I’ve been in Kabul for two and a half days now, and the jet lag is still running high. It seems that wherever I travel, and for how long, it’s always 0330 when I wake up. I try to go back to sleep, but usually have to get up, have a cup of tea and read a book, or just sit quietly and think. After an hour I return to my bed, and sleep another couple of hours before getting up to start the day.
This is the coldest winter in Kabul for the past four years. There is snow everywhere, turning to ice underfoot and under the pounding of traffic. My observation is that in Kabul they use the Calgary style of snow-clearing. As those from the west know, this consists of clearing major roads and leaving the rest of the city to wait until the next Chinook wind blows in, bringing warm temperatures which melt the snow. In Kabul they also leave the snow to melt, but unfortunately the only Chinooks around here belong to the US air force and the warm winds won’t come until March! The roads are pretty icy and nobody has winter tires, so it becomes an interesting drive to work.
It was a long flight to get here, via London and Istanbul, with an unexpected detour to Lahore. The airport was closed on Monday when we arrived, the heavy snow of the previous day not yet cleared, and so we continued over the Hindu Kush. At Lahore they wouldn’t let us off the plane, although we were allowed to walk around the cabin while we were parked on the ground. I have never been to Pakistan before, but I don’t know if I can reasonably count an hour on the runway as a visit to that country.
Once in Kabul we were too late to do much other than to check in to our guest house. This is a long low building, two stories, with good sized rooms. The first night was freezing cold, even with the two space heaters going full blast, and I needed to go to bed fully clothed. Since then the heaters haven’t been off, and the room has slowly warmed up. There is a restaurant, although sadly the menu caters to internationals and there is not much Afghan food. I am not too sure about prowns, or the tunna casserole, it’s not so much the spelling as the fact that this is a land-locked country far from the ocean. I am slowly working my way through the 15 varieties of checken and so far have found this quite palatable.
Work has commenced. We have had the mandatory security briefings, and had our ID cards stamped at the Foreigner Registration Office. We spent a good part of the day with our colleagues at the Teacher Education Directorate, reviewing our work from the fall and discussing where we go from here.
Today we spent an hour at the Bank unsuccessfully trying to get some changes made to the account signatures. The manager was aghast that we didn’t have a letter from the previous signatory accepting that he was no longer a signatory and introducing a new person to be the signatory instead. This letter then had to be counter-signed by another director. As one of those signatories is currently in Peru, and the other in Ghana, getting the letter in good time is going to be an interesting challenge.
Tomorrow we are visiting the CIDA office at the Canadian Embassy, to brief them on the project and pay a courtesy call to the Head of Mission. Mr MacKinnon is originally from PEI, so no doubt will be wanting all the gossip from the New Year levees! We will then return to our own office, in the house operated by the Canadian Program Support Unit, and prepare our materials for next week.