Well… the honeymoon period is over. In what the Taliban is calling the new “Spring Offensive,” which began 1:13pm today Kabul Time, (4 hours ago), Kabul, Jalalabad and a few other areas of Afghanistan came under attack. The below is a summary so far of the day:
• A Taliban spokesman said fighters have attacked embassies in the diplomatic enclave, Nato’s HQ and the parliament building in the west of the capital. Multiple blasts and gunfire have been heard across Kabul.
• There have also been attacks the in Logar and Paktia provinces and reports of suicide attacks in Jalalabad, according to the Taliban.
• Nato said it had reports of attacks in seven locations in Kabul but there were no reports as yet of any casualties.
• The British embassy has been targetted, with two rockets hitting a guard tower. Witnesses told Reuters that a rocket-propelled grenade was fired into a house used by British diplomats.
To Reiterate to the rentals and everyone else, my compound is around 1.5 miles from the attacks. We’re under lock-down and from the looks of it, the APPF (Afghan People’s Protection Force), as well as the private security are patrolling the area to ensure our safety and keep us abreast of the developing situation.
Now for the bloggy part of this blog post..
The only thing I really have to compare to this is the familiar Tornado Warnings of Oklahoma….except this includes suicide bombers, gunfire and a lot of helicopters overhead. Aside from that, totally the same…
It’s been surreal. Attempting to act completely casual while the reports flow in, all the while sitting next to Afghan staff who have dealt with this for most of their lives along with Expat staff who have had much closer calls than this, has been, well…surreal. Internally, there’s the 24 year old Yuppie American with no background in this sort of thing wanting to lock myself in a Jodi Foster level Safe Room until it’s over. Outside, however, is the 24 year old Yuppie American with no background in this sort of thing wanting to lock myself in a Jodi Foster level Safe Room until it’s over, but instead, has to fill out excel sheets and blaring Pepper Rabbit in an attempt to diffuse the stress rising.
The Expats, however, seem about as conflicted regarding this situation as they would be about getting a diet coke when they had ordered a regular. Part of it gives me a sense of security while the other end just wonders if everyone here is just gone bonkers. Like I had mentioned previously with the trip to Baccacio’s Italian Pizzarreia, this is just another day in the neighborhood. Granted, that neighborhood has something a little worse than the local Crypts or Bloods.
Somewhere in my head though is this sick sense of excitement and elation, this weird pride for having yet another experience to tack on my wall. I can’t tell if that’s fucked up or not. Probably. Knowing that everyone around you have these amazing experiences, stories and backgrounds leads to this twisted sense of wanting not to compete, but to enter their ranks. At least, it has for me. Ever since joining Creative, I’ve been running a personal marathon of experiences, attempting to catch up as soon as possible.
Well, guess I just hit the next mile marker. This one has me a little winded.
So uh, about that trip to Afghanistan.
Somewhere between Dulles and Dubai it hit me what was going on. While I may have said the word “Afghanistan” every other sentence to the subtle chagrin of those around me, I don’t think I really understood what I was in for. Then again, sitting here in my room writing this right now, I still don’t. Thanks to the media and the perpetualization of war images, Afghanistan stood akin to the boogeymonster of nations. So, naturally, I spent the first night watching Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in my room eating a snickers and drinking a Dr. Pepper, decked in a Kevlar vest and Helmet. Partly out of hillarity, mostly out of a brimming paranoia that the next knock I heard would be a mortar coming down.
Since arriving in the lush capital of Kabul, I’ve been on edge. I’ve been on edge whilst eating a spicy chicken sandwich with fries and a A&W Root Beer, during the Always Sunny marathon, the work meetings on the green lawns of the compound hotel I’m staying at, and most extremely, while taking my hot showers, acompanied by the intricately-hipster playlists of 8tracks.com. In all honesty, there is a need to be on alert, but so far, you could have fooled me.
The most extreme case I’ve had in having a moment of clarity in regards to the situation I was in came last night. The dreaded 3 armored-car convoy we had to take on our way to Kabul’s finest Italian eatery, the Baccaccio.
During my welcome meeting with our security group, I was shown the various “hot zones” of Kabul, all of which are snuggly located ever so closely to my compound. One of which, Kabul’s Airport Road, has had a high level of activity (the road, accurately named, provides travel between the airport (crazy right?) and the center of all international community buildings), over the past few years. After a long day in the office, the staff was anxious to get out and get some non-compound food. I’d assumed that’d be some local Afghan eats. After jumping into our armored convoy, I asked where we’d be going. Aparently the name Boccaccio didn’t strike me as Italian.
