Monday, 24 September 2012

Full Moon Gecko

(Originally on 31 August, 2012.)

Another two weeks I've spent in Kabul, and my first month here is coming to its end. So far I haven't been able to leave the capital for the field. There are days when my internet connection doesn't work at all, and days when it works somewhat. I've made a habit of taking a book with me whenever I go for the internet, because opening a site sometimes takes five minutes or so. Right now the book is the History of Afghanistan (in Finnish), written by the historian Andrei Sergejeff, based in Hämeenlinna but descending from a nineteenth-century Russian merchant family from Viborg. As the sites take their time opening, I have time to sip black coffee and take deep breaths before clicking the next error pop-up.

Last night was full moon. I know have some cane chairs at my terrace, where I can admire the view at the concrete wall surrounding my house, the few roses in my tiny garden, and the trees behind the wall, where Rose-ringed Parakeets, Palm Doves and House Mynas gather to roost at sunset. Sometimes I can see the passage of swallows in the sky: Barn Swallows, Red-rumped Swallows, Crag Martins and House Martins. Until late night I had some interesting discussions on the state of environment in Afghanistan with my guests, who do field work in Bamiyan province.

My life goes on in a slow pace. One of the greatest disadvantages I've noticed is my constantly increasing absent-mindedness. I don't know if it's resulted by the climate, the dust in the air or what, but each smallest action demands constant remembering of so many things and keeping them in mind. For example going to a shop is an operation which needs to be prepared in advance, as is also the transportation of grocery promptly enough to a place with fridge. The subconscious has to work all the time on various small details to control them: Is there enough water in the storage? Are the current regulators working? Did I leave the boiler on? When was he or she supposed to come for a visit?

I have purchased furniture. Now I'm the proud owner of some beautiful wooden chairs and tables, a sofa, a couple of armchairs, and of course an Oriental travel chest with many secret hides. I have also bought an extra bed for the guestroom, so my friends could come for a visit from Finland, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, America and wherever. Most of the furniture seem to be made in Pakistan and they're quite ornate. I hope some of the most valuable remaining forests of the Himalayas have not been destroyed for them.

Going to the furniture bazaar was by the way a most interesting exercise of hours of negotiations and bargaining. When the furniture sellers delivered the pieces here with a small lorry, they accidentally forgot about six small tablets belonging to the salon table set, as well as the fact that my recipe actually stated transport was included in the price. But when two of my men went back to the bazaar to present the recipes to the seller's father, the missing pieces were quickly found and they also recalled transport was included. Here one needs to remind people of things, apparently because the air or the tea makes everyone absent-minded.

Afghans don't say things directly, because that's considered impolite. It is considered more polite that things just get forgotten, and the message has to be derived from hints. As giving a negative answer is considered impolite the Afghan says, for instance, that it will be taken care of inshallah, but with his gestures and hints he makes it understood that it won't be taken care of. This is not considered a lie, but a respecting way of expressing the sad fact that there is no intention to take care of the issue. If one said it straight-on, that could be considered insulting, as the one who would receive such straight-on message might lose his face.

Today I saw the first gecko in my apartment. It was hardly the size of a cockroach, but I wish it all the best hunting luck in harvesting the populations of mosquitoes and ants that are all too ubiquitous. The mosquitoes have appeared disturbing enough that I got devices to repel them, now scattered in the rooms. The mosquitoes are orange brown in colour, they don't make a sound, and they're so quick it's hard to kill them.

We live stormy times in Afghan politics, as the president and everyone else want to position themselves optimally ahead of the anticipated removal of the Western powers. Two ministers have been fired, a third one has been plunged into a corruption scandal, and also the head of intelligence and the attorney general have been changed. On the opposite side the Taliban of course has no intention to put down their guns since the Westerners are rushing out of the country. So the organization accelerates its murderous attacks, mostly targeting ordinary Afghans. The last case was the murder of seventeen participants of a party, who had listened to music and danced with women in Helmand.

To the extent I can, I of course also follow what happens in Syria. The world just don't seem to get it. People bullshit about things such as Syria's WMDs and the presence of Islamists, although these very same issues are among the reasons that should encourage us to help the Syrian opposition to as quickly as possible overthrow the rogue regime that is massacring Syrian people every passing day.

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