Sunday, December 31, 2006

Is it too early?

To start panicking about the bar? 'Cuz I am having a mild attack of hysteria. By mild, I mean that no one has physically been injured and no one has seen me crumple into a fetal position and cry.

You have all been warned (my horoscope):
Multiple facets are good when it comes to rare diamonds or people's personalities, but right now the many aspects of a project you're working on may be pushing you over the edge. So you might want to warn your friends and loved ones that they will probably be seeing a much more irritable you before this day is over. Of course, this is just a phase -- and in the end, it will serve as a wonderful reminder of the fact that most of the time, you love what you do.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Eid Mubarak

Eid Mubarak to everyone. May we all be granted with the serenity and strength to live lives of compassion and mercy.

I’ve been thinking about mercy for the past month or so. My friend led a Halaqah (circle of knowledge) when I was in Kabul and he imparted a message in the first Halaqah that has stayed with me.

It was a simple hadith but one that I needed to hear, in my hectic and grumpy life. This hadith is always the first hadith – not because of any rule – but because of choice. This hadith has been the first for centuries now. The hadith is:

Abdullah bin Umro bin Aas, may Allah be pleased with him, reports that the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, said,

Those who have mercy will receive the mercy of the Most Merciful. Have mercy on those who are on earth, the One in heavens will have mercy on you." (Tirmidhi).

Such a simple message but one that impacts everything in life. Mercy for everyone, not just other Muslims, mercy for all, not just humans.

So, shukur for the kindness I've received when I've needed it the most. Despite all my faults, I receive mercy and kindness. Shukur for my family, my friends, hot water, medicine, and the steady warmth of love and laughter that I continuously receive in life.

Eid Mubarak.

Taliban says Saddam's execution to intensify jihad

Taliban says Saddam's execution to intensify jihad
By Saeed Ali Achakzai December 30, 2006
SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A top commander of Afghanistan's Taliban said on Saturday that the execution of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would galvanize Muslim opposition to the United States.

Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, a former Taliban defence minister and top insurgent commander, also said Saddam's execution on the Eid al-Adha Muslim festival -- marking the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca -- was a provocation.

"Saddam's hanging on the day of Eid is a challenge to Muslims," Obaidullah told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

"His death will boost the morale of Muslims. The jihad in Iraq will be intensified and attacks on invader forces will increase," he said. "Thousands of people will rise up with hatred for America."

The Taliban intensified their war against the Afghan government and the U.S., British and other Western troops supporting it this year.

That brought the most intense violence since U.S.-led troops ousted the hardline Islamists in 2001, and the Taliban have vowed to step up their campaign in the coming spring.

Obaidullah said U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were fighting Muslims, and that is why Saddam was executed.

"Bush and Blair have launched a crusade against Muslims. Saddam was hanged because he was a Muslim, while slaves like Jalal Talabani in Iraq and Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan have been given power," he said.

"Muslims should not expect any good from these people," he said, referring to the Iraqi and Afghan presidents.

"Muslims should unite against the infidels, join the jihad and support the mujahideen because jihad has become an obligation for Muslims all over the world."

"God willing, both Afghanistan and Iraq will prove to be another Vietnam for America ... God willing, the invader forces in Afghanistan and Iraq will soon face defeat."

In Kabul, Karzai declined to comment on Saddam's execution, saying it was a matter for the government of Iraq and would have no impact on Afghanistan.

However, he too suggested the timing of the execution on the Eid holiday was wrong.

"Eid is a day of happiness, a day of goodness, a day of reconciliation, not a day of revenge," Karzai told reporters at his presidential palace.

(Additional reporting by Sayed Salahuddin in KABUL)

Friday, December 29, 2006

Hanging will bring only more bloodshed

It is not possible to run a democracy unless all factions are convinced that they can prosper even if the other side is in power. Iraq does not begin to reach that standard. Yet the Sunni minority is too big to be dispatched by a few years of Shia threats; that is a formula for a long, bloody, civil war.

On the eve of Eid...

they are executing Saddam Hussein on the eve of Eid?

Listen, I am no fan of Saddam Hussein. I wanted him to be brought to justice years ago, before September 11th. I worked with Kurdish refugees and the stories of the terrible things he inflicted on them are horrific. I still can't get the picture of a dead woman holding her baby out of my mind. She was going about her daily business when her entire village was gassed by Saddam Hussein's troops.

But seriously, on Eid, the holiday of peace and forgiveness? Who thinks this is a good idea? I'm afraid that they have turned him into something that he shouldn't ever have be - a martyr. I'm afraid that his death will turn into a symbol for those already feeling marginalized by the current state of affairs in Iraq.

Executions would not normally take place during the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, which begins for Sunnis at dawn this morning, and for Shias at dawn tomorrow. If Saddam’s execution is delayed beyond this morning, it will likely take place some time after sunrise on Thursday.

It's just...uff (Please be ready, this is a vent)

I'm way over the whole health thing. I am. I'm tired of aches and pains, cramps in my neck and legs in the middle of the night, sharp jabbing pain in the back of my head- headaches, sweaty palms (yes, sweaty palms - it makes it hard to type), sinus-like headaches, bad posture (I'm working on sitting up straight but it's hard to sit up straight), weak arms where it hurts to do basic yoga poses that I took for granted before and...and...I'm tired of dealing with it.

I really did think that starting the synthroid would fix everything. But eh, not so much. I feel better, not as cold all the time but head sometimes feels like it's going to collapse inwards and that's a bit grody.

I did yoga this morning and went for a run in the hopes that I won't cramp up tonight. Coming to the realization that I won't magically get better on my own, that I'll actually have to devote some time, energy and thought to my health is disconcerting.

I'm trying to be thankful but it's just a new feeling - to think about what I can do today and what I can't do.

Enough of that, I need to get over this 'why me?' crap. Why not me? I ran this morning and shukur, I have enough energy to do that. I couldn't even consider it 2 weeks ago. This headache will go away, Inshallah, and perhaps this is just a sign for me to slow down. At least I'm somewhere where I can slow down.

Yes, so sorry about that. Eid is tomorrow, Inshallah! An Early Eid Mubarak to everyone! I have a special Eid post planned but let's see if it gets written...

Monday, December 25, 2006

Souad Massi

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Right Frame of Mind

I'm using the table that PFR's grandfather made and facing the simple brown Afghan blanket (kesh) hung on the wall. Drinking my tea. Listening to Zap Mama. Surrounded by papers, pencils, pens and the little Zen garden that JC & the Dr gave to me.

Happy. I'm happy. Shukur.

Happy Holidays (A belated Happy Hanukkah also) to everyone.

Right then, back to work.

Friday, December 22, 2006

I am SUCH a copycat

I love this poem by Rumi, found it in Frida's Notebook. I needed this poem today. Thank you.

There is a community of the spirit.
Join it, and feel the delight
of walking in the noisy street,
and being the noise.

Drink all your passion,
and be a disgrace.

Close both eyes
to see with the other eye.

Open your hands,
if you want to be held.

Sit down in this circle.

Quit acting like a wolf, and feel
the shepherd's love filling you.

At night, your beloved wanders.
Don't accept consolations.

Close your mouth against food.
Taste the lover's mouth in yours.

You moan, "She left me." "He left me."
Twenty more will come.

Be empty of worrying.
Think of who created thought.

Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open.

Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
Live in silence.

Flow down and down in always
widening rings of being.

Contrary to popular belief, I'm actually getting work done.


Brother Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) peforms live in the U.S. for the first time in 30 years!

Wooohoooohoooo! Wooohoooohooo!

Hear it here...


By the way, there was a suicide bombing in Kabul - no fatalities, shukur but I'm still anxiously waiting for word back from my friends. I'm hoping for their typical responses ("Really, where was the bombing?")

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Health update

After all that whining, I thought y'all would like to know that I'm feeling better. I had a terrible 2 weeks but this is the 4th day on my medicine and I'm feeling MUCH better (shukur!).

I still would like someone to bring me some tea though.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Must. Get. To. Work.

My 'real-life' friends know that I am quite good at googling. I also jump from topic to topic and am always interested in hearing stories. This is not the same as gossip, mind you, though I am sadly, often guilty of that, too. I like to hear stories about people. What they're doing. Where are they now?

Which makes for wonderful procrastination.

I've wondered what Zack's been up to since leaving Rage Against the Machine (some NSFW pictures in there). I remember watching a RATM video on MTV and thinking, who are Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu Jamal? And I remember the heady power of the music. The fact that they weren't talking about the same old booty-shake (though, y'all know that I still love the booty-shake).

They were unapologetically righteous and brave. Big stuff for me. It still is, it's hard to be brave. Especially now, when I think my phone is being tapped. Which sounds silly to admit. But well, all our phones sound funny, including cell phones. Literally sounds like someone is listening. I'd guess that they'd have better technology than that. I'm sure whoever is listening is bored out of their minds. Or chuckling when they hear what I am talking about.

Oh well, Zack, I hope this is true:
The crowd roared; Son del Centro played faster and faster. And all the while, de la Rocha smiled like the happiest man on Earth, a man at peace.
Sheesh, I need to get to work.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

New Year Resolutions

I have to start now or I won't do it.

1) Stop cussing like a sailor. It's getting worse and worse. I don't want my potty-mouth.
2) Stop being afraid of everything, such as scary movies, scary stories, mice, lizards, the basement, the bathroom at night, ghosts and jinn (well, I'll still be afraid of jinn).

I had some others but I forgot them.

Reform in Afghanistan...

