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Volume 12 Week 5

Saturday, March 4


 

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Orléans Ward
Bob Monette

 

Kabul

 

It feels as though the plane is slowly inching towards the snow capped mountains surrounding the city. Taunting me.

I can see them now. I look up at the dull screen, the white airplane figure on a map of the world. So very far away from home, from my kids, approaching what looks to be a spinning circle as a pinpoint final destination on the screen. A spinning chaotic senseless circle.

The nausea is setting in quite heavily and I look away from the screen, blaming it on the amount of Turkish cheese I've consumed on various airplanes over the last two days. I look back out the window at the silent vastness of brown ripples, rock, and dusted white mountains, wondering what hides there, what awaits as the shadow of the massive metal plane unfittingly descends.

The nausea won't disappear and a cheesy Bett Middler song lingers in my mind... "From a distance, theeeeeeere is harmony". I think about that line. How it could be referring to my life. The loveliness of my Facebook profile, smiling faces with picturesque backgrounds. I wonder if the sudden need for introspection is a sign of something terrible. I brush the thought off quickly and resume my mountain-gazing in the hopes of some calm meditation to slow my heart rate.

As I arrive at the Canadian Embassy, there is little to see of the gorgeous mountains I didn't admire enough from the plane. The thick air, razor-wired fences, and sniper screens hover over me like a crumbled brick wall of a prison. Unsteadily holding you in. I step over a red stream of animal blood, oozing from the Afghan guards` shack, as they prepare their lunch, their hands dripping, casually separating parts, and looking away from my stare as I prepared to smile. Clearly uncomfortable with my confident eyes – I pull the scarf tighter around my forehead.

Days later I awaken with a boom and rumble that they told me I would unmistakably recognize if the timing coincided with my short visit. And so it had. Alarms,and movement and metal followed, and I was somehow expecting every sound as it flooded the thick Kabul air outside the modified shipping container that was my temporary home away from home.

I sat, radio in hand, waiting for either instructions of some kind or perhaps something to come through the makeshift wall falsely shielding me from whatever wrath lingered beyond the sniper screens that surrounded me.

I sat, cowardly wondering what those armed outside were doing to ensure us unarmed civilians were safe. Accustomed to the dangers, noises and chaos. Expecting bullets, explosions, blood. Eventually, we emerged from our eggshelled habitats, like newborn chicks, rustled feather, cautiously stepping forward with shakey legs, becoming quickly readapted with every movement with what this place was offering us.

The few Afghans I would speak to within the walls amazed me. Stories of lost brothers, and horrible husbands, all discretely told matter-of-factly, simple and heartwrenching, smiling at the end. The ex-pats working and living and eating and sleeping in some false version of Kabul were like children at summer camp. Roughing it without some simple comforts. Annoyingly but lovingly surrounded by each other constantly. Tolerating one-another like family members with no choice. Huddling through the rumbles together.

A man had blown himself up that morning. He wore a vest, walked up the street 750 meters from our compound, and detonated the explosives he had on his body, which was instantly blown apart, mangled with ball bearings, in various directions in the hopes of causing death and injury to some judge residing in a nearby home.

The judge was uninjured. More blood on the streets, walls, people. I would return to Kabul later that year. Conveniently forgetting some elements of my last visit. Gazing out the window, wishing the routing in from Delhi was as beautiful as the last one from Istanbul so the mountains could show me a little glimpse of the heartbreaking passion I had found there before. But I never felt it again. I was numb.

(If you wish to comment on this or any other 30,000 feet column please write to Sheryne Morcos at editor@orleansonline.ca)

 

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