Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Another Tactical Pause

The only thing better than a nice long R&R break is an even longer Home Leave. We're starting ours by wandering off into the wilderness of Alaska, far from telephones, televisions, and internets. We will be hiking and paddling and climbing in the fjords and mountains. We will almost certainly not be posting to the Holla. Once we get back in mid-July, we have stuff to share from Nepal and India, hope to have stuff to share from Alaska, and will also get back to some leftover but worthy pictures of Afghanistan. E.g., the photo above, which we like, and are 90% sure we haven't published here before. Hopefully it will tide our loyal readers over.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Khuda Hafez

So long, Kabul! It was a memorable year for your intrepid correspondents, due in equal parts to the intense policy environment, the nutty living environment, or the series of awesome vacations he was able to take from Kabul. One unexpected thing that all of three of these factors have in common: They were hell on the Holla publication schedule, which slipped from "approaching daily" to "when we get around to it." It did leave us with something of a backlog in the photo department, which will at least be a start in terms of maintaining something vaguely interesting to publish over the next year, which we will spend in less-than-exotic Washington, D.C. In any case, it's not an end to the pictures from Afghanistan yet, but a fond farewell to the country.

Oh, and I added this second picture of kids waving because that last little guy cracks me up. Maybe he just lacks the motor skills to wave, or maybe it's a genuine facepalm.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Of Bamyan: Fashion Plates

Not everyone in Afghanistan is wearing shalwar kameez.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Of Bamyan: Busy Day

Busy day at the Bamyan gas station. Why don't more American businesses have a bed out front for leisure time between customers?

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Of Bamyan: Roofdeck

It's late, so we don't have insight to offer, other than to say this is pretty kick-ass for a house made out of mud. Flowering trees and a rooftop lounge? Sign me up. And I have a feeling they're paying less for this than we'll be paying in DC come August.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Of Bamyan: For Sale

Market stalls in front of the Buddha niches in Bamyan.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Of Bamyan: Boredom

This picture reminds me of my favorite line ever in a briefing memo. I know that's a bold statement, briefing memos being a famously electric form of expression. In any case, the line from the briefer about the trip to Bamyan (with all apologies to the author) was: "The day will be anchored by an exciting visit to the local potato cooperative." As in all writing, excising adjectives is generally wise, but sometimes one just has to emphasize the less-than-obvious excitement of a given event.

As previously noted, we think there are kind of a lot of VIP visitors zipping around Bamyan. Exhibit B: This guy, who is apparently less than fascinated by the parade of armored Land Cruisers motoring along the road up the valley. We did, in fact, get to take a nice drive up the valley beyond what I would presume most visitors see, unless everyone who goes to Bamyan stops by the potato cooperative, which this local resident apparently did not find all that exciting.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Of Bamyan: Beneficiaries

The primary intent of the visit to Bamyan was to highlight some of our agricultural support programs. The Ambassador delivered a speech to a potato cooperative, which has benefited greatly from the Afghan government's financing assistance and some USAID-sponsored potato storage facilities. It did inspire one of the weirder requests I have fielded in my career, when the Ambassador asked for someone to find him a potato a few minutes before his speech, for use as a visual aid during his remarks. Afterwards, the gathered U.S. and Afghan officials distributed big sacks of fertilizer to the farmers. We will leave that scenario without further comment, other than to note that many, like the guys pictured above, were pretty happy with the event.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Traffic Cop 2

Still Bamyan, and a much busier intersection than yesterday's picture featured. But a somewhat more lackadaisical traffic cop. I'm sure people in Bamyan would tell you that Alexander the Great built the columns behind him.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Traffic Cop 1

A motorcade full of distinguished visitors is not an unusual sight in Bamyan. Every foreigner in Afghanistan wants to go to Bamyan at some point in their time here. It's peaceful, it's beautiful, it features the niches that were once home of the monumental Buddhas.

Even so, I have to guess that this gentleman, dutifully carrying out his traffic-direction charge on this nearly empty corner, was paying a bit more attention than he normally might were a VIP motorcade not passing by. Either that or he just takes a lot of pride in his work on this not-so-busy corner, and deserves a raise.