Police reform, or lack thereof:

Report Faults Training of Afghan Police

Published: December 4, 2006

Five years after the fall of the Taliban, a joint report by the Pentagon and the State Department has found that the American-trained police force in Afghanistan is largely incapable of carrying out routine law enforcement work, and that managers of the $1.1 billion training program cannot say how many officers are actually on duty or where thousands of trucks and other equipment issued to police units have gone.

I'll try to get my head wrapped around this later, rather than just posting articles. I will say this, almost every interaction I've had with the police has been uncomfortable and usually frightening. Random stops at night where they ask 'where the vodka is' and 'is this guy your relative'. Frequent stops just to harass and ask for bribes. The police are a mess and one of the most obvious (and sore) points of reform failure. This just isn't international failure, mind you, it's failure on the Afghan side too. But damn, Dynacorp (they're the managers of the training program) ain't helping.

I agree with this - reforms are desperately needed. But with reforms comes angry warlords, how do we get rid of them without inciting further warfare? Or is that still a possibility? I'll have to do some research...I don't know the answer myself.

EU to intensify support to Afghanistan, Karzai urged to speed up reforms

The Associated Press
By Paul Ames

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - European Union leaders on Friday committed to stepping up support for Afghanistan but urged President Hamid Karzai's government to speed up the reforms needed to bring law and order to the country.

EU leaders said they were open to the possibility of sending a European police mission to Afghanistan to help expand the rule of law and train the local police and judiciary. "The EU stands ready to intensify its efforts," said a draft statement drawn up at an EU summit.

The EU is awaiting a report from a fact-finding mission that returned from Kabul on Wednesday before making any decision on the scale and scope of an EU police mission.

The bloc has been under pressure from NATO commanders to take on an increased civilian role, helping law enforcement in Afghanistan to back the 32,000-strong allied military mission that moved into the volatile southern and eastern parts of the country in recent months.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said late Thursday it was likely the EU would set up a police mission, and said some non-EU countries, including Canada and Norway, had expressed interest in joining such an operation.

In their draft statement, the leaders stressed the need for "a stronger focus on governance and the rule of law" to reinforce action in other areas where the EU is channeling aid, such as rural development and health.

The EU already is a key donor to Afghanistan, providing US$4.9 billion since 2002. The European Commission said this week it will continue to provide US$198 million a year through 2013.

Several international observers have pointed to the weakness of the Afghan police and judiciary as a major obstacle to efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.

A joint report this month by the inspector generals of the U.S. State and Defence departments concluded that the police force's readiness to carry out law enforcement duties is "far from adequate." It said officers are paid less than the Taliban militants they are fighting and many are open to bribery.

While reaffirming their support for the government, EU leaders warned that Afghanistan was "at a critical juncture," and had a strong message on the need for Karzai's administration to move forward on reform. "The Afghan government ... is invited to take further urgent, co-ordinated action," the draft statement said.

EU leaders were scheduled to formally adopt the statement later Friday.

They also urged Afghanistan and Pakistan to co-operate in combatting insecurity along their border, where both sides accuse the other of not doing enough to combat the Taliban.

The EU summit follows a meeting of NATO leaders two weeks ago in Latvia where they urged greater co-ordination among international organizations, Afghan authorities and neighbouring nations to dovetail civilian and military stabilization efforts.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Howling with Anger

Perhaps in coming years we will learn a little humility and patience about the efficacy of the wholesale export of Western democratic values and institutions into countries with very different social mores and political structures. Those Western exports have now beached on the shoals of reality from the Tigris to the Kabul River.
(from ‘Waltzing with Warlords’- still a good article)
Well-intentioned but this last paragraph makes me howl with anger. If only it was a ‘wholesale export of Western democratic values’. I think we’d be better off. How are secret prisons, Gitmo detainees with no access to Vienna Convention rights and brothels, ‘Western democratic values’?

In addition to that, I’m afraid when I travel, afraid when I talk on the phone, afraid when writing emails and afraid when writing this semi-anonymous blog that something will be mis-construed and my ass will be sent to Guantanamo.

What’s democratic about that?

The different social mores do not translate into ‘These brown people don’t understand democratic values – we should just accept their differences.’

I know what real western democratic values are, having been blessed to grow up in the U.S., it is allowing each individual to have a just peace, dignity, freedom and to participate in the discussions of our future as a whole. But that doesn't mean that others don't understand it too.

A just peace has no color, no language, no culture attached to it. Small children understand it, adults grasp it, women want it, men get it too. The key is that they may not want it for others, but they understand it. Granted, it's more nuanced that, women getting the short end of the equal rights stick but that can change with time, with Afghan women taking initiative. The majority of the population abide by it but there will always be people willing to take advantage of the vaccuum of power and capitalize, i.e. the warlords.

We, those on the U.S. side and the Afghan side, thought that the West would be able to stop the warlords, Prayed fervently that they would find a way to reign them in, one by one, allowing Afghans to start healing. I still think it’s possible, I have to.

But this talk about ‘western democratic values not fitting in the different social mores’. Ugh. That makes me cry right along with President Karzai.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Music Recommendations

I joined a gym. I went tonight, for the first time. I ran for 30 minutes but my lack of work-out music hampered my experience.

Any recommendations?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Goodbye Ninja Cake

Just wanted to share

I got this off of Shabana's blog and have been thinking about it since then. I also used it during my long long long plane trip over.

He says, when you have a trial to deal with, this is what you should do. You should say: “Allah, I know this trial is from You. And I know it is to teach me something. And it is to try me. And I will be patient on it. And I will be patient on it as long as You want me to be patient.” Shahidullah Faridi says, “Often, if this attitude is adopted, the challenge simply goes away.
I'm having hyperlinking issues:

I'm also trying out the labels thingie...but I'm not a complete convert yet. Any thoughts on labels? Do I have to go back and label everything?

I wish you strength

I chatted with a young girl about the bathroom situation in the Kabul Airport. One for women, two for men and no lights for the women!

On her way to the U.S. for the first time, she wore a light pink scarf that brought out the pink in her cheeks. Swathed in a another light orange scarf, the one with the embroidery that only older women wear, covered her almost commpletely – she fiddled with it as we spoke. Tears welled up periodically and I attempted to cheer her up about her big move to Afghanistan.

She was with her much shorter, much older new husband. Dressed in black, he kept a watchful eye on her as we made small talk. She was going to Fremont and I told her that she should go to the Masjid there, there would be plenty of ways to make friends.

He grilled me on the penalties I had to pay when I missed my flight because of snow last year and then turned his back towards me. I left them.

I saw her again later. She started to tear up and I made sympathetic small talk, volunteering my Khala to look for her in the masjid in Fremont and introduce her to others. Except for her new, short, old husband – she didn’t have any family at all in the U.S.

She looked at her husband who wasn’t paying attention, shook her head no quickly, and whispered, “He’s strict. Look at my clothes. He won’t let me out.” She adjusted her old lady scarf

I said, “Well, at the masjid?” She clucked no, looked over at him quickly, frightened.

He turned to talk to me, I tried to chat with him, to discuss family that I have in California and the only relative that he knew, he didn’t seem to like.

I smiled reassuringly at the girl, told her I’d be back later but decided against it – I don’t want to get him angry with her already.

There are thousands of stories like hers but it hurts each time.

Friday, December 08, 2006

True Bravery

On Display, The Fruits Of Afghan Altruism

The keyholders kept their mouths shut, even though the head watchman at the museum was tortured. The museum director, Omara Khan Massoudi, went without pay for 20 years and sold potatoes in the Kabul market to support his family.

"The guards at the palace who were tortured and Mr. Massoudi, they are the real heroes," Manhart said.

"With their knowledge, they could have taken objects to Europe and sold them for a very high price, but they didn't," Manhart added.

"The curators and keyholders were so intent on maintaining the country's cultural heritage," Hiebert said. "It's all due to the bravery of the Afghan people. I would love to know where that spirit comes from and how we could clone it."

Link to the full article in the Washington Post

It's not cloning that we need now, it's to foster the culture to let the best elements of Afghan nature to thrive. This is true ghairat.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Travel Delirium

I’ve hit the stage of travel delirium where the lights are too bright, my head hurts, I think I’m getting sick, my body aches and I am feeling quite vulnerable. I can’t make decisions to make myself more comfortable. I could’ve stopped, bought some toothpaste and a toothbrush, some pain medicine…It would’ve felt better than sitting here with cotton mouth in the bright industrial Frankfurt airport, waiting for my last leg of my trip to start.

Aaaah, travel.

5-6 hours in the Kabul waiting area, where I prided myself for not throwing a hissy fit or telling anyone I had cancer. All the flights in Kabul for about 3 days were cancelled because of snow, including mine the day before. I was lucky, I had an agency handling my plane tickets so they called to let me know when to get in to the airport. I got there at 3 pm…My flight left at 8 pm-ish…but others got there in the morning or early afternoon. It was cold, there was a lot of jostling around and hollering and being pushed to the front of the line out of turn by the agency representative (Yes, I know, it was terrible – I was that person)…but, well, it’s over.

I made friends with another person being assisted by the same agency, a kind older Afghan diaspora uncle who kept saying it’s a shame that his son isn’t older or he’d introduce us. I laughed and replied with the generic ‘Zinda boshen’ (Literally translated to ‘May you live’ – which sounds cryptic but it’s actually a noncommital You’re very kind).

‘Course, once I took my long cardigan off in Dubai, we had this conversation:

There’s lots of oil in Afghan food.
I guess so.
I guess you’ve gained weight there.
Actually, I gained more weight in the U.S.
I noticed that you’ve gained weight in your stomach. You should be careful, it ruins the figure.

