In my last post I referred to the newer Kabul mansions being a horrible fusion of Pakistan kitsch, Afghan decay and Hollywood grandeur. Well, we have now, after more than six weeks here, and four temporary accommodations, moved into our place. It is great to be here. It is not a new Kabul mansion. It is more the decaying Afghan grandeur style. But we are very happy to be here. Ecstatic would be too strong, but only just. Though, from an objective point of view, it is a very odd home indeed: Chandeliers adorn every room, but their elegance is diminished by the missing beads, the string and rubber bands holding them together, and the alarming angle at which they hang. Blast film covers most of the windows, a leftover from the angry Mujahideen years, when this part of Kabul was practically reduced to dust. Though the kids and I spent a happy hour pulling it off some windows this afternoon, and suddenly, instead of blurred and muted shapes, we could actually see out, the thick layers of dust and paint specks still hinder a clear view.
The saloon (the Afghan term for a living room) has a ’70’s style (painted) stone feature wall and more chandeliers. The kitchen, complete with more of the ill fitting cabinets that are so ideal for hiding small mousey snacks, is tiled in dark cement tiles. These tiles are not limited to the floor, no, they were so in vogue that they come half way up the walls, giving the room an uncanny resemblance to a public lavatory. More of the lovely kitchen tiles are found in the bathroom, where some one must have once cleaned the bath with an acid wash, as a result of which, over the following years it has become a stained tint of yellow and grey, with smears of rusty brown and black. The diesel heaters used in past winters have darkened the walls and ceilings with soot, so most rooms have a dim and cave like feel.
But it is a great home. It has lovely tall apricot, mulberry and almond trees, grape vines and a good well. The ceilings are high and there is a wonderful sense of space. The kids have a room for homeschooling, where Julie sets out each day to teach. There is a very good solar power system installed, so when the power fails each day, we have a back up system. The drains drain (mostly), I have fixed up a water heater, and we have no mice.The washing machine has not produced any evil smelling laundry; the oven, unlike our last home in Kabul, does not explode when lit; and the sandflies… well, actually there are plenty of sandflies.
And they seem to find the kids, with their nice sweet tender skin, just delicious. Which means our son looks like he has chickenpox again, and daughter is similarly covered in raised and virulent welts and bumps. Julie and I are more discreet in our itching, but just as committed. We bought this little zappy thing before we left, that when you click it on a bite, is meant to remove both the itchiness and other symptoms. It works by giving a tiny electric shock, and it seems to actually do what it claims (though it may just be killing off parts of our brains). For adults, the application doesn’t hurt (much), but the kid’s enthusiasm for it has quickly evaporated. So there they are, itching and along I come and zap them, and then they are itchy and crying and shouting at me. Not a good scene. We have to get mossie nets. Not only will they stop the flies, but the draping folds of white gauze around each bed will look just right alongside the chandeliers, feature stone walls and blurry blast film.