Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Kabul Wall

Last week, we went on a one and half hour hike along the Kabul wall, which provides majestic views of the city in the valley below. Kabul is surrounded by mountains and its residents seem to have filled every square inch of the valley with buildings and houses -- most of them made of mud and thatch, which is why the city looks brown from above.

Note that I'm properly dressed -- bum covered with my long bittersweet brown blouse -- even for a hike. It was a warm day, but I kept the black scarf so that I could cover my hair when we descended into neighborhoods.
Along the way, we passed boys bringing water to their home. Donkeys are a common sight in Kabul, even on the streets below. Young boys and men will ride a donkey, urging it along with little kicks of their heels. Many homes lack plumbing and water, so Kabulis have to walk good distances to get their water supply.
Our roommate joined us on the hike, but stopped along the route to take photos... or was she knackered from too many cigarettes?
You cannot see it too clearly here, but we were disturbed to see Kabul covered by a thick, mucky haze. Sure, cars are always driving through a thick cloud of dust -- kind of like Pigpen on Charlie Brown -- and everything in our house is covered in a layer of dust despite Landry's weekly vacuum-cleaning raids.
As we descended into the valley again, we entered neighborhoods where more children did their daily chore of fetching water. Kids come from all the houses with their plastic buckets to the neighborhood source, where they pump the water. They then lug the buckets home -- with a donkey's help, if they're lucky.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Mulling Beauty: Universal or Relative?

I took a day trip to Jalalabad recently, about 45 minutes away by helicopter. I was fascinated by the view from this flying bus, which lifted off the ground and just hovered. It's a strange feeling for those accustomed to flights -- that association of speed build-up with lift off! Not so with a helicopter -- it can be just a still hover. The sound is so loud that I was lulled into a still, meditative state.

The landscape from Kabul to Jalalabad is breathtaking, with rolling green hills that change into gray boulder outcrops, then to a large river-carved gorge that resembles a mini Grand Canyon. My mind wrestled over the concepts of beauty and love -- universal or relative? Looking upon these sights, my heart told me universal. Remembering the women I've met and heard about -- beaten, killed by their families -- my mind says it must be relative.

Part of the trip was to witness opium poppy eradication -- Afghanistan is the largest producer of opium poppy in the world, with a crop of 6,700 tons last year, enough to make 670 tons of heroin. That's more than 90 percent of the world's supply and more than the world's addicts consume in a year.

Poppies are beautiful flowers, and with the vast fields of white and pink flowers around me, I wondered how difficult it was for the police and locals to go chopping them. The field of white flowers behind me in this photo are all poppies. The men behind my right shoulder are carrying out the dangerous task of eradication, much-loathed by the farmers and militants.

A young boy playing in the destroyed field over my left shoulder handed me this flower.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Passing time

Our friend Nico draws Landry.
Here's more of Nico's work.
Landry makes Alisa dolls.
(When we were apart for 3 weeks in January.)

Friday, April 06, 2007

Afghan alarm clock

Another boom wakes us up. I look at my clock: Exact same time as the earthquake. Synchronized quakes? Suicide bomb this time, on the other side of town near the Darul Aman palace. At least five dead.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Another Rude Awakening

Our bed shook, and I thought it was Landry tossing and turning. "What was that?" I got up and looked out the window, at which point we were shaken again. "Earthquake, of course! Let's go!" Landry said, grabbing my hand and running downstairs, outside into the yard. Our cook, the guards and drivers were all standing outside, waiting for the house to fall. Fortunately, it didn't.

6.2-magnitude quake, 260 kilometers (160 miles) northeast of Kabul. Here's a list of the world's earthquakes from the past week.