Must I be mocked for being a strategic eater? Must I?

I’m too tired to laugh about it now. But I did when I ran into my another friend, who I hadn’t seen in over three years. And his response was, “No! Hey wait, are you tired? Your eyes look tired.”


It’s a good thing he treated me to cheesecake and tea in Frankfurt.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Happiness is...

Happiness is sitting on a brown couch, watching T.V., aching knees covered in a red comforter. Laughing and giggling with two close friends.

A very satisfying Friday. I spent the night at H’s. I slept in her warm warm bed while she slept on the floor (thanks girl), took a long, hot shower, we had breakfast and enjoyed a long leisurely brunch. It was a buffet and I ate more food enough to cover the cost.

Must I be mocked for being a strategic eater?

My cousin had a going away party for me. Actually, it was a 'Going Away Ninja' party because I leave and come back so often. I love my family and friends. I even had a 'Goodbye Ninja' cake.

Now I'm a Snowed In Ninja. Ah well, I'm not handling the plane reservations so I just relaxed all day and am chilling with my girl H and her bootleg internet.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Call me Bibi-gul

I've totally turned into that little old lady who can only talk about her health.

So, go bring me some tea. Don't forget the cardamom.


I'm very busy and I don't feel like writing. It's also been quiet in Kabul (shukur), so I haven't felt the need to write that I'm okay.

I'm okay though.

The weather is cold and it feels like it's sinking into my bones. My thyroid, I think, has completely slowed down and I feel every symptom (sensitivity to cold, insomnia, fatigue, muscle cramps, weakness). In fact, I took a bucket bath last night and started to cry because I was so cold. I'm not a wuss. Well, I am. But not this much.

It'll be good to get checked out and hopefully start the medicine.

I'm leaving for the U.S. soon. It was hard to make my decision to study for the bar exam in the U.S. I did a special prayer (Istekhara) to ask for guidance. I had a dream that I interpreted to mean that I should let go of my idealized notions about working here. There has been too much angst about my coming to Afghanistan. I need to learn how to relax, work hard and enjoy. 'Live in the along' per Gwendolyn Brooks.

So I should be leaving in about a week or so, Inshallah.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Kabul Walk, 2 weeks ago

We went walking up the Kabul wall about 2 weeks ago. We're planning to go again, Inshallah.

Seeing these pictures makes me want to stay. But alas, the bar exam beckons.a view of our ahem, trail. Actually, I don't know if we walked up this part.

A view of Kabul

The Kabul Wall was built thousands of years ago. I'll find the history behind it. I was told it but if I re-write it now, I'll probably make some stuff up.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

It's time for the percolator

Does anyone remember that song (the title of the post)?

I don't feel ready to post right now, but here are some links that I've been reading:

Asma Society
Shabana's blog - I've always been interested in Sufism but to see it in daily practice, has made it more realistic to me.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Still plugging away. I think I'll go back to the U.S. to study for the bar. It's too hard here. I'm in the process of telling everyone. It's sad but it feels necessary and the right thing to do. I'll be back in Kabul by March, Inshallah.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

buzkashi photo

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Hello, is it me you're looking for?

I threw in the Lionel Richie song because both OMG and PFR sent me emails with variations of the above song in the subject line.

I'm in Kabul, it was a nice trip back. I wrote a long detailed email about what I did yesterday and so now I don't feel like re-writing it.

Thursday afternoon: Arrived in Kabul, no drama b/c my Khala called her nephew and he ushered me through the airport.

Thursday evening: Family came to visit. Lots of fun.

Friday: Slept until 11 am (after a long night of sporadic sleep). Went to brunch/lunch, then to watch Buzkashi.* It was fun, especially the part where the horses would come rushing through the crowd. Well, more of an adrenalin rush than anything but still fun.

I usually try to avoid big groups of Afghan males. When I was here three years ago, it was unheard of for a female to come to sporting matches and etc. I went anyway and it was fine. Everyone was busy watching the buzkashi match and there were plenty of foreigners (one guy was even participating in the match!), so no one bothered us.

I was a little uncomfortable at the end, when waiting for our friends' car to come pick them up. Their car was late, and young, adolescent males started to surround them. I started to freak out, though they were admirably calm. Nothing happened and I didn’t have a chance to find out how they felt about it.

Then we went to Nader Shah Tapa (Tapa Maranjan), where the former king's mausoleum is and Afghans, mostly men, fly kites. We ate popcorn while one member of our party went through 7 kites. No one bothered us until we (5 girls and 1 guy) went to the mausoleum part. I noticed men starting to congregate. I got nervous and we hightailed it out of there to the open space. We rejoined our friend who was still flying his kites.

I’ve decided that if local Afghan men have other entertainment, they are fine and don’t bother women. But if they have nothing else to do, then women become the entertainment.

Then, we had an early dinner at the Lebanese restaurant. And then I went to visit another family member where I had dinner again.

*We can discuss Buzkashi and Kite-fighting some other time. I have read many articles about how violent it is and how it demonstrates how violent of a people we are...but I don't necessarily agree.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Eid Mubarak

Sadly, my uncle passed away on Saturday morning. We are all mourning his passing. The family came together from all over and spent the weekend remembering his intelligence, love for Tom Jones and most importantly, love for his family.

Eid Mubarak. I wish you all peace and joy. May your fasts and prayers be accepted.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

dreams of blue rockets

There are daily missile attacks in Kabul. Afghans call missile attacks, 'rockets' and I'll be calling them rocket attacks because that is what has stuck in my head.

The most recent rocket attack was on Radio Mountain. Mountains ring Kabul, and one such mountain has Ariana Radio and Television on it. There are homes up and down the sides of the mountains. Squatters build these homes from mud and rock, because they cannot afford the $400,000 homes (in U.S. dollars).

A few nights ago, I dreamt about a rocket hitting a mountain in Kabul. The rocket glowed blue in the black night sky. It reminded me of the gentle colors of my little ponies. It hit the mountain but didn’t explode; it bounced back and hovered over my head, poised to explode. I woke up then.

I know, weird.

Up until now, my mantra has been, “Afghanistan is not as bad as Iraq.” And it’s starting to sound like Iraq, huh?

I don’t know what to do.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

"I'm being followed by a moonshadow, mOOnshadow."

Oh Brother Islam. It's a good thing that you're a peaceful Muslim b/c I would've thrown a hissyfit (but I have cancer! God Forbid). Brother Islam got deported in 2004 because his name was a match on some secret list they have somewhere.

"the deportation prompted Jon Stewart to quip, "We finally got the guy who wrote 'Peace Train."

This is the kind of crap that pisses me (and I imagine, other moderate Muslims) off. If the Homeland Security can't get this kind of stuff right, well, it also scares me.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Feeling better. I don't have hepatitis, still getting tests. My room is a mess though. I'll write more after I clean it. So, maybe I'll never write again.

Friday, October 13, 2006


This is a wheelbarrow I filled with all my dreams & my favorite clothes & now all I need is someone to help me push it.
Story People

Different Plans

I don't know how long I can do this, he said. I think the universe has different plans for me & we sat there in silence & I thought to myself that this is the thing we all come to & this is the thing we all fight & if we are lucky enough to lose, our lives become beautiful with mystery again & I sat there silent because that is not something that can be said.
Story People

Sometimes it's hard to know that there are different plans for me. Until I realize that there are different plans for all of us.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I'm not getting my cough checked out.

Well, hepatitis would be one diagnosis that would explain the hives and abnormal test results. (Dr.)

No, I don't want that. (me)

I can't help you there. We'll give you a shot in your butt and here's a prescription until we get the blood test results. We'll be taking all your blood right away, after much jostling in your itsy bitsy veins with a needle. (Dr.)

"Umm, hey, OUCH!" (me)*
*I know it's Ramazan but I embellished this conversation. And they're not lies, they're merely the equivalent of body glitter. Kinda weird but sparkly and fun.

I still have hives and was about to have a crying fit over the potential hepatitis diagnosis until I looked across the green lawn and noticed a red-haired woman, in head to toe black, receiving hugs. She was in the parking lot of a funeral home.

So, yeah, it could be worse and if I do have hepatitis, it's probably hepatitis A, which 'resolves spontaneously.'

And I got my rescheduled plane ticket. I'm looking at leaving at the end of the month, Inshallah.

Tomorrow, lunch with pushy former room-mate, Inshallah!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

All rather anti-climactic

After all the crying and just plain mopiness of yesterday, the radioactive iodine treatment was a bit of a let-down. The only slightly intimidating Star Trek aspect of it was that the pill was encased in this metal bottle and that was encased in another metal cabinet with danger signs on it. The sweet little lady (she looked so young), put on her gloves, pulled it out, took the top off of the little plastic bottle (the last layer of protection) and then handed it to me.

Then Bobah and I went to Chick-fil-A. He didn't eat (fasting) but I took it home and gobbled it up.

I don't feel any effect yet, other than my first bad bout of hives in a long time. But even that isn't so bad because Inshallah, I'll feel better soon. Thanks to everyone for their prayers, kind words and generally putting up with my hissy fits. I blame all my drama on my thryoid. You can blame all your drama on my thyroid too!

New blog, or rather, old blog of a person I met a few times and have now re-discovered her blog. Enjoy:

Monday, October 09, 2006

Development, Kabul and my not-yet broken heart

I wrote this a few weeks ago, while still in Kabul. I didn't post it because I was scared but sometimes you just have to speak out.

