Our two day layover in Dubai was a time to which we all looked forward. Erica, Carrie, and I were all aware that this was the last real space and time to do as we wished, to feel free to do as we wanted, go where we wanted, and walk unaccompanied by a man. This is not to say that Dubai is some liberal’s bastion, but certainly more so than Kabul. We bought scarves and shirts, constantly asking one another if the piece covered us or showed too much skin. We bargained and haggled with the vendors and, by the end of the day, I came to believe that haggling was less an innate talent and more about not caring whether or not the object is obtained (or at least appearing indifferent). Several purchases and a thick layer of grim and sweat later, we headed back to the hotel to check in with my friend in Kabul.
Frustrated by the delay, he blurted out, “Have you watched the news? CNN?” “Uhhhh…?” “This morning, a US military convoy drove into a crowd of Afghan people in northern Kabul… US military said it was an accident … the Afghans began throwing stones at the convoy … then, the Americans began firing on the crowd with machine guns… riots erupted throughout the city…fires were started throughout Kabul…. We’re not certain exactly how many people have been killed and/or injured, but it’s not good.” I was slow to respond, “I understand.” I don’t really remember the rest of the conversation, except that I kept covering the receiver and trying to quickly explain to Carrie and Erica everything that he was saying. Then the line went dead. Our phone card had run out. We all went out on the balcony. To calm down. To discuss. To regroup.
A few moments later, the phone started ringing. I jumped up, ran inside, and picked up the receiver. He asked “Are you ok?” “Yes, I am okay. I understand everything you said. I understand how unstable and volatile things are in Kabul right now. [long pause]. I will see you around 9 am tomorrow morning.” We both said a few awkward goodbyes and hung up.
The afternoon’s shopping in the Souqs of Dubai seemed far away from us. In fact, it was even difficult to think about the work I hoped to do in Kabul this summer with Oruj. Security and safety drowned out all other thoughts. However, Carrie, Erica, and I talked at length about how we felt at that moment and what each of us wanted to do. After several moments of serious discussion, we all decided that we would fly to Kabul the following morning. There’s a certain magnetic pull to this place. Also, it’s difficult to understand what a place is truly like—no matter how clear news reports seem—until you’ve been there and experienced it for yourself. I want to experience being a field consultant for a local NGO; I want to learn what I am capable of; and most of all, I want to help Afghan girls gain access to quality education.
Posted By Alison Long (Afghanistan)
Posted May 30th, 2006