Kabul’s rock festival in quotes

I was incredibly lucky to have attended this festival. It was an act of musical defiance that gave young people, including the hundreds who attended the history-making main event in Babur Gardens.

Kabul’s underground concert venue:

Late Tuesday night saw Hoodie’s kick off a week of jam sessions, starting with Tears of the Sun, one of a dozen bands from the U.S., Australia, Pakistan, Iran, Central Asia, and of course Afghanistan.

At first, the show brought in more photographers than audience members.  But before long, the room grew stuffier and smokier with more people trickling in.

“It’s the best night of my life,” one young man shouted.  He and his friends — Afghan men in t-shirts and skinny jeans and the odd hoodie — slam-danced to set after set.  They jumped, swayed, pointed their fingers into the air, flicked on their lighters.

Breaking into the Boy’s Club:

“There are not many girls who are brave enough to come to these parties,” admits Nagris. “There are many Afghan men at this party who think it’s wrong for a girl to come. But now we come and they can see it’s not something very bad. It’s only music, we’re just chilling.”

Farida says she’s determined to try her best to lead a normal life: “We know anything can happen. Everyday when you walk out of your house, you know you might not come home in the evening.

“But we can’t lock ourselves away and not enjoy our lives. We need to take the risks to live our lives like human beings.”

On authenticity:

Transgression was once central to rock and roll. Our iconic image of its genesis is Elvis Presley’s pelvis threatening to upend the staid social order of the 1950s. But we’ve come a long way since then. On the day of the show in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, there was a certain characteristic irony in young people — call us hipsters, if you like — that is in a sense actually a half-heartedness for life, an affected enthusiasm for things that we aren’t really committed to.

Perhaps it’s symptomatic of a certain post-modern exhaustion, where, in a throbbing cornucopia of sensual and cultural delights, there’s nothing left to rebel against.

Musicians who play in societies where there is a serious danger from repressive governments or violent extremists are putting something real on the line. They tap into an uncomplicated notion of authenticity that’s not easy to find in the West anymore. And that’s fucking rock and roll.

Keep your head down and the volume up

My Afghan-American friend Asma sends me an email. An email about a rock concert. In Kabul. Afghanistan’s first indie band, Kabul Dreams, is playing the American University of Afghanistan this weekend. I reply immediately, with lots of exclamation points. I’m going, and I’m absurdly excited.  Last weekend went in with a bombing and out with an earthquake. I can use some fun; we all can. It’s for a good cause anyway. Proceeds from ticket sales will purchase much-needed supplies for the children who wallow in mud and hunger in the IDP camp on the outskirts of the city, just minutes from the gleaming AUAF campus.

And I don’t even care that security reports are warning that this could be another bloody weekend. Well, ok, I care, but I won’t be staying home. I’m going to dance, and as I do, I’m going to remember what Lejla Hadzimesic told me in a Sarajevo office building bathroom three years ago: “The best parties of my life were the ones we had as the shells fell.”

Defy the fuckers. Life goes on.

Aid-Development-Human Rights Blogger Meetup: Saturday, Sept 19th

This is actually going to happen, and I’m so excited!

Details, details…

Place: Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe in Washington, DC.  [Google map]

Time: 7pm sound alright to everyone?

Who will be there (the list thus far):









I’m sad that Jeff, Michael and Texas in Africa can’t make it this time. Together, we aid-dev-hr bloggers have formed a quirky little virtual community over the past couple of years (and especially over the last 12 months), and I suspect this meetup will be the first of many.

If you want in, just add yourself in the comments below.

Let’s make happy hour happen

Please, lovelies, use the comments to work out the details. Twitter isn’t conducive to event-planning.

You've been warned.

You've been warned.

What we’re got so far:

Location: Somewhere in DC (Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe has my vote. LOVE their pies.)

Date: Between Sept 18th and 20th. (Saturday night –the 19th– is best for me, because I have to fly in Friday night.)

Who: So far: @mycountryhome @alanna_shaikh @transitionland @ryanbriggs @chrisalbon @TalesFromthHood @endhumantraffic @willtownes  Others are certainly welcome to join in. Michael and Michelle, I’m looking at you. Amanda and Kate, you also.

