Another ordinary day in Kabul

Kabul Travel Blog

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Local leaders

My Day with the President

Cast of Characters: Me, Valerie (colleague and TESOL), Kim P and Bruce W (TESOL), Ken and Debbie (house mates), Hamid Kaiser (President), Shams (Driver and guard), Akram (Driver), Punch (other driver), Kawa (Admin and supervisor of drivers), Abdul (Minister of Finance), David C (Australian working at the Ministry of Finance), Freshta (Assistant to the Australian Ambassador), 200 Afghan soldiers, 25 language students and a million Afghans on the road.

The day started like any other normal day.

Akram,our driver.
  The buzz of helicopter gun ships filled the dusty morning air and military jets flew low overhead.  The call to prayer lingered in the distance.  As I sipped my Earl Grey, I casually pulled back the curtains of my bedroom to be confronted with the sight of a sniper on the neighbour's roof.  Mmmm, not so normal, I instantly thought.

Morning greetings were replaced with reports.  "Something is going on!" Ken announced as he entered the dining room for breakfast.  "There's alot of air activity this morning." Said Valerie as she entered immediately behind Ken.  "Look! There are soldiers all along the fence!" Debbie confirmed as she pulled back the dining room curtains.  Sure enough, right outside our gate was over 200 Afghan soldiers spread across the school grounds opposite our house, heavily armed with large automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenades (rpgs).

Sea English Academy classroom building
  Armoured personal carriers (tanks) patrolled the street.  We were completely surrounded.  The President was paying a visit.

Ken, Debbie and Val went up to the roof for a better view and to take photos, while I donned my chador and went out onto the street to see if I could meet any cute foreign journalist who might be lurking around the presidential entourage.  No luck.  Well, it was all very exciting but extremely inconvenient.  It would have been nice if the President had told us beforehand because suddenly we were ordered off the roof, off the street, and definitely no photos.  Val was forced to delete her photos (but Deb sneaked her camera back into the house).  We were then ordered to not even look out the windows.  Snipers aren't very polite!  Then the street was completely blocked off and the phone system was jammed.

The sniper on our roof.
 

But we had work to do.  You know.. people to see, places to go.  Just prior to the President's arrival we had to leave for a our morning English classes at nearby Chai La.  Under great protests, we drove through the barricades and fled the street. 

Classes went great.  Students showed up.  It all went well, and soon it was time for Shams and Akram to pick us up and take us to our appointment with the Abdul in downtown Kabul.  No Shams.  No Akram.  Eventually Shams arrived 20 mins late and we were now running late for our meeting.

A visit by the local boys and girls of the US Military
   We blamed it on the Kazai and the roadblocks.  The air was thick was helipcopters.  Just as we attempted to drive off, a black van pulled up behind us and blocked our exit.  Shams attempted to drive around him.  No joy.  A dark bearded man lept from his vehicle and started yelling abuse at Akram and Shams.  He was clearly upset and pointed to his damaged vehicle and accussed our drivers of running into him while they had travelled to pick us up.  Akram remained calm and tried to reason but it was no use.  Punch then ran around to Shams and dragged him from the vehicle, pushing shoving and punching.  It was then on for young and old.  The guard at Chai La tried to intervene but it turned into an outright brawl.  A crowd gathered. 

Val and I meanwhile were still sitting in the van.

Tribal leaders coming to a meeting.
  We were now unguarded and I knew straight away we were highly vulnerable for an abduction attempt.  I then tried to ring Kim P and Bruce to come out and rescue us while Val rang Kawa to tell him to come straight away and help Shams.  The phones were jammed.  I couldnt beleive that they were on the other side of the fence but I couldnt contact anyone!  We were stuck.  Eventually as the fight escalated, Punch had  a bloodied face and they were all in the dirt, Val and I made our dash to the safety of Chai La.

We then waited behind the wall for about 15 minutes until Akram was able to get us and escort us to the vehicle just as Shams handed Punch 300 Afhs and they kissed (literally) and made up.  We drove away, Sham bruised but okay, we were shaken, and plunged headlong into gridlock traffic - thanks once again Kazai.

Kabul Nan bread and Kabouli rice
  Despite being an hour late, the Minister of Finance was a gracious host and treated us to Afghan hospitality chai.  Then introduced to David C, and both meetings went very well with promises of further meetings.

Just made it in time to our next meeting at the Serena Hotel and lunched with the Assistant to the Australian Ambassador - delightful Afghan woman who is about to head off to Australia and marry an Afghan in Melbourne, and who happens to be the cousin of Nouria (our Afghan lady friend).  Small world. 

Race back to Chai Lai just as afternoon classes are commencing.  Twice the number of students turn up, and Val, Kim P and Bruce handle the doubled class sizes like true professionals.

Our gardiner and his son.
  A quick moment to read my emails to discover I am a celebrity back on with front page headlines of my recent narrow abduction escape.  There is also an email from Kawa with the - day late - UN ANSO report warning everyone to stay off the roads today cause the President will be visiting the area.

Home to Qobla Palaw (rice and lamb) for dinner. The sky above is finally quiet and the call to prayer sings out from the nearby mosque.  A quiet moment in my room enjoying my last sachet of hot chocolate beckons. 

Yep, just another ordinary day in Kabul. :-)

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Local leaders
Local leaders
Akram,our driver.
Akram,our driver.
Sea English Academy classroom buil…
Sea English Academy classroom bui…
The sniper on our roof.
The sniper on our roof.
A visit by the local boys and girl…
A visit by the local boys and gir…
Tribal leaders coming to a meeting.
Tribal leaders coming to a meeting.
Kabul Nan bread and Kabouli rice
Kabul Nan bread and Kabouli rice
Our gardiner and his son.
Our gardiner and his son.
Kabul Coffee House - best coffee p…
Kabul Coffee House - best coffee …
The local markets... I am the one …
The local markets... I am the one…
At Kabul University
At Kabul University
Outside our neighbours building.
Outside our neighbours building.
Buying beautiful lapis jewelrey to…
Buying beautiful lapis jewelrey t…
Overlooking Kabul. Our organisatio…
Overlooking Kabul. Our organisati…
Pakistan truck drivers.
Pakistan truck drivers.
One of our students.
One of our students.
Putting up our SEA sign.
Putting up our SEA sign.
Negotiations
Negotiations
SEA staff picnic
SEA staff picnic
Meeting a United Nations official
Meeting a United Nations official
More snipers on our roof.
More snipers on our roof.
The staff house for our teachers.
The staff house for our teachers.
A woman begging.
A woman begging.
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photo by: hyo