Archive for January, 2010

it’s snowing and has been for the past 20 minutes but I thought it was raining the entire time. Until someone pointed it out. Spent 3 winters in Kabul and still can’t recognise snow!

So sleepy, had a tough night last night! Major headache so I didn’t get enough sleep! I seriously can’tbe bothered typing today.. so sleepy! Tomorrow maybe?


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Missing home

Listening to the top 100 of the Billboard Charts from 2005 in my Kabul office.

Who would have thought??

The last time I heard these songs were on radio in my car in my lovely hometown in Australia. Ahh, brings so many nostalgic memories. I would have never guessed the next time I listen to these sings will be in KABUL!!!

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Getting bombed paranoia

This morning as I drove to work an overwhelming wave of paranoia conquered me. We left the house at the common time when suicide bombings happen. Usually we travel around in an armoured vehicle but since last Monday’s attacks most of the armoured vehicles have been recalled and so we’re stuck in a regular soft skin vehicle for the day. Armoured cars gave me some sense of relief and the relief that I’m safe… to some extent.

As we drove through the heavy traffic, inch by inch, my eyes began scanning across the vehicle for potential suicide bombers.

An old man picking at his beard, waiting for the road ahead of him to clear up… nah he’s too old and looks too calm. The other car.. a car filled with young men, nah, too many of them.

A young guy frantic, alone, driving a corolla.. could it be him? He could be frantic because he’s a young inexperienced driver trying to make his way through the hectic traffic. Or could it be…?

Why were all these people travelling at this time in the morning? I’m pretty sure not ALL of them were on their way to work… it’s not worth the risk. Like that lady in chadari, walking briskly, why is she risking her life just to go to some relatives house?

 I saw the traffic police trying playing with his walky talky… I freaked, thinking he’s trying to detonate a bomb via a remote control. Another guy walking on the side of the street, his jacket had laces that were dangling down mid thigh. Is that the rope that needs to be pulled for the hidden suicide vest underneath his jacket? Could that be him?

I realized I was losing it or was I just being on the alert?

I kept reciting Ayatul kursi and my kalimah.

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I went to a wedding on Thursday night. As usual, I had trouble deciding what to wear – so I stuck with my maxi dress. The wedding was at Mumtaaz Mahal, the outside had a bazillion lights put up the outside, Vegas anyone? I was disappointed to see the waiters no longer run accross the wedding floor with hugeeeee trays of palaw and qorma dishes piled on top of each other with an occasional one or two falling and splattering qorma everywhere. Instead they had push-trolleys. The singer was Baryalay Wali – he was okay. His voice sucked singing live.

It’s been almost a week since the crazies of Kabul last Monday. Security has tightened (which always happens immediately after an attack – ever thought of doing that BEFORE the attacks??) There were gunshots here and there in Sheerpoor but that’s about it.

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Kabul down, Kabul down

Morning started off the usual. While at work, one of the Canadian girls said there was a bomb attack. Strange! We hadn’t heard anything! Hubby Skyped me a few minutes later saying there was a suicide bomb attack just outside the Millie Bank. The Millie Bank is only a few buildings away from the Serena Hotel.  But clearly, the target was Millie Bank.  The same place my brother in law, F, works.

The Taliban stormed the bank, commando style, firing. News reports say that the Taliban stole armored vehicles, one of which was filled with explosives and detonated this morning. Soon after, the Taliban stormed the compound. Thankfully my brother in law was on the other side of the bank at the time.

The Afghan National Army arrived and managed to secure the bank staff in the basement while they fired back at the Taliban.

Gunshots were also heard from Serena.

At work, it was business as usual despite the occasional outburst of breaking news from one of the people in the office. We had a meeting in the glass room – it literally is a glass room and I must say one of the most unwise moves of the year. If there was a bomb blast in the area close by, we are all goners!

That moment a bomb hit. Our office shook. Khair. I thought about the dead and injured lying there. My stomach churned.

One of the guys at the meeting joked ‘amee ootaaq besyaar sheeshayee nest?’

