Postdate Aug 23rd from the field | Silently watching the last tango in Kabul

This article was posted on my facebook wall close to a month ago. I immediately wrote a response (since I didn’t want people thinking that my life here is all about fun(ds), plus a long overdue update was due but then in all the hubbub of travelling and work I totally forget to post it! My life has changed slightly in the past month – I am currently based in Kabul due to security concerns from the election results, interacting more with people on a day to day basis and I have faster internet!

Everything else is pretty much the same.

Last Tango in Kabul  | Rolling Stone

The Kabubble economy was so hot that kids out of college were making six-figure salaries, and former midlevel paper pushers were clearing a thousand a day as consultants for places like the World Bank. “All of your expenses are paid for, you don’t buy anything, you’re getting this massive salary that you bank,” Peter, the journalist, says. “Do that for a few years and you’ve saved half a million before you’re 30. You could basically class-jump, by going to Kabul.”

Of course, in the rest of the country the war was getting more and more violent, and the dead, mostly Afghans, were piling up. But it was easy to ignore it inside the Kabubble, as we called it.

Organizations were desperate to up their “burn rate” and clear out their budgets before the year’s end so they could ask for more the next year. It was so easy to make money in Kabul that it felt like we were all citizens of some Gulf oil state. If you could string a few coherent sentences together into a grant application, odds were that there was some contracting officer out there who was willing to give you money, no matter how vapid your idea. Want to put on a music festival in Kabul? Here’s a few hundred thousand. Shoot a soap opera about heroic local cops? A million for you. Is your handicraft business empowering Afghan women? Name your bid.

It was the high life. People were flying to Sri Lanka for the weekend, or buying homes in the States. We had it good, even my friends and I, the second, or, to be honest, more like third tier of expats, the junior reporters and freelancers and entry-level NGO types. There weren’t any jobs back home, and here we were, working our dream gigs. Some of us got killed or kidnapped, or lost our minds, but a lot more of us got rich or made our careers.

Then, as abruptly as it came, the party was over.

Read more:


Aug 23rd | Kabul

This is a very good article, snippets of inaccuracy, but timely as I just returned from a coffee date from the very famous Serena hotel about 45 mins ago. My 2nd visit to an expat spot in the 2 months since I have been here and the whole experience was a mini culture shock for me.

The Kabubble is over. I came in at the end and my life is nowhere near this exciting. I live far away from Kabul, I usually dress in local clothes – sporting a very big beard. I haven’t had a drop of alcohol since I got here, my salary is on par with the local senior staff that I work with and last week I didnt’ have more than a 30 min conversation in English. My life is completely different than most of the expats that I meet here and I specifically choose this position, location and NGO so that it would be different. I like my day to day and what I would change the most is more interactions with locals and a bit more cafes time would be fun.

Part of what I do is to design schools and manage educational programs for marginalized women in one of the most remote and challenging locations within the country. I am the only foreigner on my program and I don’t take any day of it for granted. I embrace the daily challenges – some of which I never faced before and I never want to face again.

I really enjoy my work because its one of the most demanding and professionally challenging jobs that I have had in years, never bored of it and it feels nice to not be the boss, its a welcomed change. Everyone knows (and I am fully aware) that parts of this job will run better without the foreigner in it and my goal is to run myself out of a job (hopefully soon).

I feel like the untold story is how this is affecting the local Afghan community. I have friends and co-workers here who for the past 10 years have painstakinlgy rebuilt their life here. With this currently instability they are watching it all fall apart.


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