November 06, 2007

City adventures....

On Sunday... S. picked me up an hour late, and so instead of going photographing (no light, urgh), we spent the evening on our favorite street in Montreal. This street is called Saint-Denis, and it is located in what people call here the Latin Quarter, because of the UQAM, one of the two French-speaking universities here. Our first stop was a place called Juliette & Chocolat – and it was decadent. It's chocolate-lover heaven, purely and simply. And so she and I gossiped over a chocolate (dark, sour chocolate if you please) fruit dip, and some coffees. It's a long wait – but so worth it. After that, we went to the movies and saw a French comedy called "Le prix a payer" – something about men who are neglected by their wives in their conjugal duties, and their theories that they are merely being used for their wallets. It wasn't high art, but it was amusing, and I did like seeing the streets of my beloved Paris, and Gerard Lanvin was simply sublime (I hadn't seen him in a movie in oh, a decade, and he is still ravishing, though old.) And we concluded the evening over a pipe at a place called the Hookah Lounge, one of these places where the musical background slips from Portishead to Brassens, and where the sitting arrangements vaguely ressemble tents out of the 1001 nights. But it was fun – as it always is, and a nice change for me. I spent Saturday in relative solitude, and had no complaints about it – in fact, being locked up with my bath, my bubbles, Mozart's Requiem and a good book was just what I needed. But I was happy to go out on Sunday.

November 03, 2007

Notes about Halloween in Montreal

Montreal, on Halloween night, felt like it suddenly was a carnival. It wasn't unusual to pass by vampires, witches, devils, angles, Vikings, pirates, and other phantasmagoric figures. I noted, amongst others, several 1920 belles, a belly dancer (how could she? It was so cold today?), and a Cleopatra look alike. But my ultimate favorite was Edward Scissorhands, complete with raggedy metal appendixes at the end of his figures. I guess Montrealers are a kiddish bunch. Me? Not dressed up, not one bit – no, it was juste moi, with my torn jeans, and my corduroy jacket, and my hair up in a bun, and my glasses – apparently I looked like a seductive intellectual...

October 28, 2007

Just a survey, for no particular reason

1. Name one person who made you laugh last night. Someone called Dom, who had a few good jokes.

2. What were you doing at 0800? Writing an epic

3. What were you doing 30 minutes ago? Chatting with Lady Twist

4. What happened to you in 2006? I got dumped, I had dengue, and had an encounter with the Divine on an Indonesian beach.

5. What was the last thing you said out loud? *snorts* "Sorry, I didn't here myself do that"

6. How many beverages did you have today? - 2- coffee and peppermint herb tea

7. What color is your hairbrush? *shrugs* Black, I think.

8. What was the last thing you paid for? "I really, really need to go to bed. Ta ta !"

9. Where were you last night? Out at a halloween party, dressed up at a Play Boy Bunny.

10. What color is your front door? Transparent (it's glass)

11. Where do you keep your change? Pockets, wallet, empty cup on the kitchen table.

12. What's the weather like today? Sunny and fresh.

13. What's the best ice cream flavor? Cookie dough, or course.

14. What excites you? Freedom.

15. Do you want to cut your hair? Hell no! I've had it short way too long.

16. Are you over the age of 25? Unfortunately, yes. But I feel 15.

17. Do you talk a lot? I have my verbose moments, but I can also shut up and listen.

18.....

19. Do you know anyone named Steven? As a matter of fact, I do, sort of. I'm supposed to call him, and I keep on forgetting. I think I lack motivation.

20. Do you make up your own words? On a regular basis. I am particularly proud of "Sushigasm".

21. Are you a jealous person? I try not to be. I think I'm more greedy than I am jealous.

22. .....

23. ......

24. Who's the first person on your received call list? Delphine. Dinner tonight at mum and dad's.

25. What does the last text message you received say? "Great. We have communication loud and clear".

26. Do you chew on your straw? I chew on everything. I'm compulsive.

27. Do you have curly hair? I wish. It seems to get frizzy when it rains though.

28. Where's the next place you're going to? Probably home for lunch. I really need to clean.

29. Who's the rudest person in your life? Oh, Iikely someone I don't care to offend. The BFH, of course.

30. What was the last thing you ate? Toast and ginger jam.

31. Will you get married in the future? That seems a rather unlikely possibility, and I don't care.

32. What's the best movie you've seen in the past 2 weeks? Silk. F'n amazing.

33. Is there anyone you like right now? It's easy to like people. It's more difficult to love. I'm proud to say, I acheive both, the former in a more general way, the latter in a more individual, personnal way.

34. When was the last time you did the dishes? Last night.

35. Are you currently depressed? Nope. I am in fact in an excellent mood. I haven't been depressed in a while.

36. Did you cry today? Oh, gods no.

37. Why did you answer and post this? I'm whimsical.

October 23, 2007

A week end in the Belle Province

Now about the Saturday at the Mountain… it was positively a trial, and a confirmation that my own appreciation of occasional physical exertion, is usually something that happens after the fact. We literally hiked over 9 kilometers, up to the top and down, and I'll admit I am always ashamed at my lack of physical prowess. I have asthma and so as I said, I have no cardiovascular capacity whatsoever, and it was a trek, really a trek, and I did make it up and down that hill, but it was at times a painful exercise, though I am incredibly proud of myself. (I am also amazed that I still had an active day the next day– resilience just took on a whole new meaning for me.)

