Friday, March 23, 2007
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
سال نوتان مبارک باد
That's "Happy New Year!" in Dari. It's pronouced "Sal- new- tan mob rake baad". Today is New Year's Eve here and so our Afghan friends have off work until Saturday. We didn't really have a choice in the matter, they informed us in our weekly meeting on Saturday that they had off for those 3 days! Ya gotta love how democracy works!
To celebrate, we did the traditional American thing and ordered food. We had lunch catered in and gathered everyone 'round the table. In contrast to American New Year's, there is no alcohol consumed by the Afghan people in celebration. Instead, the tradition is to eat healthy meals which differ is portion and cost from their everyday. The logic is that if you eat well at New Year's, you will have plentiful food and good health in the coming year. Those who can afford to, travel north to Paghram and enjoy the holiday by relaxing away from home. Most others stay home with family and enjoy rest there.
(I'm deeply sorry if the formatting is off today. I'm very tired and have been fighting the formatting on this post for 20 minutes....I give up!)
Here are some pictures from our lunch today...
While on base today, I snapped this shot of the flags which represent the countries participating in the security and assistance of Afghanistan. Nothing like seeing Ol' Glory fly in the breeze of a sunny day! Here you'll see England, Turkey, Holland, Australia, France, Belgium, Italy, Romania, and others surrounding the Afghanistan and US flags.
Now, being the Americans we are and today being a holiday, it gave us reason to go out for dinner and drinks. Yes, expats get to embibe while it's against local custom and culture for the Afghan people to. Thus, we made our way to the Red Hot Sizzlin' steakhouse (which is UN approved, btw) and joined with some Aussie friends of ours from down the block for dinner and drinks. Interesting thing, the Aussies were drinking Corona, a Mexican beer, while the Americans drank Victoria Bitter, an Aussie brew, which was served in a German beer pint glass! Ya gotta love the contrast in this place! It's very easy to see the influence that the rest of the world is having on the country. Of course, I collected the German glass to add to my collection back home ;) It'll go right next to the Harp pint given me by my friend Erin from her trip to Ireland.
I'll close today with a New Year's wish given our staff by Sonia, our Afghan administrative assistant.
Happy New Year to you!
Another year unfolds,
May you enjoy a healthy life and endless luck in this brand new year!
My sincere best wishes for this year and many years to come.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Dateline Kabul, Afghanistan (like I was going someplace?)
Okay, so I started this blog as an update to my sponsors so they'd be able to quickly see what it is I'm up to with my racing. Well obviously the first part of the 2007 season sees me here in Kabul so I ain't doin' any racing! But this post is going to be primarily about cycling today.
As I cruise the streets here I see literally hundreds of people on bikes everyday -- rain, snow, shine. I saw a guy the other day ride his 50 lb Hero Cycle bike with no tire tread, wearing dress shoes through mud that was almost 2' deep -- and he never dabbed (translated to non-mtn bikers -- put his foot down)! I laughed at it and the guys with me asked if I could do that; my response was that my bike wouldn't get close to this mud and I could name 10 mtb racers back home that would have busted going through that! (and for the record, I probably would've fallen).
The Afghan people ride because it's cheaper than a car or taxi. They wrap their bikes in tape to keep it from rusting. They have full fenders on front and rear tires -- sometimes they splurge and buy aftermarket fenders from the fender vendor on the street. Every one of the bikes has a rear rack and most also have a front rack. See my post earlier (2-23-07 maybe) which has the picture of the Hero bike and you'll see what they ride. I see guys carrying a person on the rear rack. I've seen slabs of raw meat flung over the handlebars and rear rack. I've seen piles of stuff strapped to the bike like I would load up my truck -- and the people ride.
Young, old, man, woman (some with burkas on) -- it doesn't matter. They ride their bikes. Rain? HMPH! Snow? No problem. Sunshine? The bike outnumber cars on the road! (the donkey carts number stays about the same though).
I've often wondered in our travels about town how strong these guys most be on their bikes. I wish I could get more pictures to show you but our security guys won't let me. I want to show you the bike parking lots that are clogged with bikes. I want to show you the shipping container these things arrive in -- just stacked in like sardines, not in a boxes. The Afghani people ride their bike ---oh, did I mention that they have 1 gear? I have 27, to put it in perspective. They ride up the mountains you see in my pictures, and that's just to get home after working all day, and they're likely carrying water or dinner on the rack too!
Getting to the point....so I'm cruising the internet last night and I come across Van dessel bikes website. Something catches my eye about Iraq....I click and get this http://www.vandesselsports.com/athletes.php?team=iraq. Holy crap! There's an Iraqi National Cycling Team? WHAT?! SWEET! So I wrote the main sponsor and asked if they've ever thought about A-stan. We'll see what they say today, hopefully.
Are you listening? Reading between the lines yet? My close friends knew exactly where this was going from paragraph one. SPONSORS! The Afghan people have to be the hardest working folk I've ever seen and they are so excited right now to get 3 days off work this week for their New Year's festivities. They work 6 days a week, every week, without fail. They are fighting to save their country and their culture and their families and for freedom like they've never known. So I ask you, why don't THEY deserve to have some fun once in awhile? Back in the States, we go party and play every weekend -- for TWO days -- and we don't work nearly as hard as these people do.
So the seed is firmly planted in my head. If I get the opportunity to come back here after this initial trip, I want to start doing something more to help. The Afghans have hope for a bright future -- why can't they have a little bit now? Starting today I'm looking into what it would take to start a cycling club or team here in Kabul. Why not? They already ride bikes! I'm contacting Gary Fisher, Cyclists for Cultural Exchange, and every other organization that does work in other countries. Dirt Rag magazine did an article not long ago about Rwanda or someplace off the map like that. Someone out there will help, I know it. I mean, Iraq still has active fighting everyday -- we just have the threat of it everyday here in Kabul so we're already ahead of the game! I want to know what to do, how to do it, how to get the money, how to get a coach, everything it takes -- I want to know it and start getting it in action.
The Lord knew I was getting down and weary because of all this rain, so He sent this little thing my way to keep my brain occupied! Well, it's working!
Any sponsors yet? Don't worry, you'll be hearing from me! Okay, I have to get to work....