Mother don’t read this

1 10 2009
Primary School playground that TM have built. The matting is from old car tyres.

Primary School playground that TM have built. The matting is from old car tyres.

Halfway through writing this tonight and a grenade went off across the street. Not close enough to blow out the windows but I knew it couldn’t be anything else.
Earlier in the day there had been a fight outside a senior Minister’s house and two young men came back with a grenade throwing it over the wall into the compound.
Luckily only the Minister’s car was damaged and our guards caught the two attackers as they ran past the front of the fort.
Sorry to those of you who’ve been wondering where my regular posts were, I’ve been away for a few weeks and the new job is turning out to be busy a role.

Kids feet grass and the rubber matting woven by the local rubber workers from old car tyres

Kids feet grass and the rubber matting woven by the local rubber workers from old car tyres

Along with the health clinic and the primary school one of our clearest successes has been the playground attached to the school.
We had a plot left by a destroyed building and this half tennis court sized patch of mud and rubbish has been transformed into a safe space for the children to play.
The seesaw and slide were made by the local blacksmith in the bazaar and the play matting is made from weaving recycled tyres, another local trade. The kids love it and it is used by local kids and pupils alike whenever it is open.
Under pressure from the kids we’ve also gone for grass although it is notoriously difficult to maintain in Kabul.

Afghan of the week my Barber

Afghan of the week my Barber, Fariz Mohammad a Tajik from outside of Kabul

Despite a number of IEDs during my time away until tonight the streets were quieter than when I left a few weeks ago.

By the time I had arrived in Italy the country was coming to terms with loosing six paratroopers in a single explosion. Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi reacted by saying that he would withdraw Italian troops but has not given a timescale so this might not change anything.
Afghan of the Week is now called Afghaniman. This time it is my Barber, Fariz Mohammad who has an enviable boufant style. At the last visit I took the site engineer along to translate their questions which were not what I thought they’d be. When I have a female, perhaps the TM clinic’s Dr Shokria, it will be called Afghaniwoman.

Duncan DJ





Fast work and Afghan of the week

19 07 2009
Bazaar stall. Note the hair oil in Johnny Walker whisky bottles.

Bazaar stall. Note the hair oil in Johnny Walker whisky bottles.

 

There is one defining feature of living and working with Turquoise Mountain, probably true for many ex-pats – I have no keys. Wherever I go and however I get there someone else drives or is there at the door when I arrive. My quest for freedom, a motorbike is the only thing likely to change this. This lack of mobility means that when a driver fails to turn up at the end of the day we are left like fish in a barrel watching Kabul rush hour flow by. 

Last night I was woken by what I thought was a tube train but it must have been an earth tremor. 

A friend’s party on Thursday night was an Afghan dress theme so the site foreman took me around the bazaar to his tailor. How many architects can boast that? I also bought plant pots for my terrace and ordered some drainage pipes while I was there. Murad Khane is on the edge of Kabul’s main Bazaar, yet we walked for 20-30 minutes ’til we got to a quarter-mile of tailors and material shops. Apart from the Shalwar Khemese I wore they can run up any suit or waistcoat you fancy. Photos may follow. Be assured I will be sharpest dressed by Christmas. 

Nural Gar and his masons starting the east foundations

Nural Gar and his masons starting the east foundations

 

I have a dilemma. My barber near the office backs onto another site, the Womans’ Institute and may need to be knocked down depending on local priorities. My problem is that not only do I not want to lose a decent beard/haircut I am unable to explain to him what is likely to happen as my Dari is as inadequate as his English. Avoiding a visit cannot last much longer as I have appearances to maintain. 

Building – Progress on the foundations has gone well in my absence apart from an issue of setting out so we needed to take down a few metres of wall. Lime takes a while to harden so it is fairly easy demolition work. Wanting to capitalise on progress before Ramadan in a month we have added another 5 labourers and also work on Saturdays. I met the manager of Kabul’s only 5 star hotel which is a few blocks from the site. They have taken four years (at around $100,000 of generator diesel a month) to get a mains electricity connection. They paid a sizeable amount for all the work themselves including 2.2km of ducted cable from the nearest sub-station. I am hoping we can benefit from their experience, red-tape and financial outlay. 

Nural Hak also known as Sharkir. Age:32. Tribe: Pashtun although his mother is Tajik. He has two sisters living in Lashagar, Helmand and visits occasionally.

Afghan of the Week - Jewelry School Site Foreman Nural Hak also known as Sharkir (family name). Age:32. Tribe: Pashtun although his mother is Tajik. He has two sisters still living in Lashnagar, Helmand who he visits occasionally.

 

One thing that struck me a few days ago whilst on site was that we really are working in the community. Whether in my office or down on the Jewelry School site people are living in close proximity to our work. There is less chance of complaints about noise from early morning machinery as we don’t use any although the mason has asked for a stone cutter to create some of the window and stair detailing I have drawn. Whereas in Gibraltar it was jet planes disturbing the office environment here it is a new-born baby in the next door courtyard. 

Snacks are an important part of on-site life. I discovered fresh almonds which taste different perhaps better to the dried ones common in the UK. Pistachio milk-fudge (pera) on a Thursday afternoon is also popular. 

I have added a new feature to my blogs called ‘Afghan of the week’. These are people who are part of my life here and I will try to give a small insight into theirs. To start this I have selected Nural Hak, my site foreman who is convinced the head engineer is trying to get him sacked as NH and I are getting on too well. As local politics go this is fairly minor but may cause me trouble as he has a firm grip on the labourers. 

My UK camera phone was zapped by a power surge so is in the morgue however my temperamental camera has decided to work so the blog is now more pictorial. I hope it doesn’t take too long to download. 

Duncan DJ