I’m taking advantage of my relative anonymity to rant and rave:

It’s getting worse here, as I’ve been saying. Allegedly, a suicide bomber was caught outside of my office (though, not in the news). Everyone, and I mean everyone, is worried. When you’re here though, it usually consists of,

Did you hear about-?
Yeah, that’s too bad.
I wish Karzai would do something.
That’s the police; you know they’re all thieves.
Well, Karzai’s brother down south is a thief, why would he do anything to stop the thieves?
It’s the Americans, the Americans are letting this happen.
They’ve got to have a deal going with his brother.

The fact that I’ve heard this conversation from internationals working for international organizations (working for U.S. organizations), local Afghans, and diaspora Afghans demonstrates the pervasiveness of this theory. And outright frustration.

There is so much corruption here. I think that everyone would be content with the current (lack of) development in Kabul, let alone in Afghanistan – if there was less nepotism, cronyism and corruption. Now, security in Kabul is getting worse and we’re all just waiting for a better alternative.

Where’s the political will to reform? I just don’t know. President Karzai was Shinwari’s (former Supreme Court Justice) main supporter. I don’t know why, but Parliament got rid of him – perhaps he didn’t have the political base in Parliament? Either way, it was a good thing.

But then, in President Karzai’s defense, who does he have to support him? The U.S. made a deal with these warlords in exchange for them (and not U.S. troops) securing the countryside, which made the same old players (that ruined Afghanistan after the Russians pulled out) gain strength. The warlords or Qomandants have no interest in more rule of law or democracy. They want it just peaceful enough so they can continue running their fiefdom. But not enough so they’ll be prosecuted for their work. That all ends up with President Karzai having to rule by consensus.

And then the Iraq war started. Stretching our (U.S.’) resources even more.

And don’t get me started on the U.S. and development (just read The Road to Hell by Maren). I know, there are plenty of great projects but there is no cohesiveness – no overall plan to fix up this country and a lot of the money goes into the pockets of over-priced consultancy firms or corrupt officials.

There are exceptions to this, we have underpaid, non-corrupt officials and internationals who work so hard and so sincerely that it takes my breath away. But damn, it’s not everyone and it’s slow going. So, my heart is strained but not yet broken.

I keep getting requests to, “Will you at least consider coming back to the U.S. to live?” No, I won’t, not yet. I do have a vacation planned (hey there, waffle house!) but not to move back. This is where I’m supposed to be, Inshallah. It’s hard, frustrating and heartbreaking – but what am I going to do there? I’ll be longing to be in Kabul. At least I can convince myself that I’m doing something to help, if only to bear witness. But I don’t know.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Taking my own advice

Gonna do some yoga and go to bed early. No more freak-outs.

A little overwhelmed

Maybe this blog should be called "Making a home with my thyroid." I'm a little overwhelmed with information about treatments, what to do and blah blah blah. There's so much information and I basically don't know what to do.

The Dr.'s office left a message saying that I do have Grave's disease and my liver tests are abnormal. "Take your treatment and then we'll check your liver again."

When was my liver involved in all of this?

I'm worried that I'm agreeing to do something that I'll ultimately regret. I've been researching on the internet and all I got from it was, have some broccoli.

Monday, October 02, 2006

welcome my sister!

I'm so excited! A new blog and it looks like it's by an Afghan-American!

Thanks Q!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

I love the internet

Sharing just to share:

I told my mom that untreated hyperthyroid can lead to coma and her response was a huge GASP and clutching of the side of the seat. My response was, "I'm an idiot for telling you that." and then went on to tell her that in fact, if it's untreated for years and years and years. Excuse me while I go scratch my hives.

Well, I feel like I've become Debbie Downer (that link was for Chaoyang, who hasn't been commenting lately - did I scare you with my lies?) so I thought I would link to all the websites that I read on a regular basis (in addition to the stuff linked on the right). I didn't link to some blogs b/c I wasn't sure if they were private or not...


Television Without Pity
I found these through TWOP
Tomato Nation
AB Chao

Yeah, I live in Worcester
Pink is the New Blog - I'm a little ashamed of this one but it helps me keep up to date on pop culture while I'm in Afg.
Afghan Blog
Barely Legal - Wait, not what you think!
jesus' favorite
Book of Marvels
Sand gets in my eyes
The Croation Sensation
Daily OM
Fresh Yarn
Post Secret
Overheard in New York

Saturday, September 30, 2006

MoI & thyroid update

Ministry of Interior bombing. Ugh, it's heartbreaking.

So, they're going to zap my hyperthyroid with some such or the other. I'm here for another week as a result but duuuude, I'm way over it. I'll be happy to stop breaking out in rashes though. I'm not taking the other medicine right now and I'm slowly feeling the trembling come back. Sigh.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Did he lose his damn mind?

I would like to formally say: AAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH.

At what point does sending thexy emails to a 16 year old make sense?

This sounds about right

When Hamid Met Pervez

New York Times - Editorial

It will take more than a shared dinner at the White House to get Presidents Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan to think and say nice things about each other. Their quarrel is no mere war of words in competing press interviews. It is about the real war being waged on Afghan soil by a revitalized Taliban, which recruits fighters in Pakistan and sends them almost unimpeded across a shared border.

General Musharraf says he is doing his best to stop this infiltration. But his best has been strikingly ineffective, considering the powers he wields as a military dictator, accountable only to his fellow Pakistani generals.

His latest move on the Taliban front was discouraging, to say the very least. This month he agreed to a cease-fire deal with tribal allies of the Taliban in North Waziristan, the border region of Pakistan where Al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, are thought to be holed up.

The agreement grants such foreign fighters the right to remain so long as local Taliban forces do not attack Pakistani soldiers and promise they will not cross into Afghanistan. As part of this understanding, Pakistani military checkpoints in the area are being dismantled.

President Karzai is understandably unhappy about this. President Bush should be too. Those Taliban fighters crossing into Afghanistan are not just killing Afghans. They are also killing American and NATO troops in growing numbers. This isn’t the first time General Musharraf has put domestic concerns ahead of the larger fight against international terrorism. He is still a useful American ally in that fight, but a dangerously selective one.

It would be overly simplistic to blame General Musharraf alone for Afghanistan’s increasingly perilous situation. In its hurry to move on to Iraq, the Bush administration never committed enough troops to establish the security needed for redevelopment and democracy to take root. And it has been too stingy with the kind of long-term development aid required to consolidate popular support.

Mr. Karzai, for his part, has been far too indulgent of corruption and drug trafficking. And, in the hope of extending his authority beyond Kabul, he has made damaging deals with brutal warlords.

Now that the dinner is over, Mr. Bush needs to focus on the real problems of Afghan security and reconstruction. And he needs to remind General Musharraf that the very minimum America expects of its allies is that they not concede any form of sanctuary to such sworn enemies of the United States as the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The power of the voice

In Afghanistan, where so much power is based on guns and violence, reading about Stephen Biko's life was a reminder of how strong one man's voice can be:

He was banned during the height of apartheid in March 1973, meaning that he was not allowed to speak to more than one person at a time, was restricted to certain areas, and could not make speeches in public. It was also forbidden to quote anything he said, including speeches or simple conversations.
Thanks Wikepedia
The Taliban know the strength of one person's voice. The impact that one person can have on the rest of the people.

So they kill that one person.

The loss of Amma jan is yet another heartbreak for Afghanistan. We have so many people in Afghanistan, working hard to keep their families together and sometimes even branching out to help others outside of their families. But Afghanistan needs help. More help. The Taliban are methodically killing off the people who spoke for us. The people who eloquently stood with their people and said, "We'll fix this if you give us a chance." I don't know what else to do other than to cry. Like Taniwal, like countless unknown ones before them - I can't help but feel hopeless.

My mom asked when are you moving back from Afghanistan? I don't know. It just doesn't seem like the right thing to do right now.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


"The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed."

Steve Biko
I don't feel like doing anything right now.

I think, after this, I will keep my laptop closed today.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Listening Dinner

I had dinner with my friend and his wife recently. He and I are both suffering from health problems and while I bitch and complain more – he is suffering more but is more patient. I just have never been one for silently dealing with things.

The minute I have an issue, my first thought is, “Which friend can I call?” Shukur, I have a lot of good friends and when I call, they are there to support me.

I think I did a bad job of supporting them though. I was so caught up in trying to fix all of his health problems (yoga – and no, I don’t do yoga myself) that I don’t know if I listened.

So I left for the U.S. and am thinking that perhaps I should have done less. Listened more. Sometimes I go into overdrive, trying to make people laugh. When maybe I should sit and listen instead. I just so desperately wanted to fix everything.

Or maybe I listened enough? I don’t know. I did the best I could. I also loved, loved his wife and his daughter. So happy to have finally met them, what a blessing they all are, shukur. Do y’all ever have that? Meet people and then think, wow, they’re so cool. But not in an intimidating too cool for school way. More in a “wanna be my best friend way and can I make you a friendship bracelet” way. I should go get some thread - I bet I can still make those bracelets.

And his wife and I are both obsessed with Atiq Rahimi – check out his new book. They bought it for me and I love love love his writing. His first book, “Earth and Ashes” haunts me still.

Did y'all notice that I know how to hyperlink now?

Monday, September 25, 2006

The first day of Ramazan

Well, my first day of Ramazan didn’t go so well. Well, I fasted and prayed but I lied 3 times and got violently angry. I decided to fast even though I was traveling because the Ariana flight was leaving at 5 pm and Iftar would be around 5:45 or so. I assumed that the flight would be super late.