But the colors of the fall were beautiful, and at times it was like walking a Golden Path, and that made me think that Herbert's golden path was also one that included pain for the greater good. But what was wonderful about my occasional lapse in ability to breathe was that I was left somewhat to myself at the end of the trek, and I took it slowly and painfully, but I also had often times the sentiment of being in a world of dreams, or in an enchanted forest. The token leaf tree is the maple, (duh) and it has the remarkable trait that the leaves are wonderfully vivid, crimsons and rusts, and golden yellows and burning oranges, and strangely there was moss every where that was a bright green, and rocks that reminded me of malachite. As one goes up the hill, there are aged maple trees that create a natural step for the climber, and they seem to be almost alive, and their tortuous shapes are rather otherworldly, eerie, and full of what I can only describe as spirit.

Then of course there was the pleasure of the company, there were four of us, R. and her new boyfriend, and S., whom I hadn't seen in three years because she is now an architect in Boston. It was a rambunctious reunion, and lots of reminiscing, teasing, and gossiping, and catching up, because us three girls put together would drive any male insane, I think, for all our childish chatter. Of course, we've known each other for over 15 years, and so basically we turn to children when we hook up again.

Sunday was spent at the Museum of Fine Arts with S. (I guess R. and her male were in need of time alone) and we had a fun time revisiting the permanent collection which I know by heart. Of course, since my last visit, there were changes, and I was appalled that they moved Picasso's "Embrace" to the basement, and very glad that Octobre was still in place. In the process I noticed a new Renoir, though it's not a very remarkable piece. I did reunite happily with Henri-Joseph Harpignie's "Clair de Lune" which I adore, because I love the way he treated the light and the perspective, even if most people I showed it to found that it was… ordinary. (Heathens!)

We also went to the bookstore, just a large bookstore, and it was a complete catastrophe for my wallet, but I am beyond pleased because I bought new books, including Faber's The Crimson Petal and the White. I'm in love, Faber has me captivated from the second sentence – the only thing I can say for now is that it is beyond promising. I also replenished my supply of music with Debussy, Chopin, Rachmaninov and the Requiem. It was a complete heresy that I didn't have the Requiem anymore in my collection. So I am broke, but happy, ha ha. And that was concluded with a walk downtown with coffee in hand, and it was a complete caricature of Sex & the City, because S. and I were discussing relationships, after a day at the museum and book shopping, in a completely North-American city.

The Beaver
My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !

October 19, 2007

Plans for a sociological study...

A few nights ago, my best friend came to pick me up for dinner and drinks. Now you must know that she is an old and dear friend, one whom I love very much. She is as brown haired as I am blond, and we are beyond different one from the other – wisdom (hers) vs. wildness, demureness vs. debaucherie (mine), studiousness vs. genius (mine - yes, I am also humble), piousness (hers) vs. spirituality. Together we form an amusing duo, though we enjoy each other's company greatly. We had a feast (Indian, oh, how I enjoy paratha and chicken tikka, and wonderful so wonderful kebab and daal), and finished the evening over martinis at a very quaint jazz club. Now, this is where I get my excuse. My body, it seems, does not like martinis in the morning, though I'll confess I did enjoy they tremendously last night. And so with her, I have made some plans, one of them being to spend a day next week photographing Montreal (a common hobby) and of course, ha ha, the results of such a quest are intended for your pleasure. Another plan, and that one amuses me greatly, is to take her to speed dating – now, she has been celibate for 7 years, mostly because she is both picky, and flirts like a donkey, and I myself am very skeptical – mostly, it is intended to be a sociological study of North-American urban male singles in their natural habitat. Should be highly amusing, and will very likely provide for some long and vivid discussions.

October 14, 2007

Some news....

So... I haven't been posting at such as rabid pace as usual... that will likely keep on happening for the next month or so. On the up side, I do have a LIFE now that I'm home, and am very happy - with studying, seeing friends and family, etc. So posting may be lessened, but it is expected to go up in quality.

So, yes, I'm doing great. I have *my* head screwed back on. Had some great encounters/interactions, these past few days, and more to come.

I'm home at long last but don't have internet at my place (Yay I am at last settled in) and so I'm either doing the starbucks thing or hanging at my friends to have access. I have a radio - and my laptop plays MP3s - that's pretty much the set up in the appartment. I was able to latch on to my neighbour's network for 10 minutes today, but the connection sucks, so bleh - i'm back at Cafe El Mundo where wifi is free and chai lattes cost 4 bucks. The apartment is spartan, but comfortable, and I have internet tonight (surprisingly) so here's to unsecured wifi.

Amusingly, I have to live in French, which is making my life rather more complicated - I spent 2 good minutes explaining "nail polish remover" to the kid at the drugstore today. Couldn't for the life of me remember the French word. Considering it's my mother tongue, it's fascinating.

Amusingly, I happen to be plagued by a cold as well. My nose is just a little bit runny - enough to annoy me, not enough to warrant medical attention - and my throat is about as moist as the Sahara desert. But I'm still in a great mood.

I am enjoying the turmoil of a busy personal life and of fulfilling encounters, though there is a cynical part of me that is reluctant to die, fighting for dear life for its survival. I guess old habits die hard. A friend and I had recently been musing on the idea of crime fighting... coincidentally, today, I met a police officer, through mutual friends, who is willing to assist me in joining the provincial corps. Apparently, he thinks I would be great of undercover work. I am highly amused. My life used to be on the strange side, but should this materialize... Gods, I'll admit it would be beyond weird.


The Beaver
My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !

