Sunday, 27 March 2011

Another eye-opening day in Afghanistan. We were offered a tour of the Egyptian Hospital by our friends at the American Hospital. I got up at 9am (the middle of my night) to meet my team at the office and drive over to the American Hospital. There we met up with the new American medical unit who was taking over the relations between the Americans and the Egyptians, and all of us were going over to tour the Egyptian Hospital.

This Hospital is particularly unique as it is Egyptian run for Afghan men, women and children. They keep the men and women on separate days so today was a women and children day where they can come to the facility (which is on base) and receive free medical care, donations and English lessons from volunteers. When we arrived the place seemed rather chaotic, but in turns out the women who runs the women's days was on business in Kabul so there were no organized lessons or games.

It was utterly profound to intermingle with the women shrouded from head to toe in their pale blue burkas, even their eyes masked by the lattice fabric. The children were very friendly, introducing themselves, holding your hand, playing with my hair. One boy was hit by an American MRAP vehicle and lost his leg. Another boy was in a wheelchair and had to hooks for arms. He looked so lonely. I cursed the language barrier. I would have liked to have gone up to him, but without words you can't use humor to help ease a situation. With looks alone it always comes across as pity.

I lost count of the number of times I was asked for money, shoes, food. I was asked several times to have my picture taken. To be honest, the whole experience was far too voyeuristic for my liking. I felt like the privileged American do-gooder who simply came for a tour of the camp, moaned about how terrible the was the Afghan plight, and then left without doing anything tangible or endearing. It made me feel sick, to be honest. I felt like such a poser. They have the real need out here. We were told by one official that the Afghan women line up outside the door of the Egyptian doctor, without real medical ailments, to beg him to do something about their husbands, who beat or mistreat them. He is the only male they can have permissible contact with. Honestly, everyday I experience what I think will be the biggest reality check I can face...and then without fail it seems that the next day brings an even bigger one.

After the Hospital, two of my teammates and I took a trip out to the Afghan Bizarre which is by the main gate. They have some really beautiful items for sale out there. I was particularly impressed by these hand-carved wood trunks which you can have custom designed. There was also some gorgeous jewelry- lapis lazuli is the most famous natural gem out here and you can find it in almost all their craftsmanship. There were also beautiful scarves and rugs and trinkets. I was mostly window shopping today since all the items there are for barter, but I suspect there will be another trip in the future.

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