02 June 2010

An "ordinary day" shows remarkable variations

I left Kabul about a week ago and not one day too soon by my reckoning. I came to the Afghan capital by choice a year and a half ago to teach at an American university and contribute to the development of more diverse system of higher education, but I am weary of working and living in conditions that resemble a prison work-release program.

A few days before I left Afghanistan, I called a friend in Germany I intended to visit before coming to the States. She answered her phone while sitting on a park bench alongside a river. My envy, though unvoiced, was palpable.

Since arriving in Germany, I have been able to walk where I want, when I want, by myself or with whom I want. Yesterday afternoon, Oksana and I sat on a park bench in Heidelberg and watched the barges, quadruple sculls, and sightseeing boats navigate the Neckar River. Runners, walkers with their dogs, cyclists, mothers pushing baby strollers passed in front of us. In the park, people lounged and ducks pecked the deep green grass for food. It was lovely, ordinary day.

Today in Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai opened up his handpicked peace consultative assembly, or jirga, but not before two rockets were fired at the meeting and one of reportedly four suicide bombers blew himself up in an attempt to derail the process, according to a Taliban spokesman quoted in The New York Times. It was a day that has become all too ordinary in Afghanistan.

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