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Independence Day April 28, 2006

Posted by Linda Barnes in Afghanistan.
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Every morning at around 6:00 a bevy of helicopters, thrashing against the early morning quiet, flap over our residence…there are about 8 of them…it is a chilling noise. I have become quite accustom to their arrival and watched as they slowly glide into a distant two-by-two formation and veer off to some destination north of Kabul.

Yesterday morning was Independence Day in Afghanistan so the usual flap of helicopter blades was accompanied by the thunder of cannons and other miscellaneous weaponry. I wondered, having read some Afghanistan history, exactly what Afghans were becoming “independent” from. They have been continuously trodden over by foreign powers for almost as long as history has been recorded, but colonized…not. One of my Afghan colleagues said Independence Day has been celebrated for about a dozen or more years (her memory of it anyway). This coincides with the Afghans finally forcing the Russians out after their 20 odd years of misadventure in Afghanistan through the 1980 and 90s.

Otherwise the weather has turned very warm and my nasturtiums have awakened to life in Kabul (I have never seen any nasturtiums here). The “green fuzz” referred to in my earlier rumination has now leafed out. I realize now that there is actually green throughout the summer in Kabul…it just gets covered with increasingly thick layers of dust giving the overall impression of Kabul being a dull green/grey terrain.Kite2.jpg

I have been very hospital/office bound this trip and am looking forward to connecting with midwives this week at the Afghan Midwives Association Congress. I have been promised a trip outside Kabul to visit one of the Community Midwife Education (CME) programs. I will be leaving mid-May to return in July-August.

I wonder why “independence days” seem always to be about guns and military posturing. It was a pleasure yesterday afternoon, after all the cannons and marching before dignitaries had ceased, to see the flutter of kites filling the Kabul sky….”Kite Day”…. wouldn’t that be a novel national holiday..Kites1.jpgkites3.jpg

Springtime in Kabul – April 2006 April 13, 2006

Posted by Linda Barnes in Uncategorized.
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 Kabul River.jpg

Back in Kabul delighting in this brief seasonal interlude between the searing winter and the equally searing summer weather. There is a peach-fuzz-like shimmer of green over the usually dusty brown terrain. I am amazed at the Afghan capacity to nurture flowers (and food) from terrain that is essentially rubble and dust. The usually dry Kabul River is lined with saplings and potted plants for sale. The river itself has some water in it, but a far cry from old photos in which it is a beautiful and flowing river; the river appears to be a lake of plastic bottles and bags and looks pretty toxic. The surrounding mountains are gradually losing the shimmer of snow. I planted my nasturtium and morning glory seeds at our compound; the gardener, delighted with new seeds, assured me he will watch them closely.

So, what’s new on the hospital front. Every time I return there is perceptible change. The hallways and wards are cleaner than before; the new paint (not just white wash, but a thick smelly permanent, washable oil base) offers bright whiteness and convey a sense of a higher standard of care.  Case reports follow a sensible format in the morning meetings of the consultant staff and patient management is improving.  I am always delighted to see the staff; they are always so welcoming.  The hospital has at least a dozen new midwives freshly graduated from the midwifery training at the Institute of Health Science in Kabul.  Both the nursing staff and the midwife staff have bright blue scrubs under their white coats.   

In Kabul there is intense interest in the parliamentary proceedings confirming and challenging the ministerial appointees. There is obvious pride in this process…a sense of “democracy” with local ownership.

I am gratified the “Christian” was escorted to Italy. I follow the proceedings of the Afghan teenager, Khadr, who allegedly at the age of 15 hurled a grenade that killed an American. The conditions of his incarceration at Guantanamo are at issue. I hope this case will stay under the general “demonstration radar” as demonstrations inevitably disrupt our travel to and from work.

The Afghanistan Midwives Association congress is set for early May and there will be a general celebration on International Midwives Day on May 4th. With the new membership dues and sponsorships from the US there are 10 new international members and moneyTakhft Stalaf April 06.jpg to sponsor 30 Afghan midwives for annual membership in the association.

This past week we had a govt. holiday and a dozen of us (including guards, cleaners, drivers) took off for a Afghan picnic and beheld the true beauty of Afghanistan where, despite 25 years of war and 12 years of severe drought, the land, as the people, come back!