Archive for August, 2008

Post to pre departure

August 22, 2008

There’s some sound advice on how to readjust and deal with the reverse culture shock that can follow working abroad at Aid Workers Net. I’ve tried to follow it but since getting back from Afghanistan I’ve been a bit too hung-over to do so. I’ve had a lot of catching up with friends to do.

And, having decided to go back there, I’ve been busy with the pre-departure stuff instead of post-departure plans.

Having been offered a job in Kabul with another NGO, the first two weeks at home were spent agonising over whether to accept it or not. Long story short – I did. Can’t say I’m overjoyed at the prospect of another year there, but it should be an interesting position. The security situation is a little off-putting of course. Five aid workers killed in the last week, 10 French soldiers killed in a pitched battle 30 miles from Kabul, rockets fired into Kabul… It does all dampen one’s ardour for the place, as well as making one feel guilty for going. But still, duty calls.

So anyways, I’ve been getting myself ready. This has mostly involved, as mentioned, rediscovering the delights of a drink at lunchtime with friends and, having lost a bit of weight, eating. Fattening myself up (for the kill) is the perhaps inappropriate phrase that’s been chuckling around the darkness of my head.

More mundane things to sort out have included tax and social security stuff, and shopping. I don’t particularly like shopping. Walking down a main drag in London looking for a pair of jeans had me snarling at fashionable teenagers and tourists getting in the way so that I was about ready to hit someone by the end of it. I’d like to be able to say that it was a reaction to the poverty I’ve seen in Afghanistan, the gross opulence here and the general bloody inequality of the world, but it wasn’t. I just get like that out shopping.

Some stores I can deal with. I spent a fair while pootling around an outdoorsy camping shop, wondering if I should buy a hugely expensive thermal coat for the winter or a cunning belt to hide money in case one’s robbed and other gadgets. You never know when you might need a spare tent-peg after all. But then, in the back of my mind was the knowledge that of all the things I didn’t take last time, a pair of swimming trunks for the pool at L’Atmo and a penguin suit for the posh do’s at the British embassy were what I should take now (former, tick; latter, never). It may be dangerous out there, but I’d wager a bowties still more useful than a penknife.

Most importantly on my pre-departure shopping list have been books. Bookshops I can do. I went to one of my favourites to look for some solid reading materiel to take out. A new tome on Afghanistan, perhaps? A manual related to my new job? An interesting looking edited volume on development economics for those sleepless nights? I walked out empty-handed and headed for the charity shop down the road that I knew would stock a random selection of trashy novels.

Olympic bronze for Afghanistan

August 21, 2008

Some rare good news for Afghanistan: a bronze medal in the Olympics for Rohullah Nikpai.

Noor Ahmad Gayezabi said a silent prayer while watching the small family TV with his 13-year-old son. “Help Nikpai. Help Nikpai. Help Afghanistan.”

Then he watched his country win its first-ever Olympic medal.

Rohullah Nikpai defeated world champion Juan Antonio Ramos of Spain on Wednesday to earn the bronze medal in the men’s under 58-kilogram taekwondo competition, sparking applause, wide smiles and laughter in homes, restaurants and ice cream parlors around the country.


Read the rest of that story here.

Bloody fantastic that is. Well done him.