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Walnuts & Warmth

Afghanistan: sweet tea and breaking bread

The driver was suitably grumpy when he picked us up at the lodge mumbling that he was 32 hours into a 36 hour shift – not an ideal situation for yours truly plus fixer given the need hustle what was left of the time in Kabul. In this city you want the man to behind the wheel to be laid back-alert – able to get you into and out of situations with speed and occasional guile, rather than alternating between falling asleep at the wheel and being pissed off.

A plan hatched: drive close part way up this hill let the driver enjoy the vista doze for an hour or two, whilst finding a trail that took us to the remnants of the old city walls – a view that from most parts of Kabul looks as pixellated as the scrolling backdrop in a game of Defender. Trails scrambled, dirt kicked up all under the inquisitive gaze of gravity, local residents and stray dogs.

Two things we hadn’t counted on that would eventually stand in the way of reaching our intended goal: the gradient and aggressiveness of the trail playing havoc with the fixer’s poor choice of footwear (next time, eh) and the kindness of local residents. For all the change-the-world goodness we aspire to it’s the little things: stepping into a sea of shoes just inside the doorway; the rituals of the host; introductions to the two families living in this space; an impromptu dining table rolled out before us; tearing off pieces of flat bread and being fed a steady stream of freshly crushed walnuts washed down by sweet-sweet chai. With not a word of mother toungues shared – using sign-and-body language to communicate who was married to whom and the number of children in each fold; snapshots of families taken; sharing photos of loved ones; a TV perched in the corner of the room on the whole time.

It’s the little things, lest we forget.