And it would make me homesick if I lived in Afghanistan too.

Oh diaspora Afghans. Especially the German Afghans. This is both so diaspora and so Afghan.

Afghan = Groups of Afghan men calling each other up just so they can laugh and sing.

Diaspora = Instead of meeting up at someone’s house, they meet up in a shiny restaurant in their European clothes.

You watch this video while I go do the attan in my little living room. And no, I have no idea what they’re saying.

2 jeribs = 1 acre.

I had a conversation with some mid-ranking Afghan government workers from various ministries and one of them ruthlessly interrogated me on my father’s profession, my lack of a wife, why I did not marry my ex-girlfriend (yay!), if I was Catholic or Protestant, what the differences between Catholics and Protestants are, and how much land and livestock my family owned. It went like this, halfway into the conversation:

Me: My family has a house in a small town. But I do not live there, I only visit sometimes.

Interrogator: How much land does your family own?

Me (not sensing the significance of this question): 20 acres.

Interrogator: How much is an acre?

MRRD guy: 2 jeribs.

Interrogator: Do you have animals?

Me (not sensing the significance of this question): Three horses and 20 cows that belong to our neighbor graze on the land.

Interrogator: You do not have any animals?

Me: No, not anymore. It’s too difficult without any children living at home.

Interrogator: Yes, that is true.

At this point I was rescued from the interrogation by a tailored suit-wearing Western educated guy from one of those ministries where everyone seems to have visited Dubai recently. He was highly amused with the conversation and the questions directed by his comparatively “rustic” counterpart. The gist of the whole incident was that, out of a group of ten, one guy had, in his mind, ranked me socially based on my family’s land and livestock ownership. Or maybe he was just politely making conversation.

This is a rather interesting museum exhibit: “Australia’s Muslim cameleers: Pioneers of the inland, 1860s-1930s” (link). Some were Afghan, some were from British India (Pashtuns? Others?). Here is an immigration document for one of them from Peshawar:

The story of these cameleers and their role in “opening up” the inland areas of Australia can be read here.

Here is photo of one of the cameleers in 1896 (source):

And here is one of his grandson today, William Bejah, showing his grandfathers compass:

At the suggestion of Q. A. Shah I took a look at an article about Australian skateboarders teaching Afghan kids to skate. You can read the article here.

kabul skateboarding

The groups organizing this is Skateistan. Check them out at

Afhgan skater kid

And finally, you can check them out on video as well.

Here’s a trailer for a new movie about the son of a gunsmith in the Northwest Frontier Province.

The director said that the young boy who starred in the movie quickly went from respectful young boy to disrespectful egomaniac during the filming of the movie.

“You’ll never work in this town again!”

Safrang thinks swimming in Lake Qargha is serious business? I say he is over exaggerating. Afghanistan is a veritable swimmers’ paradise. Why, just look at this photo of swimmers in the pristine Kabul River:

Kabul river

This photo, taken by Bill Podlich, was not taken in 1967. Honestly.

Just give me a minute to find another pic of the crystal clear healing waters of the Kabul River. Um….OK…here! Just look at Tamer Ali’s photo:

Kabul river bad

Uh, whoops. Wrong picture.

This spring, i visited Badaxan (Badakhshan), in northeastern Afghanistan. Even in Afghanistan the province stands out for its uniquely harsh terrain and remoteness. Badaxan has traditionally been one of the most under-developed provinces of the country, and remains somewhat the same even now (the province has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.)

There are districts of Badaxan that are off limits to all motorized vehicles, and during the ‘open’ seasons it takes upwards of a week to reach from the province center -often involving long treks on horseback. For much of the rest of the year, these parts are closed off from the rest of the world.

I took this picture in Argu, a district close to the provincial capital of Faizabad. The boys of the village had gathered around to take a good look at the team of visitors. This boy had an intense gaze and sense of purpose about him.

From Afghanistan with love,

Somebody with a blog named Swedish Meatballs Confidential has linked to me and demanded I participate in some sort of meme (really a ruse to ascertain my true identity). As part of this meme I must reveal 7 things about myself and provide a picture of martial (not marital) discord. And no, I haven’t linked back to Swedish Meatball Confidential since the site combines politics and information analysis with “tasteful” nudity (or not so tasteful). It really depends on your perspective. So I’ll leave it to you to google that blog if you like.

So here are seven things:

1. I look at my keyboard when I type. but i still make a lot of mistkaes.

2. I am disappointed that those Russian Village Prose writers turned out to be sort of fascist. I’m looking at you, Valentin Rasputin.

3. I was attacked by a giant crab in Baja California when I was a little kid. I got sympathy from my mom even though she knew that I had probably provoked it. I did. Crabs have really strong claws.

4. I used to drink too much coffee. But the price of coffee at my current location has forced me to cut back.

5. I love sturgeon fishing (catch and release). So I refuse to eat caviar.

6. I was given a C- in one of my undergrad classes. My teacher was evil.

7. Growing up I had a gun (a .22 rifle). But I never shot anything animate (except for a few trees).

Photo of martial discord? Here’s a photo of a vicious Afghan insurgent attacking an American:

Dog Afghanistan

I’m supposed to pass on this meme. However, I already have passed on memes twice before and have used up all the blogs I read. So this branch of the meme dies here.

