Day 1, Monday March 14:

After a long flight, and long (and boring) wait at Dubai airport we finally boarded our plane to Kabul, joking about our hope the aircraft would not be a budget buy from the soviet era. We are aware that Afghan warlords have gone into the business of airlines, so we hoped if it was war-lord owned, that it be a generous, big-spending one! Well it was actually a second-hand Chinese plane, with lumpy seats, but it got us to Kabul on a smooth flight without problems thanks to a cheerful American pilot.

 The flight over Iran and Afghanistan provided some stunning views, firstly of the mud plains and then the mountainous areas of Afghanistan. The snow capped mountains framed isolated, remote, brown valleys with  steep sides. Sometimes I could make out winding roads below and small villages, amazed at the folk who could survive in such a harsh, remote, climate.

I’ll  post more pictures I took from the plane on the picture page.

We were greeted by a beautiful mild and sunny afternoon in Kabul and met at the airport by a friend of our Guest House manager, who is a German-speaking Afghan so he and Martin didn’t stop talking German the whole way into town (he lived in Germany for many years). My first impression of Kabul from that first drive through town can be summed up in a few words: bustling, colourful, overcrowded and traffic. I thought Sydney was bad! There seemed liked a million cars competing for space on the mostly narrow, bumpy, dusty roads, but somehow it all worked. There was an advantage to the slow traffic, I got to look out the window and take in the sights of this busy, vibrant city: shops, stalls, produce and goods on the footpath, shiny high-rise blocks, little mud-brick buildings, concrete, razor wire, guns, fresh fruit stalls, dust, mud, mountains, and curious people of all shapes and sizes.

We received a warm welcome at our Guest House owned and managed by another Afghan, a charming and cheeky silver-haired man who had lived many years in Germany, so I got to practice my German (his English was about as good as my German, while Martin could speak three languages with him: German, English and Dari!). We dropped our bags and quickly went out for a walk around the neighbourhood, known as Sharh-e-nau. Even though it was mild, I donned my long, black coat, and black headscarf, as attire fitting what had been recommended to me. I did feel a little strange in this outfit, and I certainly didn’t blend in with my blonde hair popping out the front of my scarf. We got a sim card, had a walk around the famous Chicken Street (saw no chickens) and Flower Street (saw lots of flowers), and before we knew it, it was dark. We headed back to the Guest House in the dark, tripping over pot-holes, with a feeling we had already broken a rule of what foreigners are not supposed to do. Had dinner at the Guest House, met other foreign guests working on various projects, and realised how different we were from them. “Which NGO do you work for?” was generally the first question, or “what project are you working on?” When we answered we were here independently and that we’d come to support an Afghan youth group calling for an end to war, well, you could say the delay in response was, well, awkward. “Ri-gh-t,” Hans, a German engineer exclaimed slowly, a bit bemused. “Basically we’ve come to listen and to see,” I said. “Ok-ay” he replied, trying to be polite.

Finally crashed Monday night, after all that travel. Exhausted. Happy to be in Kabul.

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