Saturday, October 9, 2010

Friday in Kabul

Friday is the official weekly holiday--the one-day weekend. Thursday night (considered 'friday night') the city comes to life; music starts blaring out of every corner; hot coals cook kabobs on the sidewalks and are carried into the restaurants; hooka/sheesha and tea rooms are at every corner; but by the time Friday morning comes around, everything shuts down and the usually gridlocked streets are emptied of traffic. Everyone stays home. We learned this late and made plans to go out on the streets on Friday afternoon, but next week we'll know better.
Khalifa lecturing us on Afghan politics.
We dressed in our best Afghan attire and left our apartment early in the afternoon, walked about half a mile down the street and caught a taxi on the main street. This was a first for us on this trip as on our work days we have a private driver. Our destination: the world famous CHICKEN STREET in Shar-e-now. The ease with which we caught a cab should have been a hint that this wouldn't be a very productive day. Meet our driver: Khalifa (picture above.) He has been a taxi driver in Kabul since the Prime Minister Dawod Khan was overthrown in the 1970's, followed by the Communist overtake, then the Russian invasion to support the weak Communist government, the subsequent fall of the Communists to the Reagan-backed Mujahideen (if you haven't seen Charlie Wilson's War, please go rent it tonight), through the Taliban, and now the Karzai administration. His final judgement is that there has been no functioning government since Prime Minister Dawod Khan.

Chicken Street was mostly deserted. Half the shops were closed and the usually bustling streets had few people roaming them, except for a few awkwardly placed students from the U.S. and us. The shops were all tourist-oriented with some carrying rare and antique guns and knives from all the provinces. Flower vases and plates frequently exhibited flags of the US and NATO nations along side the Afghan flag.

Tomorrow we visit a busy ICU with new ventilators and the Kabul's largest dedicated women's hospital that is a regional referral center for Obstetrical emergencies. We are hoping for a really enlightening interview with the director, but unfortunately we are not able to upload video due to the really slow internet speeds.

I'm sure we'll have plenty to talk about though.