Life Lessons from Kabul. Part One. Issue 23

Image: 'A Snowy Day in Kabul' Paula Lerner 2005

In February of 2005 I visited Afghanistan for the first time, when photojournalist and friend Paula Lerner captured this image of two young girls headed home after market. Their shy smiles still provoke the same smile in me, until it fades into the wonder of what became of them. But that is a story for another day. 

Because today's story is about the ocassional great good fortune of bad luck and stupidity. All mine.

My tale begins in Kabul, Afghanistan, 3+ years after the Taliban's fall, on a winter car ride in the urban chaos which was the AM commute in this 3,500 year-old city busting at the seams. In the slow-motion heat of traffic and high-altitude sun, the previous night's snow quickly melts into thick mud, streaking every possible surface --  a strolling camel, AK47 adorned men sipping tea, white NGO vehicles, food market tents sagging alongside their forlorn livestock, even the hems of burqa clad women on the street. I watch it agog, as if on a muddy moon. 

Our volunteer organization's trusted fixer has set me up with a new driver and translator. They will be my life-line for the day. Our trio heads out on a soon to be forgotten assignment. Because I am about to be a mark. 

A lone American woman, my oddity is palpable. I am navigating the awkward territory of getting to know my male Afghan companions, when our conversation is interrupted by the familiar thump thump of a flat tire. 

The travel sophisticates among you could write what happens from here. A suggestion to take a short walk (past a minefield, an old torture site, a newly reopened school) while your driver fixes your flat. "No you don't need to take your heavy bag, he will die for it". And then the relieved return, only to discover precious belongings missing. 

But this is not the story I am here to tell either. It is about what happens next.

I realize I am a women who finds herself stupidly alone somewhere in a still dangerous city, far from allies, GPS a laughable fantasy, my only navigators these two men. I have lost money and the documentation which justifies my presence here, but more importantly it appears that I can no longer trust those who are to guide me. There is a judgement about human nature I must make, and it must be made quickly. 

Men who want to kidnap or kill you, don't fake flat tires to take your money. 

So I clamber back in. My first appointments have been missed. Well at least my money will help an Afghan. Our driver restarts the car and we begin moving as a rapid fire Dari phone exchange lights up the backseat. I need a new passport and visa. My translator is speaking to our fixer on a flip-phone. I exhale a deep breathe and wait for a new plan. 

He slowly turns. "You must go to city prison."

Stay tuned for Part Two of the story in Issue 24.

Stories from the Snap Shack Issue 23 (February 16, 2023).
This blog is produced from my Piermont studio, known by my inner circle as Kate's 'Snap Shack'. Enjoy and share with others in your inner circle.



How have I never heard this story?!


I can’t believe you actually lived to tell your story! What happened next?

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