As a tangent, I’m writing this at 8:17 in Georgia and I was wondering what was weird. And you know what it is? The fact that we have electricity on at 8:18 am.

Anyway, I just assumed that the flight would be late. I didn’t have any waseta* so I couldn’t roll through VIP as I sometimes do (my aunt’s nephew works in VIP and sometimes I get the hook-up, along with the diplomats who get it b/c they are diplomats and businesspeople who have the VIP folks on their payroll). So I went there early with my driver and went through the various checks.

I got asked how much my salary was by the women checking my bags (who are notorious for asking for money and harassment). And without thinking, I just lied. I said 1,000 Afs. In other instances, I’ve actually told the truth. I didn’t even realize that I lied until later.

I then got into a SCREAMING match with the head of visa. Some guy at Ariana took me and three other girls out of line to go through customs because we were female. It was nice of him but then the head of visa wouldn’t allow us through. I started yelling at the guards and then yelled at the head of visa.

I yelled, “Are you Muslim? Harassing us in Ramadan?” That was a bit much for him. I knew it was going to far when I said it. But I seem to be moving on instinct these days.

He got in my face and said, “Where were you in line?”

I yelled back, “I’m not going back, I shouldn’t have been taken out of line in the first place and now I’m not going back. You’re very rude. Why are you harassing me? I’m sick and I am going to Dubai for treatment (total lie)."

I yelled, “I have cancer!” (again, a total lie and where did it come from?).

He and I yelled a little more and then he let me by. I said thank you and then one other soldier came up and said – sister, you should complain. He’s a complete cow. His name is Najib and he’s the head of visa. I said, who’s his boss? Which ministry?

If I remember, I’ll complain about him. I actually don’t feel bad about yelling at him. A local can’t do it and I have no problem telling people when they’re rude. Besides, you have to be a bitch to get through the airport. But telling him that I had cancer? Now, that was a new one. I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t have felt bad about the lie if it wasn’t Ramazan. I did feel embaressed when I remembered that I met a woman in line who knew my uncle in Australia and what if she tells him that I have cancer or realized that I lied? Especially after we complained about Muslims not being nice in Afghanistan (note my self-righteousness).

Later, as I was relating the story over the phone, I noticed this man staring at me while I was on the phone. He was sitting over at the prayer section, picking at his feet with another group of men.

Every woman who has been to Afghanistan is sadly familiar with the uncomfortable, piercing stare that some Afghan men inflict on women. These men are probably the same that cloak their women in chadaris (burqas) and are the men that sometimes make me wish I had a chadari on.

Again, without thinking, I met his gaze for about 10 seconds, making my displeasure known and then turned to him, mid-conversation and said, “Do you need something? Don’t look at me if you don’t need anything.” I loudly said over the phone. “This cow is looked at me like he has no manners. It’s RAMAZAN.” He blushed and then said something to his neighbor and smiled.

Every time he looked, I met his gaze and furiously stared back. After a while, he stopped even glancing over at me. I know, because I was keeping an eye on him.

Just think of it as my way to help better the manners of our people.

I’m so self-righteous.

Every year, Ramazan is very different for me. Sometimes it’s unbearably hard; it passes in a fog of sleeplessness and hunger. Then, everything after Ramazan is much easier, and I realize how much stronger and more compassionate it makes me. Only later do I realize that I could have handled the lack of hunger and sleeplessness more graciously.

I think this Ramazan, I should work on getting back to being more gentle, more thoughtful, more patient, I’ll try to think before I speak (I told someone I had cancer? God forbid) and I’ll try to be touch less self-righteous.

I wish everyone a loving, peaceful and blessed Ramazan (and afterwards too!).


*Waseta is roughly translated as special connections or relations with someone powerful. I am often surprised when non-Afghans living in Afghanistan don’t understand or know this word because everything in Afghanistan is run on waseta. Everything.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


I'm home, well, in my other home! I surprised my mom and now I'm sitting on the couch, waiting for dinner.


Monday, September 18, 2006

I've officially decided to suck it up

I'm so tired of myself and my hive-ridden body. I'm on anti-histamines and while they haven't solved it completely, it's bearable. When I'm done being irritated, I'll write about the healthcare system in Afghanistan and how even the most expensive place (German Clinic, where they take $100 deposit)...still says, so, 'You're going to the U.S. soon, to get checked out, right?"

We heard two shots outside of our office and my two co-workers ran to the window to check it out, while I yelled at them. I then gave up, sent a chat message to my cousin, "BRB - shooting" and looked out the window with them. We saw some running soldiers but nothing else. Nothing to the scale of the bombing 2 months ago. Or maybe I'm just getting used to it.

Poland gave 1,000 troops, which is positive - they didn't mention whether they Polish troops are allowed to go down south. And the U.S. army has started an offensive down south. Lots of flying helicopters in Kabul.

I'm working on a bullshit report right now. Donors give lots of money, require hiring expensive experts (usually from their country/organization). Donors then require time-consuming reports so said experts will write reports rather than work on actual reform. I am not the expensive expert, btw. Our expensive experts are out of town. Eye roll and dramatic sighing ensues.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Your friday update

I heart Fridays. I love family and new friends that invite me over for brunch and let me sprawl out in their house all day long.

And I love dancing in my chair while at work. The thought that someone will walk in makes me giggle.

I've diagnosed myself with hives but am going to a real doctor tomorrow. What if I'm allergic to nutella? Ack!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

oh no

So, I started itching again. I popped in two allergy pills and this morning realized that:

1) I’m severely allergic to the cat
2) I’m allergic to the allergy medicine.

What do I do with the cat? And, in much more positive news, I'm looking forward to my Friday. Yay, day off!!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Missed opportunity - I hope not


For some Western observers, the past four years feel like a missed opportunity. "US and international attention veered from Afghanistan in mid-2002, and focused on Iraq," says a senior Western diplomat in Kabul. "There was a feeling they had got rid of the Taliban, and left a good man [Karzai], and that things would settle down."
Doubts Intensify Over Afghanistan's Future


NATO members have refused to increase troops to Afghanistan. After these past weeks of rocket attacks and bombings in Kabul and the months of warfare in the south of Afghanistan, I am disgusted and depressed.

We (Afghans) are trying to clean up, rebuild and start new lives here but we need help. There’s so much going wrong here and I’m just angry and sad. Nato States Ignore Afghan Call

They’re asking for 2,500 extra people. That doesn’t seem that much to me.

Oh, and there was a suicide bomber at the funeral of Governor Taniwal (Khoda bobakhshesh).
The funeral of an Afghan provincial governor, the most senior official to be killed in the country this year, was attacked today by a suicide bomber, who killed six people, including a 12-year-old boy.
Bloodshed at Afghan funeral of politician

Medicine Debacle

K, this may be horrifying to some but I’m fine. I think this demonstrates the state of medical care in Afghanistan.

I had some sort of rash on my back. I took a shower, thinking it might be the bug spray that I put on the previous night (water was cold yesterday morning and I just couldn’t bear to take a cold shower in the cool Fall morning). Well, I took the shower, popped in a DVD in my laptop, sprawled out on the bed and started to watch the movie. I took some allergy medicine, thinking it would help.

About an hour into it, I realized that my skin was burning on my arms, upper back. It slowly crept to the right side of my face. After it started to feel unbearable, I walked to the living room where my uncle was watching TV. He was immediately worried and the two 70 year old servants, our family friend who is kind of our bodyguard and my Uncle surrounded me to discuss what is the next step.

Our family friend went to his room and came back with some pink pills, saying that he thought it was allergy medicine. My uncle looked at them and said, oh good, this is Benadryl. Take 2 of these.

They wanted to take me to the hospital but I didn’t want to. The private clinics are closed and I just didn’t have the energy for the hospital’s emergency room.

Then he sent our family friend to get some antihistamines from the pharmacy.

The servants changed my sheets; general consensus was that it was the bug spray that I sprayed on my sheets (and according to them: I work so much, making me tired, which makes me more sensitive).

So, on top of the allergy medicine I took, the pink pills, I took another 10 mg of some sort of antihistamine. Yeah, I know – it made sense at the time.

Our family friend’s sister, my Khala, called to check up on me. My Khala is an angel, she deserves a separate post; I love her so much. She called and asked if I could come to her house so she could keep an eye on me, or did I want her to spend the night at our place? I said not to worry about it, I’m fine. I fell asleep in about 30 minutes.

This morning, I woke up to the sound of a woman’s voice and knocking. It was my Khala! She wanted to take me to the dr. but I didn’t have time and I’m waaay over the dr. scene.

I’m fine now, except for some sinus congestion – which is weird, with all the allergy medicine that I took.

Oh and the pink pills? Not allergy medicine, high blood pressure medicine.

It was funny, don’t say that it isn’t funny. And I'm fine. But think about what its like for other Afghans. Without resources...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Sad news

I listened to the radio this morning on my way to work. I don’t have the Volga anymore and the new car has a radio. The radio newscaster was interviewing local Afghans about the recent suicide bombing. Everyone I heard on the radio was against suicide bombings. The real question is, do they think that the suicide bombers are martyrs (and therefore, destined for a place in heaven?)? Some Muslims, unless they are religious scholars, are hesitant to make these pronouncements. But that wasn’t the case here. Everyone on the radio said, “No, the suicide bombers aren’t martyrs. The innocents he killed were martyrs.”

I have been trying to avoid the news regarding the recent attack. It’s just too much to dwell on right now. Unfortunately, things are getting worse. The governor of Paktia, Governor Taniwal, was killed. He was an academic who taught in Australia and moved here to help rebuild Afghanistan. He was a true patriot.

