The road to Kabul

I considered staying at the hotel, as I did yesterday, calling regularly to the airport to check if my plane would leave today. A good thing I didn’t. I arrived at the airport shortly after nine to be told the plane would leave at ten.
That didn’t happen of course. In fact we didn’t leave until 1:30pm. First, loads of people gathered in the departure lounge, for both my Kabul flight and a Baghdad flight which only seated Americans. When the Americans had departed, a relatively small group remained and when we finally got on the plane, for some reason, after not having flown for four days, the plane was not even three quarters full.

At Kabul airport I was the last person to be picked up. DACAAR had phoned the airport several times but had been told that no Ariana flights were arriving today. I managed to borrow someone’s phone and after some two hours I was finally picked up.
The airport was clearly built by the Soviets and driving around town in the dark, I was reminded of some of the smaller Russian towns, deep in Siberia. The snow, the potholed roads, some apartment buildings, the small shops.

In the house I’m staying in, it’s cold as hell. Only the bedrooms have stoves which we have to keep burning ourselves. The boiler isn’t working properly so we have no hot water and I’ve got a terrible headache, not unlikely due to the altitude. Kabul is at 1800 meters.

Together with my roommates Jesper and Giovanni and Jesper’s girlfriend, we had dinner at the expensive French restaurant l’atomosphere, where we could only pay in US dollars.

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At dinner, my spirit was lifted by the tales of my fellow expats. Apparently, rocket attacks from the hills still occasionally happen, late last year there was a suicide bomber right in the downtown area and a bit earlier, three expats were kidnapped on the road I will daily have to travel to work.
So it seems that the Kalashnikovs the guards at the airport were carrying actually do serve a reason.