I am still in Mazar-e-Sharif even though my visa already expired – on July 15. I sent my application to extend my stay for another month, but the process is very complicated and slow. I had to send my application with a copy of my school certificate; as well as a letter from the Embassy where my Afghan visa was issued. And I had to have invitation letters from the Czech NGO (Non Government Organization) People in Need from Prague as well as a formal request for my stay from my hosts in Afghanistan. All these documents were sent to the Ministry of Economy (PIN is registered there) a week before my visa expired. From there the application will be sent to Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
A couple weeks ago, visas could still be issued in Kabul as well as in Mazar-e-Sharif and others large cities. Not any more. All foreigners must go to Kabul. The authorities make it very difficult for foreigners. They seem to want us out of the country. And I have no news from the Afghan authorities yet about my application, so I really hope I will get some news soon.
Did I complain about weather in the last letter? I did, didn’t I? I guess it was too early; it was only 42 Celsius, nice and cool weather compare with what it is NOW! Believe it or not: it has been 48°C the last three days, yes, forty eight in shadow. Our thermometer only registers until 50 Celsius…..it’s crazy.
It’s not good to stay in the compound all the time, because you’ll go a bit nutty if you do. So I was lucky to have the opportunity to go on another field trip; even it was just for one day in the Toqay district, one and half hours from Kabul. Uzbek people live there, and women (most of them) do not mind being photographed.
The Afghan parliamentary election is scheduled to take place on September 18th (postponed from May 22nd). The campaign which kicked off at the end of June will be a major test of Afghanistan’s political progress and security. Depending on how it’s run, the Sept. 18th balloting could be a major advance toward stability; or, if there is fraud on the scale of last year’s presidential elections, a big step backward.
In Balkh province my “mission” for the Czech NGO People is finished. In Kabul, I will document a teacher’s training and hope also to document the parliamentary election campaign. My last shoot was in the Toqay district, the ISNA (Income Stability in Afghanistan) beneficiaries: a beekeeper, agriculture nursery and wool processing.
So goodbye Marghzar, goodbye Zare and Kishindeh. Goodbye Mazar-e-Sharif, goodbye Balkh. I am off to Kabul on Saturday.
PS. And I have almost forgot, my visa application is already at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and I will have an answer about my status in couple weeks.
Salaam from Mazar-e-Sharif, salaam for the third time.
Weather is hot and hot and hot. The mercury in thermometer rises to the sky; today it stopped on 40 Celsius, tomorrow will climb to 42. Hot water is coming out of both taps. Potatoes are cooking under the ground and chickens are laying hard-boiled eggs. Ok, I am exaggerating, but it feels this way. And we sweat and sweat and sweat. OK. We shouldn’t comp-lain. Or I shouldn’t complain. What about Afghan women who wear the burqa over their normal clothing? The burqa is the blue, white or green huge piece of cloth where the air circulation is very poor and where women can barely see the pathway. They must be boiling under this synthetic cloth. And imagine, some burqas are even black.
I had to wear a burqa too. On my third trip to the field, we were passing a small town where a bazaar was in full swing. The street was busy with men on motorcycles, sitting in front of their shops, selling nans (nan is the national bread of Afgha-nistan. It is a flatbread and can be oval or rectangular), selling sheep or just wandering here and there. The streets were crowed full of men and we were only women there. Well, we were in a car, but still our drive driver gave the order: “Put burqas on!”
I was the last one who put it on. I was fighting with this unfamiliar piece of clothing – I couldn’t find front and couldn’t find the top. The ladies tried to help me; more hands were touching this blue monster and making it more difficult to put on. Finally (we already hit the street full of men) we managed it. I was under the blue burqa. There was just one mistake: I wore it inside out.
In Zare, I documented the cooperation training for farmers organized by the People in Need – Food Facilities. About ten respected bearded men attended this workshop. The workshop was for five days, and this new cooperation will get a tractor, a drop-side-truck and wheat thresher from People in Need (PIN).
From Zare I went to Marghzar, where Marghzar High School was officially opening with a big ceremony where officials like Mullah, the minister of finance and others as well as the PIN engineer, the PIN program coordinator, and other PIN members were there. And of course there were students, pupils, and teachers there too. After all, this school is for them.
Pupils and students lined up in front of their new school where the ribbon was cut and speeches were delivered. The heat was so strong, one pupil threw up; my head was spinning and the students‘ too, I’m sure. After couple unbelievably long speeches they sat down. No water was offered to them.
Marghzar is a beautiful place surrounded by incredible mountains. People are very friendly and you can walk freely everywhere. So I continue with my portraits using this pictorial landscape as the background.
I was all week in Mazar working on my pictures. I also have a new web-show of the pictures. If you are interested, here is the link:
On Monday I am off again, I am going back to Kishindeh and to a new place: Chakana.