Today is September 11, 2006. Please say a little prayer for all the lives lost, everywhere. My life has changed so much since September 11th, 2001. So many lives lost, yet a re-birth for Afghanistan. I pray that Afghanistan isn’t forgotten again.

I'm sad but still, determined and hopeful. Drop by drop, we make a river.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I'm fine v. 2

Hey y'all, I'm fine. I wasn't close to the bomb but I did hear the big boom. I didn't realize what a big deal it was until the news reports trickled in. Please say a little prayer for the lives lost.

I didn't post yesterday because I was out and about, celebrating my baby cousin's b-day and then to a work dinner. I guess that sounds weird with the bomb and all, but I can't spend my life on hold. And before I came, I somewhat made my peace with the situation in Kabul. This is where I want to be.

And don't worry O, I always will miss my family and friends in the U.S. And 7-11 Slurpees. And Waffle-House. And...let me just stop now.

On a different tangent, it's such a lovely season in Kabul. Fall, even with its dust, is beautiful. There is a cool air mixed with the hot sun and it makes me feel that something fresh and new is on its way. The security situation isn't very good now but I'm hopeful that it will get better.

Thanks to everyone for the e-mails and posts.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

India Pictures

The Masjid by Isa Khan's Tomb

Lattice-d thing in Humayon's Tomb

Part of my henna-ed hand

*Thanks to my cousin for taking all of these pictures.

An Afghan Tourist in India

I went to India with my cousin and her baby, bought lots of shirts, 2 pretty saris (which, umm, I don’t know how to wear), henna-ed my hands (it’s really unprofessional but pretty) and missed Kabul. My cousin is writing a guest post to re-tell all the funny things on the trip.

I have a moment in all trips where I think, “Oh, I could live here. That’d be cool.” And then I realize. No, Kabul is where I want to be.

Delhi was interesting, hectic and busy. It’s green, wet and lush, unlike Kabul, which is yellow and red, dry and dusty.

Traffic jams dotted with colorful saris. And huge, absolutely huge. Atlanta has nothing on this urban sprawl.

In between the doctor visits, we roamed around the city, with plenty of breaks to eat and revel in the air-conditioned coffee shops. I love those coffee shops and fabric. I love fabric.

I went to the dr, and I do have hyperthyroidism but I’m on medicine now and should feel the effects in about 2 weeks. I’m happy about the diagnosis, I was afraid that I would have to go through another round of tests if the thyroid tests were negative.

Unfortunately, I sprained my ankle in India (at the Adidas store) and then somehow got a nail in my heel at the Kabul airport. I’m over the whole doctor scene so forget it; I’m not getting a tetanus shot. I got one about three years ago and according the Mayo Clinic’s website, that is enough.

By the way, Cousin H, who was sick, is doing better now, shukur.

I missed Kabul while I was in Delhi. I missed the mountains and yes, even the dust. I missed seeing my fierce people, turbaned, pakooled, veiled, laughing and chatting on the street, enjoying every bit of this precious peace that we have right now. We had a number of attacks, in and around Kabul, while we were gone. I hope things get better soon, here and in the south.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

I'm fine

'Rocket' (Missile) attack in Shar-Nau-Park. It's close to my house but I didn't hear anything and I'm okay. No worries.

India this afternoon, Inshallah!!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Stressful day v.2

Uff, one of my favorite cousins is sick and we're all very worried about him. I wrote up another blog post yesterday but deleted it. Actually, I woke up at 3 am, in a panic, because I realized that I disclosed stuff that other family members don't know yet (and how terrible would it be for them to learn through the internet). I called my brother in the U.S. and asked him to delete the post. So, any family members wanting the inside scoop, shoot me an email.

I also complained and whined so it's just as well that I deleted that previous post.

I'm going to India tomorrow (Inshallah) and I'm super duper excited. I'm going to get my thyroid checked out and BUY FABRIC. I'm looking forward to sleeping in and de-stressing. I'll catch y'all next week!

Monday, August 28, 2006


Thanks to Cousin H (you need a nickname) for removing the advertisements and fixing my comments. I felt like a sell-out for having those ads (mostly b/c my other cousin A, told me that I was) and this is no judgment on other people who have advertisements on their blogs.

And I wasn't making any money, with my 16 readers. I love you all, by the way.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Introducing Mar Mar Makeez

Mar Mar means Marble in Dari and Makeez means Charming (or something like that) in Pashto.

I got her back. It was too much responsibility for the boy and he gave it back to me. And now we're reunited.

Friday, August 25, 2006

I have a lump in my throat

I have a lump in my throat. No, it’s not the thyroid, I am sad because my Khala and cousin left. I, hastily clad in my ugly black jacket and lovely purple scarf, over my yellow pajamas, stood outside as they piled in the car. One of the two old servants threw water on their car, for good luck on their journey. I fought off tears then and now I’m in my room, perhaps not fighting the tears now.

When they came, it was like a family vacation, laughter over tea, gifts, inside jokes and the special fits of giggles that only come with family. I showed them Kabul, they saw me lose my temper with others (I have to work on that), and they took care of me when my shaking got worse.

I came home every night, walked through the dingy door and was met with kisses, gifts and my fun family.

Shukur, I have a great family but it’s so hard to be away from them. Even when I’m in the U.S., we’re scattered to different places in a way that only refugees are. When we see each other, we are infected with our parents’ joy, they dance and laugh and tease. Happy to see each other again.

Life is odd, after spending their lives growing up together and starting families, homes side by side, they spent another 30 years far away, punctuated by phone calls and hectic visits to celebrate funerals and weddings. They are the roots of my culture and I feel bereft, in my homeland, without them.

And now, I have to stop feeling sorry for myself. Shukur, that they are in my life.

Bye Khala, Bye M. Safar Bakhair.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Kabul is still beautiful

Most Afghan-Americans, when coming to Afghanistan felt very far away, hungrily gleaned their information from family stories, and books by non-Afghans. Tom Goutierre helped with his Journal of Afghanistan and the Duprees helped with their anthropological books.

I recently purchased ‘An Historical Guide to Afghanistan’ by Nancy Hatch Dupree, from a little kid on the street. It was published in 1970 and it simultaneously makes me happy that it was written, we need to be reminded that it is possible to have prosperity and peace; and heartbreakingly sad, we’re so far away from 1970 Kabul.

I can’t help but be sad when I read this:

The city is ringed with mountains, gleaming emerald green in spring; glistening white in winter. Even in summer barrenness they have an ever-changing beauty, turning from deep purple to brilliant pink under the rising and setting sun.

I guess (and hope), years from now, when Kabul’s mountains are emerald green and glistening white again (Inshallah), I can say, I loved you when you were dusty, brown, dirty, and cloaked in desperate hope.

Your Sunday update

I brought ALL of my work home on Thursday. Like I was going to do it all. Umm, no. Not so much.

We had Saturday off for Independence day and it was awesome to have a 2 day weekend.

I need to remind myself that I can’t do everything at home. And won’t. It’ll save my back from lugging all that work around.

Last night, we had a little going-away party for my Kawkoh (uncle) Y. He’s been in Kabul since 2001 and he’s going back to Europe to be with his family. He and my family go way back. He’s my uncles’ childhood friend and quickly assumed the role of Uncle when I first came here 3 years ago.

It’s pretty sad that he’s leaving. Three years ago, he didn’t want to leave. Now he’s leaving with warnings of Afghanistan’s deterioration. It’s unsettling and just plain sad to think that he won’t be here in Kabul.

On Friday, I helped with a JAHAN distribution (link on the right) and then we went over my cousin’s house for a khatem. This time, it is for an aunt who has cancer. It felt longer than the khatem that we did for other relative. At the end of the khatem, during the dedication, I started to cry. I saw a beam of light shoot up from our little table, covered in twister-esq tablecloth and raw kidney beams, ricochet off the sky and turn towards my aunt. She was sleeping in a white hospital bed and the light covered her.

I don’t know if it was just my imagination, but I hope not.

We found out later that she’s doing better. Please say a little prayer for her and my other cousin (previous khatem).

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Kitty come, kitty go

My cousin found a little kitten on Sunday morning, gave it to me on Sunday evening and I took her home that night. I bought her a baby bottle and looked up kitten formula recipes (she’s barely 4 weeks old).

But I have to give her away. Our place is too small and I just can’t give her enough attention in the few hours that I’m at home. My cousins are here for vacation but the kitty will go stir crazy when they leave. We’re all sad. It came to me last night, when she peed in my bed (she was too tired to move to her litter box – though she knows how to use it).

I am very, very sad. The only good thing is that one of my cousin’s relatives, who works in her house, fell in love with the kitten but couldn’t keep her because she was promised to me. So I’m giving the kitten to him.

But oh dear, I am sad.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Driver Tales

This story is going to make me sound like a bitch and it also shows how much meaner (tougher?) I’ve gotten. It usually takes me about a month before I start making smart-ass replies to everyone and refusing to accommodate other’s inappropriate requests. It’s been about 2 months now. I don’t know what it is, whether it is because Afghanistan is a post-conflict country, it’s just the way we are, or this is the only country where I deal with servants on a regular basis. I just worry that I will go to far in one direction and become just plain mean, or ‘zisht’ as the Afghans say.

I was assigned a new driver today. I told him that I was leaving at 5:30. He came by my office at 5 pm, saying, “I’m waiting for you.” I replied, “Okay, I’ll see you at 5:30 pm.” I left at 5:40 p.m.

