Settling in

1 May 2007 / 11 Saur 1386

In the two weeks since I last posted, I have designed the urban policy course that I will be teaching; I have met and coordinated with a Kansas State University team which is helping the Engineering Faculty for the long term; I have an intriguing project for my students to work on; and I have more or less adapted to the environment. Too much has happened for me to give even a decent summary. So I will just describe bits and pieces.

A walk in Deh Mazang

I’m happy to work on upgrading the infrastructure here so long as they keep these amazing hillside neighborhoods! A car-free zone with quite a view.

Babur’s Revenge

Since Mexico City is famed for a gut-ailment, I will nickname the endemic respiratory problems around here after Kabul’s famous ruler. When I first worked in Kabul in 2003, I returned with a sort of hoarse, Telly Savalas voice from dust-irritation. In June 2006 I contracted pneumonia. This time I am back earlier in the year, but the dust season has already begun. Afghans have a term for this seasonal weather: khak bad. It translates literally as ‘dust wind.’ This time there is an added bonus: traffic has greatly increased in Kabul, and most of it is unmitigated diesel. So along with the heavy load of particles we are actually evolved to cope with, there’s those nasty microparticles making us all hack a bit. I hope I don’t crack a rib coughing.

Thank Nixon for signing the Clean Air Act, and Bush Sr. for renewing it. Shame on Reagan and Dubya for crippling it. You just don’t know what you have until you live in a city with an atmosphere unpleasantly close to Mars.

Looking south over District 7

Fantastically scenic, but that haze is not benign.

Playing in the mud

I finally got tired of the mud pool at the end of our street. So I borrowed a shovel from Abdel Hamid to do a little improvised surface-drainage. I am proud of my little bit of infrastructure-assistance. At least I know I will have done something useful here.

the local jui

I just dug out the black mud you see on top. My, what an amazing new smell I’ve discovered!

This may have been stupid to do; I think I could get hepatitis from digging out drainage ditches here. But I was rewarded in several ways. First of all, the exertion cleared my lungs. Secondly, I noticed the next day someone else had done more water-diversion to help the road drain further. Thirdly, I was outside when a storm was coming in; just after I took the picture above, I took the one below:

barash miaya!

I am not sure what the odds are of getting a handheld photo of a lightning-strike, but I was pretty pleased. Of course, a few minutes later I had to retreat into the house as the wind began to move the dust in a big way:

City of Dust

Mmm…so thick, you can taste it.

Then the rain came, and I was processing photos a half-hour later when the afternoon sun came out brilliantly. I thought: rainbow. So I went upstairs and shot this:

Double rainbow over sky mountain

I was too close, without a wide-angle lens, to photograph the whole rainbow, but it was a full double.

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