I am in Istanbul not Kabul

17 08 2009

Perhaps it is prosaic that the first morning I wake up in Istanbul, the Nato/ISAF base in Kabul is under attack from a suicide bomb, the biggest attack in 6 months. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8202758.stm

I am alive and well and currently enjoying a more relaxed islamic environment.

Until I have more news have a look at http://trueslant.com/pjtobia/ I met PJ between vodka and limes on Thursday night at an embassy party.

Atop the mosque in the Gazurgha complex, Herat, Afghanistan

Atop the mosque in the Gazurgha complex, Herat, Afghanistan

More to post to come on Herat, Kabul and inevitably Istanbul

Duncan DJ

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New foundations and army bases

20 06 2009
Some of TMF's labourers and masons

Some of TMF's labourers and masons

Since I last wrote this up things have begun to get busy down on site at Murad Khane. The community representative has put his approving thumbprint to my drawings and the ministry have started to take our proposals for Kabul’s first sanitation treatment system seriously.
Meanwhile on Monday evening we were invited down to one of the ISAF bases for dinner with some British soldiers and a few nights ago the chief engineer confided that if it ever got dangerous in the fort we should go and find the head gardener for safety as he is his ‘Trust Man’. As I was sitting reading in the sun earlier this week I’m sure it was the same gardener who walked past me three times with the same plant looking for the perfect place to dig it in – slow consideration.
On another strangely reassuring note I found out that my head mason, Nural Gar was a key member of the Mujaheddin, his brother is the fort’s head gardener but they don’t get on any more.

New ceramics extension alongside the restored double column serai

New Ceramics School extension alongside the restored Double Column Serai

Ironically our drive to the military base was delayed by no less than four convoys crossing our paths. Turks, Bulgarians, Afghans and most dangerously the Americans. It is always surprising how easily they can keep a stretch of Kabul rush hour traffic-free until you hear accounts of how trigger happy they can be. Not worth getting too close, even if it means keeping the Brigadier waiting. Having seen some pictures of the mid-desert bases down south in Helmand The ISAF base was a strangely domestic experience, once you had passed the lines of armoured Humvees.

The Ceramics School’s new home is the Double Column Serai. A Serai is an Afghan inn and trading house. It is the the first of Turquoise Mountain’s schools to move down to it’s new home in Murad Khane. In time woodwork, calligraphy and jewelry will follow. For my birthday I was given a bowl from the latest firing of the school’s new kiln. I am very proud of it, minor quirks and all.

The foundations of the Jewelry School have started so the site is all big rocks and lime. With this go-ahead the head mason, Nural Gar is like a man possessed. Surrounded by vernacular I am enjoying this injection of pace. They dig holes quickly, they build walls quicker.

Crossing the Panshir River. Only one way to find out deep it is...

Crossing the Panshir River last weekend. Only one way to find out how deep it is...

In three quick weeks I like to think I have taken this experience head on and given my all. I have still have a great deal to learn but I have decided that living and working in Kabul will work out so I’m going to sign up for the rest of the building season, possibly longer although not much gets built during the winter – a good opportunity to get back for the shooting season and a decent Christmas break. In the short term I’m back in the UK from 23rd June and apart from Glastonbury 25th til 28th June, I’ve few fixed plans so do get in touch.

Duncan DJ