Salaam Afghanistan

Health and Ethnic Conflict.

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

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Location: Mbarara, Uganda

Internist and Pediatrician with a passion for international health.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Minister of Planning: Where are all our cars?

We had planned to spend the day "walking the wall" on the highest peak in Kabul. But, I needed to buy some more traditional Afghan clothing, in anticipation of my visits to the field to interview Afghans about their beliefs, thoughts, opinions, ideas about where a woman will deliver her child.

We went to the Intercontinental Hotel, where a local store called Dacaar was having an exhibit. I didn't find anything, but we did enjoy some coffee there. Thing is, we use company cars to get around everywhere, and are sharing 10 cars among all 150 of our staff. This Friday, there just weren't enough cars available. After waiting for an hour, we walked back down to the highway and took a cab. Easy. Fast. Cheap. We were back in Shar-e Nau in ten minutes.

A typical Kabul weekend, with not much to do, we wandered up toward the DVD store, where we bought three boot-leg copies of movies. We got Starsky and Hutch, Fahrenheit 9/11, and Spiderman 2. The little boys on the street pushing their magazines, maps, and books waited patiently outside. When we came out, they quickly picked up with us again, urging us to buy. One little boy always works this part of the street, right in front of the DVD place and the Western-style supermarket with U.S. products. He has some form of dwarfism, which makes the tiny hand that he thrusts into yours even tinier. He doesn't let go until you walk too far away from his beat.

It was a slow day of watching movies, playing cards, some ping-pong, and that's about it. Next day, I went down to the Roshan City Tower -- a five story "mall" with sequined clothing and western styles that no Afghan woman would ever put on in public. Kind of bizarre, really, to have this mall in the middle of downtown bombed out Kabul. No food court, though, and no movie-plex. Is that even a word?

From there, I went back to LeMonde and waited for the car that was supposed to take me back home. It never showed up. Finally, we called and were told that our cars were being impounded and there was a security meeting called and we would be notified when everyone knew what was up. Had a car been stolen? Was there some sort of security threat? Did they decide to ban SUVs like we heard they were doing in Paris? We weren't called back, but after another hour, we called again.

We were told to stay put. Turns out that the Minister of Planning, who is staunchly opposed to the foreign NGO presence in Afghanistan but fully supportive of foreign funds and equipment, decided to start impounding all vehicles with NGO plates. Out of the blue. No warning.

Who does that? We finally got our cars back around 4pm that afternoon. No additional word. No additional information. No apology. No guarantee that it won't happen again.

Bizarre.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anupam said...

U've written a lot about Afghan women. No bad the condition here in India too, or for that matter, women in general all around.

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