Back in Afghanistan… again, again.


Afghanistan: the place you can never leave… 

I recently bought myself a nice zoom lens for my SLR with money borrowed from my suddenly-wealthy sister. Whilst she is actually employed with a UN agency in Gaza as a trauma specialist, she gets flown back to Northern Australia every few months to pull marbles from small children’s noses and other such emergencies, and paid vast sums of money to do so, all at Australian tax payers expense (but, given that I haven’t paid tax for years now on grounds of impoverishment, all that is the subject for another article.)

So, my sister’s judgement being temporarily unbalanced under the weight of all that money, loaned me the money to zero out my astronomical credit card debt. And seeing that I now had $5000  available, I realised with delight that I could afford that lovely zoom lens.I had done my research and  knew that $1000 ought to be enough, and so, when in the shop, I spotted a more powerful zoom for $100 less, I knew it for a real bargain. I was saving money! Though I did feel slightly, let’s say, pushed to explain it to my wife, on arriving home. But knowing her as well as I do, I was able to quickly distract her with an offer of her spending some more of that money we now had available, on a face massage, pedicure and head-rubby thing that an expensive beautician in an upmarket suburb was offering.  She too, knows a good deal when she is sold one, and saved us more money by purchasing four sessions for the price of 3.9. That all settled, I went out to take some photos and found it amazing how well the zoom lens enabled me to get right up close to important subjects, including far distance things such as cars, cleavages, people picking their noses while stopped at the lights and tight skirts. Disappointingly though, I did not yet secure a deal with any magazine for my ‘City life’ collection, nor have the exquisite photos of my children landed them lucrative modelling deals with New York based clothing retailers.

Things then being as they were, I was forced into the unenviable position of having to get a Job That Pays Real Money, as we home-dads like to call it. Sitting around at the kids playgrounds, with our thermoses of cheap coffee while our kids run amok amongst the Range Rover prams and Gucci-clad kids of the Chardonnay set, all the yummy mummys sipping lattes, we have often quietly rejoiced in the good life we enjoy. Except that all of them do have Real Jobs, albeit part time ones. Part Time Jobs That Pay Real Money. And sadly, now it was my turn. There is, only so long you can live on other peoples money.

But what does an ex-aid worker do for a living in sunny Perth? It’s a good while since the people of Western Australia needed food-drops, or polio campaigns organised or militias disarmed. They don’t want rescuing from mudslides or warlords and they don’t need land mines cleared. I suppose that might all change but not fast enough for me, and my sister wasn’t disposed to continue her largesse.

So a few phone calls later, and a long flight through the night and here I am sitting in a dimly lit guesthouse in downtown Kabul, several hours after a suicide bomber has just made an attempt on the life of the head of the NSD, the Afghan Secret Service. It is sinking in: I am back in Afghanistan… Afghanistan, the country you never can really leave. Oh, you can take holidays, but you’ll always come back.

But its not so bad. My head of mission here is a Frenchman and his accent suggests he has a growing pool of saliva behind his lower lip. It has taken me the best part of today to realise he doesn’t want me to do a needs analysis of assholes, but of households. ‘Aaose-ools’, as he puts it. Lucky for me. Lucky for the nervous people of Kabul. Suicide bombings and sphincter inspections could make for a restive populace.

I’ll tell you how it is all going next week.


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