Greetings from Sunny Catford!
Well I fully expected to be wandering the Streets of Kabul by now, putting into practice the little Dari I possess; Salaam! Instead I’m in grey, rainy Catford, South London, looking out the window and praying it doesn’t start snowing.
Did I change my mind about the trip, heed my Mum’s warning that such an excursion was mad and dangerous? Alas no, my flight was cancelled due to landing restrictions in Kabul, apparently airline companies have a quota of flights which can land in Kabul and my company had exceeded their quota for the week. I was initially confused but after looking at Kabul airport on Google Earth I got a better idea of the situation, one runway and maybe a dozen planes in the docking bay, a very far cry from Heathrow!
So now I’m held up at a friend’s in Catford listening to Smooth FM, 80’s hits sandwiched between “Christmas in Afghanistan for the British Troops’, a priest talking about how now more than ever it was a wondrous thing that God had sent his son to help humanity… how despite the fighting going on outside the military bases, troops where celebrating and remembering the gift God sent them all those years ago; cue British Troops singing Christmas carols…
I started thinking about my actual Christmas in Kabul, I hadn’t given it much thought until then, I naturally assumed it would go by un-noticed, what with it being a Muslim country, to be honest I was somewhat relieved to skip Christmas this year as I find it something of a stressful period. The others on the delegation are all Christian so I guess there’ll be some sort of acknowledgement, however I get the impression they’re very focused campaigners so will want to make best use of what little time we have in Kabul. One thing is for certain, it will be unlike anything I have ever experienced before.
Last night I thoroughly explored Kabul on Google Earth, took a panoramic view of a barren hilltop in the centre of the city, sat with a shepherd and his goats, looked at an abandoned outdoor swimming pool with diving boards jutting out into the mountainous horizon, walked through agricultural fields in the centre of the city.
I read a bit of history from my Lonely Planet Guide which covered the invasion of Genghis Khan in 1219, he basically swept through Afghanistan on a massive killing spree destroying everything in his wake, green gardens, orchards, the sophisticated canal systems in the south- historically it’s considered a significant turning point which Afghanistan has yet to recover from. Reading on in the brief history pages I got the impression that Afghanistan is a country which has been constantly invaded but so rarely conquered for any amount of time.
This morning I woke up with the essence of Afghanistan in my mind and heart, I had dreamt about the streets of Kabul, the dusty roads and dilapidated Soviet built blocks, the people. For some reason I didn’t feel scared, more excited with slight pangs of nervous. I’ve spoken to many British people who have recently visited Kabul and they all say that it’s OK, not as bad as you might imagine.
So I am scheduled to land in Kabul on the day before my 32nd birthday, it will make waking up on my first Morning in Afghanistan extra special.