Afghanistan: Land of seasonal but serious snow

I am an American environmental engineer on a short-term technical assistance assignment in Afghanistan. I am writing about my personal experiences which do not represent the views of any government, agency, organization, or others. I specialize in environmental, sanitation, solid and hazardous waste, international development, water resources, water supply, water and wastewater treatment, and related areas. I thought my blog might interest your readers. I have been sending out such comments for ten years to 100 to 200 pals. They have been encouraging me to post on a formal site, and I selected yours. I found your site through reading Persian poety, in English, online this evening.

Week One

Lost a week to inter-company paperwork between Boston and Vermont. Then three days to foul East Coast extreme winter weather. Couldn’t get online check-in because United Airlines insisted on a paper ticket for SAFI DXB-KAB leg; SAFI does not issue paper tickets. Finally, cursed by a hydraulic leak in UA IAD-DXB flight. Luckily, UA had a back-up plane. Internet in my Meridian/Dubai suite, not accessible; had to wait for the Business Center to open at 5:30 a.m. to alert KAB security that I am indeed enroute. The Meridian suite was lovely with its comfy King Bed with King pillows and generous in-room espresso maker. Of course, the hotel is run by Filippinas and Kenyans with Sri Lankan support, and British courtesy so nicely adapted in the Gulf States.

On SAFI DXB-KAB flight, ask for tomato juice, get orange drink… Delicious meat medallions meal on the flight; likely last for several days or weeks. I found that in working several countries, the best meals are on international airplanes. Ugh.

Good thing I listened to my points-of-contract about Kabul weather. At or below freezing as daily highs. I brought my REI zip-in warm jacket and silk and polypropylene warmies. Always listen to those POCs, especially if you can’t get a meteorologist. My University of Arizona meteorology professor, Louis Battan, would say, “Meteorologist, a man who can look into a woman’s eyes and tell whether.”

Flying in from Dubai to Kabul at 35,000 ft and 500 mph, the 150-minute flight, looking down at mountainous pillows of white and fluffy snow, imagining the lines that make up the cirques and arêtes, U-shape hanging valleys, isolated glacial lakes; wondering if megawatersheds are real. Makes you think of snow harvesting for water supplies. Quite lovely and bulbous. The plane is packed with contractors, humanitarians, US government officials, few Afghans.

The AFG government wants contracted security gone in two years, now requiring weapons and armored-vehicle permits, but won’t issue them, a license to be undocumented, illegal, forged, or pay the bribes demanded by the local police. Sixty armored-vehicles have been confiscated. Five are stuck in customs for the past five months from my security contractor.

My KAB guest house is delightful, bright youngsters and crustier experienced oldersters. I love the cap I saw on the plane; it read “Drink Liberally.” I am thinking, “Drink Liberally, Vote Conservatively.” I have a large room with amenities; hope the heaters work the room and the head.

One afternoon after working with my translators, I was able to buy a few slabs of packaged Hershey’s chocolates for my guests, but when I opened the wrappers, I found the chocolates had been dried-out and turned to a dry white-brown powder. Ugh. My Persian translator who was working up my presentation in Pashto and Dari identified several English words he didn’t know – aphid, tier, pest, bug, mitigate, acute, chronic, remedy, critical, miscellaneous, toxicity, ingredient, adulterated, cropping pattern, intercropping, integrated…

I have been a social butterfly in Kabul – dinner and tea visits to my guest house from a solar heating and silk-worm importer entrepreneur, a director of an orchard-planting NGO, a geotechnical engineering advisor to Kabul University, plus invited dinner out with a Russian geologist who serves as an environmental manager to a large road construction program.

Say, now in one of the three western district towns to put on my three-day pest management training to 35 training-of-trainers, who don’t speak, read or write English or have Internet access. From here, I have two more such trainings to give in two more towns; oh, one town will be blessed by three sessions. Quarters are tight; my laptop access is in a small room with nearly a dozen Afghans and a US expat, all seeming talking at once and copiously taking notes. My translator is running four days late and hopes, Inshallah, to catch it all up today. Right!

The Afghan agricultural experts that I have been interacting with are seriously challenged. We are sooooo lucky to have had so much blessed peace and security, land-grand colleges, agribusiness research, etc., in the land of the free and home of the brave. Ugh, I lost internet email contact with my homebase client; I think their IT guy set me up for a month only… now the challenge to recover. Ugh.

The food line here makes meals-ready-to-eat look desirable, but the UK security guys have their alternatives, which I have found, been invited to partake, very nice. Odd to wear 50 pounds of body amour to line up at the chow line, keeping it close to my bed, which is the lower half of a bunk bed in a very small, second floor closet overlooking a too popular, too accessible street with a three-meter wall. The current activities just a few kilometers to our east are sure to increase some unwanted excitement herein, where we are just a few kilometers east of the Iranian border… Rumor is that the Iranians are supporting the insurgents here, who they would rather not, to irritate the US administration over Iranian nuclear ambition. Not my job.

Oh, per jobs, a mining company in Sweden contracted for an assignment in Europe. A client of mine just paid three invoices – Yahoo! And that client would like me in Jalalabad for two weeks from today, which I am trying to postponed to late April. I offered to meet their requirements via Skype, afterhours, but they didn’t go for it. Go figure.

Say Happy Belated Valentine’s Day, Happy Chinese New Year of the Tiger, and Happy Afghanistan National Holiday to Commemorate Defeating the USSR.

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