Picnic in Paghman

Today Samiullah brought me and his cousins to Paghman, an area just west of Kabul. It is the favorite Friday-picnic spot for Kabulis, so we shared the mountain site with about ten thousand fellow citizens.

As we headed west through Kabul we passed through the Kota-e Sangi commercial district, which is dominated by Hazaras. This photo is for Ananya, who questions the mainstreaming of microfinance. Indeed it has become quite institutionalized here!

Beyond Kota-e Sangi, at the edge of KhushhalKhan Mena (an upscale neighborhood), is the first refugee camp I have seen since being back in Kabul. These folks have been urban refugees going on five years now–which, contrary to the American sense, means they have fled into the city as a safe haven.

Paghman is famous as a place where the Afghans gave the Soviets a very hard time. The scenery is very reminiscent of alpine valleys on the east side of the Sierra such as Big Pine creek; but among the trees nearly all the buildings are ruins. They make great picnic spots. This boy asked for money; he carries a steel pot with coals and incense in it (span-dudi). Sami gave him some in exchange for lighting a cigarette; I gave him some for taking this photo. Remarkably handsome fellow, but his circumstances aren’t too good.

Heading back from Paghman…

Do you remember those little orange UNICEF boxes we used to bring around during Halloween in the 1970s? Well, the UN Children’s Education Fund is still around, making perhaps the best investment in humanity there is. This is a regional school for Paghman. As I understand it, donations are down, including formal U.S. funding commitments to the UN. In the long run, the Afghan state should provide all the primary education in the country (as neighboring Pakistan is failing to do). But for now, the only low-cost alternative here–as in underfunded California–is parochial schools. In local parlance that translates to madrasa-e dini.

Little orange boxes, anyone?

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