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

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Grenades and rockets – what more do you want?

10 08 2009
One of the rubbish-strewn Murad Khane streets so far untouched by TM

An example of the streets yet to be cleared of rubbish

During work last week we uncovered a live grenade that had fallen from a wall we are restoring. I noticed it whilst climbing a ladder and once we agreed it probably was a grenade, then started to clear everyone away so that we could secure the area. By the time I realised what the mason was up to he had already missed it with one rock and was picking up a second. After a few direct hits without explosion he walked up to it, his curses turning to to humour as he spotted his error, it had no fuse. Once we’d all had a laugh at how an experienced ex-mujahadeen fighter could make such a basic mistake we got back to work, moving the offending article to safety under the caretaker’s chair.

In the same day you may have heard that the Taliban fired nine rockets into the centre of Kabul in the small hours of the morning. I didn’t hear anything but collegues who were closer were awake for a while listening for follow up attacks. Although unlikely to escalate this a
TM's compost loo with an example of the level of rubbish removed from much of the area
TM’s compost loo with a retained example of the level of rubbish removed from much of the area

reminder of the soviet occupation of Kabul when hundreds of  rockets rained down on the city each day.

The two photos above are a good indication of the charity’s initial efforts to improve the quality of life in Murad Khane. The street is lttle used except for dumping all sorts of rubbish. The pile of layered rufuse beside the compost loo is a good demonstration of the level of degredation that faced Turquoise Mountain when they first came to Murad Khane three years ago. The compost loo is a temporary measure used by site staff – We are busy designing Kabul’s only sanitation treatment system, an ideal we hope to extend to other areas of the city.

Main street heading towards the bazaar. The concrete blocks are another attempt to restrict bombers.

Main street heading towards the bazaar. The concrete blocks are another attempt to restrict bombers.

Building – Although this is a new-build project we plan to retain a 4m length of 2 storey wall, a Chini Khana, literally ‘china wall’ with small plastered alcoves for displaying the family china. The piece of wall is already crumbling and has taken an act of faith just to galvanise the team to install temporary shoring. The underpining of this mud and mud-brick antique will be a careful process. Mock ups of stone arches for the stair are going well.

Last week’s security brief ended with a walk through of how to escape from the fort should it come under attack. Grab bags are ready and safehouses arranged. Although it could be quite an exciting episode I am off to Istanbul for a week as not much work is going to get done in the days before and after election day, 2oth August.

The outdoor prayer space in the Friday Mosque, central Herat.

The outdoor prayer space in the Friday Mosque, central Herat.

I’ve just returned from five day work trip to Herat with the national architects. Despite the recent bomb attack (killing the police chief) and subsequent firefight it was worth the risk as the city’s old town is by far Afghanistan’s best example of restored and surviving historic buildings, hopefully an inspiration to our Afghan collegues who currently lack the aspiration that maintains our team of on-site engineers and international architects/builders. Photos and account to follow.

I have only just discovered that my new site engineer Jawad is actually an architect which is fortunate as I would not have taken him on based on my experiences to date with national architects. He is bright and has stopped bossing the site team around. Afghan of the week will be my barber as soon as I can get a photo of him.

Duncan DJ