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:


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.


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:

Not that I will make a habit of mocking myself, but it just have to share this exchange between myself and “sarcastic man.” It was discovered that I actually attend a single class at Uni (outside of research) for language learnin’ and I mentioned some of the people that are in the class:

Me: “And then there is actually an Afghan girl in my class who grew up here speaking only English.

Him: “I might know her. What’s her name?”

Me: “I don’t know. I didn’t catch her name on the first day.”

Him: “What does she look like?”

Me: “Uh… black hair and… pretty… and uh…”

Him: “Oh! Black hair and pretty? Yeah, that’s so rare for an Afghan girl. You’ve really narrowed it down.”

I used the occasion to claim that there are some Afghan brunettes in existence (and even a rare blond). I convinced none present of this. But here I submit evidence for the defense:


And yes, she is from Afghanistan.

Run! Run for your lives! Run گاوماده, ruuuun! It’s Operation Beef Jerky!

I’ve herded cattle before, but never with a helicopter. I prefer on foot actually, because horses hate me and I have general feelings of disdain for an animal that probably doesn’t earn its keep. The closest I got to helicopter-herding was using a motorbike once. Somebody gave me a little 80cc bike and an electric cattle prod to move 60 head a few miles. I never used the cattle prod once. I’m a humanitarian, as you can see in this photo:

Say no to heli-cow-herding!

OK, some serious information: the photo at top is not photoshopped. It was taken in Nuristan and was part of a US Army press release (pdf):

Flying through the clouds soldiers from the Afghan National Army and Task Force Saber air-assaulted onto landing zone Shetland July 19 during Operation Saray Has. The landing zone is located in a large meadow near the top of a mountain in Nuristan. Local Afghans use the area as a grazing pasture for livestock, while Taliban insurgents often use it to stage attacks against Task Force Saber.

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