Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Costs of Luxury

I’m quite relieved. Finally, I’m getting a few pangs of homesickness. I’m not miserable, especially as the homesickness is more likely travel envy. A few of the coworkers are finalizing their plans to go home. I’m still in limbo (more on that when I actually have more on that, in the mean time I’ll just curse bureaucracy as I flit around purgatory).

This post is largely cause I haven’t posted in a while. Not much to write about as I’ve been quite busy at work, and it’s all editing and reviewing reports, so I’m quite reluctant to jump back on the keyboard in the evenings.

But there have been a few things I’ve wanted to throw up on here, pertaining to a lot of the less personal aspects about life here. For starters, while in India I had a few chats about ’47 and the separation. So a sample size of 2 is way below that required to be statistically sound, but it seems like folks there are a lot more open to even discussing the topic, and hypothetical reunification. Folks there, in India, compared to folks in Pakistan. How that is relevant to Afghanistan is probably fairly obvious, in that everything that happened over the past 50 years would have been dramatically different. But more importantly, it touches into the current plays of power going on in this region. India, it seems, recognizes the obvious necessity of stabilizing Afghanistan to help their own national security interests, at least while Kashmir is still the tipping point here.

Pakistan, realizes this two, but not so much for the same reasons, i.e. not external threats, but internal threats to the ruling/entrenched elite. This country, and the NWFP is the dumping ground, and keeping this country in turmoil provides some distraction to the black hatters. When the costs will become too high, even for those in the gated houses of Lahore, maybe things will change. Well, so much for a post on that...except for talking about how the current US administration still isn’t doing what it needs to do to truly help stabilize this area. What that would be, I have no good suggestions. But hopefully Bush in India will help. Though I fear that the US will still try to keep India at a certain arms length and not let them dominate this region.

The other topic was what the US will be doing here if things in Iraq really do go down the drain. Lord have mercy. When the cartoon protests were going on, our security chief was worried that things here could really explode and emergency evacuations would be necessary. I, as respectfully as possible, as he carries a sidearm at all times, told him that was absurd. I fear that what is going on in Iraq may actually have some spillover here though, and the emergency actions may be necessary. I think I may finally register to vote, that is if Buchanan is in the next running, and he promises to throw up big razor wire fences along the US borders and sells off Alaska and Hawaii.

I may be getting some more pictures of the trip to Goa from VP shortly. I’ll throw those up as soon as I get them.

P.S. I got the two books mentioned here a few weeks ago. I’ll be finishing up the current read soon. So if anyone wants to do a discussion group for Negri’s “Empire,” tell me. And a confession regarding that: it seems like the folks I work for weren’t too happy about DHLing two books and a few chocolate bars half way across the world. (Though, those chocolate bars were really appreciated by my office-mates and I...thank you A, and J.) They imposed a new “inventory control” system. My officemates blame me, though one person in the home office reassured me that the new policy wasn’t my fault. It may be true, but I sure didn’t help. So if anyone else was thinking of sending me (not so needed luxury) stuff via an exorbitantly expensive shipping means, forget it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Vegas in Goa, and Learning How to Not Crash Weddings

I’m not really one for pictures. After four months in Germany—living, working, and traveling almost every other weekend, I had only finished off one roll of film, most of which were of co-workers. And across several road trips, one being cross country, my record was even worse. This time on my camera I took with me to Goa I found only 6 new photos, 5 of which are of rusty barges, and not much dissimilar than the two below.

So, as I said before, it was a wonderful time. Two nights in transit through Delhi, of which I saw very little because of flight schedules and five nights in Goa at 3 different spots. Not exactly what I was looking for, objective one being to just chill, but I did want to see some of the state too. Panaji, was quite fun. Stayed at the Panjim Inn. A quite charming hotel located in the old latin quarter of the city, wonderful management, beautifully restored buildings, and a quite good restaurant with a large patio.

Then we were off to Bogmalo beach. Disappointing in then end, but we went to the restaurant of a fairly nice beachfront hotel. We had a fairly good meal, overpriced of course, but a price worth paying. See, there was what would, or rather should be, the winner of the Desi Idol. We were serenaded to a vast array of pre-90s hits, everything from Elvis to UB40 (‘Red Red Wine being my request, and the song we exited too). See this guy loved Elvis, and country, but he sang anything from a list of at least 200 songs. Except almost every song was sung as an Elvis impersonator in Vegas would, including “No Woman, No Cry” and “Obladi Oblada” (which sufficed, but I wanted to hear “Yellow Submarine” which is a great beachside song, especially if sung in Elvis voice). The singer took more to the women I was with (VP and her friend), which was not surprising. This meant that, rather than more Beatles, we were subjected to three Robbie Williams songs.