September 28, 2007

MIA

Addendum, October 8th 2007:

So I'm home, at long last.

It has a few implications, the greatest one is limited internet access for about the next 3 months, and a drastic improvement of my stress levels and fatigue.

I am realizing I needed home. I needed real people. I needed a cell phone that rings, and my mum's cooking. I needed home.

So....

If you are in Montreal, call me up, ring me, send me a text book message (they go to my cel), but don't email me, because I won't get it for a while.

Sorry.

I'm busy having a LIFE.

_______________________________


I realize I may be in need of a break from blogging. I've been uninspired for a while now...

So without further ado...

THIS BLOG IS TEMPORARILY SLEEPING. Send the dogs, they will wake up.

Comments do make their way to my email, so drop a line if you need to protest.

I'll be back - just don't know when.

The Beaver
My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !

September 21, 2007

An update

I'll post more about it soon, but suffice it to say I am unaffected by the current events in Lebanon.

The Beaver

My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !

September 09, 2007

A new start

So I'm in Beirut now, and I still haven't posted my long post. Man, I have no word.

Well...

That only means I will be posting more for this location, and add to that the fact that I still have some things to post about Palestine.

That should make things a little more exciting for you guys.

In the meantime, have some Labaneh! It has been the discovery of the past month for me. Hmmmm it's amazing - and I still get some here in LEB.

Description:
Amazing, tastes like goat cheese !



Labaneh is yogurt cheese, a wonderful invention for everything from pasta to sandwich spread. It takes a minimum of 8 hours to drain the yogurt, transforming it into cheese, and the cheese can be refrigerated for several days. More than once, it has taken 2 days for the yogurt to drain to the desired thickness, so plan accordingly. Minimal time for preparing the yogurt cheese is included in the cook time.

Ingredients:
2 cups nonfat plain yogurt
1/2 clove garlic (optional)

Directions:
1. Line a strainer with 2 layers of cheesecloth; place the strainer over a bowl and pour the yogurt into the strainer; set aside at room temperature for at least 8 hours or until very, very thick.

2. If using the garlic, push it through a garlic press and stir into the thickened labaneh.

3. Refrigerate.


Thanks for you patience,

The Beaver

My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !

September 05, 2007

Bleh


I'm saying bleh because it's really all I've been thinking.

It's amazing how one person with a little bit of power can turn otherwise pleasant working experiences to trauma.

I'm tired, I want home, and a hug.

The Beaver

My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !

September 02, 2007

The West Bank


My pictures in the West Bank

It's been a bit of a rocky ride. I do have a long post I want to put up - I'm still working on it. In the meantime, have a look at the West Bank, this much contested area of Palestine.

It's hauntingly beautiful, even though I don't think I've been quite able to render it.


The Beaver

My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !

August 26, 2007

Melancholy


Someone told me recently that melancholy is being happy to be sad, a relished chagrin. Mayhap. Then if it is, I am not melancholic - I am merely sad, and nostalgic.

Naya left today. We promised each other to meet again, in her country or in mine, or maybe even in another one which hasn't yet been decided. Yet, I am sad,because it is rather possible I may never see her again.

Sisters in arms, that is what we were. She and I have worked in Aceh, in Burundi, twice in Haiti, now here in Palestine, and she is no longer one of the troopers who do this job. With her gone, I lost a friend, a co-worker, a confidante. I trusted her (I still do) more than anyone I worked with.

Now, I am lonely and lonesome - and uninterested in socializing for it.

I am brooding, and it is no where close to fun.

PS. Sorry I haven't updated as much as usual. Pix on Flickr to make y'all forgive me. See the link on the side bar.

The Beaver

My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !

July 31, 2007

Ok, so I'm not on Vaca anymore

.... and it sucks.

I miss home, and for the first time, I don't feel any excitement at this new adventure.

I already have some stories to tell, though - but they have to wait, because just now, I need to sleep. Again.

The Beaver

My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !

July 20, 2007

AWOL on home leave

I am safe, I am home, and I am not blogging until I travel again... in early August.

Peace Y'all !

The Beaver

My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !

July 09, 2007

Travel notes, and 20,000+ !!!

Over 20,000 visits ! Thank you everyone !!!!

Since I'm almost out of Afghanistan, I wanted to make a post about random observations in Kabul, that don't relate to bitching about the fishbowl and the dress code.

Some random notes:
  • It appears the latest fashion for men in this country is beige cargo pants and pink polo. I have never seen so many pink polos in my life. Sometimes, several in the same room. It makes me wonder.
  • While women are required to dress conservatively, one finds rarely men wearing the Shalwar Kameez, or other traditional garb. In Pakistan, they came in four colors, grey, beige, light blue, and brown. Here, they wear anything. Makes one wonder.
  • Life here as an expat revolves around food. I now know all the restaurants in Kabul. When one turns the TV on, the only English channel is BBC - with the kitchen show. It's a wonder people aren't fatter.
  • It's fascinating how Kabul is a strange city. While some areas are modern, with cinemas, malls, towers, other areas are rundown and have awful roads. It's the realm of two-speed development.
  • I have never been more motion sick than on the streets of Kabul. They really have awful bumpy streets. There is even a street called "Bumpy Road".
  • Other colorful street names include "Flower Street" and "Chicken street".
That's it. There is a little dress talk, but no bitchin'. I did good.

The Beaver

My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !

July 05, 2007

Afghani stuff

Well, I'm back in KBL and haven't got much to report from the fishbowl, so I'm posting a bunch of Afghani stuff.