He and I are quietly and politely battling for dominance. If I accommodate his requests now, go home early and etc. Then I will have to do what he says (and be on his schedule forever).

I sat in the car, an old, old, sky blue Volga. The crazy old man who won’t open the building door for me but opens it for foreigners (until I argued with him and now he won’t open it for anyone), leaned into the car window and said, “Tell my sister what time you have to leave and what your schedule is.”

My new driver laughed uncomfortably and I said, “Well, go on, what’s he talking about?”

Well, it’s just that I live so far away so I need to leave earlier and blah blah blah.

I quietly said, “I am actually leaving early today, I usually stay until 7 pm and if you can’t do that, perhaps you should speak to your boss to be reassigned.”

He was quiet for a moment and then he replied, “No, no! It’s just that the car they gave me is old and I live so far away and what if I get stuck on the street. If you work until 10 pm, I can stay until 10 pm.”

So we decided that I would ask for a new car. It really is old as dirt and the brakes don’t work that well.

Oh, and he doesn’t live far away, if traffic is not bad, it takes about 20 minutes to get to his house. When I asked him where he lived, I said, “Oh, right by that Lycee (High School)?” He looked a little embarrassed.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Khatems, Clinics and Koreans

I’m sick. And it’s not fun. I think it’s the flu plus food poisoning or just one of the two. I started to feel sick on Wednesday night but went to work anyway. I left work early on Thursday and went straight to my cousin’s house. My Khala (Aunt), my cousin’s mom, is in town and I knew that she would make sure I was taken care of.

I went straight to the room designated to as ‘my’ room and threw myself on the bed. I spent the rest of the day sleeping and being fussed over. My Khala checked my temperature and my pulse, gave me medicine, put cold compresses on my forehead, prepared soup and generally just made me feel better. I love my Khala.

Friday, we went ahead with the khatem for my friend’s daughter. A khatem is prayer round and is usually done as thanks to Allah or pleas for help. Generally, a khatem is a reading of the Quran Sharif by a group of people. Other types of khatems may be repeating a verse or a prayer from the Quran Sharif a number of times.

We did the latter. It took a long time, as two of the participants (myself and Y) were sick, and our khatem had a repetition of over 100,000 times. I had to stop an hour into it as I thought I was going to throw up, but I started back up again in about half an hour. It was a good thing that I did, because my other cousin A, was outside and we couldn’t hear the doorbell over the loud hum of the generator. He called me, I opened the door and we both joined the khatem.

We kept track of the numbers with raw kidney beans. It is the way our grandmothers did their khatems, which is a nice thought. My cousin counted 1,000 beans and put it in the middle of the table. Each person would recite a verse and then put it to the side. Once we all finished 1,000, my cousin or my Khala would take a bean (from a completely separate pile) and put it in another bowl, to keep track of our 1,000s.

It was a happy khatem and made us feel that helpful to our friend and his family – which is what we needed also.

We finished and my Khala dedicated it to my friend’s daughter and rain for my beautiful but dry Afghanistan. As we all prayed, together but praying separately, I felt my little group’s deep prayers that our friend’s daughter is restored to health. I hope it works.

I was also going to write about the clinic that I went to on Saturday, and how they only let me in because my driver yelled out, “She’s a Kharijee (foreigner), Let her in,” but I’m pretty exhausted. I guess there is a free health clinic for locals, and because of demand, they can only let in 100 people a day but foreigners, who pay, can go in anytime.

And I haven’t seen any of the fabled Koreans yet but my friends who have recently gone to the airport have seen them, and I guess lots of children and teenagers? Really, why? Why would you put your children in danger? It’s been so hyped in the Western media and the security emails that I get everyday, that I’m afraid that I’m going to see one of the Korean evangelists and scream, “Aahh, Koreans!” and sprint out of the room. Dude, cuz they’re targets and I don’t want to be sitting next to them when fanatics come by.

But I do want to know why they’re here in Afghanistan. The summer is not the safest time to be here, and why here? We’re Muslim and happy with our religion. If you want to help, come help but don’t come for this. This isn’t helping.

I have no problems with Christians, having spent most of my life in the Bible Belt of the U.S. and have plenty of friends who are staunch, conservative, Christians…but I don’t appreciate evangelists. When I worked on an American Indian Reservation for a summer, I remember a Church group coming to the Rez and telling the kids that they would go to hell if they weren’t saved. And then the Church group wouldn’t or couldn’t break up a fight between two 8-year old boys. Is that supposed to help them?

We need practical help. Rebuild some sewage tanks, fix up our water supply or plant some trees…but this? An evangelical rally, do they think this is going to get people to convert? We’re trying to rebuild this country here and frankly, we just can’t handle it. Security is iffy for Afghans, how are we supposed to guarantee it for evangelists?

Oy, this has become a rant, I’ll stop now.

I’ve also been thinking about how Koreans, who are trying to convert the Afghans, converted once they were in contact with Anglo/European Christian missionaries, but I can’t articulate it properly. And I’m not quite sure how Koreans became Christians so maybe I’ll shut up now.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Last thing we need now

Evangelicals Defy Warnings to Head to Afghanistan

Chosun Ilbo, South Korea

Some 500 Korean evangelical Christians have headed to Afghanistan in defiance of government warnings to attend what is billed as a "peace festival" there.

A government official said on Monday, "With the security situation growing even worse due to the Israeli attacks on Lebanon, we have to be prepared for everything." The Institute of Asian Culture and Development (IACD), made up of various evangelical groups, has been working on an "Afghan peace march" of some 2,000 participants, since last December.

Event organizers say it is "primarily a cultural event, with a small peace rally," and there will be no religious content and thus no room for misunderstanding. Kabul's foreign minister in March wrote to the Korean government withdrawing support for the event saying Afghanistan cannot guarantee security. When it emerged that participants would travel on individual visit visas, Kabul temporarily suspended all visas for Koreans on June 27.

"Even aside from the state of international affairs, Afghanistan is a Muslim country and the majority of its people are Muslims, therefore it may be dangerous place for a Christian event," a Foreign Ministry official said. "By way of the embassy there, we are requesting that the participants return home ahead of time."

Monday, July 31, 2006

I'm in love with this organization

We need so much help in the South but the thought of family or friends going down South fills me with dread, it's so shrouded in violence and fear...But damn, Sarah Chayes is doing it. She's helping run Arghand (mgmt ethos on her website - link on the right, under Righteous Organizations) and I am going to try to help. I'm looking for a shipping agency to take 100 kgs of soap to the Boston every month. Any ideas? Email me at

Perhaps my friends can also help with some retail placement.

Much love,


Sunday, July 30, 2006


Congrats to my friends who took the bar this week!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Friday update

A lovely Friday. We couldn't do the khatem but are doing it this week, Inshallah.

We went to a picnic up in Shamoli (up North) and it was fun. Freshly fried fish and kabobs. Mmm, I'm hungry now.

Oh, and my cousin's baby said my name!!!

But now I'm super busy. Saturdays are my Mondays.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Beirut, Beirut

While living in Kabul, which still evidences the scars of war, I can only imagine what Beirut looks like now. My friend is in Beirut right now, and has been sending these beautifully written but painful emails - I will ask if I can post them.

Paradise Lost: elegy for Beirut
By Robert Fisk

Elegant buildings lie in ruins. The heady scent of gardenias gives
way to the acrid stench of bombed-out oil installations. And everywhere
terrified people are scrambling to get out of a city that seems tragically
doomed to chaos and destruction. As Beirut - 'the Paris of the East' - is
defiled yet again, Robert Fisk, a resident for 30 years, asks: how much
more punishment can it take?

Published: 19 July 2006

In the year 551, the magnificent, wealthy city of Berytus - headquarters of the imperial East Mediterranean Roman fleet � was struck by a massive earthquake. In its aftermath, the sea withdrew several miles and the survivors - ancestors of the present-day Lebanese- walked out on the sands to loot the long-sunken merchant ships revealed in front of them.

That was when a tidal wall higher than a tsunami returned to swamp the city and kill them all. So savagely was the old Beirut damaged that the Emperor Justinian sent gold from Constantinople as compensation
to every family left alive.

Some cities seem forever doomed. When the Crusaders arrived at Beirut on their way to Jerusalem in the 11th century, they slaughtered every man, woman and child in the city. In the First World War, Ottoman
Beirut suffered a terrible famine; the Turkish army had commandeered all the grain and the Allied powers blockaded the coast. I still have some ancient postcards I bought here 30 years ago of stick-like children standing in an orphanage, naked and abandoned.

An American woman living in Beirut in 1916 described how she "passed women and children lying by the roadside with closed eyes and ghastly, pale faces. It was a common thing to find people searching the garbage heaps for orange peel, old bones or other refuse, and eating them greedily when found. Everywhere women could be seen seeking eatable weeds among the grass along the roads..."

How does this happen to Beirut? For 30 years, I've watched this place die and then rise from the grave and then die again, its apartment blocks pitted with so many bullets they looked like Irish lace, its people massacring each other.

I lived here through 15 years of civil war that took 150,000 lives and two Israeli invasions and years of Israeli bombardments that cost the lives of a further 20,000 of its people. I have seen them armless,
legless, headless, knifed, bombed and splashed across the walls of houses. Yet they are a fine, educated, moral people whose generosity amazes every foreigner, whose gentleness puts any Westerner to shame,
and whose suffering we almost always ignore.

