I’ve felt obtrusive for a while, toting my DSLR around Kabul, and I hadn’t realised how much I had missed using it: a camera on a phone is no substitute. So the other day, I wandered down the bazaar, searching for some hardware fittings, and I blew the dust of my camera and enjoyed the sunshine. Sadly, it wasn’t a great day for shooting – just the usual bazaar type images. I did come across the man with a barrow selling old stuffed toys. I imagine these are the sort that no one buys in the UK or Australia, and that wash up here. Though any child, I think, regardless of nationality, would be terrified by the pink gorilla.
Later, Elijah and I buried his rabbit. The winter has been bitter: temperatures down to -17˚ at night, for nights on end, and a few days back, Elijah’s rabbit just didn’t make it, despite the warm cage I had built, with an elevated platform and sleeping box.
Our watchman looked on as Elijah and I chipped through the frozen ground, and then with solemnity, laid Tickle in a box, and put him to rest. He and I talked as Elijah went to make a cross:
‘Elijah is getting to understand about death.’
‘Yes. I think he has questions about it, why it happens, why it has to happen. He misses his grandfather a lot also.’
‘Death happens to everyone. We are in the hands of God.’
When Elijah returns, Amir Mohammed leans in to him, and says, in an effort to be comforting; ‘Elijah. We all die. One day I will die too.’
I translate for Elijah. I don’t think he gets it.
I wonder, at how our watchman views all this. That we have pet rabbits, who eat chaff and scraps, and produce nothing but vast quantities of crap; that we are wealthy enough to have spend money in this way. As we have only females, they don’t even reproduce, so we can’t eat the meat. They are, in all respects, I have concluded, a complete waste of effort, because though Elijah was very sad at Tickle’s death, neither he nor Pieta paid the rabbits much attention after the second day of their becoming part of our family. My rationale, that through having pets, children learn the responsibilities of care, doesn’t seem to be bearing out, and all they have learnt so far is that if it gets cold enough, you can freeze to death.
Afghans are fluent in this metric: a family we know of were huddled around their gas burner a week or so back, when it exploded. The mother and father and three of the five children are in hospital; the baby is being cared for by a woman we know, and just tonight, the four year-old died of her injuries.