After my cafe sesh today I was supposed to head out to the Olympic grounds to visit Skateistan, where I planned to meet the crew, volunteer at a girls’ sports session and chat about whether I can be a volunteer climbing instructor now that they’ve installed an indoor rock wall. (And yes, there was the selfish hope that a bonus might be meeting fellow climbers who could organize an outdoor sesh this summer)
Unfortunately that didn’t go as planned.
As I was in the car heading through Wazir, my driver’s phone started ringing off the hook and I could hear transport asking more specifics on the route we’d be taking. Meanwhile a bunch of pickups filled with the green men with guns (Afghan police) sped by, trying to push their way through the afternoon traffic jam with about the same luck as we had trying to get through 20 flocks of sheep on the roads in Badakshan… in other words, not very quickly or orderly.
An attack involving suicide bombers had just begun in an area we were supposed to pass through to get to the Skateistan compound.
Needless to say, my outing was canceled. Huge bummer, it was the only new, exciting thing I was looking forward to doing all week, and i already had to reschedule once from Wednesday.
((and wow i sound like an ass. people were killed today, and I’m grouchy because I had to sit on my porch and read instead of getting to follow through with my plans…. this is what the survival tactic of trying to maintain a sense of normalcy in a war zone has done to me. i become way too desensitized to the violence. this really bothers me…))
Well.. So I returned home to the empty house. Not knowing what else to do at the moment, I grabbed a bowl from the kitchen and went to pick cherries in the back yard. Helicopters were flying low overhead, making everything on the ground tremble and as i looked up at the belly of the chopper when it passed over the house, I realized that I’ve started doing this every time – whenever I’m out in the open when the military aircraft flies over, I stop what I’m doing and track it through the sky, straining my eyes to see something, even though it’s always the same and I never know where it’s going or who’s inside. I don’t know why. When I’m indoors and the building starts rumbling, I barely even notice. But something about being outside makes me feel like the guys up in the chopper can see me down on the ground, and so I stand there shielding my eyes from the sun, like a sentinel holding my ground.
Later, I brought a chair to the little porch outside my bedroom that overlooks the backyard garden, and began reading a Vonnegut book, somewhat comforted by his typical genius literary Fuck Yous to America and the West, but still I felt unsettled. I then had another realization that I have become somewhat of a mallard duck. I don’t literally sleep with one eye open, but figuratively, I do. Outwardly, I am super positive here when I’m around others — when situations are tense, or work is rough or people are being bitchy, I maintain a calm, humorous and optimistic stance that gets me through the worst of times. (I.e. being stuck in Salang for 15 hours without food – I cracked jokes the whole time) But internally, I’m on the lookout for the first sign of danger that’s ever present, and it’s creeping into my bones and joints. Sitting on the chair, trying to read, I suddenly felt how tired and tense I am.It hurt my body to sit there, and finally I went to lay on my bed under the fan and accept my exhaustion. But before I could really relax, I find myself thinking about where I would hide if insurgents ever tried to attack the house, picturing the scenario and reminding myself to grab my phone to a) use as a flashlight, because I’ll go straight for the crawl space under the back porch, and b)so I could hopefully send a silent help message to security.
This is not normal. But then, I live in a place where people are being shot up while I search through twisted branches for ripe cherries.