I've been waiting for weeks to use that blog title...
A movement is when we go somewhere off base..."outside the wire".
We took a trip to a base for the Afghan National Army that is currently under construction. The drive took about 40 minutes to get there. The vehicle we were in is an "up-armored" Ford Excursion. Up-armored means that it has bulletproof windows and plates in the doors to make them blast proof. The doors are super heavy...you can really feel it when you try to open the doors.
Here is a picture of me in my full "battle rattle"...standard attire when going for a drive. The vest is not called a flack jacket or a bulletproof vests, but instead is called an IBA...Interceptor Body Armor...probably weights about 25 lbs.
City streets of Kabul are CRAZY. We started out on this wide street that had a dashed center line running down the middle. Being a naive American, I just assumed that maybe the dashed line divided lanes/traffic...one lane going in each direction. How stupid. It means nothing. You can drive in either lane going either direction, pretty much as fast as traffic will let you...same goes for walking or riding your bike. You can ride your bike either side of the street, either direction....or in the middle if you like. Also, there are no stoplights or crosswalks in the entire town. It was wild...and very busy. I took some pictures, my apologies for the lack of quality, they were taken from a moving vehicle with my ipod.
Next to every street were these little shops, that had everything: from food to windows, bicycles, tires and welded metal parts. Each shop had something different and they were all packed together. During our drive we went through little districts that had lots of specialized stores. One area had at least 5 shops that made fur coats while other areas had at least 4 welding shops and another area had people making custom windows and doors. Evidently there are certain parts of the city that you go to when you need a specialty item.
As mentioned above, no stoplights. There are lots of roundabouts and then just lots of places where traffic just passes through one another...somehow. As we were passing through these intersections I got to thinking about the circus trick where they have a group of motorcyclists driving around in a steel globe and they all pass within inches of each other...inches from a crash at all times...but just so choreographed that everyone stays relatively safe. That is what driving in Kabul feels like...traffic flows through like organized chaos...somehow.
The city is surrounded by steep rock hillsides and homes are built into/onto these hillsides...hopefully you can see it below. It is amazing...stairs also get cut into the rock and dirt hillside to provide access to homes.
Because so much here is brown and dusty; colors, seem brighter and more vivid than normal. We saw lots of children walking/biking to school. We passed a very large all girls school where all the girls had bright white head scarves. We passed an all boys school, where the boys all wore bright blue button down shirts. Some kids were biking to school...sometimes 3 little kids all on a single bike...sharing the road with us in our up armored vehicle. All the children seemed so happy...laughing and playing, arm in arm with their friends. They live in a 3rd world country and have so little, but they are still happy just playing with their friends. They recognize us as Americans and wave and give us a thumbs up. It feels good to be here. It may feel a little better if we were building more schools than military buildings, but I guess security may need to come first.
Below are some pictures of the former palace. Evidently this palace was destroyed in the civil war that followed the Russians leaving Afghanistan.
Here is a picture of a mosque that we passed. Easily the most beautiful building that we passed...and so large...the picture below only shows a fraction of the property.
In the green zone, all properties are surrounded with hesco barriers (like 4 foot thick sandbag walls) and concrete blast barriers but as we pass gated entrances you can see embassies, hotels, and other buildings with beautiful properties and trees. I would've loved to see this place before the barriers were installed, it must've been a very beautiful place. I feel very lucky to have been given this opportunity to see this part of the world. Even with the brown and the dust, it is a very beautiful place.