I go home in 7 days, and I can't wait.

Afghani book

THE KITE RUNNER

Category:Books
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Author:Khaled Hosseini
The Kite Runner tells the story of Amir, a well-to-do Pashtun boy from the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul, who is haunted by the guilt of betraying his childhood friend Hassan, the son of his father's Hazara servant. The story is set against a backdrop of tumultuous events, from the fall of the monarchy in Afghanistan through the Soviet invasion, the mass exodus of refugees to Pakistan and the United States, and the Taliban regime.

It's a very, very taking story - and beyond touching. A must-read.

The author's website :
http://www.khaledhosseini.com/




Afghani food

BONJAN SALAT (AFGHANI SPICY EGGPLANT SALAD)
Category:
Salads
Style:
Other
Special Consideration:
Vegetarian
Servings:
8

Ingredients:
* 3 md Eggplants
* 2 1/2 tablespoons of Coarse Salt
* 1/4 cup Corn oil
* 1 1/2 cup Tomato sauce
* 1/4 tablespoons of Pepper
* 1 tablespoons of Hot red chili flakes - or minced fresh chiles
* 2 tablespoons of Ground cinnamon
* 1 tablespoons of Crushed dried mint

Directions:
Slice the eggplants crosswise into 1 1/2 inch thick pieces. Sprinkle them with 2 t. coarse salt and let stand for 15 minutes. rinse eggplants under cold water, which removes the bitter taste, rinse, and dry well on a towel.

Heat the oil in a skillet and lightly brown eggplant slices over moderate heat for 3 minutes. Remove and put into a serving bowl. Cool. Put the tomato sauce, pepper, chile, cinnamon, mint and 1/2 t. salt, if wanted, in a pan. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, which is long enough to
integrate the flavors. Pour this over the eggplant; refrigerate until ready to use. The salad can remain in the refrigerator for several days. Serve cold or at room temperature.

The Beaver

My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !

July 01, 2007

Apologies

I'm alive. Nothing remarkable has happened in my life while I was in Herat, but I did visit some sites yesterday.

I am now officially the founding member of the society against abayahs. I will be sporting a bikini when I go home. (Dang it's hot under there!)

Anyway, here's some pics of Herat. I didn't take them, but they will give an idea of what is there to be seen.

THE BLUE MOSQUE

THE MINARETS


The FORT

THE BLUE MOSQUE (again)

WATERMELON MARKETS
MINARETS
STREET SCENE

THE FORT

The Beaver



My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !

June 17, 2007

Illusion of freedom in Herat : l'illusion de la liberte

Herat, 6:21 PM.

Work is over. For the first time in 2 weeks, I've been productive, really productive. Why? I'm not sure. But the feeling is liberating. On the 4th floor of my 5 star hotel which I am sharing with 6 other expats, I stand on the balcony, my hair liberated and free in the wind. In my ears, my iPod is blasting James Blunt, then Radiohead. Is it the fact that for the first time in a month, I am out without a veil? Maybe. Or maybe my tension is ebbing out. One way or another, I am thankful for it. As I write this, Ray Charle's "You are so beautiful" is playing on my iTunes, and if it weren't completely crazy, I'd say he is singing for me, and me only. Life can be beautiful, even in Afghanistan. All one needs... is a little wind, and a little music.

Le travail de la journee est fini. Pour la première fois en 2 semaines, j'ai été productive, vraiment productive. Pourquoi ? Je n'en suis pas sûre. Mais le sentiment me libère. Sur le 4ème étage de l'hôtel 5 etoiles que je partage avec 6 autres expats, je me tiens sur le balcon, mes cheveux libérés et jouant dans le vent. Dans mes oreilles, mon iPod souffle James émoussé, puis Radiohead. Est-ce le fait qui pour la première fois en mois, je suis dehors sans voile ? Peut-être. Ou peut-être que c'est mon stress qui baisse. D'une facon ou 'une autre, j'en suis reconnaissante. Au moment ou j'écris ceci, "You are so beautiful" de Ray Charles joue sur mon iTunes, et si ce n'était pas complètement fou, je dirais qu'il chante pour moi, et moi seulement. La vie peut être belle, même en Afghanistan. Tout ce dont on a besoin... c'est d'un peu de vent, et d'un peu de musique.

The Beaver

My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !

June 15, 2007

ALIVE !!!

En Francais : ICI

I am alive. In Kabul, but alive.

Honestly, Afghanistan, is better than what is shown on TV.

I went to Herat last week, a frustrating trip, almost a waste of time because it took 48 hours to travel, the vast majority of my time waiting for delayed flights.

It isn’t easy to be a woman in this country. It may be a stereotype, but it’s true. Our group included of:

A. Two women and 5 men, or,

B. Two Caucasians and 5 Asians, or,

C. Three nationals and four expatriates, or,

D. Three North-Americans and four South-Asians.

The two girls? Me and a Chinese-American, covered both from head to toe, and abandoned on a bench by the men, our migration a story in itself:

- I sat with a colleague, male, a Sri Lankan who passes for local. Killer glances mortals from the Nationals, I migrate to sit with the other member of the weaker sex.

- The two chicks sit and chat with a colleague male seated behind them, a bearded American. Killer glances, take two. The chicks tune it down and await the flight impatiently.

- Take three, killer glances. Afghanis hate us for occupying a bench (oh, would it be reserved for the stronger sex?) and a national colleague (adorable) warns us of our necessary migration towards the girl section, a tight space with missing seats, and or a soldier-guard who directs Afghani women like cattle. Lip bitten and sour comment plastered, we migrate.

