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Kabul

16 April 2011

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Flying to Kabul was quite an experience. After enjoying the slowest baggage check-in ever, while Turkish cops were zipping around the Terminal on their Segways and playing hide and seek while texting in the deserted airport, our plane finally took off from Istanbul at 3am (3 1/2 hours late by the way). Aurel & Diego’s seat numbers were 6E/6F. An interesting fact is that row 6 doesn’t exist on Ariana Airlines planes. It leapt from number 4 to 7. So we sat on row 8, where four seats were available, and started dosing, forehead squished on the headrest in front of us in a prayer.

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Entering Kabul was a shock. The roads made out of dirt are in a terrible shape, with huge rocks, giant holes and mud all over the place. On cross roads, you can only drive 5mph if you don’t want to ruin your car. Police checkpoints are everywhere, men with rifles guarding each house, and dust. Dust flying around, getting in your nostrils and eyes, turning the city in a beautiful whitewashed landscape.

It’s another planet here – Like stepping back in time 200 years, with people pushing veggie and ice cream handcarts, women fully covered, and small bike fixing shops, glass blowers, and gas stations improvised in the middle of the street with a gas tank and a hose.

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Helene, Aurel’s wonderful friend is letting us stay in her little house that sits in the middle of a lovely courtyard in a residential part of Kabul. She is about to start a trip similar to ours, the difference being that she is going to link Kabul to France by horse! She will travel along with a friend and will start her journey shortly after us in the beginning of May (www.silk-road-back-home.com). That should take her seven months.

After connecting with the French expats and people from Altai Consuting (a French company installed in Kabul, where Aurel had been working for more than two years), we started walking around town to find the camera obscura that we’ll need to do our photo project. It’s not an easy task, knowing that this type of camera isn’t used in Afghanistan anymore, and probably rests in dust here and there in some people’s attics or junkyard. So we asked Aurel’s friends—random shopkeepers and restaurant owners, if they had seen one or could think of the son of the cousin of an uncle that could have one.

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Incognito in Kabul

After three days of investigation, we were able to spot a camera that belongs to the brother of one of Aurel’s distant friends. We went to his house. He offered us tea. We looked at the camera. It was in a pretty bad condition. We drank the tea and told him that we would think about it. Tomorrow, we have one more place in mind where we might be able to find a camera in a better shape, or things are going to get tricky. Stay tuned.

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But what about the bus, you’re gonna tell me? Today, we went to retrieve it, in the suburbs of Kabul where Shakeeb (another good friend of Aurel’s) has kept it in his yard for about a year. Again, we got offered tea. We drank it along with some delicious home made cakes, in the company of Shakeeb’s family (his father, mother, 5 brothers, 4 sisters, and 6 cousins) and talked about random topics, while Aurel was thanking Shakeeb with gifts he has brought over from the US. After, we unveiled the tarp that was protecting the bus, and with the help of the whole family, started cleaning off the thick layer of dust that was covering it. The battery was obviously dead, but Aurel pulled out some magic tricks involving a syringe, injecting gas directly into the carburetor while jump-starting it. The bus roared and started navigating proudly in the middle of the muddy street. We brought it back into our courtyard. Now it’s time to work on it and to get it ready for the trip.

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The mascot


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