Saturday, May 10, 2008

First days in Kabul


Over Kabul

Finally here, just arrived two days ago. Stepping off the plane, I felt the cool air of being over a mile high in elevation. (compared to hot Dubai) I arrived just in time for the afternoon dust storm, which I understand is normal for this time of year. Cool winds blow down from the snowy mountains kicking up dust along the way. The city is greener than I thought; a number of streets are lined with trees with fresh bright spring leaves. Some reason I envisioned this place to be completely treeless. At the airport I was met by one of our staff that got me to bypass the normal immigration procedures, (bypassing the lines at passport control, and I didn't even have to fill out the normal immigration/customs forms, he just showed his government badge and I was able to cut in front of everybody (including the other expats that were on my plane) - nice!

Kabul Airport


The compound from my roof

The compound is a whole neighborhood cut off from the normal population. Armed guards block each of the streets that lead into the area. We share the area with the Japanese Embassy, the British Embassy is just across the main road. I haven't found where the American Embassy is yet, though I hear it is near. There are five buildings in the compound, three of which are guesthouses. There are full meals cooked by the staff. you can pick whatever you want, from steaks to (pork) bacon and eggs to fresh salads. Gyms are in each of the guesthouses, though mine is still being set up, since it was just converted from an office to residence. My room is great, large windows on two adjacent walls. The only thing is you have to get use to the diesel generators running 24/7. There is a power grid, but it's only on for 2 to 3 hours a day, on a good day. From my window and balcony, I can see the mountains, though since there was a dust storm, it was only visible at dusk.

My room

Kabul Heights

It's a small world
At dinner, where a lot of the expat staff got together, I met a girl from Fremont, California. Northern Californians unite. A

Friday is the off day
On Friday I went to meet up with a friend of friend of mine from Banda Aceh, another fellow Californian (he's from the Central Coast). I met him at a place called L'Atmosphere, an indoor/outdoor French restaurant set in a peaceful garden complete with swimming pool. From the street, you would have never thought something like this existed on the other side of the high wall. And to get in, you pass one armed guard where he knocks on a steel door, a small peek hole opens, then the door opens. I walk slowly into a small room with another armed guard. The door closes behind me, then this guard knocks on the next steel door and the whole routine repeats itself two more times before I find myself in a park-like garden. A full bar sits at the far end, tables are scattered inside and outside on the grassy lawn complete with wine glasses and china. People are drinking cocktails, wine and beer. I had a witbier (Belgium wheat beer)

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