventured out of her home to search for her son, an employee on the base. I only saw maybe one or two other women that day, but was otherwise surrounded by men and boys.

Death toll figures ranged from three to more than 20. I saw a dozen bodies carried by shoulder or driven away from the base.

The area where the bomb blast happened is actually a busy market area, where Afghan workers line up every morning to go to work. Among the surprising sights that day, were these two young children who walked out of the area that journalists were initially forbidden from entering.

She was a bright little spot that appeared on an otherwise sad, muddy day in Bagram.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Playing in Snow, Afghan Style

Afghan children, I've found, are vicious. I met one young boy who offered me his snowball as a sort of friendly gift of ammunition. He had somehow managed to pack this snowball into a deadly baseball-sized ice rock. He smiled at me and pointed at it, proud of his technique.

During an outing in January, dear Landry was clobbered in a snowfight. Thank goodness his face was protected by his bushy beard... which still isn't long enough to satisfy the old Taliban rule. Under the Taliban, Landry would have been jailed until his beard grew to a fist's length.

The housemates went for a day of fun in the snow, which meant sitting on an innertube and hurling yourself down this hill. The brave housemates had also gone snowshoeing, even though this country is notorious for its landmines. One of them said that according to the Afghans, if the snow is deeper than 50 centimeters (20 inches), then the weight of an object with a large surface area (like a human being wearing tennis racket-sized snowshoes) is not enough to trigger a landmine.

It's all fun and games until you come home without a leg.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Happy Circus Children

We went to an outdoor performance by the circus children at their school on the outskirts of Kabul. Landry (in the above photo with the bandage on his left middle finger from the car accident) played a bout of tug-of-war, in which he pulled relentlessly on this elastiboy! After the show there was an announcement that one of the cute little girls, 6-year-old Fariha, will be one of 17 children touring in California in January and February 2008.

The visit to the circus made Landry so happy. He described it as the first time he had seen Afghan children here who were "├ępanouis," or "beaming" with a happiness that was pure and simple.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Another Glimpse of Afghanistan

My mission here is to paint the lives of the Afghan people -- my most recent stories are on the children and the artists. (Check out the links below to my stories and audio/photo essays.)

My colleague, Rafiq, said he was going to take pictures at a school that teaches children the circus arts. Here's the story.

For the arts package I did, Landry fowarded me a story he found about the Afghan arts on one of our favorite Japanese online mags. Through this article, I met one Afghan artist who introduced me to several others. The findings? What appears to be an Afghan art renaissance. I included with the story an online audio/photo tour of Afghanistan's National Gallery -- this could be your one and only chance to see this art collection, unless you decide to take a trip to Kabul!