I sit on a step, and wait for the flight. Nearby, an Afghani woman sit by me, her superb tailorsuit hidden under her veil which goes down to her ankles. I smile, she smiles. She speaks to me in Dari, I reply English, both try to be understood. Not easy, and not the last time it happens. It should be said that the women of Afghanistan are eager to speak to the foreign women, but the language is both barrier and insulation. My frustration is large. If I return here, I will learn dari, to be able to communicate with my Afghani sisters.

In Kabul, my life is a long river of boredom. One would say that nothing really works, or happens. It’s Liberia, Haiti, it is imprisonment of both body and soul, the meals in communities, the shared office, common commuting, the absence of a personal life, of personal time. More than the veil, it is the feeling of being in a fishbowl that stifles me.

Rare moments of happiness are felt, laughing around a clandestine bottle of wine, risked teasing, but the essential is the boredom, which I accept with Aldous Huxley’s philosophy.

Your true traveller finds boredom rather agreeable than painful.
It is the symbol of his liberty - his excessive freedom.
He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, goal almost with pleasure.

My down time, I spend it reading, watching movies, writing. What is hard, is to write about what I experience here. To confront oneself with this reality, to write it, is both tedious and vaguely painful.

I stifled a tear when my plane, on the way to Herat, made a stopover in Kandahar. The Canadian flag floated high and strong at the airport, and the feeling if generated in me, the sight of the CAF planes, remains confused in my mind. A mixture of sadness, regret, and anger, I believe.

I don’t hate Afghanistan, nor the Afghans. But this country fills me with a great sadness with I can’t wait to forget a little by returning home.

The Beaver

My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !

June 14, 2007

Vivante !!! (English post to come soon)

Je suis vivante. A Kabul, mais vivante.

Honnêtement, l’Afghanistan, c’est mieux que ce qu’on en dit à la télé.

Je suis allée a Herat la semaine dernière, un voyage frustrant, presqu’une perte de temps car on a passe 48 heures à voyager, la vaste majorité à attendre des vols retardes a l’aéroport.

Il ne fait pas bon être femme dans ce pays. C’est un cliche, mais c’est vrai. Notre groupe était compris de :

a. Deux femmes et 5 hommes, ou,

b. Deux caucasiens et 5 asiatiques, ou,

c. Trois nationaux et quatre expatries, ou,

d. Trois nord-américains et quatre sud-asiens.

Les deux filles ? Moi et une sino-américaine, couvertes toutes les deux et abandonnées par les hommes sur un banc, la migration une histoire en soi :

- je suis assise avec un collègue, male, un Sri-Lankais qui fait couleur locale. Regards mortels des locaux, migration pour m’assoir avec l’autre membre du sexe faible.

- Les deux nanas sont assises et discutent avec un collègue male assis derrière elles, un américain barbu. Regards mortel, prise deux. Les nanas de taisent et attendent l’avion avec impatience.

- Prise trois, regard mortels. Les afghans nous en veulent d’occuper un banc (oh, serait-il réservé au sexe fort ?) et un collègue national (adorable) nous avise de notre nécessaire migration vers la section des filles, un espace tout serre ou les sièges manquent, et ou un soldat-garde-chiourme dirige les afghanes comme du bétail. Lèvre mordu et commentaire acerbe ravales, nous migrons.

Je m’assois sur une marche et j’attends le vol. À cote de moi s’assoit une afghane, une femme comme moi, son tailleur superbe sous son voile qui descend jusqu'à ses chevilles. Je lui souris, elle me sourit. Elle me parle en dari, je lui réponds en anglais, on essaye de se comprendre. Pas facile, et pas la dernière fois. On dirait que les femmes d’Afghanistan sont désireuses de parler aux femmes étrangères, mais la langue est barrière, isolation. Ma frustration est grande. Si je reviens ici, je parlerai dari, pour pouvoir communiquer avec mes sœurs afghanes.

A Kabul, ma vie est un long fleuve d’ennui. On dirait que rien ne fonctionne, rien ne se peut. C’est le Liberia, Haiti, c’est l’emprisonnement du corps et de l’esprit, les repas en communautes, le bureau partage, le transport commun, l’absence de vie, de temps personnel. Plus que le voile, c’est la sensation d’être un poisson dans un bocal qui m’étouffe.

De rares moments de bonheur se font sentir, des rires autour d’une bouteille de vin clandestine, des taquineries risquées, mais l’essentiel est la, l’ennui, que j’accepte avec la philosophie d’Aldous Huxley.

Your true traveller finds boredom rather agreeable than painful.
It is the symbol of his liberty - his excessive freedom.
He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure.

« Le vrai voyageur trouve l’ennui plus agreeable que douloureux.

C’est le symbole de sa liberte, de son excessive disponibilite.

Il accepte son ennui, quand il vient, non seulement avec philosophie, mais presque avec plaisir.»

Mon temps d’ennui, je le passe a lire, regarder des films, écrire. Ce qui est dur, c’est d’écrire ce que je vis ici. Se confronter a cette réalité que je trouve dure, l’écrire, c’est douloureux et vaguement pénible.

J’ai ravale une larme lorsque mon avion, en route pour Herat, a fait escale a Kandahar. Le drapeau canadien flottait haut et fort a l’aéroport, et le sentiment que cela m’a cause, la vue des avions des CAF, restent confus dans mon esprit. Un mélange de tristesse, de regret, de colère, je crois.