My mind kept wandering back at the possible scene that is out there. Body parts, how will families be able to tell their loved ones? Images flashed on TV, live.

I left the meeting room. I needed to walk it off.

I called mum to let her know that crazies are happening but we’re fine. Alhamdullilah.

A few minutes later my colleagues joined me in the room, we decided we should go down to the basement. We went to the conference room, tuned into BBC and there it was!

In front of Millie Bank, the skeleton of what was a car with the suicide bomber now in pieces. His legs chopped off, in the air. Undignified death!

That street is unusually busy, but now it was deserted. Cameramen along the sides of the road crouching down to avoid being shot, trying to get footage. I noticed a female Afghan photographer, good on her!

We had two televisions on. One tuned into the local Tolo station and the other tuned into BBC.  We had a short security briefing – not that it could do much.

And back to work it was with reports flooding my inbox about the crazy happenings still going on.

I was in continuous contact with my brother in law to make sure he was alright. He was. Relief.

The phone lines were terrible, they usually cut it off to avoid further mobile phone bombings.

The fighting continues, occasional gunshots are being heard.

More to come…

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Settling down…

Our office shook like crazy. another bomb.

That was an hour or so ago.

Things seem to have settled now.

My heart is with the victims and their families.

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Taliban have stormed into the bank — gunfights are taking place.

Fighting continues inside the bank. I am trying to call my brother in law, F, phone lines are dead. He’s apparently okay, the police have secured his surroundings. But still…

I pray to God that the Taliban aren’t wearing a suicide vest.

I pray that my brother in law, or anyone else, isn’t taken hostage.

None of the phones are connecting.

Will keep you updated

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9.55am, just heard of a blast in front of Milli Bank which is a few buildings away from Serena. There were gun shots and police surrounding the area. I didn’t hear a thing in my quiet office on the busy road.

Heard there was another blast in the city, but that’s yet to be confirmed.

Will keep you updated

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Everyday, dance Karo deewana,
Everyday, romance karoo deewana (Judge Mujrim – a bollywood movie that is on TV right now)

It’s our second day in Mazaar. Hubby had to come for business and I decided to accompany him, taking 2 days leave from work. We left the house at 6am and it was -4 degrees Celsius.

We took the early a.m flight. The flight was delayed which is normal for Pamir! The flight was 25 minutes!!
The plane landed around 9.30am at Mazaar, our poor driver was waiting for an hour. It was cold. 2 degrees Celsius.

The terminal looked no bigger than one of the houses in Sheerpoor in Kabul. There wasn’t a luggage carousel – a small pick up truck pulled up just before the exit gates with our bags at the back. A guard stood at the exit gate collecting the tickets and checking that it’s the same number on the bags. We had lost ours. So the guard asked us to ‘identify’ our bag by telling him one of the items in there. My hubby mentioned his green toiletries bag. We got sent through. We made our way to the ‘car park’ through the gravel roads. Rickety trolleys were being pushed by old men to help those with lots of bags.

I was too tired to laugh or find it amusing but looking back now, I think it’s hilarious but amazing at the same time. So simple!

We drove to our guesthouse, the roads were much bigger, smoother and less crowded. It was more modern than Kabul, newer buildings. There were less of those ugly gray concrete barriers that have taken over most of Kabul – I guess it’s because Mazaar is much safer and not exposed to suicide bombings etc. A convoy of tanks drove by.

It felt good being away from the hustle bustle of Kabul. We passed the Big Blue Mosque – Ali’s shrine. It wasn’t as crowded as I expected. The mosque was huge, much bigger than I expected. We dropped our things in our room, my hubby went to work and I unpacked making myself comfortable. It’s a small room but snug.
I took a shower and ordered pizza from Everest Pizza. They delivered within 20 minutes. Impressive, huh? I caught up with work, responding to emails. Before I knew it, hubby was home again.
We went to the mosque. It was beautiful, the mosaic tiles. We went inside the shrine, there were Mullah’s sitting around willing to give taweez and do voodoo. I wondered if they do black magic as well. A long time ago a Mullah dreamt that Caliph Ali (also Prophet Moh’ds (PBUH) son in law) was buried there. It was ordered for a city to be built around the shrine. So it was.

