Kabul, 5 March 2013
First, my apologies for the long delay between letters. Thank you to those who have written to see if I’m still here! I am, but have been so busy doing things that I’ve just not had time to write. I’m hoping to remedy this over the next week or so, so you can expect the next few letters to come at a slightly quicker pace.
The big news is that we’re now in the house! It is a bit of a visual nightmare, lots of pastel colours and such, and we must be the only house where the directions are: fourth door down on the left, Lane 2, the green gate with pink flowers.
This is a general shot of the house, with our TCAP team proudly displayed!
Of course, getting here was half the fun. We were supposed to be moving out of the hotel on a Friday morning, and dutifully brought our bags down to reception. Suddenly our Field Manager came dashing into the lobby, without her suitcases.
“Do you need a hand with your bags?” I asked.
“No, I have to go to the airport! Anil is in Parking Lot C and there’s nobody there to meet him!”
“Of course there’s not, he’s not due until tomorrow!”
“But he’s here! I’ll take the car, you take a taxi to the house. See you there!”
And off she ran.
Noorin and I looked at each other, and at our pile of suitcases.
As she called the taxi company (there is one here that is recommended and bonded, and we are advised to always call them, rather than hail some random black and yellow Corolla on the street) my phone rang. It was Javid, who works for the Canadian Project Support Office and used to be our driver when we had the office there.
“Dr. Tim, there’s a foreigner at the airport!”
“Yes Javid, there’s probably a few of them, the plane just arrived.”
“No Dr. Tim, this one is yours! He called me and there is nobody there. Shall I go?”
I assured him that someone was already on the way, and Noorin said the taxis had arrived, so we went out through the security channel. There are four double steel doors, each with a guard, and you have to wait while he opens one side then radios to the guy on the other side to open the second door. Once you’re out to the actual entry there is the metal detector, a sandbagged door, and another couple of guards. Dragging our suitcases out in to the street, we got in to the taxis.
Noorin’s pulled away, and my driver looked over his shoulder at me.
I had no idea.
“Follow that cab!” I said, pointing. I’ve always wanted to say that.
So we did.
When we got here we settled in, finding our rooms and dropping our bags. The ground floor contains our project offices, the second floor has four bedrooms (two en-suite) for visiting technical advisors, and the top floor has a small apartment suite for our Field Manager. It’s all a bit glitzy, with chandeliers and things, not the sort of place I’d build for myself!
Noorin and I picked the two bedrooms with en-suite facilities, we figured (a) we here first and (b) we were staying the longest. In my room, in addition to the bukerie, I found an electric heater, and soon the place was nice and cosy.
Suzie arrived from the airport, with Anil in tow, and we all sat down for a welcome cup of tea. Chai sabz, of course – the famous green tea of Afghanistan.
After we’d had our tea we went shopping, buying some basics. We eventually hired a cook, who makes lunch for the team and leaves a cooked dinner for those of us staying in the house, but at first it was a bit like being a student again. We quickly got it sorted out, and the bed-sit arguments of “who ate my cheese from the fridge?” never materialized.
When we arrived the garden looked nice and big, and there were hints of green grass visible through the dust of the lawn. Of course there were a few glitches to sort out. The door on one of the cupboards fell off when I opened it to look for a cup, and the bukerie filled my room with dense charcoal smoke on the first night. There’s razor wire along the top of the walls, and security bars on the windows, and we have two guards who stay in a little shed near the gate.
It had been dry but cold for the past few days, and the next morning I woke up to find that Kabul had been blanketed in snow. I went out on to the balcony, and took a couple of photographs. Anil made himself useful in our little kitchen, cooking up a dish of scrambled eggs, and the guards came out of their shed to pose in the snow.
It was good to have our own place.