Light in the dead end street

18 juin 2010

Back to work on the bus. Just near by the mechanics is a great body-worker. His name is Ahad and he has a son Najib who works normally in the bazaar downtown. But Ahad makes him come to work with him when he has big project. This painting project is big work. They will be two working on it to prepare the frame for the painter. My bus has survived many little shocks and was painted 3 times. Nothing bad, no accidents, no big dents, only two holes due to rust, which is pretty rare for a vehicle this old. It’s pretty tough to guess Ahad’s age, I would say around 45. People in Afghanistan get old quickly, the roughness of the weather and life changes the body. He was working for a German company in Kabul during the 70’s. He still speaks a bit of German with his unique afghan accent. According to him my Vanagon is ’’Sehr Krank’’ but he has more than one ’’Afghan technic’’ to solve that. He thinks that 5 days will be enough to fix everything.

This father and-son duo makes a great team, They really know how to work, which I appreciate. I spent a lot of time with them learning the ABC’s of body work. We had a lot of fun together.

It’s pretty tough to work under this heavy burning sun, I ask them why they don’t even just put a tarp to make some shade, they answer that they tried three times but that the tarp disappeared each time. The ’’workshop’’ which is just half of a small container is located in a poor area and when there is something that could be taken it doesn’t last very long.
When you don’t have exactly what you need at hand, you need to improvise. The headlights of the bus are a great example :
The original one might have been broken after 40 years in this country. Crappy roads a lot of shocks.....A mechanic took new ones from a beetle and adapted them. Really strange because these beetle headlights are specific and don’t fit this model of buses. The only way to make them fit is to turn them 45 degrees. They also cut more metal in the frame which was pretty badly done. So now the headlight shines to the right and left because of the angle but doesn’t shine the light in the front of the bus as you drive at nigh. . . . So now I have two headlight holes that are totally different and don’t allowes me to install the original VW bus headlights I purchased in the US. Pretty hard to redo even if here I can find a metal worker. It will take hours, and it has to be perfectly symmetrical.
’’Wollen sie The trinken ?’’ asked Ahad. He is right we need this break to come up with a solution to the headlight problem. His tea pot is perched between the tool box, a tank full of gas and some plates. I guess the tea will be blacker than black. Yes of course let’s have a cup of tea Ahad ! Sehr gut sehr gut !!!

Tough situation too, it’s really hard to refuse in these moments, but sometime you also have to take care of your health. Drinking a sip of water straight from the tap gives your stomach a firework for 4 days.....hopefully he really boiled that water before making our tea.

We decided to go home by riding along the river, or what is leftover. It looks more like a sewer than everything else unfortunately. Slowly we go buzzing around and discoveres news streets. What a good idea we had, because suddenly I notice in a dead end street the frame of a VW bus. Ohoh, let’s get closer.
Incredible, we just arrived right in front of a 1965 split window bus. Really damaged but, luckily it has the light sockets I need. Right now the bus is used as a fence to separate the Red Crescent (Muslim branch of the red cross) shelter from the food storage of the ministry of education. So I don’t think this fence will miss it’s headlight socket.
My passion for old vehicles taught me always to look everywhere, especially in a little streets, barns and dark places.
What a chance that that’s exactly what I need, ok but now the next step is to find out who does it belong too and to see if I can get them... How can I remove them in this location ? No one around, tempting.... We decide to come back the day after with a wooden chisel and a big hammer, who knows....

Friday is the official day off, we come back to see the wreck, find the guard of the shelter who just came back from town. It’s a bit hard to make him understand what’s the goal of our visit. Two French guys looking for VW bus spare parts, we want to cut the frame of the bus.... all this with my limited Dari... a few minutes after he invites us to see the food shelter’s guard who is a bit further inside.
Same speech, but luckily this guard is with a friend who speaks English and a bit of French, we connect pretty fast. He likes our project enough to push his friend to let us take theses pieces of metal on this dirty junk.
Great let’s go ! It’s now almost 8 and it’s getting dark. We need to be quick and also discreet. It’s not the best thing to get caught by night in Afghanistan like that. 


Silent is not really the best word to discribe the job, this courtyard is like an echo box. So noisy !!!! but I have no choice and the metal cuts pretty fast. I’m like sculpting in the metal, after 10 minute one piece comes out. same for the other one. Yes I got them !!!

In the pocket ! like the bank note I put in the shirt of our friend the guard. Many thanks to you for this unpredictible treasure.The day after, back to the workshop, Ahad and his son are pretty surprised by our discovery. They take the parts and put them on the frame as it was originally. The new headlights fit now perfectly, that’s great.

On the fourth day I came back to see the progression. I can see from far a police 4x4 parked in front of my bus.I know that one of Nasser’s sixteen relatives is a policeman so I keep going. Hello how are you, how is your health, how is your family, everything is going well…(Afghan greetings are really long)
Everyone is going well and how ? Nasser has a kind of electric fan motor in his hands connected to a little plastic electronic component. This ’’machine’’ is linked to the engine of the police’s car. What are they doing ? Nasser proudly explains it all to me.
These policemen take five gallons of gas from the tank of the car twice a week for they’re own business and their own cars. If they don’t want to be caught by their supervisors they have to increase the number of kilometers on their speedometers. That’s why Nasser invented with his cheatomatic machine....

They come 20 minutes twice a week to get leveled and clear. What a trick, welcome to Afghanistan !

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