X Marks the Spot:
I did a shoot today on the New Bagram Road on the eastern margins of Kabul. There is no such thing as an address in Kabul, not in the sense that most of us know anyway. The site for the shoot was recced last week. The New Bagram Road is just a long straight piece of tarmac cutting through the desert, flanked on either side by high walled compounds, accessed through non-descript metal gates. Each is owned by some business or other, but they don't put signs up so you really don't know which is which.
We were indeed fortunate because we had two pieces of information that would alert us to our location. Firstly the gate was brown, and secondly, it was directly opposite the 'Kuchi' Settlement. This would not be difficult to spot as the Kuchi are a nomadic tribe of Afghans who use Camels to get around. I have come across them before and you can't miss them. Except you can of course, because they are nomadic, which left us with a slight problem. So now we were looking for a non-descript brown metal door - of which of course they all were.
If you are going to give someone a grid reference don't use a ubiquitous colour and a nomadic people.
Power to the People:
When we have a power cut in the UK, the world basically ends from what I can recall. Everyone fannies around trying to remember where they put their one and only torch, and then they begin ripping open their bulk bag of IKEA tea lights, before placing and lighting six in every room in preparation for a nuclear winter. We then do a quick stock take of all the cupboards, counting out all the tinned food we have, and make a meticulous inventory. This is then divided by the number of occupants in the house multiplied by the possible number of days without supplies, allowing for looting raids by emaciated neighbours and leap years, and finally straws are drawn to discover who will be eaten first when we have run out of John West Sardines! It's usually the youngest child if you don't already own a guinea pig!
Then things start to get really nasty, because it's only when you don't have electricity that you appreciate that we have lost all our social skills, and unless we have a TV and internet we can't function as a family unit. Rapidly people's mood deteriorates and soon we are beating each other with rolled up copies of Hello magazine and rocking apoplectically in the foetal position on the living room floor. Your Sky+ won't record Monday's episode of Glee, and you can't reply to Imogen's post on Facebook.
Then you peer out of the window (everyone does this, admit it) to see if any lights are on in your neighbourhood - maybe it's just your fuse box that has blown, we can sort this in no time at all, but no, everywhere is darkness. We are near despondency now as we contemplate an evening of 'charades' in the twilight and the dark possibility of conversation between loved ones - we feel emetic at the thought. And then 20 minutes later it all comes back on, panic over, and we can all get on with ignoring each other again and forgetting valuable life skills like talking and reading and learning - phew!
In Afghanistan you get power cuts every day, lots of them. I was prompted to write this piece because everything just went dark. I don't know how long it will stay dark, or how long the internet will be down for, but it matters not, I have realised that life still goes on. There are times I admit that I do get a little frustrated with the Internet going on the blink, particularly when you are in the middle of email sex with someone who is four time zones removed.
I have this week, on more than one occasion spent over 12 hours trying to send one email with no attachments. But other than this I am increasingly sanguine. There is an Afghan saying that I have tried to embrace with a varying degree of success. They say, "The sun will still rise in the morning." And you know, they're not wrong.
Except the other evening I had a little photo shoot here and the lights went out. It's not easy taking photos in complete darkness, whatever your skills. The shoot was only an hour long so I was lucky that the lights were only out for 53 minutes of it. During which time, magically a bulk bag of tea lights materialised, six were lit, placed on the floor and we could have held a séance. Instead I knelt on one of them and gave my knee a 'Brazilian' whilst at the same time destroying a $100 pair of trousers. The sun will always rise my arse!