I left the AWN office in a hurry Thursday afternoon, excited for a weekend away. I had been a little stressed with all of the activity being thrown my way and I was ready for a little vacation. Fellow Advocacy Project intern, Shirin, and I had planned a weekend to escape the dusty traffic jams of Kabul. A long weekend in the province of Bamyan, famous for the 5,000-year-old Buddha sculptures.
We hired a driver and hit the road early Friday morning. The first hour was smooth sailing, and I was ready with my camera in my lap for anything picture worthy to appear outside of the window. It wasn’t long before we made the turn to the direction of Bamyan and it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing anymore. It was going to be seven hours of bouncing and jostling in the back of the Toyota Surf. For a road trip so long, we passed surprisingly few cars along the way, but plenty of shepherds with their flock.
All the bouncing was worth it as we followed a river through a valley passing village after village along the way. It gave me a sense of what Afghanistan is really about. Kabul is not representative of the country. Donkeys carrying loads so large they almost aren’t recognizable, spent tanks rusting of the side of the road, butchers in the bazaar with their meat hung out on display… This is what Afghanistan has to offer outside Kabul.
Bamyan was a town full of amazement and tragedy at the same time. Amazement at the ancient ruins and caves where the Buddhists had chosen to make their sculptures and places of worship. Tragedy of what little remains of the Buddha sculptures after they were blown up by the Taliban. It is inconceivable to me why anyone would want to destroy something so rich in history and culture.
The other destination on our weekend getaway was an additional three hours of bumping along a dirt road through the mountains to Band-e-Amir, a series of seven amazingly pristine lakes. I had no idea that Afghanistan had this to offer. These lakes were the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen. So clean and a vibrant blue. They made you just want to dive in, but Shirin and I were not so stunned as to be that culturally insensitive.
However, even a sight so beautiful wasn’t without reminders of the tragic past that this country has had to endure. Just as the lakes were coming into view, we passed the carcass of a van that had hit a landmine only a year previous. The van had been full of Afghans on their way to enjoy the lakes. Another car was heading toward it in the opposite direction and with the road being as narrow as it was, the van pulled off the road slightly to let the car pass. That is where it encountered the mine.
Afghanistan is a land that has been blessed and cursed at the same time. Just as you lose yourself in the rich culture of the villages or the unspoiled landscape, you are brought back to reality by the rocks painted red at the roadside to inform you that the area is still mined or the rusted out army tanks that have been left to deteriorate.
Posted By Carrie Hasselback (Afghanistan)
Posted Aug 1st, 2005