I am out in Baiha, in the Myandara valley. We spend the day visiting projects, talking with men, driving up rivers and along some atrocious roads. All without mishap, and with good results. At 3.30 my colleague Mark, and Julie leave and head back to Maimana, some 90 minutes away. I am staying the night to talk with more people and to try to get a feel for the work they have been doing here for the last three years.
The afternoon is spent at the lower village of Jarak, and then driving right up the valley to see the projects there. In the evening a group of men come to visit me, and spend a long time interrogating me about Australia.
How far is it? Could we drive there? What is the religion there? Why are there so few people? How old are you? How long are you married? Why won’t you tell us how old you are? You’re only 30. No, he’s 45.
Time passes slowly and finally I tell them a story about Mullah Nasruddin and the lazy donkey. It involves a chilli, and they find it hilarious. Then, abruptly, they up the leave. It is 10pm, and I brush my teeth, to the amusement of my six Afghan colleagues, who think teeth brushing is for pansies. In the darkness I walk into the doorframe.
Afghan doors in rural areas are uniformly constructed to be 4 inches lower than me, so about 5’8″. This cunningly ensures that I hit my head at least once a day. This time, however, I really hit it: so hard, I fall to the ground. Afghans, who normally find any kind of personal injury quite amusing, fing my injury alarming and are solicitous. I’ve had enough attention for one day and roll into bed, assuring them I am fine. F, however will not give up. He is determined to comfort me, bandage my head, give me antibiotics and swab my skull with alcohol and so on. Finally I instruct him to go to bed and leave me alone, and he gets the message.
It is however, beautiful in the morning: