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.