From Phnom Penh to Kabul…
5th September 2009
Flying into Kabul is one of the most amazing flights I think I will ever make! Breathtaking rugged mountains which seem endless at first and then quite unexpectedly hamlets of homes speckling the valleys… Despite the turbulence which had me gripped to the seat in front of me, there was a huge welling of wonder and excitement for this country that will soon become home.
There’s that well known saying that home is where the heart is… Home is where my family are in England, thatched cottages and summer punting in Cambridge… Home is where my colleagues and friends are in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the Russian Market and moto dop rides through town. Leaving Cambodia after 6 years was a very painful experience. I love Cambodia and my work with Hagar, seeing so many lives transformed, my colleagues… what an amazing opportunity Hagar Cambodia has given me over the years to learn and to grow. It’s somewhat easier knowing that though I’m no longer in Cambodia, I am still a part of this family, just branched out to another part of the world where the work of Hagar is so clearly needed in a country where human rights abuses and injustice are felt by many.
Getting the visa was an interesting experience. I shall have to put together some step by step guidelines for others coming in. The first step will be “Don’t let the plastic door leading to the shed like office with absolutely no signage deter you from walking in… it really is the Embassy”. Step two will be “Don’t pick up the receipt from the ground that gets thrown from the slot in the glass window… it’s proabably not for you but some other person waiting for a visa…but if after 5 mins it doesn’t get picked up please go ahead and check”. Step 3… “give your absolute full attention to the visa man or risk having your phone grabbed from you and the line cut”….
I was amazed how quickly I got my visa, I think Ramadan helped… at any other time you can be waiting for hours on end and with a crowd of visa applicants all hoping the receipt flying through the air is theirs so that they can get on with their day as quickly as possible!
And so here I am in Kabul. It’s been two days and I have already met some amazing people. It’s the weekend and so it’s been the perfect time to go explore the local bazaar wearing my ‘chador’ and to catch up on some reading… learning the importance of drinking cups of tea in a culture where relationship and trust come first. In the next few days I hope to start learning Dari… being the only expatriate in an all Afghan team, language learning should be interesting!