||4/23/2003 5:30:42 PM
Iíve seen so many new things since coming here 8 months ago. I love walking at night when nobody else is on the road. Itís an experience all to itself. Everybody except us night thieves is in their beds and in the comfort of their homes, and we thieves wander the streets looking for truth. Shops are closed except for the occasional pharmacy or occasional photo development studio working late at night to meet the demands. I am usually in my blue jeans, a blue sweater, my dull green army jacket I bought on the streets here in Kabul for 20 cents, my hiking boots strapped and tied tight, my pacol on my head and my scarf around my neck.
In the night itís eerily quiet here. As the occasional bike passes, or the occasional car, the suspicion of night engulfs everything. Fear finds its way into the hearts. The darkness engulfs the light. The concrete sidewalks cracked, splintered, and missing in parts are no place to walk in the night. You can take two steps and youíll fall into a hole the size of your body. So you walk on the streets. The stores and shops are closed. There are street lights up now; occasionally youíll find two or three that work in a row and then two or three that donít work.
When somebody passes you look at each other with intent and with fear. Each person sizing the other up. Who is he? Why is he out? He must be something to be out and walking at this time of night? Just keep looking ahead, and then heís gone. There are the occasional taxis that drive by. Itís hard to tell which cars are taxis and which cars arenít. They all have their lights on full blinding anybody looking. Iíve somehow adopted the habit of locals, in that I stare. Itís not a bad stare; itís just a stare of curiosity. I ask myself who is he, what is he doing and where is he going.
There are soldiers at every round about. You walk up to them and say hello and they usually ask where you are going, and you respond. They say would you like to have tea with me, and you thank them and go on your way. Sometimes I offer them a cigarette as most of these soldiers havenít been paid for months at a time and donít have the money to purchase a couple of stogies.
I have seen two women drivers in the past week. I hate to say it but I was amazed, a happy amazed. It had been a long time coming. Iím finding that the women in Kabul are starting to feel a bit safer and therefore feel more able to assert their rights as part of the society. There is still a long way to go, but I see some changes that make me hopeful.
I love watching the little kids here. Little girls come up and ask for money, I look at them and smile. I start talking to them, asking them what their name is and if they go to school. I make them laugh for a moment and hopefully make them forget about not having food tonight and not having an empty stomach, and not having to stand on the streets all day asking for money. Hopefully in that moment they are happy. I have found that a smile is worth more than a thousand charities. To make a heart happy to make a child happy, to make a person smile is priceless. Most of the beggars in the city know me by name now. Most people may think that they are just beggars and so what, but for me when one of the little girls or guys walks up to me and grabs my hand holding on to it tightly and says, ďSalaam Kaka Mustafa, are you going to buy me anything today.Ē I find that to be beyond any sort of ecstatic feeling Iíve had.