Monday, June 4, 2012

Observations

Living in an area that is designated as a "War Zone" is not to be taken lightly or underestimated when it comes to the risk factor.  There are constant threats to safety and all here have to be situationally aware.  The number of incidents in the local vicinity are numerous and present a challenge for all.

At the same time, those who live here, as it is their home, must find a way to survive.  The fighting that has gone on has taken many casualties on the civilian side and military.  Each is a tragedy as that person is someones loved one - a father,mother, sister, brother, etc.  I understand the cost of conflict and that the loss of life and/or injuries will effect many more than the person who is wounded/lost. Many military members from the US and other countries have lost their lives defending the people from those who kill without mercy.

At the same time, life goes on and those who live in places such as this must find a way to eke out a living.  Many suffer in poverty and have a hard time providing their families with the basics of life.  Others find work or have the ability to run a small business that provides a meager income.

In the evening, I was at my hooch which offers an upper level balcony view of the surrounding area. There is a screen to hide/protect me from being observed which is important for safety.  In places such as this, the sight of a Western person could tempt someone to take a pot shot at me.  It hasn't happened here but the likelihood is high enough to warrant taking proper precautions.  The screen is not unlike being in a "duck blind" where one can observe w/o being detected.

I stood there casually observing the life of people in the city as they went about their daily life and observed how each of them continued to live their lives here while a conflict dominates most of this troubled land.  The main mode of transportation observed here are motorcycles.  They are everywhere and are mainly medium size Hondas along with some other foreign makes.  This is to be expected as the cost of operation is low and they are much cheaper to purchase than an automobile.  I saw families riding 3 and 4 to a bike along with a young man who had converted his motorbike into a three-wheeler with a small cargo bed on the rear for making deliveries.  Other vehicles observed included a large bus ( which are common place across the Middle East/SW Asia) and quite a few large trucks.

The Trucks here fall into two distinct varieties.  There are the basic 18 wheelers with a basic trailer behind them hauling the supplies and goods needed in either containerized trailers or some variety of flat-bed open version.  Most are kinda beaten up looking rough after a life of being driven over the poor roads here.  Roads here can be paved (or not) and the quality of the road surfaces varies wildly.  The other vehicle observed are what is called "Jingle Trucks".  (I have enclosed a picture of one for you to see what it looks like.)

These trucks are very elaborately decorated and are quite the sight to see as they travel the roads.  To me they have represent what Afghanistan must have been like in the past when there was less conflict and Afghanistan was a country that people explored to see where Alexander the Great traveled.  It seems difficult for us to imagine, but I have met people who came here in the 1950s and 60s and they tell that it was quite a different experience traveling around Afghanistan.

The other things I was able to observe included boys playing soccer, merchants loading up goods on trucks and the general sounds of life as the day was slowly drawing to its conclusion.  There are even green trees and the sight of a large Ferris Wheel about a mile down the road ( although the security person told me he has never seen in move in the last two years he has been here.).  Buildings here are of varied shape and size with many having elaborate decorations.

Birds flew around and the day started to cool off as I enjoyed a cigar.  It seemed odd to know that in other places in this country, things were much worse.  Battles were ongoing and those who profit from other's misery & suffering were trying to cause difficulty for the people.  At the same time, our military are present and trying to provide safety and security to the nation while training the Afghan Army to do the same. 

In this moment, the observation I made is there are moments of normalcy that are a welcome respite from the bad news that is all too common here. This observation is fully tempered that life in this land is fraught with danger and appearances are not what they seem.  To take the calm of the moment as a sign that danger doesn't exist would be fool hardy.  Until many things change, this land will be a place where life is difficult with constant reminders that what is unseen can be deadly.  I ended my reflective moment and went back inside to the cool of my quarters, glad to spend the night safe and sound, well guarded from the trouble that afflicts others here.

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