Monday, April 13, 2009

Afghanistan: Orientation

To the annoyance of my parents, I am here in Afghanistan once again.

I arrived in Kabul two weeks ago and am hoping to stay a month or two, continuing work on a couple of projects and making myself available for assignments. (Hint, hint. Hello? Hello?! Anybody???)

A friend and colleague has graciously offered to put me up in her house for awhile--and I finally know how to give people directions on how to get here. One of Kabul's many challenges is the lack of actual street names, let alone house numbers. Some streets are so famous that everybody knows them, like Flower Street, which is a well-known street full of shops. Some streets have mysterious names, like Toilet Street. Others are simply called Line 5 or Line 8 (although many Afghans don't seem to know these streets), with one unnumbered door in the wall following another.

Still other streets are known only by their landmarks, like mosques, bazaars, stores or restaurants. I can't post my exact location on the Internet, so I'll just say that my street is unofficially known by the name of a restaurant serving a popular fried food. I feel like laughing every time I have to give people directions but hey, whatever gets me here.

I've gotten a couple of assignments, which I'll share later. Until then, I'll wow you with a few images from my daily existence here...

This is an Afghan dish called palaw, which I call "lunch", served nearly every day where I am staying. The dish is a giant plate of meaty rice cooked in meat juices (often lamb) with some kind of stew to eat with each spoonful. I always get a portion of yogurt, which I never touch. The bread is actually very good and fresh from the bakery everyday.

Walls, razor wire, fences: the view from the second-story balcony. Oh, yeah--by the way, this is pretty typical of the weather we've been having. Rainy, chilly, muddy...

...which is why I am thankful for the wood stove in my room. My friend Taimani (the dog) loves it too.


ingrid barrentine said...


Thanks for the update. Have fun!

Kevin Taylor said...

So are you on hushpuppy street?
I think Elvis had a place there when he was touring the 'stans.

Anonymous said...

glad you are okay over there!

FWickeham said...

You may wish to contact Richard Engle at NBC. He has recently made the American public aware of the treatment of women in Afgahnistan. Be careful over there.

Erin said...

I can't make out any of the cities on the map Holly! Please sate my ignorance -- Kabul is in the East?
I just finished reading A Thousand Splendid Suns & (before that) The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini... both a m a z i n g, especially the former, if you haven't read them. The author lives in San Fran, CA. He's a U.S. envoy for UNHCR, the UN refugee agency:
Apologies if you know all this already...thought you might take an interest to it.
Afghani lunch looks good, but do you miss an Egyptian breakfast?

Holly said...

Afghanistan doesn't have hushpuppies. Silly.

On the map photo, Kabul is the city written in green. Yes, A Thousand Splendid Suns is good. I actually liked it better than Kite Runner.

I DO miss Egyptian breakfast, as a matter of fact...

Justin said...

Hi Holly,
I'm a distant cousin of yours, Justin Mitchell and also a journalist now working in Beijing though desk-bound and for a State-owned English language paper. Sometimes I describe my job as doing PR for the PRC, though we do have our good moments.

Margaret Pickett turned me on to your blog as well as providing me info on how we're connected. As she wrote: "she's the daughter of my cousin Frank, and comes down the Pickett line from your great-grandmother, Cornelia Mitchell’s brother, Frank."

Uh..okay. Anyway, I mostly wanted to say how powerful I'm finding Pickett Lense and how proud I am to be related to you. I've been slacking off most of the morning going through a proxy server (blogspot is currently blocked here by the Great Firewall of China) and marveling at all the images and descriptions you're capturing.

I've got some blogspot stuff going also (Son of Shenzhen Zen and Shenzhen Zen), but nothing as cool as this. Anyway, if you want to make email contact you can reach me at average underscore guy26 at yahoo dot com.

Keep up the wonderful work and stay safe.

Your distant journo cuz,

Soraya Nelson said...

My name is Soraya. I'm from Kabul Afghanistan. I was there during the russian war. My family and I escaped from Afghanistan. I know how dangerous and risky it is to be there. I just wanted to commend and applaud you for your bravery and boldness. I pray the Lord continue to protect and prosper you as you fulfil your higher calling. Love always Soraya