The best ever idea in the history of ideas!






I’ve mentioned this casually before, but now I’m formally calling for it to be brought to fruition –let’s have a development/human rights/humanitarian relief bloggers meetup!

In New York City! Sometime next month!

I want the following bloggers and their readers in:

Wronging Rights

Humanitarian Relief

Stop Genocide

Aid Watch (Because drinking + belligerent aid debates = awesome)

– The bloggerss at Voices from the Field

Global Health and Blood and Milk readers (It’s too bad Alanna is in Dushanbe, but I’m sure she has a large NY readership)

Tales From The Hood

I am forgetting a lot of people. Please add your suggestions in the comments.

So, does this sound good to you guys?

My weekend

– Holy moley, Kurds are shiny, happy, party-lovin’ people.

– In Kurdistan, you can buy high heels for toddlers.

– Add to the You Know You Work with Refugees…list: when someone responds to “How did you two meet?” with “Oh, at a massacre survivors’ support meeting,” and that seems very normal to you. 

– Burmese tribal people love stuffing themselves with junk food.

– Nothing says world peace like a Burmese-American-Iraqi-Afghan badminton match.

– Nothing says multiculturalism! like a group of Mennonites also joining in said badminton match.

Bits and Pieces

In the last year, there has been a flurry of engagements and weddings in my wider social circle, with two engagements this week alone.

Holy crap, time flies.

O _ 0


Early spring is always a pensive time of intense brooding and distraction for me. I’m exactly where I was two years ago, emotionally and professionally. I’m waiting for that life-changing email, that crucial phone call, waiting to find out if the summer will mark the beginning of a new chapter abroad, and making all kinds of contingency plans stateside.

Please, NGOs in Afghanistan, just effin’ hire me already.

I’m a hard worker, a quick study, much tougher than I look and –bonus!– the idea of living in a guesthouse excites rather than bothers me.

Come ON already!

Living vicariously through Mischa

Mischa was on Washington DC’s U Street on election night.  He wrote a funny, vivid post about it.  Here’s the first part:

[…] I hope you’ll forgive my reducing history to one man’s personal narrative of 12 hours of chaos. At best, this will fade into the millions of personal sketches that comprise the people’s history hiding behind any newspaper headline.

Two fucking years of this stuff boiled down to one day worth of drinking, voting, waiting, waiting, drinking, waiting, and drinking again. We kicked off at Busboys and Poets, Andy Shallal’s Washington leftist landmark. (I met Shallal when he guest-lectured on business and peacebuilding; he’s fantastic.) Busboys is a good place to spot Dennis Kucinich and his amazon wife. Unfortunately, the place was packed like sardines in a Chongqing bus, (line around the block,) and eventually we left for more breathable climes.

Second option was a dead little Ethiopian restaurant. There must’ve been four people in the place when our group showed up and promptly piled bottle after bottle of honey wine on top of the prior stuff. By the time they called Ohio for Hopey, everyone was shitfaced. At this point I started texting WIN! to 18 people at a time, even while it was still technically too early to call the election.

Once Virginia came around, the entirety of DC hit the street. Here’s photographic evidence, and the videotape. (Sadly, we lack footage of Mireille shrieking “I LIVE IN BLUE VIRGINIA!” for the next four hours.) Open bottle laws went the way of the permenant Republican majority, and people were passing champagne bottles (and what I believe was heroin) along the street. I don’t think I’ve ever hugged so many strangers.

A few thousand people marched in the rain to the White House, a sort of traveling Woodstock complete with SDS signs. Chants of “Yes we can!” and “U-S-A!” rang out in Lafayette Park as a revelers welcomed their new patriotic hero with the funny name. Amidst the crowd I see a familiar-looking woman, and amidst the vodka I approach her. “Excuse me, but you look exactly like Joan Baez.“ The woman puts her hands on her face, smiles, and replies: “I wonder why?” And then, piss-drunk at 3 AM on election night at the White House, Joan Baez hugs me.

How fucking awesome is that!? Go read the rest. It gets even better –and wackier!