I made it to Kabul yesterday. Leaving Peshawar was bittersweet. I was only there a week, but I liked working with the staff in that office. On the other hand, I am happy to be getting out of the heat. I say this relatively though. I am happy to leave before temperatures in Peshawar reach into the 120s, but to say “getting out of the heat” may not be the correct term since Kabul is going to be over 100 degrees this week.
The flight to Kabul was interesting. I took an ICRC flight, and there were only six people on board, mostly ex-pats. We had to make a stop in Jalalabad to drop off supplies. Before we started our decent, the pilot made an announcement but it was lost among the loud noises of the plane. We started to spiral downward and it would have been pretty frightening, but the Swedish girl sitting near me informed me that the announcement was that the decent would be that downward spiral. She had taken the flight before. So I sat back thinking the terrain was the reason behind it and I enjoyed myself. It felt a little adventurous. Then I noticed the Swedish girl starting to look scared and she covered her face with her chador (headscarf). I figured she just wasn’t a good flyer. It wasn’t until after we landed that I was informed that the reason for the spiral was so the plane couldn’t be targeted. It changed how I looked at things after that.
During the short twenty-minute stay in Jalalabad I watched four US Army helicopters land and the soldiers run around the tarmac. Then I got back on the plane for the short flight to Kabul. Upon arrival in Kabul, there was a VIP in the airport so we were not allowed at first to enter. I came to find out that Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s president, had just arrived and that was the reason for the delay. Again I amused myself by watching what was going on, only this time it was UN planes. It seems funny to me that the UN headquarters in New York are less than thirty blocks away from where I live. I pass them almost daily on the bus. Yet the UN presence in Afghanistan is much more prevalent.
After arriving in Kabul, I went to the AWN office. I was surprised to find everyone there and working. I figured it would be like Peshawar where the workweek was Monday to Friday. Instead the workweek is Saturday through Thursday. This might take some getting used to. Since everyone was already so deeply engrossed in their work, we decided to have a short meeting with the people I will be working with for the next two months to develop a work plan. I have been given several tasks and it sounds like my days will be fairly full. I will be dealing a lot with gender-based violence while in Kabul while also trying to keep up with the work on the web portal that I started in Peshawar. It may be tricky, but I am up for it.
After the meeting I went shopping. I needed some appropriate clothes—long shirts with long sleeves and chadors. I got a lot of attention and that doesn’t surprise me, but people were fascinated by my light skin and hair. Women I didn’t know were picking out scarves for me in colors they thought complemented my pale complexion. They were prepared to buy an orange one for me but I decided to purchase it for myself. Other items on my shopping list included a mobile phone and 12 liters of water. People have been sending me worried emails about the cholera epidemic so I stocked up on safe drinking water.
Things are going smoothly in Kabul so far and it will be interesting as I get more involved with the various projects with AWN. The women here all seem very strong and hard working. I have a lot of respect for them for the work they do.
Posted By Carrie Hasselback (Afghanistan)
Posted Jun 20th, 2005