(Literally translated as “Peace Melanie my soul. How are you?”. However a more accurate English equivalent would be “Hello Melanie dear, how are you?”. This is always followed by questions further enquiring into your health and wellbeing, the health and wellbeing of your family members and how the city in which you are residing is treating you etc et all.)
It is now approaching a week since I have been back in Kabul. Even though it has been over four months since I left it seems as if hardly a day has passed now I am back.
Now that the Institute’s facility has moved to the old city I have been spending my days in Murad Khane. The experience has been quite different to my time spent at the Institute’s premises when they were housed within the fort. At that time I would walk from the guest house, within a 19th Century Fortress, down to the Institute which was spread throughout two acres of terraced gardens. Now it is early morning drives through bustling Kabul to the Institute’s new facility, which is in the middle of a bazaar in Murad Khane, which is placed in the heart of the commercial centre of Kabul. The bazaar itself attracts approximately 100,000 visitors per week.
Whilst there are pockets of tranquillity amongst the various courtyards that comprise the Institute’s new premises the minute you are in Murad Khane proper you feel the pulse of the city, jostling along passage ways dodging anything from men with wheelbarrows to little children darting in and out of the flow of people. Think of a busy area of any city but instead of vehicles the flow of ‘traffic’ is people.
Although the schedule has been pretty punishing – 6am starts. It has been great to be working with the students and Institute staff again and fantastic to see the progress of some of the students who have set up their own collectives of craftsmen: producing goods for sale, carrying out commissions and even setting up their own small institutes passing on their newly acquired skills to others.
The Qala in spring
As I write this I am sitting in the courtyard of the fort (Qala in Dari, the dialect of Persian spoken in Afghanistan) with a cup of green tea (chai sabs in Dari). I must admit it is one of my favourite places on God’s good earth. The fruit trees are in various stages of blossom. Daffodils dot the borders, pigeons and doves are cooing from the gallery above, the peacock is shrieking periodically and sparrows are chirping as they flit from tree to tree. A few colourful kites flutter in the light breeze and dot the blue sky. What a wonderful place to be during the onset of spring.