Lake Qargha to the immediate west of Kabul is a veritable cesspool of all things ‎imaginable -a little like the primordial soup. ‎

Of the non-living variety, the bottom of the lake is awash with pointed rocks, wires, ‎deflated soccer balls, discarded plastic bottle, broken glass bottles with unforgiving sharp ‎edges, silverware and other kitchen/household needs, artificial flowers, items of clothing ‎and footwear, various forms of ordnance and ammunition, dumped vehicles and ‎television sets, assorted printed material, electronics, and the occasional valuable such as ‎watches and jewelry along with many secrets. ‎

Of the living varieties, there is an abundance of organisms thriving on the rich nutrients ‎of the lake’s water which also lends it an overall greenish look. When you wade into the ‎water, the rocks, already round and smooth in texture, are rendered even more slippery by ‎algae growth and plant life, making it hard for one to stand on them. There is sure to be ‎some fish and amphibian life in the depths of the lake away from the shallows, and ‎perhaps the occasional aquatic serpent. Brown crabs of a particularly hostile variety are ‎rumored to roam the lake.‎

And then there are the other non-living but still organic residues that are dissolved in the ‎lake’s water and make up an integral part of its biodiversity. These are the decomposing ‎or long-decomposed bodies of drowned swimmers (of which there have been many, what ‎with the absence of life-guards and rescue facilities and the nonchalant attitude of the ‎visitors- although all unfortunate incidents are invariably attributed to the supernatural ‎and mystic qualities of the lake), dogs, birds, tree-trunks, watermelon peels, spongy Naan ‎bread, urea, and assorted bodily fluids. ‎

The lake is one of Kabul’s few weekend getaways, and certainly its most accessible and ‎closest. This proximity and the scarcity of other nearby picnic areas, plus the fact that the ‎population of the capital has been bulging cancerously for the past several years only ‎adds to the color, texture, and the molecular diversity and richness of the lake.‎

The lake may have the unique and dubious distinction of being the only freshwater lake ‎in the world that contains all things except fresh water. As such, there is a possibility that ‎the life forms and the ecosystem supported by the lake are neither of the marine nor the ‎freshwater typologies, but altogether new and perhaps as yet undiscovered. ‎

In point of fact, if the lake is to be stripped of all its living inhabitants and made into an ‎entirely self-contained closed system, given enough time on an evolutionary scale, it ‎could witness the return of life through the many possible combinations and re-‎combinations of its ingredient molecules, thereby giving rise to the first nucleic acids and ‎thereafter self-replicating chromosomes and mono-cellular organisms. ‎

As such, the lake has an important -albeit unacknowledged- future role to play in the ‎event of a catastrophic collapse of all life-forms on earth as a spawning ground for ‎organic life and a return of the human and other species and the very continuation of ‎earth as a living planet. Because of this, here is a proposal to sanctify the lake Qargha as a ‎mother-ship, a launching-pad, a regrouping ground for future life, including human life, ‎in an ever approaching post-apocalyptic world. This massive and organically rich petri-‎dish should be given the due attention and respect it deserves, and it should be opened up ‎to the world that will one day owe its life on this planet to the lake. ‎

I am planning to discuss this proposal with the current operators of the lake lest they get ‎any crazy ideas about ‘cleaning’ it up without realizing its existential significance. In fact, ‎once it is opened up to the world, a sanctifying ritual dip by visitors of all races, colors, ‎and creeds should be made mandatory so as to add to the richness of its contents. Further, ‎my plan proposes sealing off the small stream that lets out a couple of cubic feet of its ‎water now, thereby letting valuable ingredients go to waste.‎

I took my own purifying dip in the lake this past Thursday. Although I jumped in and ‎swam the lake on a dare -which at the time I thought of as a rather stupid thing to do- in ‎retrospect, I am glad it happened. How else would I have realized the vast richness of the ‎lake and its potential promise of life preservation on our green little planet? In fact, in the ‎larger scheme of things at stake above, even the pain in my ears and the burning ‎sensation in my eyes do not bother me anymore.‎


Afghan goats

Are goats really that bad? Growing up I hated goats. They were ornery and environmentally destructive (to fruit tree bark and other vegetation). One neighborhood billy goat butted me and left a huge bruise on my side. One of my sister’s goats actually murdered one of my other sister’s goats (haven’t we had enough goat-on-goat violence?). Chickens, cattle and sheep; they’re alright.

But then at some age it was explained to me why goats are so important to people in other parts of the world who are not just keeping them for cheese-making: goats can eat anything and survive in very marginal grazing environments. You have a dry rocky hillside in Afghanistan? Graze your goats there on the sticks, twigs and tufts of random plant life and they will provide you with milk, meat, leather and hides.

That’s all well and good. But you really need to be wary of over-grazing and erosion (but most Afghans don’t have that luxury).

Photo of Afghan shepherd girl by Craig Mullaney: