With time to spare waiting for our plane I jotted down a few observations:
• I’m appalled at the way Afghan police behaved towards local people. They treated them like cattle. When women at a shrine started arguing loudly, police ran over to them and beat them with sticks. Disgraceful.
• Afghan plumbing is amongst the worst in the world. Not one bathroom has actually worked effectively, even the newly installed ones. Unattached loo seats, no flush, water pouring from joints, showers angled so that the loo gets soaked when they are on, taps leaking continuously – such a waste.
• 20 people in a mini bus built for 12 is the norm. How do people travel such long distances in 40 degree heat, packed in like sardines?
• Full faced chadors are evil. Women cannot walk, shop, look after children or ride bikes safely when they are completely covered up. Vision and movement is so restricted it’s impossible to lead a normal life. How do they avoid killing themselves on the back of a motorbike? I’ve seen several catch their robes in the wheels. And it doesn’t stop them being harassed by men – I’ve seen men touching them and hissing at them in the street. On the other hand, I can understand why it’s simpler to cover up, just to avoid the worst of the staring, cat calling and hostility some men show to women. It’s exhausting always having to be aware of where the men are and how you are behaving.
• Good pavements do not exist. Good roads are even rarer. Where has all the allied money for infrastructure renewal gone to?
• What happens to all the excellent vegetables we’ve seen in the markets? Can they really be all usd just by local people or is wastage high? They aren’t used in restaurants – It’s just meat and rice. Strange.
• Afghan saffron is 10 times the price of the best Spanish. Why?
• In 3 days my partner and I have drunk 12 litres of water, 1.5 litres of Pepsi, 1.5 litres of lemonade, 1.5 litres of mango juice, 6 cans of local soft drink – not counting the tea. This country sucks the moisture out of you. How did the troops manage to patrol hot, dusty areas when they were also wearing 45 kilos of pack and body armour without dying from heat exhaustion?
• No matter how you are dressed or how little you are out in the open air the fine dust gets everywhere. Washing clothes is shocking, watching grey residue floating to the top of the water. My hair is constantly gritty, even with my head covered all of the time.
• No one’s a warlord. They are all “Tribal Mediators”.
• My legs are full of bruises from the constant banging against the narrow seats in the mini vans . I also have over 20 nasty, red inflamed bites from bed bugs. It’s not easy travelling around this country.
As we stepped onto the boarding ramp leading to our plane, I ripped off my headscarf and made my way to my seat. Afghanistan is a mesmerising, beautiful, complicated country. It’s mad, bad and dangerous to know. I’ve loved it. One day, when it’s safer, I’ll come back and visit the many wonderful places we didn’t get to see. Thank you to all the kind, generous people we met – especially those who fed us tea when we needed it most.