Scenes from a Kabul summer

Excerpts from emails, some never sent, reflecting on being young, relatively rich, and a little foolish in Afghanistan during the summer of 2010.

1.

On August 17, an explosion shook my neighborhood for the second time in less than a week. Immediately, everyone, including my journalist friends, thought it was another suicide bombing. Sitting at my desk in my sweltering office across the city, I wondered if my house still had windows, and whether my new housemates were safe. My journalist friend Matt rushed to the scene on foot with his camera.

The explosion turned out to be a controlled one the government forgot to inform the media and NGO security office about ahead of time. But it still rattled. My Afghan colleagues bemoaned the state on unrelenting confusion in the city, the slow transfer of information from government to media to citizens, and the anxious malaise hanging over Afghanistan’s beleaguered capital.

2.

S, Z, and I ended up at the [country name] embassy compound, with a young diplomat we met at the party. The embassy was closed, so we climbed over a fence to reach the pool yard. (This would had  led to a bullet-riddled death at the US embassy.) Later, we tiptoed into the stables and the young diplomat showed us his horse, a present from the governor of the northern province Jawzjan. We were driven home just before sunrise in an armored car with doors almost too heavy to close.

3.

I went to Qargha last night with my Austrian-Iranian housemate and three guys from the Central Bank. As we drank green tea and ate grilled eggplant and listened to tablas, the conversation inevitably shifted to the reintegration and reconciliation debate. One of the bankers, a guy who received his Master’s from a tier 1 university in the United States, said he was completely in favor of reconciliation, because, “That’s the only way we can have some peace, and everything else has failed. Bringing the Taliban and Hekmatyar into the government is the only way I can drive home from work and not worry every day that I’ll be kidnapped or killed.”

I asked him about political concessions, and he grimaced, gestured to our little dinner party and my housemate’s uncovered head, and said, “There will be sacrifices. This won’t be possible anymore.” The others nodded in agreement.

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