Posted By: Erica
Most of my blogs have focused on work issues, but my CIVIC colleagues have encouraged me to post a bit on life in Kabul. Contrary to the perceptions of some of my friends and family, I don’t hear bombs or see the ongoing conflict on a daily basis. Life in Kabul for non-Afghan ex-patriates (ex-pats) is affected more by the preventive security measures than by actual violence. Journalists, freelancers, independent entrepreneurs, and some NGO staff tend to have the least restrictions and may enjoy a relatively normal life. They may walk in the street sometimes, buy their own groceries and supplies, go to Afghan restaurants (as opposed to sticking only to the string of rocket-and mortar-secured ex-pat restaurants), take regular Afghan taxis, hike or go climbing in the mountains surrounding Kabul, etc.
Those with this level of freedom (and risk) are by far the minority, however. Due to employer restrictions, I have many friends who are on virtual lockdown, only allowed to move from their secured home to their secured office in armored vehicles and with bodyguard protection. Others can visit restaurants or friends’ houses; although only those restaurants and homes pre-approved by their security and only on weeks where there are no known threats to locations frequented by foreign nationals (something that has been rarer since the Serena Hotel bombing). Ex-pat homes and offices are typically are required to have such protective measures as a set back from the street, blast-proof windows, 24-hour armed guards, and high walls with barbed wire.
Absent any major incidents, it is easy to feel that these cumbersome security restrictions are unnecessary. But then occasionally, there is an incident like the Serena Hotel bombing, or a kidnapping of NGO workers – as happened in a province south of Kabul last week.
This week I went to the funeral of a friend of mine. She was also American, working with an NGO here on issues of historic and cultural preservation. She died not from the ongoing conflict and instability in Afghanistan, but tragically when she was thrown from a horse. Nonetheless her death, and her sudden absence within the community, is a reminder of the fragility of the situation here. For those who have been here longer than me, it was certainly not their first funeral. And for me, it will probably not be the last.