The next bit was typed at the VIP lounge at Mazaar Airport while waiting for the delayed Pamir flight.
The floor was cold but I was so taken by the beauty of the mosque, I forgot all about it. There were white doves everywhere, it is believed that the mosque is so pure that even black feathers in the doves eventually turn white. My lovely hubby took out a wad of 20Afghani notes and gave one to the streetchildren. Almost instantly we were mobbed with street kids wanting money. He had called for trouble. They followed us like a swarm of flies to our car where H gave them each 20Afs and we drove away as they clinged to our car wanting more. Wanting dollars.
That evening we had dinner at Delhi Darbar – an expat Indian restaurant. The food is great, it’s opposite the Military hospital (dosadd bestar) and at an awesome price – not the over priced menus that you find in Kabul expat restaurants.

The next day (2nd Day) we spent the day walking through the markets. All stocks were brought in from China and Pakistan – mum told me they used to import things from Russia but I guess that’s from a long time ago. We went to a busy marketplace, one thing that was convenient was the lack of attention! No boys/men staring –or at least not as much as Kabul. It was very easygoing and relaxing.
We visited the shrine again. This time a large pot caught my attention, it was my height and had lots of padlocks on it. People were kissing it and touching it. Later on I asked mum what it was and she told me it was the pot which Caliph Ali would cook in and give to the poor.
Some were running their hands across the Quranic writing that was engraved on the doors and kissed it. A bit too much, I thought. It almost became as if they were worshipping the shrine. The mullah’s were still there. I hoped those children wouldn’t recognize us and we won’t get mobbed again.
Off we went, dinner at the Indian restaurant.

Day 3: Friday
My hubby’s birthday and so off we drove with our Hazara driver to Hairatan! It’s almost an hour away. We had brunch at the Everest Restaurant before we hit the road. It was a straight road all the way that was repaired by the Koreans. On the way we stopped at the Aabeh Ganda spring fountain (rotten water). The reason it was given that name is because it smells really really off. But it’s a fountain spring of hot water – smells almost like bore water, if not, worse! It had been dug almost 40 years ago and has been flowing since then at full pressure. And it’s hot water. It’s believed that this water cures any skin disease one may have or scars. My mum went to a similar one in Peshawer, Pakistan when she was very young. She had eczema on the inside of her arms. She didn’t want to go because the place stunk and was crowded with people but my grandma made her rinse her arms with the water. A few days later the eczema worsened, it got infected and began to swell- this continued for a few more days and then began healing and disappeared. Since then, no more eczema.
Anyhow, there were men bathing in it so I didn’t get out of the car but I saw the spring fountain. It was amazing how the water continued to flow, too bad the areas around it weren’t green at all, they should have fixed some sort of irrigation to help the plants around it but oh well.
The land was flat, no mountains only a few sand dunes along the way. But mainly flat, dry land. Not even trees! Such a contrast from the mountainous Kabul. The ride continued for another hour and we arrived at Hairatan. We got to the Amoo River, the divide between Afghanistan and the other Stans (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan). Across the river from us was Uzbekistan. Green, developed Uzbekistan.
A bridge adjoining us and them stood strong. I wished for two things right then – and Uzbeki visa and more time! People apparently go to Tashkent (capital of Uzbekistan which is only 2 hours from where we were now) in the morning and come back in the evening. It’s that easy! Ah well, maybe next time. We had fish by the river, in the car because it was too smelly outside.
I wanted to see the old Balkh too but we were a little too late and the way isn’t very safe. Perhaps next time. I wanted to visit Rumi’s house and Rabia Balkhi’s grave.
We had dinner at Hotel Renaissance – an expat gueshouse/restaurant.
And then hit the hotel room and just spent the time to unwound and chill out.

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