I have just sat through two weeks of training and meetings, and my bum is numb with it all. Five days advocacy training, followed by three days security training (mainly how to survive a hostage situation) and three days strategic planning. I have nearly forgotten what it is to walk around. In the midst of that we have been dealing with the usual matters of life here: flat tyres, earthquakes, boys throwing rocks at the car and making lewd, pelvic gestures, a final memorial services for the Nuristan Eye Camp team, some issues with our kids at the school. Vexations, frustrations, yes, but it is also a beautiful time of year: clear days, cold nights, and the first wisps of wood smoke in the air. Soon the street cleaners, old men dressed in their orange Guantamo -Bay style jump suits will be burning piles of leaves in the gutters. Soon we will put our diesel stink-boxes heaters in the rooms, soon winter will start closing in. But now, it is still beautiful.
A few weeks ago I bought Carl’s Yamaha trailbike, as he was heading home to the UK. It has broken lights, missing panels, the oil tank leaks, the fuel cap is missing, the rear tyre bald, the seat is loose, it blows a lot of smoke, it makes a vigorous farting noise at high revs, various parts are wrong (the kick start, the micro chip). Taken together, this means that it functions only more or less, often less, and it’s habit of stalling as I pull out to overtake, leaving me scrabbling to avoid being flattened by the approaching truck, is alarming. But it is still a mostly excellent means of getting around in Kabul’s awful traffic.
A few nights back I went up to N and B’s to pick up Pieta and Elijah, who had been playing with their kids. I was going to drive, but even at 6pm the traffic was dented-bumper-to-broken-headlight. I turned around and got out the untrusty motorbike, and hooted off up Darulaman, stalling at 200m intervals. Unfortunately, as noted, the headlight is broken, so it’s either zoom in darkness and risk striking a pile of bricks, a person, a dog or six, or perhaps all the above; or use high beam, and blind the oncoming traffic. I used high beam, but still missed the turn off to their street. Then I got a flat tyre. But I did eventually find N and B’ place, only to realise I had only one helmet. And discovered that Elijah had brought his giant panda bear, and his ukelele, and that Pieta had a pile of books. So there I was, put-putting home, with a flat tyre, Pieta behind me, no helmet, Elijah in front, helmetted, with me carrying a panda bear and a ukelele, in the dusty chill of the Kabul night air.
* Pls note, worried readers: I have since purchased an additional helmet.