The next night was in a weird Disneyland-esque (i.e. completely fabricated, think the International Food Court) hippy paradise. The place did have its appeal though, and luckily we weren’t there long enough to see it wear off. The final night was at a wonderful BnB along the 23km long beach, Casa Ligorio. Again, highly recommended. The beach was long, and thus quiet. The water was warm. And that night, we lucked upon a wedding at the restaurant we chose for dinner. Two Brit-Desis, one Punjabi the other Gujrati. A small wedding, and wonderfully welcoming and gracious families on both sides. I talked with the mother of the bride, the uncle of the groom and a few others. We closed out the wedding in true imposing guest form (only two tables, mens table w/ drinks and female table without, all just family and us). But my membership in the Punjabi brotherhood (the table of mainly grooms family) was sealed when the grooms younger brother called me out for drinking Bacardi neat (said in his brit accent to boot.) Quite a night, and in the end, couldn’t ask for a better ending to a wonderful trip.

Oh yeah, N-Mode, here is a photo off the web of the “motorcycle” I (not so legally) rented. At least it was a Bajaj, so I got a true taste of Indian transpo. The second photo me, in the middle, leading my thuggee crew while crooning and gyrating women in saris were lining the streets dancing in unison to an M. Rafi classic.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Warming Trend

So I’ve safely made my bittersweet return to the Kabubble. I’m back in the swing of things, already. Got back on Thursday and just chilled and unpacked and started catching up. Friday was another day off, and had a staff meeting at 8am on Saturday. At the meeting the Chief thanked and apologized to our staff and few guests for the early morning meeting.

Specifically he acknowledged the difficulty of the early morning meetings, naming me in particular. Though the irony would have been priceless, luckily I wasn’t nodding off at that point (2 minutes after a fresh dose of nicotine) and politely smirked and nodded my head in appreciation for the acknowledgment of my personal suffering and steadfastness.

The meeting was an overview of a project some of us had been working on for the past couple of months. I had been floating in and out of it, assisting here and there. Sadly it’s part of our wrap-up for our work here. Even more sadly was that I finally see, or rather clearly appreciate, all that we are doing here and how it all fits in. I don’t think I was the only one to appreciate this, the scope and the necessity of the work.

It was bittersweet leaving the warm beaches of Goa. It will be dramatically more bittersweet leaving the many warm faces here in Kabul.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Not a AK-47 in sight for miles...

So VP and I rented a motorcycle and a scooter and went up to Old Goa, and Dona Paula (on the ocean)...and some other places cause I kept getting lost.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

GO(a) #2

Off to try again...a quick update will be disappointing news.

No update may be good news or bad news...but i'll try to update either way.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

American Cigarettes...

...the silver lining of 3 hours spent scrambling to, around and from the airport. Three hours wasn’t that bad, but I was the cause of 7 men missing lunch.

So I’m still here in Kabul. Hoping is a fool's game. I got to see some back roads while avoiding the protests. The NGOs and the UN and other organizations are starting to scramble, even issuing warnings to prepare for evacuation and such. Not looking to good for getting out of town for some RnR.

Though, you know, once all this passes, and I’m out on the beach, it will be all that much more appreciated. And I’ll have American Camels to smoke.

It’s not quite Camel Wides Lights, but that’s a cowboy’s cigarette anyway...

Cowboy Karma

I’ve mentioned some of the minor inconveniences of getting around and doing the simple things in life. It’s part of the daily life here, the confinement, the restrictions, the patronizing-like attitude by superiors...all of which are necessary and, in my better moments, appreciated.

That said; my misanthropy is in full gear. I’m trying to keep it at just that and not direct it towards specific persons that have thrown up some hurdles for me in getting out of town. As I’ve said before, I’m off to India—two nights in Delhi (in transit), and a few nights in Goa. I’ll get there eventually, that’s for sure...well I hope. I especially hope I’m there on Tuesday afternoon. See I was originally booked for the flight on Thursday. But this little conflagration over some comics escalating (I was going to do a post about that, but I care more about beaches right now than Muslim political culture), compounded with the Shi’a holiday where they self-flagellate (and the violence that erupted in Iraq on that day) this Thursday, my scheduled flight out is a no go for me. We’re on lockdown, our security personnel being quite precautious.

In a recent post VP has started writing a taxonomy of aid and development workers. Though I most squarely fall in the "mercenary" category, given my salary as a private sector contractor, I suggested another category for a lot of the "mercenaries" here, that of Cowboy. It’s not that I’m here just for the money and career advancement, it’s partly the wanderlust, the recklessness of it all, being in a post-conflict zone, etc, etc.

That attitude, that is somewhat common here, especially among the literal mercenaries, is part of the reason I pushed for this opportunity. It also explains my brazen and cavalier attitude towards the above-mentioned aspects of life here. You know: trivial difficulties don’t phase me—I got a job to do dammit—bombs going off, grenades being tossed, kidnappings, beheadings...eh—I’m off to sleep, wake me when the day begins. That attitude.

So it’s come to bite me in the ass now. I’m guessing its karma for my hubris (though I cant have, nor claim that much hubris. I’m no soldier, nor literal mercenary, nor a national who travels around with out a shooter and armed escort vehicle. Thank you security folks.) So rather, my karma is probably coming from my dismissive attitude, and my unjustly adopting the cowboy attitude.

I’m off to the airport on Tuesday. I’ve been remiss in posting. I’ll be even more remiss in the coming days, hopefully. Oh I hope I get on that flight...