Thursday, March 31, 2011

Finally Here

Well - I am finally here in Kabul.

The 15 hours from NY to Dubai were uneventful and even quite enjoyable. I was in a window seat with 2 empty seats next to me and although I tried to watch movies and read I really ended up sleeping most of the time - which I guess I needed.

Once we arrived in Dubai - it was immediately familiar in its otherworldly strangeness - the sprawl leading out to the endless desert. Flying over at daytime you really got a much better sense of Dubai's vastness in the middle of nowhere.

Stocky and I took a cab to the terminal where we were to make our connection to our flight to Kabul.

Here we met up with another family that was on their way to Turquoise Mountain - there was a husband and wife, Ashley and Mary, with one of their 7 kids, Kathleen who is in her early 20's. One of their other daughters was already at the fort in Kabul.

The family was coming to Kabul for the opening and part of the weekend ceremony was going to be a memorial for their oldest daughter, Anna, who died while here in Kabul while she was working on the TM project. By all reports she had never been happier - working on the project and being a part of the rebuild of Afghanistan. As a part of this she also got to enjoy one of her other favorite things - horseback riding - and this is how she died.

There will be a ceremony on Friday to honor her and a tree planting on Sunday.

Despite their reason for traveling and their schedule (all had just been in Jordan and had spent the last 10 hours in the Dubai airport) - the family was charming and talkative - excited for their trip back to Kabul.

We all eventually made our way onto the plane and sat there in the heat of the runway for about :45 minutes. Eventually they let us know that the AC was broken and that we would be returning to the terminal.

Everything eventually got sorted and we boarded another plane bound for Kabul.

Flying in the views were obstructed by large rain clouds - every once in a while you would see the tip of a still snow covered mountain peek through. Made me wonder if everyone was clear on where the clouds ended and the mountains started. Though not usually a nervous flyer - I also could not help but flash on the recent air traffic issues in the US.

We eventually touched down and got our bags making our way to the desk where we were to get our foreigner's registration cards and through customs.

Stocky and I bought 2 bottles of booze in Dubai - and this time - unlike last - they did not try to confiscate them.

Shoshana was not there to greet us - as she was in the middle of preparations for the weekend - and we were to make our way to parking lot C - which was harder than you might think and we all schlepped our bags through the mud covered streets looking for someone with a Turquoise Mountain sign. We thought we were on the right path until a group of armed guards yelled at us to turn around - we of course listened.

Katherine had luckily made contact with our driver and he emerged from parking lot B to meet us.

I am sorry to say there are no pictures to document this.

Judy was there to greet us when we got to lot C - though not with open arms as local custom does not allow for a woman to greet a man in this way.

The ride to the fort was as adventuresome as ever - the traffic moves along the dust covered streets of Kabul like a school of fish swimming upstream - narrowly missing each other but traveling dangerously close. Unlike the fish - it seems the car impact would not be as soft.

You could see at twilight the new trees that had been planted along many of the streets - and what looked to be additional shops - I will be intrigued to see what it looks like in the light of day.

When they bomb checked the vehicles and let us into the fort - it felt like a strange and surprising homecoming - odd to think that coming to Kabul would ever feel like home - but with the Clarks here and the group happily gathered in the kitchen over the warm pasta and tales of our adventures getting here it really did feel that way.

After eating I took a hammam tonight - hot water in a hot room was just what was needed after a day of flying and slugging through mud. Judy came in to take a picture of me there (not so hot in that room) so I will spare all of you from it.

By 8:30 I was beat and ready for bed. The four of us - Shoshana, Judy, Stocky and I - all sat in Shoshana's room where we will all be camped out for the weekend - Sho and I in the outer room - and Stocky and Judy in the other room. It felt like being kids again. Even down to dozing off before the lights were turned off.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Returning to Kabul

So as I make my way this week going back to Afghanistan I have posted the photos from my last trip. It took me a while (a year and a half) to figure out how to post these but as the new trip approaches I figured it out - thank god for you tube.

The first few photos are of Dubai and then go on to photos of Kabul and Istalif. The song is "Good Arms vs. Bad" by Frightened Rabbit.

I guess it will serve as my long promised final blog posting from my last trip and the kick off to my journey back.

I am finally packed and ready to go (I think) but nerves and Diet Coke have me unable to sleep.

I realize I am a little less prepared this time. Last time I had done reading and studied up. This time with work and and my life being in a very different place than it was a year and a half ago - I find myself a little less sure - but excited as well.

The few conversations I have had with Shoshana about the events of the weekend have brought on that excitement. Helping to prepare for and participate in an event in Afghanistan will definitely be different than what it is in NY or LA. I am intrigued to see the project completed and to be there as the institute and the running of Turquoise Mountain gets handed over to the Afghans.

I fly in the morning through Dubai and then onto Kabul.

Will post more then. Thanks all for your support.