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January March 23, 2006

Posted by Linda Barnes in Afghanistan, Midwifery.
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WinterinKabul.jpgReturning to Kabul in January is like stepping into an old black and white photograph; the city is a study in shades of grey.  Kabul–a city without snow for the past 12 years–is suddenly deluged with eight inches. Vehicles are piled up by the side of the road, unable to negotiate the ice and snow. Children grab onto the backs of busses and are pulled along the slick roads. Bicycles and motorcycles pile up at the traffic circles. Policemen are hopelessly waving round painted signs with the command: “SOTP POLISE.” (sic) 

I have arrived two days before Eid-al-Adah (the Islamic celebration of the sacrifice of Isaac) and the usual marketplace chaos is thickened by shoppers rushing to purchase food and sweets prior to the four-day holiday. 

The muted colors inside Rabia Balkhi Hospital match the Kabul winter colors: dark and cold with an occasional oasis of warmth where someone has found an electric outlet for a space heater or has a small wood-burning fire flickering. The hospital is still a microcosm of the general disarray in Afghanistan and the dark and cold winter penetrates the wards and hallways. The Rabia Balkhi Hospital staff warmly welcome me back with many traditional hugs and ask about my family, my trip, my self; I feel truly “back.” There are now 46 midwives and, unlike the weather, the welcome back is warm and generous. I find it hard to fathom how these women, after suffering unimaginable personal losses and continuing to work throughout the torturous years of war and the Taliban, can still demonstrate such a resilient spirit. They are smiling and appear to be delighted that a midwife trainer is back to work with them. 

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