Images of Afghanistan

Some images from recent weeks. This below is M., for some years the logistics support man for our office in the North. He was meant to organise plumbing repairs, re-mudding the roofs before winter, supplying diesel for heating, fitting carpets. He was cheerful and kind, and got things done in a bumbly kind of way, where several things generally ended up broken that hadn’t been initially. I remember finding him spraying our fruit trees with some terrible toxin long banned in Australia, his only protection a piece of cloth over his head. He was an awful driver, nervous, incompetent and forever stopping paying attention to lean around and talk to you. As our office contracted a few years ago, he was taken out of the logs role and now works as a watchman. He seems quite unbothered by it all. I imagine he is happy he still has a good job.

The outer wall of the Shrine of Hazrat Ali, in the centre of Mazar. From a distance, the Shrine a supremely beautiful.

But the tiles are poorly fixed, and forever snapping off and falling, and every now and again if you are unlucky and stand too close to the walls, one may strike you. So at the Shrine are employed a small team of men whose job it is to spot gaps, and form up new tiles. But colours are hard to match, and patterns too sometimes: it is only up close that you spot it.

Kabul now. The street sweepers. But I cannot help but think of Guantanamo Bay when I see their orange outfits. Most of these men are long superannuated, relics of lives, their eyes are rheumy and weak, their lungs hardened by years of dust and they limp and scratch around the streets. As a gesture of thanks, our office and several others joined together last Christmas bought them all bags of rice, oil, tea and sugar. Such food distributions are something we never do; they are a nightmare, and though well intentioned, this one was no exception. I was only there to translate and as I spoke, even poorer, more asthmatic, crippled people appeared out of no where, asking pitieously for a bag. Several well-heeled office women with snotty attitudes lined up and helped themselves to the parcels. There was only just enough; and even then there was a scuffle to make sure all the men got one. Several of the younger men tried to queue up twice.

Like I said, a nightmare. It is surprising though how popular such charity actions are.

A friend asked me to accompany him to take photos of an area where he used to patrol, when he was here on military service. The aim was to ‘revisit the place, see if there are improvements’. The photos would go with the article he had written about it. So we went back to the village, and he stopped and talked to groups of boys and old men. None had any idea why he was there, who he was. Predictably, the boys were disinterested, suspicious and cheeky, and the old men courteous and welcoming, but it was a confusing experience; trying to explain why he was there, what he wanted. The old men reiterated how they still had no wells and little water; the boys accused us of being rich aid monkeys.

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