Je ne hais ni l’Afghanistan, ni les Afghans. Mais ce pays me remplit d’une grande tristesse qu’il me tarde d’oublier un peu en rentrant au pays.

The Beaver



My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !

June 10, 2007

Security update

7 June 2007 - Situation in Brief

Movement Status, Kabul “Normal Movement”

Min of Health Workers released by Taleban

Security Incidents

Southern Region

Kandahar, Zabul

ISAF Casualties: 06 June, Kandahar Province, Kandahar District – two ISAF soldiers have been killed in two separate incidents in the area; no further details provided.

IED/Ambush: 06 June, Kandahar City , (District 7, Kokaran Area) - late in the evening a police convoy was subjected to an IED strike followed by an ambush (small arms); the vehicle that was hit was carrying ammunition which exploded; two other vehicles were extensively damaged; two policemen are reported missing.

Contact: 06 June, Kandahar Province, Maruf District – police were in contact with a group of insurgents; one insurgent was killed and another injured; four motor cycles and four VHF radios were seized.

IED: 06 June, Kandahar Province, Shorabak District – about midday a Border Police vehicle was subjected to an IED strike; two policemen were killed; vehicle extensively damaged.

IED: 06 June Kandahar Province, Arghandab District – a vehicle belonging to an Afghan private security company was subjected to an IED strike; three guards were injured; vehicle was extensively damaged.

Anti-tank Mine Located: 06 June, Kandahar Province, Zhari District - police located and later defused an anti-tank mine which had been recently planted on the main road.

Abductees Released by Taleban: 07 June, Kandahar Province, Kandahar District – the Min of Public Health has apparently confirmed that three health workers and their driver have released by the Taleban; four health workers and their driver were abducted at the end of March whilst involved on a vaccination program in a camp for IDP in Kandahar area; in exchange for the release of the MoPH workers the government released the body of Mullah Dadullah, the Taleban commander who was killed last month in Helmund Province; the fifth abductee is reported to have been decapitated on Tuesday; a Taleban spokesman says the body is in the Kajaki District from where the relatives should recover it.

Attack:
06 June, Zabul Province, Daychopan District – during the course of the morning the district centre was attacked; ISAF and Afghan army units responded; engagement lasted about three hours; one policeman was killed; two attackers/insurgents were injured.

IED: 06 June, Zabul Province, Qalat District (Kakaran Area) – a police vehicle was subjected to an IED strike; the device had been hidden in a roadside hand-cart; two policemen were injured; vehicle extensively damaged.

The Beaver

My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !

June 08, 2007

Some quick news rapids, I am well and safe.

So 2 trips to Herat are planned:
- a 24 hours stay for the entrance meeting on June 6,
- Departure of the team for Herat planned the week of June 17 for two weeks.

The first stint allowed me to ascert a few things:
1) Herat airport is a catastrophe ;
2) UN flights do get cancelled or delayed ;
3) Peshawar is a depressing place (at least, the airport) ;
4) Herat is pretty ;
5) I will be staying in a 5 star hotel

Afghanis for the moment seem to be very nice people. There are in Kabul the pleasant places to take a meal - on the exterior it looks like nothing, but the garden, once one enters, is very pleasant. It is if the restaurants were to wear the burka.

Myself, I wear the Kameez (long Pakistani tunic) and a scarf on my head and shoulders, or a abayah (a long monk like dress) with a scarf to be in agreement with the local culture. But as soon as I am at the hotel, the office or in an expat restaurant, buh bye decorum.ABAYAH



KAMEEZ

Yes, the cover, it is exhausting, and somewhat unpleasant. My colleague, a girl who usually adapts well, seems to have trouble this time. It is says much. I acknowledge that the abayah is a little much, but when I am satisfied with the paki look.

Environment with the team is good, we have a lot of challenges so we really stick together.

I do not smell myself any direct threats, but I acknowledge to have seldom seen as many AK-47. It is a little distressing. This said, as these machine-guns are most of the time destines to my protection, so I try to make abstraction of it. Not always obvious.

I give the context, but I repeat it, I feel safe. NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT.

The Beaver

My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !

June 03, 2007

Painting my nails in Kabul

I arrived in Kabul, I'm fine, I am in a comfortable hotel, and will post more tomorrow.

My flight was ok - but I almost missed it. I re-fell asleep after my alarm rang. I slept through the better part of it, but not before I made friend, a Attache working at the French Embassy in Kabul. Knowing people is key in this business.

Kabul is fine but food is terrible. The weather seems to be erratic - freakin' hot by day, freakin' cold at night. The desert thing, if you will. Wearing a burka in broad daylight must be unbearable. The hijab is already a pain, I'll admit.

The picture I am using for the header, I didn't take, but it is true - this is what Kabul looks like from the sky. From the ground there is barely any thing to see - low mud houses, that's pretty much it.

My hotel looks like crap from the outside but is actually pretty nice inside. There is a garden, a gym, and a restaurant. My only qualm is the food. Meat is difficult to avoid. And boiled beef is yucky.


It took a while for Internet to get hooked up, so I had time to give myself a manicure and a pedicure. Strange first activity for Kabul, if you ask me.

Tomorrow, work. I'll know whether or not I go to Herat, and for how long if I do.


The Beaver

My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !

May 29, 2007

2007 Planning (again... changes - any questions?)

May and June 2007

June - Mid-July 2007

Last 2 weeks of July

August and September 2007

September 2007


October / November 2007


Last week of November-Mid December My Holiday season

The Beaver


My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !

