Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Suicide Vest

This is a photo, taken over my shoulder, of a defused suicide vest at a news conference. A suicide bomber had been trying to board and attack an army bus, but he was spotted, kicked to the ground and arrested.

There was dramatic TV footage of him being held with his hands behind his back by one sole policeman, who kept peeking inside the man's shirt to see the vest and wires. Other officers in the area stood a good distance away. Then another policeman came to cut the wires.

During the news conference, as police were describing the mobile phone he could have used to detonate the bomb, the tell-tale tick tick and buzz of a mobile phone signal could be heard through the speaker system in the conference room. The sound nearly made me jump out of my seat and run out of the room, I was so worried the cops had failed to properly defuse the bomb.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Hiking the Panjshir Valley

Going out of town eases the claustrophobia of our cloistered lives in Kabul. I went with the roommates to the Panjshir valley, a few hours north of Kabul. After a brief meeting with men from the area, who were watching my roommates' road safety film (basically a public safety announcement), we had a typical meal of nan and kebabs, and then went for a walk by the river.

The tomb behind me is where Ahmad Massoud Shah, commander of the Northern Alliance, is buried. Massoud, who fought against the Taliban, was from the Panjshir valley. He was assassinated in a suicide attack on Sept. 9, 2001, by two Arabs posing as TV journalists who were interviewing him. It is said that the last question he heard was, "What will you do with Osama bin Laden once you have conquered all of Afghanistan?" Enormous billboards of Massoud, wearing a traditional wool pakol hat and looking as if he is earnestly contemplating something, are plastered around Kabul and the northern provinces.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Golfing in Afghanistan

Landry, kicking up a little dust, on his first time ever swinging a club.

The Kabul golf course, on the outskirts of town, is a dusty, desert course, with far more rough than green. The hazards in this course include the many toilets -- as Afghans and their sheep use various parts of the course to do their duty.

Alisa's first round of golf (well, seven holes) since the mandatory golf lessons she suffered as a pre-teen.

Our relaxing Friday afternoon on the course was disrupted by two helicopters passing overhead, while an abandoned tank -- not an uncommon sight in Afghanistan -- stood sentry over the course.

Each shot has to be teed up because there is no grass, and the plastic tees barely sink into the drought hardened land. The course was basically abandoned after the Soviets took over in 1979, and was outlawed under the Taliban. It opened again in 2004, and some friends of ours organize a Kabul Open tournament each year.

The so-called green is covered in a thin layer of black sand. Our caddies accompanied us through the seven holes we played, while the ball boys stand right in the line of fire to make sure we can find our shots. The other two holes were apparently being occupied by picnickers.

Green fee: $20. Tip for the caddies and the cute 9-year-old ball spotter: $20.