More from Larry in Afghanistan. If any of you have questions or comments, BTW, just post them here and I'll e-mail them along.
STREETS OF KABUL: The traffic is horrendous. The roads are amazing. I thought the roads were bad in rural Romania. Not even close. It took over an hour to drive from the to our office which is probably a distance of 1-2 miles.
The long drive did give me a chance to watch the goings-on. Every woman here has her head covered. Some women cover their faces but it is a significant minority. Although the dust is so bad here, most Afghans have a scarf around their necks so they can cover their noses and mouths when the dust kicks up. Motor scooter and bicycle riders don't wear helmets but wear scarves. We drove by the Central Mosque and it was modern looking but still a pleasant looking sight.
office is behind cement walls and has armed guards. There are guys with
rifles on every block. Scarier than the terrorists are the organizations
with low-end security comprised of one toothless guy out front with
AK-47 in hand. God forbid one of those guys gets spooked. We passed by
several schools. The schools were a welcome visual relief -- young,
bright smiling faces in matching uniforms of dark pants and pale blue
short sleeved shirts. Until I realized I didn't see any girls...
CRUISING IN STYLE: The vehicle of choice in the international community is an armored Toyota Land Cruiser. The vehicle looks pretty conventional but weighs 2-3x the norm because of armor plating and bulletproof glass. The passenger door weighs close to 300 lbs. I was assured that the door would stop any bullet coming toward the car.
TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING: Or more specifically, there are too many do-gooders here. There are many foreign aid organizations: US Agency for International Development, World Bank, EuropeAid, plus the Germans, Swedes, Canadians and Brits all have their own foreign aid agencies. In most countries, there is a process called "donor coordination" which involves the donor agencies coordinating their projects in order to utilize resources wisely and limit project overlap. Donor coordination in Afghanistan is cluster fornication. There is so much money and so many projects that there is a tremendous amount of duplicated effort. I spent most of my first day visiting government officials trying to explain how my efforts are different from the umpteen other related projects and visiting other projects explaining how I am there to "complement and support" their work not invade their territory. No one told my clients when I was coming. So, they were all surprised by my presence. If I want to take a cynical view of the world, I am here to provide a financial margin for my sponsors and hopefully I will do some good. For now, I will choose to take a more optimistic view.
MOCI. I sat for awhile in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. I made the mistake of visiting the can. It won't be a regular habit. Hole in the ground. No TP. Just a pitcher of water. No soap at the sinks. I have previously confronted nasty holes in the ground at Eastern European government ministries but not usually at the buildings where they meet with foreign businesspeople and try to convince them that this is a modern country. At the ministry, I sat with eight bright, educated, fresh faced young economists eager to learn and improve Afghanistan's lot. I have to admit my thoughts turned dark and I wondered if one of these young men could be the next Faisal Shahzad. I feel guilty but the thought was still there.
ERRATA. Like Al Gore's "Tin Man", I have my own call sign with security. When I am picked up by the driver, he confirms I am in the car by announcing my call sign. I'd tell you my call sign but I'd have to kill you.
They set up a pool table in the basement of the compound's villa and purchased a BBQ for the roof. "Party on, Wayne! Party on, Garth!"