May 25, 2007

NONE OF THIS IS HAPPENING IN ISLAMABAD

Pakistani forces attack 'terrorist' camp, four dead :MIRANSHAH, Pakistan Army troops launched an operation Tuesday to flush out a "terrorist" training camp in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan, killing three Uzbeks and one tribesman, soldiers stormed the camp at Zakerkhel village in North Waziristan district after militants refused to meet a peace delegation of tribal elders flown in by helicopter and opened fire on security forces, a military statement said. "The security forces returned fire and are in the process of clearing the miscreants' training facility," the statement said. Chief military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad said at least three militants were killed in the raid and some "terrorist" training materials including explosives had been seized. "We don't know the exact number of people killed. We hope the operation will be over soon then we will get the details," he told a private television channel.

Music shop blown up in Pakistan's Sherpao village PESHAWAR, Suspected militants blew up a music shop in a grenade attack in Sherpao village, 25 kilometres outside Peshawar, late Monday, police said Tuesday.Senior police officer Feroz Shah said two militants on a bicycle lobbed a hand grenade into the shop and fled. A police squad on motorcycles chased and arrested one man, while the other escaped. A dental clinic and a computer shop were also damaged in the blast, he added.

Musharraf, Aziz review law n' order, economy: President General Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on Tuesday held discussions here and reviewed the state of economy, law and order, and political environment in the country. Prime Minister Aziz who called on President Musharraf here briefed him about his recently concluded visit abroad and his parlays with world leaders.

Ten oil tankers destroyed in Torkham rocket attack : Ten oil tankers waiting to cross Pak-Afghanistan border to take oil supplies for US-led coalition troops in Afghanistan were burnt in a fire started by two rockets fired at a parkinbg lot near the border town of Torkham. the authorties later found and defused three more rockets from near by mound the rockets were linked to a timer to go off at an appointed time eight persons all afghans were arrested for interrogation. According to one source 22 oil tankers and containers had been destroyed and damaged during the last one and a half month in different parts of NWFP, Talibans were being blamed for these incidents.

Cleric ready to die instead of closing down illegal FM channel: Mingora Swat.Owner of illegal FM channel in Swat and son-in-law of Safi Muhmmad, the chief of defunct Tanzeem Nifaze Shariat Mohammandi (TNSM) Maulana Fazulullah reiterated his commitment to render sacrifice of his life instead of any compromise on the FM channel. Following the possible military operations against the Jamia Hafsa in Islamabad he has invited his followers to register their names for jihad, on which thousands have offered themselves for jihad. Local Administration has started impounding transport in the area so as to block the way for those trying to leave fro jihad. TNSM leader said they would give them a call for jihad when required according to details more than 100 youths from Swat have registered their names for suicide attacks and have disappeared from the area after seeking forgiveness from their relatives or near and dear ones.

Two Killed in Hub blast: BOLUCHISTAN, Quetta. Two people were killed and three injured when a powerful bomb went off in the industrial area of Hub on May 22 night. The bomb was planted at a bus stop close to a bridge on the RCD highway in the industrial town which went off at 1100 PM.One of the injured is in critcal condition, no one has claimed responsibility.

The Beaver

My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !

May 23, 2007

In Mourning


Some of you know this already, but I've been dealing for months now with a cancer-stricken extended family member. CQFD's father was diagnosed with lung cancer back in january, and he passed away today.

Seeing as I'm in Pakistan and they're in Canada, and I'm not going to make it home on time for the funeral, I'm bummed, to put it lightly.

I’ve known the man for over a decade now. He was a good man, he opened his door to all his kid's friends. He was warm, and funny, and smart. He lent us a willing ear when we were rowdy or sad. He gave me a father figure to look up to after my own dad passed away some years ago. He taught me about a lot of good things about respectability, courage, friendship, loyalty, and family.

I'm really sad for CQFD too, because we are still very, very close, and there is a lot of affection between us. And since I'm alone in Pak to deal with this, well... I'm venting here.

I don't think this will affect my posting - simply because it's a good distraction from the rest of the crap I have to deal with. I just needed a place to express it.

Thanks all,

The Beaver

My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !

May 20, 2007

How an SMS maybe saved my life



I was hanging out, taking a shower, when I heard my phone ring its familiar Drrrrrring, indicating a new SMS.

Nonchalantly, I walked to my phone, my body fresh and clean from the hot shower. Was it news from home? An invitation to dinner?

No.

Instead, it was this :

"All please avoid serena/nirvana/abpara area this evening. Rangers have taken position to attack lal masjid. Situation is very tense. Pls avoid to go to abpara and G6/2 area."

Gee wiz. I wonder how Afghanistan will be.

The Beaver

My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !

P.S. On a lighter note, it says a lot about the efficiency of our security monitors. Please do not worry, friends and family.

May 18, 2007

Thoughts about being me in Pakistan

I noticed recently that when I walk on the street, I get a lot of attention. This happens, whether I am dressed in western clothes or not. It happens, day or night.

Some may say it has to do with my size, my skin, my hair color. Granted, I stand out. The 2 people I travel with blend in better, one being asian, the other, a true-blue American of German/Slavic descent with dark hair, who has been asked recently if he was Afghani.

I think, though, that it’s not only my looks. In Islamabad, foreigners crawl out of the walls. They are used to us. No, I think I am beautiful in the eyes of these men, or minimally that I am somewhat attractive. I like that thought. The amount of male attention I get with westerners is very limited. It’s heartening.

