Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Taking it to the streets

You may have been reading about demonstrations in Kabul.  So far they have been peaceful, albeit angry groups.  These were taken by a friend.  The Hawk and I were in a car on the other side of this road attempting to drive into the city.  We made the decision to turn around and go home.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Picture of the Week-ish

Look at this picture carefully.  Notice that all of the signs are for pharmacies and doctor's offices, notice the names of the stores.

From Kabul City Tour

This post is dedicated to my brother-in-law Jeremy who will laugh for days at this photo.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Travelogue: Hospitality Hostages, Part 1

We are definitely Lonely Planet travelers.  Not only do these handy books fit our travel budget, they now have downloaded-able chapters that fit our three trunks a piece lifestyle.  So, when the Azerbaijan chapter of the Lonely Planet Caucasus guide recommended Sheki, Azerbaijan as a "must see," we decided we must see it!

Our trip to Sheki began better than planned.  Our taxi driver not only drove us to the airport, he escorted us into the MASSIVE bus station to help us find our bus.  We would have been hopelessly lost in a sea of cyrillic signs and long, empty corridors if it hadn't been for his help, and he didn't even overcharge us.  Without any English, we were able to gather from him that he suggested a mashtruka over a bus.  A mashtruka is a big van crammed full of people.  They are usually faster than buses, however a bus is on a schedule and a mashtruka leaves when full.  We were told to get in the back of the van, the most undesirable seats.  I mimed car sickness to the driver and he let us move up.

At about 9:30 we were on the road, bumping along the very unpaved way outside of Baku.  According to our LP guide, a mashtruka trip to Sheki should take around 7 hours.  At this rate we'd be there by 4:30.  Our first little hiccup was around 10:00 when the van pulled over and one of the three guys in front hopped out and started pouring water on the engine.  At 10:30 the van was pointing back towards Baku and was no longer moving.  Oh, and Azerbaijan has a striking resemblance to Eastern Washington or Western Texas or, well, Kabul as soon as you get out of Baku.

From Hospitality Hostages

So here we are in the middle of the desert, no one speaks a lick of English, we don't speak a lick of Azeri, and we have no idea what Plan B would be.  After about an hour of looking at a bunch of men staring at a very overheated engine, Joey and I made a pact that if nothing had happened by 12:00 we would cross the street and stick our thumbs in the air.  The Hawk has been lobbying for an IPhone since the things came out.  This moment is his strongest argument to date: In order to look at our PDF pages from Lonely Planet to see what towns were in route to Sheki, he had to pull our MacBook Pro out of our luggage, wait for it to turn on and load, and write the names of the towns on his hand.  Yes, I get it, an IPhone fits in the palm of your hand negating the need to copy down names of cities extracted from your laptop in the middle of nowhere in Azerbaijan.  It might have been useful to see what LP said about hitchhiking in Azerbaijan too, because after an hour and half of this:

From Hospitality Hostages

We crossed the street and stuck our thumbs up in the air.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Picture of the Week-ish

This billboard is all over Kabul:

From Kabul City Tour

Opium bad, wheat good. 

Thursday, October 8, 2009


As my friends in the states blog about Pumpkin Spice Lattes, changing weather, and sweaters; I blog about loving fall for Kabul reasons.  Nope, no PSL here (although we do have pumpkins!).  The weather is cold at night but still quite warm during the day.  And I hope to break out my sweaters before November.  But I heart fall because of these:

From I Heart Fall

Yes, those are pomegranates.  And yes, one of them is the size of a medium pumpkin.  And, my goodness they are delicious.    We get some great produce over here.  Mango season from June-August and pomegranate season from October-December are my favorites.

I've heard someone state that the pomegranate was that infamously forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.  I'm convinced that there is truth (and absolutely no legitimate evidence) to this claim.  I base my opinion on how outrageously tasty the pomegranate is and my conviction that God would never make a fruit so sensuously tasty and so frustratingly difficult to eat unless it had been lumped into the curse as part of the whole toiling and laboring for food.

So, while you all sip away at your nutmeg enhanced beverages, I'm over here picking my way through a pomegranate, all those little labyrinths of tasty seeds!  Fall's the best!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Name That Show

We get some high quality DVD's over here (see this post).  Usually the movie description has some misspellings or is for the wrong movie, but I can always figure out what movie or TV show it's for.  Enter the following description:

The chief screen writer is not good does. Must worry the script to be obsolete, must worry that the viewing ratio is not good. If high-level has the little change, under will look like the dominoes equally to have the consecutive reaction along with it, finally will make a snowman likely is the same, evolves bad and the abominable Italian chaotic condition. "I For Comedy Crazy" the leading lady am meeting such life difficult position, although has the magnificent reputation: is works as red comedy Xiu chief screen writer. However was old boss to die of illness recently, takes office newly the new boss seems is not too recognizes her style, in addition in the program these size stars are also troublesome very much, all of a sudden let leading lady Leeds be tired out from the press. However regardless of how the worry, the life can also continue, should bow also to bow. Therefore to preserve own rice bowl, also to defend oneself chief screen writers dignity, in a metropolis the white-collar may meet frequently the scene started. How to maintain own individuality, and can simultaneously maintain the comfortable livelihood, this is not a gate relaxed curriculum, even if is the body is the chief screen writer, the workplace sways back and forth many year Leeds, must graduate also the non-easy matter.  

Seriously, preserve own rice bowl?  What does that mean? Any guesses what popular TV show goes along with this description?  

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Eid Visits

Last Eid-al-Fitr I was in India, so I missed out on all the festivities (like The Hawk eating a cow's eyeball . . .my husband is so burly).  I was really excited to be here since everyone talks about how awesome and festive Eid time is.  And I have to say, Eid lives up to the hype.

Eid-al-Fitr means "The Festival of the breaking of the fast."  It celebrates the end of the holy month of Ramadan during which Muslims fast during daylight hours.  And as it's a fast breaking celebration, it's implied that there is a lot of eating involved, I mean a lot.  Afghans can put a serious hurting on a plate of rice.  Imagine what they can do after a month of fasting.

From Eid Visits

From Eid Visits

From Eid Visits

From Eid Visits

Another key ingredient of Eid is visiting friends and family.  The holiday is 3 days long to give one day for family and two days for visiting.  Visits can be planned or unplanned, so everyone is prepared with a room full of sweets, fruit, and tea.  The idea behind the sweets is that it is a sweet reward for keeping the fast.  We did some visiting, had some visits, and drank enough tea that I am now on an unofficial tea fast.  And we were so busy with our visits, we actually had one spill over to this weekend.

From Eid Visits

From Eid Visits

Another fun part of Eid is the Eid-ees (or Eidies or Eideys, not sure how to spell it).  Kids are given crisp new Afs (Afghan currency) to buy Eid treats with.  Some kids rake it in as they collect from all the places their parents drag them along to.  I'm pretty sure all of them buy toy guns or kites with them.  Although when our 3 year old neighbor was given 50 Afs ($1), she held it up in the air and screamed "CHEWING GUM!!!" in her little Swiss German accent.

From Eid Visits

From Eid Visits

I think a large part of why Eid is so fun is that everyone is relaxed and happy.  As you can imagine, a nation full of fasting people means a nation full of people on edge.  I want to see a study of how many car accidents happen during Ramadan.  Everyone is a little grumpy and a little tired (and they do things like show you their tongue or point out how dry their lips are to prove their fasting).  So when that's all over, everyone is full of food and generally cheery.  It makes for a happy Afghanistan.