Okay, how’s this for strange? Afghan man on the street selling sexy lingerie to smiling, laughing Afghan women wearing burkhas. I know the women were smiling and laughing in spite of wearing burkhas because they had pulled the front up over their heads so they could better see the lingerie they were fondling. The effect was, of course to show their rather tasteful attire beneath the burkhas complete with Western-style raised-heel shoes. Sorry, no pictures of that yet. I was so shocked I didn’t get my camera “armed” in time before we were moving again.
Normally, in Muslim society, men who are not related to the women do not talk to women in public…it’s a big taboo. Unless, it seems, you are a man selling sexy lingerie. Things have really changed and are changing in this country.
Ten minutes later we come upon a scene where Afghan police have gunned down a would-be suicide bomber whose device failed to detonate. Allah was smiling on the folks in the market place. Our driver asked the Afghan policeman what was up. Policeman spits in the direction of the body, “Pakistani Taliban!” Spits again. “We will kill them all!” Yes, the Taliban are not very popular around here. The only people more hated, at least in Kabul, are the Arabs of Al-Qaida. You don’t really want to be an Arab wondering around Kabul right now.
A bit on my typical day…so far. Up at 04:30. Do some computer work, call wife via Vonage on my computer…the wonders of technology! Armor up and gone from safe house enroute to Afghan Army base across town by 06:00. The next thirty to forty minutes are spent in the often thrilling transit across town, though this early it is not too bad. Spend the day working with Afghan Army (sorry, can’t say more than that). Depart Afghan base at 15:30 (that’s 3:30 PM). I then transit town on the much more thrilling ride (thirty to sixty minutes depending on traffic in the market and elsewhere) back to the safe house.
Quick change to gym clothes and then back out to transit town in a different direction to Camp Eggers (the US base in town). Work out at gym for an hour and a half. Treat myself to either a mango smoothie or a berry smoothie. Call driver and head back to safe house. Usually back by 19:00 (7:00 PM). Do some computer stuff, maybe laundry, shower and all that stuff then more computer stuff, then bed. In all I spend upward to two hours per day “out among them.” That is to say, in an unarmored Toyota minivan driven by our Afghan driver through crowded streets, making eye-contact with folks all the way, especially when we stop…usually stuck in traffic.
Americans are, for the time being, thought of as honored guests. We get lots of waves and smiles along the way...our attempt to travel “low profile” is seldom successful. It helps that the Northern Alliance are the ones who captured Kabul from the Taliban and that the Afghans actually managed to stand up an army and police force faster than what happened in Iraq. The Afghans feel they have ownership…a very good thing. That does not mean that things are trouble-free. It doesn’t take very many “bad guys” to make life hell for everyone. A suicide bomber here, an IED there…just enough to shake confidence.
My next post I hope to have more pictures ready. I’m planning on some market and shop pictures. Until then, thanks to all who comment here. I’ll try to visit a few of my favorite blogging buddies in the next few days…now that I’m getting into a rhythm.