Friday, May 27, 2011

Daytrip to Parwan

Last week I took a day trip to Parwan Province, which is just N/NE of Kabul, to visit the detention facility. We took an MI-8 there (it's the red, white, and blue one). No pictures of the facility, of course.

Looking out over the city of Kabul:

It's a quick trip of less than thirty minutes. Just outside the city, we saw tents of nomadic people with their flocks of sheep:

A dusty, deserted traffic circle, just over the mountains from Kabul:

It looks so green and peaceful from the air!

We took a different helicopter for the ride back. I have no idea what kind it was, but it was an old Russian model with a new paintjob.

View from the inside -

Saturday, May 21, 2011

R&R #1!!!

Probably the best part about serving in Afghanistan is the R&Rs and RRBs (regional rest breaks). I'm serving here for one year, and I can choose to take either 3 R&Rs or 2 R&Rs + 3 RRBs. When I go on R&R, the State Department will pay for my airfare either a) back to the States, b) to London, or c) anywhere else in the world, as long as it's cheaper than the ticket to London. When I go on RRB, the State Department will pay about roughly half the amount of the R&R fare, but I'm not entirely sure how they decide the amount. Regardless, roundtrip airfare from Kabul to London is apparently ridiculously expensive, so you can pretty much go wherever you want. For my first R&R, I flew Kabul-Dubai-Hong Kong-Shanghai-Hong Kong-Mumbai-Dubai-Kabul - for free!! I still had to pay for everything else, but it's an awesome deal.

This is the single picture I took in HK. I was too busy hanging out with friends, watching movies (in the theater!), and stuffing my face with delicious western food to take any pictures.

After HK, I flew to Shanghai for a day to see some friends and eat more Mexican food.

Next up: Mumbai!!

Of course, the first ad I see in the Mumbai airport is this:

I was totally there in September last year! It's definitely Ping'an China, not India. Whatever Mumbai, I'm on to you.

I stayed with some friends at a beautiful apartment in West Bandra, with an amazing view of the Arabian Sea.

Emma, Aunnie, and me, walking along the boardwalk:

Of course, we had to get Mexican food again because it was Cinco de Mayo. The next night we all went out in downtown Mumbai, and Emma ended up sitting alone on a stool with her Kingfisher beer, which she was thrilled about. Also, my clutch makes its first blog appearance:

On our last afternoon, we walked around the hanging gardens and got mobbed by this giant extended family, who all wanted their pictures taken with us:


We also stopped by two Jain temples on our walk down from the hanging gardens. One was being renovated...

...while the other temple was definitely in use:

a couple more temple pictures...

and finally, to commemorate the terrible Mumbai traffic, here's an image of the totally adorable Mumbai taxis, which almost compensated for the nasty traffic situation:

Final stop: Dubai!

Of course, the first picture of Dubai has to be the indoor ski slope!

Dubai can pretty much be seen in a day or two, so my mom and I spent our third day on a trip out to the eastern part of the UAE. Here we are, somewhere in the middle:

This is the beach at Dibba, which was on the Gulf of Oman, near the Strait of Hormuz. It was beautiful, and the water was crystal clear, but waaaaay to hot to hang around for long.

Mom, back in Dubai, after brunch at the al Qasr Hotel in Madinat Jumeirah.

Final picture of us from the trip, at an oasis somewhere in the middle of the UAE:

And then it was back to Kabul and back to work :(

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Smattering from around the City

Over the past few weeks I've had to travel fairly extensively throughout the city and farther out into the suburbs, which has been quite an interesting experience. The old Russian tanks below were stacked up in front of the tents of some nomadic sheepherders, just down the road from a new housing development. Only in Afghanistan...

This is a really beautiful monument built during the reign of King Amanullah Khan (I think), who ruled Afghanistan during the 1920s. At the top of the hill in the background is an old fortress that was built hundreds of years ago. It's unsettling to think that such a fortress would be a major tourist attraction in Europe, but here in Afghanistan its use hasn't changed drastically since construction.

Soldier on top of one of the many building-skeletons:

Boy selling fruit juice on the side of the road:

Posters of political candidates: