BURN, BABY BURN
How to keep warm in Kabul in the winter?
As some of my readers will know, I am not a fan of the cold. In fact, anything below 25 degrees turns me into a human icicle and makes me extremely unhappy. So, having moved to Kabul I’ve had to figure out ways of keeping myself warm. Happily I’ve discovered that the Afghans have already invented many ingenious methods to keep toasty in the Siberian winters and with the first snow arriving this week I couldn’t survive without them. Here I will present just three.
Strategy One - Plastic over the window
In my country, we call this double glazing, but of course that all costs $$, so the Afghan way is to buy rolls of see-through plastic sheeting and stretch it across the windows. the next time someone gives you a quote for insulating your house, tell them where to stick it. Here’s a cheaper way to do it. Although you should note that it means you can’t open windows for the entire winter, and when combined with strategy 2, this can be a lethal cocktail.
plastic over my bedroom windows
Strategy Two - The Bukhaari
Anyone that has survived an Afghan winter knows all about the joys of the semi-deadly bukhaari. Each day I have a fresh bucket of saw dust delivered to my room ready for me to light. Eight times out of ten, I fill the room with smoke, but the other two times I get it right, I am blessed with a comforting, rustic heat that warms me to the core.
my bedroom bukhaari
Strategy Three - the Afghan Shawl
All around Kabul now you will see men wrapped from head to toe in a shawl made of thick wool. It looks so cosy that you almost want to go and snuggle. But I try to refrain from doing that most of the time.
keeping warm at Nadir Shah's mausoleum
Wish me luck!
or you will die”
After last Monday’s events and feeling somewhat disillusioned by the work of the international community in Afghanistan, I was looking for something to show me the real Afghanistan and remind me of why I am here. This weekend my wish came true.
Whilst taking a Friday afternoon stroll around the Mausoleum of King Mohammad Nadir Shah to my surprise we stumbled across an open space with what seemed like hundreds of Afghan children riding bicycles, horse riding, eating popcorn and warm nuts, and most of all kite running. I stood in astonishment as I watched this scene around me.
It was the kite running which captured my curiosity the most. Kite running is popular in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan and is the practice of running after drifting kites in the sky that have been cut loose in kite fighting.
Mirwan our professional kite runner
Ever since reading The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, I have been intrigued by this tradition and was dying to try it out for myself. The kites came in all colours, shapes and sizes. Kite flyers all around were armed with rolls of sellotape hurriedly repairing their kites for the next fight.
the kite vendors making repairs
Soon enough I had my very own kite to fly and stepped forward to take over the control of the thin string which immediately began zipping through my hands. The instant thrill that I felt meant that I let out a little squeal of happiness as I felt the resistance of the wind against my bright pink kite. “Higher, higher”, shouted Abdullah. “Don’t stop moving, or you will die”. I felt a release of adrenaline in me as the kids gathered around to watch what must have been the odd site of a grown woman excitedly flying a kite. I felt a pull against the kite, like a fish struggling against a fishing line, and then suddenly somebody shouted, “You cut him, you cut him!”. I had cut my very first kite, and now I was determined to get higher and higher.
my first kite fight
By this stage the children around me were watching the small dot in the sky with hawkish accuracy. A few moments later another cheer erupted as I cut another kite! I felt at one with my Afghan crowd as we all shared these moments of joy together with no need for language or cultural understanding. We all could relate to this pure, innocent happiness and fun.
I didn’t get much further after cutting two kites before I was cut down myself. However, I was left with Abdullah’s words, “Don’t stop or you will die” echoing in my mind for some time afterwards.
Perhaps kite fighting shows us the importance of keeping up the fight and following our dreams. Because giving up, stopping the fight for what you believe in and not following your dreams is the same as dying.
The sky is the limit.
“Because your eyes
Beauty a Dari poem I love- click on the photo for the translation
Dari is an ancient language, a dialect of Farsi spoken in Afghanistan. My Dari lessons have become a haven of blissful escapism where my thoughts and emotions are simplified to the minimal vocabulary I have learned so far. There is no ability to complain about work, no ability to say you miss home, no ability to dwell on far away love.
In my Dari oasis I am always “bseaar khob astum, tashakoor” .Very good thanks.
In my Dari oasis, “yesterday I drank tea and ate a delicious pomegranate in the garden” and “tomorrow I will go to the big park with my friends”.
In my Dari oasis, “the pink flowers are next to the green tree”
Oh, if only life was as simple as it is in my Dari oasis.
Today my teacher arrived wearing a traditional Afghan scarf draped around his neck and over his chest which was unusual for him as he usually preferred to dress in his dapper blue jeans and blazers. It was pleasant to watch the fabric elegantly fold and move with each new word he tried to transfer to my wandering mind. For a moment I wished I was wrapped in the scarf, tightly like a baby, protected from the world outside the gates of my compound.
I eventually figured out how to tell him “shawletan magbulast” . Your shawl is beautiful. He replied, to my shear joy, with the delightful Dari idiom “bikhatarike cheshman etan magbulast”
Because your eyes are beautiful.
A bad day for Kabul
Today was the day Kabul City was attacked; explosions, suicide bombs and gun fire was heard for several hours from my office which soon became my safe haven as each explosion shook the windows around me.
Today is also the day I have decided to record my experiences of being out here. It's hard to describe to my loved ones what it is like here and why I love it so much. Maybe this will bring me one step closer to being able to do that.
Although today was a bad day for Kabul, I really hope to be able to blog about many good days for Kabul and the Afghan people.