December 4, 2007

Life in Kabul Afghanistan – Days 3 and 4

Winter is fast approaching in Kabul. When we arrived the mountains were bare, but now we awaken each morning to see a fresh blanket of snow rapidly making its way to the floor of the Kabul Valley. I’m told that the winter temperatures often drop to -20 F. With the high prices in gas and most Afghans living below the poverty line, it's a harsh existence. But while the weather may be cold, I find the Afghan people warm and friendly.

The markets are bustling with activity and fresh produce of cauliflower, carrots, pomegranates, and apples fill the humble stands of vendors.

Before we enter our hotel each night the car is searched for explosive devices by armed guards with automatic weapons. We pass through three sets of fortified-steel gates, and then we must have our bags searched and pass through metal detectors. We can’t even walk to the end of a block without being escorted by our driver. And while our movements are restricted, there isn’t an overwhelming fear of being kidnapped, assassinated, or blown-up. That being said, 22 people were injured today as another suicide bomber tried to blow-up a military convoy in Kabul on the road to the airport.

Tim and I have taken on the traditional black and white scarf and wool hat (traditional dress of the Pinshar men who reside in the Mountains of Northern Afghanistan) in an effort to blend in with the locals. Now, unless you hear us speak you would hardly know that we were foreigners.

The dominant architecture in Kabul is Early 21st Century War; as the remains of buildings bombed by the campaign to oust the Taliban litter the landscape.

The last few visits have been some of the most productive and encouraging.

Today we spent most of the afternoon at Madina Handcrafts designing jewelry made from recycled glass, fluorite, lapis, carnelian, quarts, turquoise, and other precious stones. Medina’s mission is to empower vulnerable and disabled women through building their professional skills, providing literacy, health training and capacity building to help themselves and their families to reach self-sustainability.

There are 21 women at the workshop in Kabul, many who are disabled, and another 200 in the provinces. The women, cut, shape, sand, polish and assemble the stones into jewelry. The workshop is hosted in the modest home of Shaima Shafaq who embodies the spirit and voice of Medina Handcrafts. Women come, many with children, and enjoy the solidarity and fellowship of one another while they work to provide for their families.

Just a few of the many wonderful new pieces of jewelry that we will be adding to the One World Project line of Afghan products.

I think this group is an excellent candidate for the Bridges to Peace Workshop 2008.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Phil, thanks for sharing this story. It's a window into Afghanistan that we rarely get a chance to see through. I'm enjoying your blog - I love the photoslideshow and the videos that you've incorporated, too.

Safe journeys,