It’s the really bad news about Afghanistan: the restriction on our movements due to security issues.
In my first Stateside conversation with the University, I asked whether there would be a problem communicating when I was mingling with the locals, , since I don't speak Dari. (I still can’t believe I used the word ‘mingling.’) Anyway, she said ‘there is no mingling.’ I laughed, of course, but she was absolutely right…there is no mingling!
We live in a secure guesthouse, with armed guards at the gate. Scheduled transport, with a driver and escort, comes every day to pick us up for school and delivers us back to the guesthouse when the workday ends.
By the way, when we leave the guesthouse grounds, we put on our head scarves and leave them on the whole time we are outside – removing them only once we get inside the University grounds.
Grocery shopping is done every Friday morning and nearly all the internationals at school are seen at one or more of the approved stores. When the van pulls up to the curb, the escort gets out and walks us into the store. When we’re done, he escorts us back to the van.
If we want to go anywhere else, we have to arrange transport ahead of time and it has to be approved. I wanted to visit Qargha Lake outside Kabul today (Thursday the 10th). Ordinarily this is a trip we would be able to make. However, yesterday (9/9/09) was the anniversary of Massoud’s death. He is a controversial figure here – not the universally acclaimed hero that I had thought. Also Friday, of course, is September 11th. More people will be out and about, there may be demonstrations, security measures are increased and our movements are subsequently restricted even more than usual. I was told a trip to the lake would involve an armed convoy and would not be allowed.
The lab assistant and I will have to make a trip soon to buy equipment for next semester’s chemistry labs. She is from Pakistan and we will be taking her husband (also from Pakistan) with us. I have been told to be inconspicuous – I think that translates into ‘keeping my mouth shut!’ If it is obvious that a foreigner is present, it may be that someone will call their local Taliban buddy and someone may come along and cause some trouble. And that translates into ‘kidnapping.’ Kidnapping is the concern here, not murder, and the risk is high.
You can read about the recent suicide bombing outside the airport and the rocket attack on a district in Kabul. I can’t dwell on that; none of us do.
I’m not scared; I follow the rules.
Not being able to walk around at will is a pain in the ass. So far, it’s the only really bad thing about being in Afghanistan. I can handle not being able to watch episodes of 'The Closer' or buy Cheezits.