Afghanistan-a peek into the diary (9)

It is Saturday afternoon and having had the laziest day that I have been able to enjoy in about 2-3 weeks, I am snuggled up here on my chair (who knows for how much longer—there is a load of powder around which smacks suspiciously of termite infestation in the wood!) to write a a few lines. I am embarrassingly behind with responding to emails which is, to a large extent, due to the limited internet access I have. Our office is still not connected to the net and so I am still “squatting” in other people’s offices, especially my house-mate Danielle’s. Unfortunately she has been away in Kabul for the past four days, leaving me deprived of my usual Friday and Saturday communication tool. My phone also seems to be playing up which is annoying not least because having a mobile is a security measure here.

As you can tell, we did make it back from Nuristan in the end. Despite fresh snowfall and a growing sense of unease among all of us, the helicopter was able to brave the snow and fog and pick us up. It was very strange leaving and I was left with an odd sense of sadness, surprising after only such a short time. As our helicopter was the last UN helicopter to fly into Nuristan, the place may well wait a long time for its next imternational visitors. Who knows, perhaps that is a good thing for them?
The weeks since my return from Nuristan have been busy. We are beginning to get stuck into defining the scope of works for our projects and I have been attending many meetings with government officials, including the directors of the Ministries of Women’s Affairs and Martyrs and Disabled respectively, as well as with other international organisations, especially the Provincial Rehabilitation Team (PRT) which is basically the coalition force’s relief/development branch, and with its sub-unit, DAI, which deals with most of their longer term development projects. This is important because none of the Ministries here are mandated to be direct project implementers; rather, their role is to assist with capacity building, mainstreaming of their specific agenda (for example, inclusion of women, of people with disabilities etc) and raising awareness. Consequently, they have no budget whatsoever, which means that if we build an access centre or a refuge, we have to ensure that someone will be there to step in and fund the running of the place once it has been built. It takes ages to get that sorted—-as you all know, many meetings can easily turn into very waffly affairs, especially when people with big egos are part of them, so things are progressing slowly. However, an interesting exercise which I am enjoying.

Nuristan helicopter