We had our last holiday (and, therefore, extra day off) for while I'm in Afghanistan - Prophet's Day. Or, as a colleague wrote in an email, Profit's Day. So, I got yet another two day weekend last weekend. I way needed it. Way. But for the rest of my time here, no more holidays - just six day work weeks. Except for a big leave in May, inshallah.
Unfortunately, the way I've structured my leave and the way work is going, I may have to give up a six-day R & R that I'm entitled to. I was pretty upset when I figured that out. I get them every 42 days, and they don't accumulate - you get more only when you use up what you have. And you get more only after 42 days. I should have three while I was here. If I don't figure something out quick, i'll just have two.
So, I've been in Kabul, and at work, for more than a month. More than four weeks. It feels twice as long. Which scares me - how am I going to get through August?!
What I also really want is to GET PAID. No, I still have no been paid. Ah, the UN...
I usually sit with the Africans at supper - of all the people here, they are, by far, the friendliest, and the people that make me feel most at home, at ease. One of them bought frozen beef sausages for breakfast one Friday and had the cook whip them up - and we FEASTED. I started saying, "Oh, and now biscuits, and gravy, and fried eggs, and..." They all laughed, especially one guy whose daughter lives in Tennessee - we love trading stories about the South. Another, Yesimi, is from Kenya. She's retired, but came out of retirement for this census job with UNFPA. She is just about the sweetest woman you could never know. She's the definition of "gentle soul." How gentle? She couldn't watch "Coal Miner's Daughter" because it was too violent. Yes, that one quickie murder at the opening - it was just too much for her. I loaned her "Pride and Prejudice," the long mini-series that was on back in the 1990s. The one with Colin Firth. And that wet t-shirt. Sigh. I mean, really, could I come to Afghanistan without it?! Anyway, one night at dinner, she said (please imagine this with a wonderful African accent), "Oh, I looooved 'Pride and Prejudice.' I loved Mr. Darcy and I loved the matha." The next night, she came to my room for more movie loans, and we spent the next 30 minutes rehashing the entire mini series. I'll have to bring her "Sense and Sensibility" after I'm home next time (yes, Betsy, that's right, I didn't bring it, and you are now in shock; I limited myself to just one Jane Austin movie; I figured P & P would be for part one of my assignment, and S & S would be for part two).
Hey, what other person do you know that would bring Pride and Prejudice AND Silverado to Afghanistan? I'm so eclectic... or weird...
I don't *always* sit with the same people at supper, because I like to meet new people. True, this can lead to ridiculous conversations with very strange people (the German woman who refuses to wear the head scarf now claims that Afghanistan has plenty of money and she doesn't know why we're here; and the Dutch chess-obsessed dude loves talking about chess champions he's met and providing me uncomfortable details about their lifestyle and emotional state). But it also lead to a kindly old Pakistani man explaining cricket to me. And meeting a group of free lance photographers. The other night, I noticed this young girl who is here with a conference once again sitting by herself. The conference is all men - all boisterous, loud men who never speak with anyone but each other - and her. And she always sits by herself. So I sat with her. She's from Herat, she's 25, she's a computer program, she CANNOT believe I'm 41, she CANNOT believe Stefan and I don't have children, and she dreams of going to the USA. She told me "USA people - always very nice. Always friendly." And that made me happy. You know, I hear that quite a lot here from people here in Afghanistan. And when I tell them I live in Germany, they usually say, "Germans. Very smart. Very clean."
On Friday, I went for a walk down the street here! Okay, actually, I just went half a block and across the street to a really nice restaurant called Sufi. The hotel manager walked me down the street (which is actually more of a crater-filled wall-lined wide dirt path) and said it was awful that a woman can't just walk down the street in Kabul because everyone will stare at her. He volunteered that sentiment, and I appreciated it. He's a short guy who tries to please me - the woman who is a terror when the Internet is not working.
The Sufi restaurant is lovely - wish I could take you all there. Ofcourse, from the outside, it doesn't look like anything: you walk up to a guard house, complete with a guard holding a large scary gun, and a large metal wall with a door cut out of it, the door is opened by a friendly local, you walk through what used to be a garage and then out into a lovely courtyard, and then there is the restaurant, which is absolutely charming. I went with Sonia and a UNV named Charles from Uganda. We talked about our dream farms/ranches. Then it was off to Kabul Coffee House (not sure how Sonia always manages to get a UN SUV to take us around) for refreshments in the courtyard. Then they dropped me back home, and I spent the rest of the day cleaning out my web mail box (I was almost at my limit), watching some clips from the Daily Show (for some reason, the Internet was working well enough for me to do so; first time ever), downloading some music from emusic.com, and then watching "Fried Green Tomatoes."
For Saturday, Prophet's Day, I slept late (until 7:30!!), worked out, and then worked on a consultancy job I never should have agreed to before I left - because the awful Internet connections have made it almost impossible to do. But I needed the money... being an unemployed grad student for two years who spent most of her savings on a Master's...
The other night, I heard French alt.country on my satellite radio & TV receiver here in my room. I am not kidding. There is nothing else you could call it but French alt.country. It had the beat, it had the steal guitar, it had the twang. A while back, I even heard the French version of "Country Road, Take Me Home;" whereas the German version is done in techno style, the French version actually tried to still sound country/folksie. And the other day, as three of us from work were driving to lunch, a Hindi country song came on. I kid you not. Everyone agreed that's what it sounded like. The driver had no idea why we were almost falling out of the SUV laughing.
There's about 16 radio stations out 333 on my satellite feed that I listen to (the Internet and this computer are usually too unreliable to try to listen to online radio), and the one I listen to most is a French station - "Nostalgie." They play everything from Elvis to Ella Fitzgerald to French singers I've never heard of to French alt.country music. It's the best mix of all the 16 stations that play half way decent music, and there's something about it that puts me in a good mood. It's comfort food. It's Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, without the calories.
My other big observation is that French 24 and Al Jazeera have absconded with SO many reporters from BBC World and CNN International! Every time I turn one of them on, there's some reporter or weather person from one of the other two channels. It always freaks me out - seeing someone where I'm not expecting them.
By the way: I miss Kofi Annan...
I continue to listen to old radio shows (thanks again, Jerry!). Mom is going to be disappointed to hear this, but so far, I've liked the Haunting Hour better than Inner Sanctum. HH scared me so bad one night that I almost got out of bed and turned the lights on. There's one Green Hornet as well, which I listened to - I had no idea it was so right wing! ("Kato, we must expose this professional agitator before he twists people's minds and they join this misguided union movement!"). I laughed out loud several times when I wasn't supposed to.
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