Archive for September, 2010

Aschiana: Kabul’s “Nest” for Children

Posted on: September 21st, 2010 | No Comments

Visiting our Giva-Knit partner again is always a motivating experience.  I met with Yousef Mohamed, Aschiana’s director and he shows me around their center and offices in central Kabul.  The staff are professional and dedicated.  Through their hallways are pictures drawn by children, photos taken of projects and beautiful landscape shots from different parts of the country.  Like a museum, one room is stuffed with paintings, drawings and sculptures made by children helped by Aschiana which have been displayed at various exhibitions.

We then visit different rooms where children are busy on computers, basic literacy and numeracy, doing wood carving and shop work as well as, of course, traditional art.  We also visit an outdoor court where boys play soccer.  This is what it’s all about – children being themselves just as they would in any other country while theirs continues to suffer from war and extreme poverty.  Moreover, the children are engaged, having fun and clearly learning.  Despite all their set-backs and obstacles they will face, they are laying the foundation for the future and deserve more support.

Remembering Marla Ruzicak

Posted on: September 16th, 2010 | No Comments

Travel brings you into touch with dynamic people and Marla Ruzicka is definitely one of them.  She was impassioned by justice and, given the nature of our recent wars, sought desperately to right the wrongs of collateral damage.  Marla went on to found the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) which continues to work on helping those who are voiceless.  She wasn’t without controversy…a young American woman trying to fix the faults of the Defense Department.  But her doggedness in helping others far less advantaged than her was distinctive and she won many fans in the media, civil society and even within the military.

Marla also had a seriously fun side.  I first met Marla in Kabul in early 2002.  My first impression was one of curiosity when she asked “where do you party around here?”  At that time in Afghanistan, there was only one answer “Anywhere.”  That night was at the Mustafa Hotel.  She went on to found “Klub Kabul” a kind of roving social set.  We both left in 2003; I took a job in Eastern Europe to unwind from a crazy year and half…but Marla went straight to Iraq to deal with the mess that was being created there.

In the end, she sadly paid her life for it when a roadside bomb killed her on the way to Baghdad International Airport.  She is honored with this marble plaque a BBC news crew embedded in the wall of the Gandamack Lodge.

Staying in Kabul: Gandamack Lodge

Posted on: September 13th, 2010 | No Comments

While this blog is about all things interesting to do with travel, we don’t often discuss hotels.  Occasionally though, there is one worth writing about.  Kabul’s Gandamack Lodge is one of them.

Established by the BBC photojournalist Peter Jouvenal, it had a reputation of being a hangout for war correspondents and armed security contractors, at least among the humanitarian set.  After all, there’s body armor for rent and they can hook you up with an armored car and armed escort.

But there seemed to be less of them during my stay.  They had just removed some of the automatic weapons that were on display on the walls of the underground bar.

The original building was reportedly owned by one of Osama bin Laden’s wives (it is said that the sociopath stayed in Room #1).  The current compound is in a well protected area of Kabul’s Shari-Now district, across the street from the Iranian Embassy.  The rooms are nice enough and have all the basics including nice sheets and towels. The restaurant’s food isn’t great (it oddly describes itself as a “rice free zone”) but it’s a nice place to imbibe and catch up on current events in the green garden during these last days of warmth before the Kabul winter.

Kabul: A Truly Thrilling City

Posted on: September 10th, 2010 | No Comments

Time again to visit Kabul.  It’s a short hop from Islamabad.  Great time of year to visit as the heat is of the summer is gone and the constant dust isn’t so bad.  Right now security is good as well (in the city itself) and election campaigns are in full swing.  I’m here to see how our Giva-Knit effort, a unique product where you purchase a t-shirt or sweater and an Afghan child in need receives the same, is proceeding.

Water, of all things, in Quetta’s Flood Displaced Person’s Camps

Posted on: September 1st, 2010 | No Comments

About 30 camps have quickly formed around the city.  Aid is being provided in some camps but not all.  In this camp of nearly 6,000 people, most but not all have tents to live in.  Food is given in rationed distributions.  There is a medical clinic but people complain because of the lack of medicine.  Boys drink directly from water trucked in and provided via taps.  In many others though people drink whatever they can.  In this arid city, people seem to face an ironic jeopardy with respect to water – driven away by flood waters they now spend a lot of time trying to gain access to water.