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.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Into Taleban Territory: Through Ghazni and Into Jaghori

Habib, a gentleman I met through his work at Harvard Law School, sent me to Afghanistan with many contacts who are eager to help. I've already mentioned several in my previous stories. It is through these contacts that I met Heidar. He is Habib's friend's brother-in-law, who is visitng from London for the first time in several years and is eager to travel. Remembering that I had mentioned my great desire to see Bamiyan and Bandyamir, I am invited to travel with Heidar for the next week. I meet Heidar on Friday, and am invited "out" with them that night. Wary of what that might entail and also tired, I thank him and decline, but agree to meet him again for dinner with his uncle the following night, Saturday. Dinner is very late, and Heidar calls for me at around 8:30pm. We drive over to the old Soviet complexes near the road that heads out to the UN compounds. I'm sure I've mentioned them. Giant, concrete buildings imposing on the otherwise more rural, older-world landscape of that part of the city.

I am welcomed in and we sit and have some tea. I tell a few stories about how I like Afghanistan and how I don't like the present U.S. Government. We talk about the differences between Afghanistan and my country. The laugh as I grimace at the name "George Bush." After a time, we retire to the dining room, where I take my place as guest on the floor farthest from the door. Around the dining cloth are myself, Heidar's uncle, his cousin, another gentleman (a friend of the uncle, I believe), and Heidar. Ocassionally, a woman appears to present the food or tea, or to clear plates. She doesn't really look at me. I feel uncomfortable knowing that there are several women in the kitchen waiting their turn to eat in discretion and anonymity while I sit among the men, even invited to drink with them, enjoying the benefits of the sort of "neutered" status I enjoy as an American. I am not fully a man, of course, but neither am I an Afghan woman.

Later, after we've finished our meal (I love Afghan food), we decide to leave the next day for Jaghori, then to Bamiyan, then Badyamir. Heidar will call me at work and we will rent a taxi nearby and head out early in the afternoon so as to be in Jaghori in time for dinner. It's Sunday, the first day of the work week, and as I am still waiting on the translations to be completed, I won't be missing anything. I pack up my things, including a large bottle of water and a couple of packets of Oral Rehydration Therapy and I think of my professor Dr. Cash from the School of Public Health who invented these in his early 20s. A short time later, I get the handwritten note from our security guards telling me that Heidar is here for me and I head out.

We can't find a taxi for that day, so we arrange for one for tomorrow.
Road rage in Kabul, "No, Heidar, don't get out and fight"
Spend the night at Dr. Aloudal's.
Up early the next morning and head out at 5:00am.
8 hours. Through Ghazni.

Heidar's story: tortured at the hands of the Taleban. Scars. Now a black belt in Karate, works with the police in UK.

Driving through Pashtu territory. Eliciting waves from people in villages. Talking about differences between the Hazara and the Pashtu. Convincing Heidar to smile.

Lunch in Ghazni. Heidar puts on my headscarf as we enter the village. Stop at the restaurant, eat in the main dining area (the only woman), lots of stares from local warlords.

Continue the drive. Stopping to pee in the wide open landscape, flat, and nothing but a shrub or two for miles and miles -- Heidar and our driver friend walk off a few paces and kneel. Where am I supposed to go? I hold it until we find a sort of bridge-like area. I insist that they keep watch on the road.

Arrive in Jaghori early afternoon.

13 Comments:

Anonymous habib said...

salam . iam too happy to visit your weblog.. i am from jaghori

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Blogger Raquel Reyes said...

salam, habib! chetor asti?

thank you for visiting my site. please check back again soon for photos from your beautiful jaghori. i miss your beautiful country!

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