Saturday, January 06, 2007

Yoga, shopping for orphans and sushi - what I did on the weekend.

Afghan school boys in winter, Badghis Originally uploaded by frida world.

This is the "what I did in my weekend" post. Sometimes I forget to simply describe daily life here.

This weekend started out with a report that flyers had been distributed in Herat city calling for a demonstration against the execution of Saddam Hussein. Our security officer decided to take no risks that we could get caught up in a demonstration where anti-Western sentiments would be likely to be running high, so we had a movement restriction until further notice. That means we stay in our guesthouse compounds except for "essential movement". This is the third Friday in a row we've been on "essential movement only". It gets tired.

The first time we had this restriction I asked the head of the office whether going to the gym could be considered essential movement if I felt it was essential in order to maintain my mental well-being. He basically laughed me out of the room. I guess it is always possible to skip rope in the compound, or run around in small circles like a caged animal.

I spent the day with the Commander, playing cards, writing emails, reading, and watching The West Wing. In the early evening the restriction was lifted (there had been no demonstration), but there isn't really anywhere to go at night anyway.

This morning I woke excited, I had a date with a woman who teaches yoga back home in the USA, she has agreed to take me through my practice a few times a week (until she goes on leave in two weeks). I got there and realised that the practice room heater wasn't working so we had to start off in the cold, ouch. But once we warmed up it was great - apart from a moment in which I couldn't get into the Crow pose and suddenly, without warning, felt tears welling up in my eyes. Well, maybe that was also a good moment in its own way.

I wanted to get back to the lovely boy's house before too late because today is his birthday. I had a present for him and planned to make him breakfast. But as I walked out to where my driver was waiting I suddenly heard a noise that makes me very nervous here - it was the sound of a crowd of men shouting. I got in the car and asked the driver what was going on, he had no idea but suddenly we saw a large crown of men walking along the street in front of us. I asked him to quickly retreat into the guesthouse where I had been doing the yoga and called my security officer and our radio room.

For the next hour the driver and I sat in the car, snacking on some dried peas and raisins that he found in the glove box and talking about the Iranian pop music on the radio. From time to time I would get a call from the security officer updating me on their progress in identifying the reason for the demonstration (it turned out to be angry motorcyclists protesting some licensing decision by the government but the police initially told him it was the Saddam Hussein protest). As I was sitting there I realised how much more patient I've become since I arrived in Afghanistan. And how much better I am at accepting that my plans are often going to be interrupted or totally changes by circumstances out of my control.

After an hour we got the go ahead to move so I decided to make the most of movement while it was allowed and run some other birthday related errands. The first was to the Italian army base, to purchase some wine and beer. Yes, that's right. If I want to buy alcohol I have to go to an army base and be escorted by an army officer into the PX ( duty-free store). I bought a bit more than I could carry, but none of the charming Italian soldiers could help me carry it out to the car because they are not allowed out the front gate of their compound without their full protective gears on (including helmet, body armour and a big gun).

My next errand was back at my house. Last night I asked the Commander hat he would like me to make for his birthday dinner. He said "sushi" imagining it to be an impossible dream. But it turns out that last time I was in Portland with him I stocked up on all the basic ingredients for making sushi! Of course we don't have any fish, but I'll make it vegetarian, I have everything else. That's next on my to do list.

When I got to his place he opened his present, and I cooked him up some eggs and made coffee (instant, ugh) for brunch. Then we had fun doing silly on-line quizzes like 'Which super-hero are you?" (I'm Wonder Woman, he was either The Hulk, or Cat Woman, an equal tie between unlikely alter-egos). I then made him do "Which super-heroine would you marry?" and he was probably relieved to get the right answer (WW!). It carried on for sometime, (Which famous poet? He is Dylan Thomas, I am e.e. cummings) before we decided to go and have some fun shopping for orphans.

Okay, the pun is bad. But it was fun buying warm clothes, hats, socks, stockings and gloves for the orphans in Chegcharan. If you missed my earlier post, this was one of the Commander's ideas. Our Christmas present to ourselves was to buy as many warm clothes as we could find and give them to the orphanage. Some of our friends also gave money. Thanks!

I was amazed how far the money went. Here are some rough indications:

  • warm jacket $4
  • fleecy suit (top and pants) $3-4
  • fleecy hats $1
  • gloves 50c
  • socks 50c
  • stockings $1

So for $10 we could get a complete outfit for one child. When I get up to Chegcharan I'll go to the market and buy rubber boots, we have limited space on the small plane we'll be flying in so we couldn't get them here. We have money left over, so our next idea is to buy soccer balls and other sports equipment for the orphanage here in Herat. Oh - and we could get art and craft supplies! This is fun!

Well, I'm going to get started on that sushi. But that's what I did on my weekend. Hope yours were fabulous and full of as much fun and love as mine was.

5 comments:

My Marrakech said...

Dear Frida,
I think I would find it so difficult to have limited mobility. I have gone on assignments to Iraq and been on lock down but I always knew it was temporary and I could get out. And I was leaving, etc. but how wonderful to have found someone to do yoga with.

I love the clothes for orphans. Before I moved to Marrakesh, I adopted an orphanage near Rabat. Boys between 6 and 18. Unfortunately, I couldn't bring clothes, b/c the orphanage administration would take them home for their own children(!). But I used to bring fruit - because they never got anything besides tangerines b/c it was expensive. My husband also taught the orphans how to play baseball. And in my proudest moment, I talked a huge mattress maker into donating 50 brand spanking new mattresses to the orphans. The orphans loved these new comfortable mattresses so much that they left the plastic on them to preserve them. I now have a donation given to me of 20 new leather soccer balls but I am so afraid of giving them to the orphanage near Marrakesh b/c I am worried that they will go missing - be taken by the orphanage administrators. What to do?

Lacithecat said...

Frida,

I struggle to say exactly what it is ... but your post has positively made my day. Damn and I am wondering why I am sitting her in my happy home when I could be out there living it to the extreme. You can't have it both ways can you? I wonder if avoiding your blog is wise? Its tempting to get back out there.

sigh ... tell the commander happy birthday from your blog crew (ok maybe I should not talk for others). And when do you go up to the orphanage?

Take care! And enjoy the sushi!

Regina Clare Jane said...

Wow- I am so impressed. To even be in a place like Afghanistan and trying to live as normally as you can, like taking a yoga class or buying beer... wow. You are so courageous! Those restrictions sound "other" wordly almost, but I guess that's how Afghanistan can be sometimes...
Thank you for sharing all this and happy birthday to the commander and good luck with your sushi!

susanna said...

Wow and wow again! I admire your cool when the unexpected happens - especially while in the middle of a demonstration, in the middle of a war zone. Happy birthday to your boy! What a good girlfriend you are! Sushi in the middle of Afghanistan. He'll definitely be remembering this birthday. I'm so impressed with you both for buying clothing etc for the orphans. So if we bloggers want to give, too, how should we do it? I worry that if I donate money to an organization, only a small portion would make it to the needy. What's your suggestion? D'you have a reliable mailing address?

paris parfait said...

It's so inspiring to read how you manage to do so much with so little. I spent a lot of time in Iraq, but at that time it was not as fraught (and dangerous) as it is now. And many times in the Middle East I've come upon unexpected situations/dramas where it was best to remain in the background or in one place until things "blew over." But I think you have some unique challenges. Thank you for writing about what you're going through and helping get the real picture across.