The ride out of the compound and down the Aiprort Road was a welcomed slap in the face. On the one hand, it showed me the truth of the security concerns and what war has done to this country. At nearly every intersection stood armed guards pulling cars over left and right (our own a few times) and a deadly quiet that seemed to engulf the streets. On the other, it showed a city struggling to adapt to the changing world around it, with signs advertising the introduction of 3G to Kabul, face whitening creams and levi jeans. Sitting in the car with two staff members who have been here for a few years and the security manager providing our ETA and notable sites in the area, I finally had a taste of what I was in for.
Then we arrived at the restaurant. Situated in the heart of downtown Kabul, Boccaccio stood behind checkpoints, armed guards and metal detectors.
Inside? A pizzareia and enough balloons to pull an “UP” in case things got bad for little Yusef’s 8th birthday party.
Ok Kabul, I’m intrigued.
It’s officially been two months since my PC life in Cambodia and things haven’t stopped moving. After about two weeks back in the states I made the move back to DC and landed the job I could only have hoped for. A month after that and they’re sending me out to Afghan land to help with their program start up.
Being back in DC had been so uniquely euphoric in so many ways yet very, weirdly, normal. Being back has been as if I never left. It’s been great falling back into life here and I’m excited for my second return after this next month or so.
Sometimes I feel like my life is a Narnia novel, minus the talking animals and Christian-message undertones. I’m down with it.
Flight to Dubai leaves in 20 minutes and once again that grin I get before another adventure can’t be wiped off my face. That may change once I get to Kabul, but then again, probably not. Updates to come as I’ll be attempting to keep ya’ll in the loop while I sift through the thousands of resumes and files in a towering compound in the land of the Silk Road.
Akin to being punched in the stomach by your crush on the playground and then her not telling you for two to three weeks whether or not she did that because she likes you or likes likes you.
It’s funny how nostalgia has a way of setting in the second a decision is made. External factors can be whatever you’d like them to be, yet it isn’t until that precise moment that your conscious comes in line with your subconscious that you truly start to feel that sense of finality. This is that post, the one where I talk about how I decided to leave the Peace Corps.
This isn’t the post where I talk about how disillusioned I’ve become, or how home sick I am, or how doing little to nothing day after day has led me down a spiraling road of depression. Because frankly, that’s all a load of bull shit. I’m about as happy as it gets here. I’ve had an amazing experience, a wonderful host family and community to foster that time and fellow Peace Corps Volunteers that have been there going on the ride along with me. My time as a Peace Corps Volunteer has been an invaluable experience with unbelievable ups and downs. It’s been a time where I’ve come face-to-face with all that I hate and love about myself and I’ve come out the other end a more whole individual. It was also a time when I realized that no matter where you are, it’s always someone’s home and, to them, it’s about as interesting as a pile of cow dung.
I don’t think I can pin just one reason down for the decision. Since visiting home in October for the funeral of my grandmother, I’d come to realize something about myself. I’m not as cold as I like to think I am. Living in a host family of 8 and being surrounded constantly by PCVs with healthy home relationships really did something to my system. It showed me the strength and happiness that comes from family. My constant need to find the next adventure, the next escape, has essentially left me finally at a state where I’ve realized the one thing I’ve neglected is as important as everyone says it is. Then again, if I hadn’t spent the time I did here, I may have figured that out a bit too late in life.
I’m not going to get all sappy in here, spilling my heart out like some 16 year old, considering this is public domain and can be read by anyone, but I feel like a watered down explanation was warranted.
Aside from the family aspect, my time at site has drawn to a close in terms of how much I can continue to contribute. With the school attendance rates rapidly dwindling, the prospect of teaching as a way to keep busy seems a bit uh….optimistic.
All of those projects I’ve been ranting and raving about for the past year? They’re doing great. Actually, they’re doing so great, that it hit me hard and fast (that’s what she said) that I’m not the integral part anymore. BCDO has done a remarkable job adapting, learning and replicating (actually improving) what I’d introduced.
A year later, they’re a full fledged organization with funding, a waterwell, an organic farm, a full list of tourist activities, alternative fuel source production and research, volunteer teaching opportunities, community outreach programs and so much more. I can’t help but smile at the fact that I had a hand in that. And, while it pained me to realize I was no longer needed, there’s a huge satisfaction in the fact that I watched it happen and I know after I’m gone, they’ll be moving right along.
So, with a date in mind and the next steps being lined up, I’m leaving here with a happy heart. I couldn’t be in a better place with my time here, my decision to leave and the next steps. And thanks to the hilarity that is nostalgia and the wonderful mind tricks it can play on us, I have a true appreciation for all those annoyances and am looking to soak them all up, one by one, until that fated flight back to the States.