They look like us, the people of Beirut. They have light-coloured skin and speak beautiful English and French. They travel the world. Their women are gorgeous and their food exquisite. But what are we saying of their fate today as the Israelis - in some of their cruellest attacks on this city and the surrounding countryside - tear them from their homes, bomb them on river bridges, cut them off from food and water and electricity? We say that they started this latest war, and we compare their appalling casualties - 240 in all of Lebanon by last
night - with Israel's 24 dead, as if the figures are the same.

And then, most disgraceful of all, we leave the Lebanese to their fate like a diseased people and spend our time evacuating our precious foreigners while tut-tutting about Israel's "disproportionate" response to the capture of its soldiers by Hezbollah.

I walked through the deserted city centre of Beirut yesterday and it reminded more than ever of a film lot, a place of dreams too beautiful to last, a phoenix from the ashes of civil war whose plumage was so brightly coloured that it blinded its own people. This part of the city - once a Dresden of ruins - was rebuilt by Rafiq Hariri, the prime minister who was murdered scarcely a mile away on 14 February last year.

The wreckage of that bomb blast, an awful precursor to the present war in which his inheritance is being vandalised by the Israelis, still stands beside the Mediterranean, waiting for the last UN investigator to look for clues to the assassination - an investigator who has long ago abandoned this besieged city for the safety of Cyprus.

At the empty Etoile restaurant - best snails and cappuccino in Beirut, where Hariri once dined Jacques Chirac - I sat on the pavement and watched the parliamentary guard still patrolling the fa�ade of the
French-built emporium that houses what is left of Lebanon's democracy.
So many of these streets were built by Parisians under the French mandate and they have been exquisitely restored, their mock Arabian doorways bejewelled with marble Roman columns dug from the ancient Via
Maxima a few metres away.

Hariri loved this place and, taking Chirac for a beer one day, he caught sight of me sitting at a table. "Ah Robert, come over here," he roared and then turned to Chirac like a cat that was about to eat a canary. "I want to introduce you, Jacques, to the reporter who said I couldn't rebuild Beirut!"

And now it is being un-built. The Martyr Rafiq Hariri International Airport has been attacked three times by the Israelis, its glistening halls and shopping malls vibrating to the missiles that thunder into the runways and fuel depots. Hariri's wonderful transnational highway viaduct has been broken by Israeli bombers. Most of his motorway bridges have been destroyed. The Roman-style lighthouse has been smashed by a missile from an Apache helicopter. Only this small jewel of a restaurant in the centre of Beirut has been spared. So far.

It is the slums of Haret Hreik and Ghobeiri and Shiyah that have been levelled and "rubble-ised" and pounded to dust, sending a quarter of a million Shia Muslims to seek sanctuary in schools and abandoned parks across the city. Here, indeed, was the headquarters of Hezbollah, another of those "centres of world terror" which the West keeps discovering in Muslim lands. Here lived Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the Party of God's leader, a ruthless, caustic, calculating man; and Sayad Mohamed Fadlallah, among the wisest and most eloquent of clerics; and many of Hezbollah�s top military planners - including, no doubt, the men who planned over many months the capture of the two Israeli soldiers last Wednesday.

But did the tens of thousands of poor who live here deserve this act of mass punishment? For a country that boasts of its pin-point accuracy - a doubtful notion in any case, but that's not the issue what does this act of destruction tell us about Israel? Or about ourselves?

In a modern building in an undamaged part of Beirut, I come, quite by chance, across a well known and prominent Hezbollah figure, open-neck white shirt, dark suit, clean shoes. "We will go on if we have to for
days or weeks or months or..." And he counts these awful statistics off on the fingers of his left hand. "Believe me, we have bigger surprises still to come for the Israelis - much bigger, you will see. Then we will get our prisoners and it will take just a few small concessions."

I walk outside, feeling as if I have been beaten over the head. Over the wall opposite there is purple bougainvillaea and white jasmine and a swamp of gardenias. The Lebanese love flowers, their colour and scent, and Beirut is draped in trees and bushes that smell like paradise.

As for the huddled masses from the powder of the bombed-out southern slums of Haret Hreik, I found hundreds of them yesterday, sitting under trees and lying on the parched grass beside an ancient fountain
donated to the city of Beirut by the Ottoman Sultan Abdul-Hamid. How empires fall.

Far away, across the Mediterranean, two American helicopters from the USS Iwo Jima could be seen, heading through the mist and smoke towards the US embassy bunker complex at Awkar to evacuate more citizens of
the American Empire. There was not a word from that same empire to help the people lying in the park, to offer them food or medical aid.

And across them all has spread a dark grey smoke that works its way through the entire city, the fires of oil terminals and burning buildings turning into a cocktail of sulphurous air that moves below our doors and through our windows. I smell it when I wake in the morning. Half the people of Beirut are coughing in this filth, breathing their own destruction as they contemplate their dead.

The anger that any human soul should feel at such suffering and loss was expressed so well by Lebanon's greatest poet, the mystic Khalil Gibran, when he wrote of the half million Lebanese who died in the 1916 famine, most of them residents of Beirut:

My people died of hunger, and he who
Did not perish from starvation was
Butchered with the sword;
They perished from hunger
In a land rich with milk and honey.
They died because the vipers and
Sons of vipers spat out poison into
The space where the Holy Cedars and
The roses and the jasmine breathe
Their fragrance.

And the sword continues to cut its way through Beirut. When part of an aircraft - perhaps the wing-tip of an F-16 hit by a missile, although the Israelis deny this - came streaking out of the sky over the eastern suburbs at the weekend, I raced to the scene to find a partly decapitated driver in his car and three Lebanese soldiers from the army's logistics unit. These are the tough, brave non-combat soldiers of Kfar Chim, who have been mending power and water lines these past six days to keep Beirut alive.
I knew one of them. "Hello Robert, be quick because I think the Israelis will bomb again but we'll show you everything we can." And they took me through the fires to show me what they could of the wreckage, standing around me to protect me.

And a few hours later, the Israelis did come back, as the men of the small logistics unit were going to bed, and they bombed the barracks and killed 10 soldiers, including those three kind men who looked after me amid the fires of Kfar Chim.

And why? Be sure - the Israelis know what they are hitting. That's why they killed nine soldiers near Tripoli when they bombed the military radio antennas. But a logistics unit? Men whose sole job was to mend
electricity lines? And then it dawns on me. Beirut is to die. It is to be starved of electricity now that the power station in Jiyeh is on fire. No one is to be allowed to keep Beirut alive. So those poor men had to be liquidated.

Beirutis are tough people and are not easily moved. But at the end of last week, many of them were overcome by a photograph in their daily papers of a small girl, discarded like a broken flower in a field
near Ter Harfa, her feet curled up, her hand resting on her torn blue pyjamas, her eyes - beneath long, soft hair - closed, turned away from the camera. She had been another "terrorist" target of Israel and
several people, myself among them, saw a frightening similarity between this picture and the photograph of a Polish girl lying dead in a field beside her weeping sister in 1939.

I go home and flick through my files, old pictures of the Israeli invasion of 1982. There are more photographs of dead children, of broken bridges. "Israelis Threaten to Storm Beirut", says one headline. "Israelis Retaliate". "Lebanon at War". "Beirut UnderSiege". "Massacre at Sabra and Chatila". Yes, how easily we forget these earlier slaughters. Up to 1,700 Palestinians were butchered at Sabra and Chatila by Israel's proxy Christian militia allies in September of 1982 while Israeli troops -as they later testified to Israel's own court of inquiry - watched the killings. I was there. I stopped counting the corpses when I reached100. Many of the women had been raped before being knifed or shot.

Yet when I was fleeing the bombing of Ghobeiri with my driver Abed last week, we swept right past the entrance of the camp, the very spot where I saw the first murdered Palestinians. And we did not think
of them. We did not remember them. They were dead in Beirut and we were trying to stay alive in Beirut, as I have been trying to stay alive here for 30 years.

I am back on the sea coast when my mobile phone rings. It is an Israeli woman calling me from the United States, the author of a fine novel about the Palestinians. "Robert, please take care," she says.
"I am so, so sorry about what is being done to the Lebanese. It is unforgivable. I pray for the Lebanese people, and the Palestinians, and the Israelis." I thank her for her thoughtfulness and the graceful, generous way she condemned this slaughter.

Then, on my balcony - a glance to check the location of the Israeli gunboat far out in the sea-smog - I find older clippings. This is from an English paper in 1840, when Beirut was a great Ottoman city.
"Beyrouth" was the dateline. "Anarchy is now the order of the day, our properties and personal safety are endangered, no satisfaction can be obtained, and crimes are committed with impunity. Several Europeans
have quitted their houses and suspended their affairs, in order to
find protection in more peaceable countries."

On my dining-room wall, I remember, there is a hand-painted lithograph of French troops arriving in Beirut in 1842 to protect the Christian Maronites from the Druze. They are camping in the Jardin des Pins, which will later become the site of the French embassy where, only a few hours ago, I saw French men and women registering for their evacuation. And outside the window, I hear again the whisper of
Israeli jets, hidden behind the smoke that now drifts 20 miles out to sea.

Fairouz, the most popular of Lebanese singers, was to have performed at this year's Baalbek festival, cancelled now like all Lebanon's festivals of music, dance, theatre and painting. One of her most
popular songs is dedicated to her native city:

To Beirut - peace to Beirut with all my heart

And kisses - to the sea and clouds,

To the rock of a city that looks like an old sailor's face.

From the soul of her people she makes wine,

From their sweat, she makes bread and jasmine.

So how did it come to taste of smoke and fire?