Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Morning Freeze in the Afghan Capital

5 a.m. in my freezing cold hotel room at the Sufi Inn in Kabul. I have a steaming cup of tea next to me and am wrapped up in my patou and flannel PJs to keep warm. The electric heaters by my bed give some warmth but not enough to want to get out of bed. The big snowstorm that hit Kabul last week sent temperatures plunging way below zero and has left the city in a beautiful blanket of snow. Although the snow makes the city look lovely, it has been treacherous getting through icy streets and travel around the city is taking longer than usual. Yesterday, my group and I lumbered down an icy, rutted street in a small bus swerving and sliding slowly, trying not to slip sideways into another car or tip over completely.
Here I am again in Kabul, running a workshop for my students who came to my leadership camp last October. We call this a follow up workshop to see how they are doing after their experiece in India last year, and give them new skills and ideas for their work with youth in their communities. Since the kids have not seen each other for the past 5 months, they love being together again. Today is day 2 of the workshop and so far, so good.
Next week I am off to India to run another Youth Solidarity and English Language (YSEL) camp for a month. I’m very excited about this camp and am looking forward to a great month. I’ve already met some of the kids who are coming and they are looking forward to a fun month of learning. The biggest highlight of camp was to be a private audience with the Dalai Lama that I had arranged but some high muck-a-mucks in the US embassy freaked out about it and put the kibosh on it. I was so pissed off about it! Instead of looking at it as a learning experience for some Afghan youth, it had to be politicized by some idiots. Still I haven’t cancelled the appointment, so maybe my staff and I will go up and say hello. Details to follow.
So what about Turkmenistan you may ask. Well, all is quiet on that front as we await the outcome of the presidential elections (a no brainer there) and then maybe the Ministry of Education will grant me access back in to the country. Hopefully by the end of March when my camp ends I will get OK’d to go back in and continue my work there. Fingers crossed. In the meantime I have been getting up at 6 a.m. every day to talk to my office staff in Ashgabat and help then navigate our new program together. Now that I’m in Kabul, I don’t have to get up so early to talk with them since we are an hour’s time difference.
Somewhere in the distance I hear a rooster crowing. That poor thing must be cold if it’s out on the street. I think of all those poor people in the refugee camps around town that are trying to keep as warm as possible in these harsh conditions. Already many small children in the camps have frozen to death, such a shame. I hope it gets warmer soon. Yesterday seemed a bit warmer but still it gets so cold in the night. There is a large space heater like they have in outdoor restaurants in our dining space, which has become out main hanging out spot in the evenings. We all encircle it with our chairs and talk, sing and tell stories after dinner. It sort of happened naturally, no one planned it like that, and it’s a nice place to be. Last night we got a little carried away with our singing and a lady from London called the front desk to complain. So we’ll have to watch our singing in the future.
I have not heard the call to prayer yet this morning, as I usually do. Maybe I slept through it or it is too cold to go to the mosque. In a few hours we will begin our workshop with morning song, a few warm up games and then talk about the Bill of Rights (our theme for the day). We will look at the American Bill of Rights, the Afghan Bill of Rights and then create our own Bill of Rights. All in a day’s work. I’m going to take this quiet morning time now to get ready, catch up on some email and take advantage of the Internet while everyone is asleep (it’s faster early in the a.m.).