The other thing about being in Pak is the shopping craze. The house I live in is front of Jinnah Market, and so I have been having a hard time resisting the appeal of souvenir, clothiers and accessory shops. It looks like everything in Pakistan is of a lovely craft, clothes are exotic and luxurious.

Thankfully, the knowledge that UNHAS, (the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service) will only allow me 30 kilos to fly into Kabul, and that I already have 29.99 Kilos of luggage, protects me from complete bankruptcy.

To compensate, I focus on small and light items, mostly toe-rings and ankle bracelets. (Would I be developing a foot fetish?)

I also now have 3 new scarves, 2 new Kameez (the Pakistani long top) from FNKASIA, the hottest local designer, and countless hair accessories.

I am turning into a girl, somebody stop me!

The Beaver

My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !

May 15, 2007

More advisories... the net tightens

Country Risk Rating High

Advisory I- Supreme Court Official Killed in Islamabad; Nationwide Strike Commences

A senior Supreme Court official was killed by gunmen early on 14 May at his residence in Islamabad.

According to the official's wife, two or three gunmen shot him and immediately fled the scene in what appears to have been a targeted killing.

Meanwhile, shops across the country closed in response to a strike called by opposition parties Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD), Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) and Awami National Party (ANP).

Troops in Karachi were allegedly given orders to shoot protesters in response to a break down in law and order in the city over the weekend which killed at least 42 people and injured approximately 140. The Sindh provincial government has imposed Section 144 of the Pakistani Constitution in Karachi for a period of 30 days, banning the carrying of weapons, processions, public rallies and public meetings.

Roads leading to North Nizamabad, North Karachi, Site and Orangi town in Karachi have been sealed by authorities, while traffic on the National Highway and railways has been suspended. Approximately 15,000 police and paramilitary troops have been deployed in the city.

The Marriot, Avari and Sheraton hotels in Karachi, Serena and Marriot hotels in Islamabad, Avari hotel in Lahore and Pearl hotel in Peshawar are providing escort services to and from the airport for their customers.

Pakistan International Airways (PIA) has advised passengers to check with the airline for any changes in schedule for domestic and international flights out of Karachi.

Violence erupted in Karachi on 12 May, as rallies organized by opposition parties MMA, ANP and Pakistani People's Party (PPP), along with several lawyers, in support of suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, clashed with a competing rally by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the ruling party in the Sindh province and a member of the national coalition government.

The killing of a Supreme Court official comes in the wake of Chief Justice Chaudhry's petition hearing in the Supreme Court, which was scheduled for 14 May but was subsequently halted. Chief Justice Chaudhry's lawyers announced that they planned to protest in Islamabad on 14 May.

With the involvement of coalition member MQM in the violence, there are speculations that President Pervez Musharraf's government has been weakened and there may be early elections. President Musharraf, however, has declared that both presidential and general elections will take place as scheduled.

There has been some visible downgrading of physical security measures in Islamabad and Lahore on 14 May, however Karachi remains in a virtual lockdown. Further protest and violence remains likely.

SBI P
advises its staff members to defer non-essential travel to Pakistan until the situation subsides. Those staff in Karachi are advised to limit movement in the city. In particular, Qasba Aligarh, Banaras, Patel Para, Sohrab Goth, Qaidabad, Dawood Chowrangi Landhi, Shahra-e-Faisal, Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Nomish Chowangi, Water Pump area, Ibne-e-Sina road, Metro Cinema, Lyari, Kala Board, Malir, PIA Colony, SITE area, Baloch Colony, Guru Mandir, Model Colony, Korangi, Qasba Colony, Jamshed Quarters and Lasbela should be avoided. In addition, Members in Islamabad are advised to avoid the vicinity of the Supreme Court.

Staff
members travelling to and from the country should check with their respective airlines about internal security mechanisms and changes in flight schedules.

Country Risk Rating High
Advisory II-Pakistani and Afghan Forces Clash

Pakistan's Frontier Corps clashed with Afghan soldiers at Jajai in the tribal Kurram Agency near Afghanistan's Paktia province on 13 May.

Pakistani authorities claim that six Afghan soldiers were killed while Afghan officials said that two Afghan civilians were killed in the fighting.

Both sides traded accusations of unprovoked firing which led to a two-hour battle. According to reports, the fighting affected Kubki village and several persons were injured in Gul Ghundi.

The latest incident will further impact on the troubled relationship between the two countries.

Afghanistan accuses Pakistan of providing assistance to the Taliban and al-Qaeda militants that stage regular attacks on Afghan and coalition forces inside Afghanistan. Pakistan denies these charges and claims that it is doing all it can to fight terrorism in the region.

The 1510 mi (2430 km) border shared by the two countries is a contentious issue. Pakistan's recent move to fence parts of the border in an attempt to control the movement of militants has angered Kabul which does not recognize it as an international boundary. The frontier region is inhabited on both sides by Pashtun tribes with strong family and clan ties who travel freely across the border.

Taliban offensives in Afghanistan generally increase during the summer with the opening of the mountain passes. Despite claims to the contrary, Pakistan continues to support its proxies in Afghanistan, including members of the Taliban. The US is also losing patience with Pakistan's less than constructive role in Afghanistan and in pursuing regional extremists. The US support of both countries is the major factor preventing a further deterioration of relations between the two countries. This is an artificial situation that will not last.

Increased clashes on the Pakistan-Afghan border are likely.


The Beaver

My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !