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January 28, 2003

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We don't buy rocket launchers in the bazaar, just rugs. Our fourth day waiting for a plane to take us to Kabul. We could go by car but everyone we've talked to tells us this would be a grave risk. Bandits and warlord soldiers rob passerbys at gunpoint. So we sit and wait for a plane to land in Herat. We're not upset by the delay. Our Afghan hosts entertain us with lavish dinners in their homes, a warm bed in a secure compound, and a car to drive around and see the sites. In mid-morning we hear that a plane has landed at the airfield. We throw our things into a car and rush to meet it. We move through a circus check-in; we're like people fleeing an approaching army; and we board an Arianna Afghan jet, a United Airlines hand-me-down, which carries us to Kabul. There we meet a friendly American NGO worker who gives us a lift into center city. In Kabul people jostle for space on broken sidewalks while cars honk and pull every maneuver to go down congested streets. Dust chokes our throats. The hotels ask for too much money - $50 rates a dingy room where the bathroom smells like an open sewer. Unwashed, dun colored buildings line the streets. On the first floor of each building, shops open onto the street and sell various items: Indian movie cd's, plastic furniture, junk electronics, and greasy kebabs - it's like walking thru hell's department store. In one of these condemned buildings we find a cheap hotel - $15 per night - that hangs meat in the courtyard lobby (we won't be eating in the hotel's restaurant). Why is this hotel cheaper than the others? The cots are rustier, the rugs dirtier, and the bathroom smells like an open sewer that's clogged with roadkill. We move the bed against the door to stay the maximum distance from the bathroom while increasing our security. We love this kind of traveling.
Pull out your camera and you'll get this reaction everytime - the Afghans love having their picture taken.
Afghan aerial view - our Army calls central and south Afghanistan "Indian country."
Any ancient kerosene stove keeps the room warm at night - temperatures drop below freezing in Kabul.
The hotel hangs meat outside of your door in case you have a midnight craving for a sandwich.