World Vision team house, provincial Afghanistan
My first day in Afghanistan - a long journey full of contrasts. From the loud buzz of military helicopters to the tranquil sounds of birdsong on the breeze and call to prayer from the local mosque. From the consumer glitz of Dubai airport to the stark barren mountains of Afghanistan. From the sparkling eyes and diverse faces of the Afghan people to the guns, fatigues, armoured cars and trappings of a large international and local military presence. It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m resting finally in the World Vision team house in this provincial town 24 hours since leaving Heathrow. Sunday is normally a regular day of work here, but fortunately for my colleague Chris and I, it’s a public holiday – as Afghanistan celebrates the anniversary of the fall of communism here. Locals say they have a long list of similar anniversaries to commemorate, including escaping dominance of the British empire nearly 100 years ago to the departure of the Soviets in 1979.
My first sight of Afghanistan was the dramatic beauty of descending over snow capped peaks into the valley of Kabul. We were met by our driver, a local World Vision staff member who guided us through the various security checkpoints to connect with our local flight. The air is cool, clear and crisp and you can sense the altitude under the bright glare of the sun. A small van, fully upholstered with Afghan carpets on top of the seats, takes us to the gates where we pass through razor wire and earthwork barricades to the tiny terminal to await our flight. The air’s filled with the hum of plane propellers and helicopters, coming and going.
The security instructions on my plane ticket are rather different from normal, “Weapons are allowed but must be unloaded. Small arms may be hand-carried on board, provided they have been cleared of any and all ammunition. No pyrotechnics, explosive devices, or grenades.” Then there’s the familiar “No liquids more than 100mls in your carry-on luggage” which seems somewhat ironic given the weapons!
Anyway, I’m here safe and well, security, culture and programme briefings all done and dusted and looking forward to the week ahead, learning about the people of this fascinating country and seeing World Vision’s work to save and protect children in one of the world’s hardest places.