Sun, 31 Oct
Judging from responses from everyone, news
from Afghanistan is being overshadowed by the elections. Things
are heating up, and I am slightly nervous with most all of the
attacks happening within a block from where I live. A female
suicide bomber, of foreign descent, was caught before she could
detonate her arsenal just down the street from my house today.
A suicide bomber 5 days ago killed 3 people on Chicken street
about a block up from me. Yesterday a UN worker was shot in
a drive-by, and is now in the hospital. And last night a soldier
was shot and killed in the park next door to my guesthouse.
There were US soldiers with night vision checking cars as we
drove to our house. The hostages taken have shown up on tv in
a video. There is a large man hunt for them. The funny thing
is that the local media is keeping everything under tight wraps.
Not a mention of some of these incidents. The hostage situation
may get some play in the US media.
I am the last of my crew staying, John
left today, and I am scheduled to leave in 3 days, Nov.3. Jake,
a Welchman who is an artist and cameraman, and I drove out to
Bagram air base today. He needed to get some supplies. Security
is very beefed up and they wouldn't let us on the base even
though Jake has stayed there many times.
During our wait outside, a Pakistani fuel
truck, (Pakistan fuel shipping companies ship our army most
of its gas and are making a killing) was jack-knifed in front
of the check point. It caused a large back up. Soldiers were
trying to pull it out of the way but with other trucks and the
driver kept messing up the steering making it worse. The soldiers
were losing their patience. Understandable. However one soldier
lost his cool, yelling, "do you want me to put a bullet in you
now, or later." He then took his M-16 and pointed it into the
frazeled drivers face as if he were going to shoot the guy.
The other soldiers looked around embarrassed. The sargent wrote
the soldier up.
I am being kicked off internet. talk soon.
Fri, 29 Oct 2004
Subject: Afghans and their donkeys
Things have not settled in Kabul since
the suicide bombing. Three western UN election workers were
taken hostage in Kabul yesterday in broad daylight. The hostage
takers have connections to the Taliban and have threatened to
kill the hostages if the manhunt for them continues. I also
just heard a loud explosion. I think it was a rocket attack.
There are Apache helicopters patrolling overhead as I write
this at 11:00pm. ISAF, the international forces have set up
check points all over Kabul.
That being said, I just got back from one
hell of a 3 day trek to Bamian (the place where the Taliban
detroyed the Buddhas). It was a 10 hr. drive on dusty dirt roads
that gave your neck whiplash-- But some of the most beautiful
country I have ever seen.
The only souls around in the mountain passes
were farmers on donkeys herding their sheep. In this terrain
snow capped peaks rise from the river floor with lush valleys
where women in bright colored head scarfs and men in tourbons
wrapped around their faces to protect from the harsh elements,
harvest wheat. These are the descendents of Genghis Khan and
they look Mongolian.
They could not believe the digital camera.
Little laughs bellowed out as they looked at their image (maybe
for the first time) after I snapped their pic. Their look of
surprise was priceless as they called their friends to have
The Taliban’s destruction of the Buddhas
is truly a shame. These enormous sculptures were carved between
400AD and 600AD. All around are caves etched into the side of
the shear mountain where monks lived back in the day, and now,
are inhabited by Afghans. There are caverns, stairs and tunnels
all throughout the mountain.
John, myself and our driver continued our
4 wheel drive trip to Band-i-amir, another 3 hours to pristine
deep blue lakes that are in mountains just like the Grand Canyon.
Losing our way (we were in the middle of nowhere), we asked
a little boy with a huge dog for directions. He immediately
dropped his dog’s leash, and joined us in our trek. Who knows
what happened to his dog in those rolling hills, but the kid
led our way for another hour. We ended up leaving the kid at
the lakes—I have know idea about his family. The lakes were
amazing. I wondered how I happened to be standing in the middle
of Afghanistan, staring at such breath taking views. The lakes
were so aqua blue and clear you could throw a rock, and watch
it hit the bottom.
On our drive out of the lakes we passed
several men riding their donkeys. I am starting to think Afghanistan
has been built partly, if not mostly, on the back of the donkey.
Especially in this part, they stack donkeys 10 feet tall with
hulls of grain, wood, and people. On our way back from Band-i-amir
we stopped to film some farmers and their sheep. I have been
having this huge urge to ride a donkey since I arrived 5 weeks
ago. So I asked the farmers to ride their donkey. I have become
the master at the one word translation (with a whole lot of
gestures). The farmers, with huge toothless smiles led the way
to their donkey out in the fields. The tame little donkey stood
there as I jumped on its back. John warned me it might buck,
or race off with me. I gave it a kick. It stood there. Another
kick, and another. I started slapping its ass. With deep chuckles,
the farmers started kicking it. They started pushing it. It
stood there. Ten minutes and the damn ass wouldn’t move.
So we made the long trip back home to Kabul.
It is interesting to see the faces change on the trip home,
from Mongolian to Pashtune. It’s also interesting to notice
how th bright smiles change to dark stares. I have to admit
that the recent incidents in Kabul do have an effect on my psyche,
but what those that don’t like westerners and Afghanistan’s
direction fail to realize, is that despite their actions life
must go on. We just finished a film for USAID on reconstruction
and the building of roads, and Afghans are very happy with the
progress, but there is just so much to do. The people at the
US Embassy really liked the film and may want us to do more.
I’ll keep you posted.
All the best,
Sat, 23 Oct 2004
There was a suicide bombing today on Chicken
St., exactly two blocks from where I am staying. Two little
kids were killed. They were local kids who begged on the street.
One of my housemates supported one of the girls. She is kind
of torn up. Reports were that it was an Arab with 6 grenades
strapped to him, and the Taliban took responsibility. John and
I walked over like a couple of idiots. The guy was laying in
the street, his arms were blown off and layed meters from the
body. He was going after ISAF, the international security force,
but instead he killed the 2 kids. 7 were wounded. Taliban have
vowed to step up attacks. There have been real miner RPG attacks,
but nothing like this. We will see what happens over the next
24 hours. It kind of hits home being so close.
I am probably heading to Gazni, an hour
from Kabul, to interview a head of USAID Monday for a short
film I am working on for the International Organization of Migration