Salaam Afghanistan

Health and Ethnic Conflict.

My first visit to the Heart of Asia -- Reflections and Photos.

My Photo
Location: Mbarara, Uganda

Internist and Pediatrician with a passion for international health.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

A Stern Soldier

Yesterday on my way to work, I was again taking photos from the van. I wanted to get a couple of the things that I wrote about last time -- the watermelons, the brightly decorated 18 wheelers, turbaned men on bikes. We were, per usual, stalled in traffic, and, per usual, I was attracting stares and other attentions from passersby and fellow passengers stalled in traffic as well. One of the men this time looked particularly intimidating. He was dressed in military attire and carrying a gun over his shoulder. He looked at me sternly, and with what I guaged to be disapproval. I smiled, and lifted my camera, gesturing for his permission to take a photo. He was so pleased! He promptly stood at attention, looking his most dignified. A money changer nearby saw this man pressing his face against the window of the van, and came over to have a look himself. "Take a picture of me!" he gestured with smiles and waving his wad of Afhganis (the currency here). I ended up with several pictures of these men, smiling and tickled at the sight of themselves (I was able to share the photos with them because I have a digital camera -- hence the faces pressed against the windows). I really enjoyed it.

Here are the boys:

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And here is just one of the many many many watermelon vendors with his many many many watermelons:

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One of the many men pulling carts of various items.

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Man on bike wearing headscarf and traditional Islamic kullaa.

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Brightly painted Pakistani cargo vehicles:

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These are some of the folks at the office. And a couple of me in a chador.

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So, all is well here. I went over to the Intercontinental last night to watch Sopranos with the NBC and AP folks. The DVDs here are super cheap, but they are also hit or miss. Sometimes the bootleg copy you get is really good, basically like a real DVD. Other times, it's obviously a guy in the back of the theater with a video camera, and you can see the heads of people getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the show, and hear the crunching of popcorn and rattling of candy wrappers. Pretty funny, actually, unless there are subtitles. Usually, the subtitles are cut off, so you're out of luck!

Tonight I am going to have dinner with this guy I met named Jackson Ireland -- I should clarify. He's not just some guy, he works here at MSH and just arrived from the Boston office a few days ago. Anyway, he is staying at this guest house here that is a super popular place for the young aid community. Ping pong, uchre tournaments, pool, big TV room. The owner is this Australian dude who cooks a different theme meal for the guests every night, and who hosts theme parties every quarter. Tomorrow night is the Beach Party -- he bought an inflatable pool (in the shape of a Mini Cooper) and gathered some sand (not too hard in this desert region) and is also setting up a mini golf course that I think is Taliban themed? Not sure what that means. Maybe it's, like, knocking down Buddhas or something. I'm going to the party, so I'll let you know how it turns out.

This weekend is a long weekend for us (we have Sunday off since it is the 4th), so a bunch of folks from work (Tony, Steve, Cristi, Jackson, Nisam, to name a few) are going away for the weekend to some place that is supposed to look like the Grand Canyon. It supposed to be really beautiful, and the one place that the Soviets were never able to take. Apparently, a bunch of Soviet Paratroopers parachuted in, and only three months later, all of them were gone. There are still a few old Soviet military vehicles down in the gorge. I'll take photos and post when I get back.

I'm also going to start taking Dari lessons on Sunday. It's $3.50 and hour for personal instruction. Jackson and I are going to take them together, so it might turn out to be $1.75 each...?

Okay. I have to get back to work. I hope everyone is well. I'll write again soon.


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