Diane in Afghanistan

This is a historic time for the people of Afghanistan. I am reminded of the timeless truths that have guided our nation through the past two centuries, and how those same profound words now hold such hope and promise for the new democractic nation of Afghanistan. "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal... that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights... of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

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Location: Bellevue, Washington

Thursday, September 15, 2005

30 Minutes From Half-Way Around the World

We finally arrived in Kabul his afternoon around 3:30 Kabul time. Interestingly, Kabul is 11.5 hours ahead of Seattle - why the half-hour difference instead of the 11 hours like Dubai? No one knows. Some say it is because Afghanistan is in several time zones and they split the difference. India also has the same system, but others say it is because the Afghans wanted to be different. Whatever the reason, I have left my watch on Seattle time then I subtract 30 minutes and change to PM or AM and I easily get Kabul time.

This city is very damaged from the 30 years of war suffered at the hands of the Russians, Afghanistan's communist government, and the Taliban. That having been said, the city is alive -- bustling with activity. There are people everywhere, and businesses operating on every street. It is apparent that these are industrious, and enterprising people, and democracy will bring huge economic change to this country. During the Taliban reign, not only were women required to cover themselves entirely by wearing the burqa, but they could not leave their houses without a male escort. As a result, women were not seen on the streets.

But the world is different now. Women walk along the streets with their children, or even by themselves, or with other women and men. Although many still wear the burqa, at least they are not beaten if they only wear head scarves. I bought a black scarf in Seattle and have been wearing it, as have all the women in the delegation. This is a sign of respect for this country and it's culture.

As far as businesses, I was pleased to see the large number of small businesses operating. Each street seems to have a different retail "theme." For example, one street is filled with rug stores; one street is food vendors; one street consists of stores for car parts; and another street is filed with businesses who sell small tools - like drills, etc. The rugs are amazing -- and I have a "thing" for the color red. And yes, red is the color of choice for all the rugs. The colors are brilliant, the rugs are soft and luxurious, but they won't fit in my carry-on baggage.

Dinner is a much different experience than what we experience in the U.S. You have a choice to sit in chairs, or simply cross your legs and sit on the rugs. I chose the latter, as did most everyone who is with the delegation -- we're an adventurous group.

Kabul is in a desert region and although it is hot in the sun, the shade is cool and the air is clear. At night it cools down, but there are plenty of mosquitoes.

Due to security concerns, there are police with serious weapons everywhere on street corners, at hotels and at some businesses. I do not take this as a sign of chaos. Instead, this is part of the continued need to retain security while remnants of the Taliban seek to disrupt the election on Sunday.

Tomorrow is Friday and that is the day of rest for Muslims. I understand that people generally stay home and don't get in their cars. That is probably a good thing, since the driving over here can get a little rough.

The top three concerns of the citizens of Afghanistan are roads; security and economic opportunity. Sounds similar to the citizens of Washington State, but by comparison, we have excellent roads even with traffic jams.

Everyone, from airport personnel to hotel staff, to election staff has been absolutely wonderful, and I've experienced the true warmth of hospitality.

Sincerely for freedom,

Diane

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