Walk it out

October 9, 2009

Day 1 afternoon

Couldn’t keep my eyes open on the drive home from meeting at the National Solidarity Program with Jamshed. Pushed my self through till 9. Awake and anxious – mind in turmoil at 2:30am. Up at 4 and busied myself fixing Kevlar helmet and cleaning XLR cables and wondering why I am in a little room in Afghanistan cleaning XLR cables and tearing up foam padding to fix to the inside of a soldier’s helmet. Why? Got myself back on track: what is the role of economic development in war and conflict resolution and who should be doing it. Got it to make sense again. But the how is so stressed at this point in a project like this that you want to explode.

IT is surprising how quickly – in a matter of hours – intense  isolation dominates. The hotel is isolating – a bizarre but needed oasis. The room so small and while two walls are windows with good light one looks at a wall and one the glass covered hallway which means the heavy dank curtains must often be kept closed for privacy. Inside I have to work very hard not to let the closeness, floresentness, the darkness close in on cloud my mental state.

I inisisted on a walk at 6:45. I dressed up in my local garb – Kameez and Salwar- and headed out into the cool air and bright crisply clear morning. It is Friday morning, day of rest in Muslim countries, so the streets were relatively quiet at this time of day. I challenged myself that even if I only felt comfortable walking one block that I had to break out of this safe place. The hotel is built around a central sitting area – completely closed in on itself with heavy gates (the first with a large peace dove on it) double rolling doors, sand bagged guard houses for an entrance on a dirt side road.

The roads are everything one already knows from any other developing world city– at least asian. I could have just as well been walking down a street in Ahmedabad, India or Bandung, Indonesia – except with more ease. The streets are paved, the side streets rubble and dirt – all is very dry and dusty. The air, especially if there is a breeze is full of dust and sand. This morning it was calm and the air clean of dust and pollution. I was blessed to have streets with few people, few open shops and little traffic. I could walk calmly in the warm sun. People might look trying to place me but no one stared or discussed. The bakers were open – with their pit or large circular ovens, rounds of dough thrown onto the sides. One man crouchs around the hole and others work behind and beside crouching on carpets. The front has a window displaying stacks of bread with patterns and different shapes. A few tool shops, kiosks and benzine stores were open but most had the steel gates closed or rolled down. The filthy and dilapidated mall like buildings looked closed up. The walk was uneventful. I got to an opening near one of the several police checkpoints –where a few poorly uniformed and even more poorly shoed scruffy men with automatic riffles stop cars intermittently for pat downs and trunk checks. I can imagine after yesterday’s bombing there is more urgency to the task but it didn’t look it. Behind, the stone and gravel hills rise steeply coated in square buildings that rise up the ridges with black holes for windows. The top is covered with antennas and a control center of some sort. On the way back men streamed into the street with shovels headed to a construction site. At another corner four men got into a heated argument and then a flailing hair pulling kicking and punching fight. No question that the south asian temper and tension must only be exasperated by the decades of war, the current state of crisis and the brutal poverty.

Related Posts:

Against the Wall – An Afghan Evacuation Story, Part 2

Against the Wall – An Afghan Evacuation Story, Part 2

It was August 19th 2021, three days after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban. I received a startling email from Rahmat, one of our editors:

Dear Michael,

Hope you are doing well. Now I got to Poland. Warsaw airport. This is the contact number of a polish woman who was responsible to assemble us to travel to Poland. Hope you and Basir can find a solution to evacuate all members here.


  1. Charlotte White

    Hi – thanks for sharing with your southern cousins. What amazing photos. Hope you don’t mind that Aja is going to share some with her class – they’re studying Afghanistan in Social Studies. Stay safe and look forward to hearing about all your adventures, Char.

  2. Nancey

    We miss you. Thank you for writing this. We think about you everyday. Be safe and well. Loved the post about the hotel room and the walk. I felt as if I was there. Nancey

  3. ruth lepson

    Dear Michael,
    Not only are your politics admirable & not the least because you live them, but you’re a fine writer, too, and your honesty about emotional states shows us all that one can experience them & go on. Be careful–had dinner with Anu last night & of course her heart is with you–and the rest of us look forward to you returning well–and then you can show your film to a new group at the Conservatory, Musicians for Humanity.
    Much love.

  4. jack spence

    Thanks for the email and the blog. Pretty amazing that you arrived at the time of the bomb on the Indian consulate, but then not so amazing given the number of bombings.
    The spelling is great, but I am keeping my red pencil poised.

    All best,



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *