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Badakhshan, Part I: AFGHANISTAN

AFGHANISTAN | Tuesday, 23 September 2008 | Views [8370] | Comments [6]

Surveying my kingdom (nah, just looking out over beautiful Ishkashim, which I have taken quite a liking to)

Surveying my kingdom (nah, just looking out over beautiful Ishkashim, which I have taken quite a liking to)

Aug 10: Embarking on the Road Trip of a Lifetime (Insha’Allah)

(Leg 1: Dushanbe, Tajikistan, to Khorog; see pics #1-6)

It was 5 am and Heidi and I were getting picked up outside of our micro-district for the most daring trip either of us had ever taken – to none other than Afghanistan. We had a combined total of 2 ½ hours of sleep under our belts, but were armed and ready with several gallons of boiled water, my new tent, head scarves and kurtas, and an arguably idiotic sense of adventure.

Two short days ago, Heidi had called me at work and asked if I wanted to go to Afghanistan with AKF cross-border staff – and I had to give an answer within the hour. Up until that moment, I had actively avoided all offers to go Tajikistan’s southerly neighbour based on the rationale, ‘Why go to a war zone if I don’t have to? I kinda like not having to watch out for IEDs and suicide bombers.’ She was well aware of my aversion, but this offer was different, particularly for an anthropology nut like myself; the hook was none other than the Pamiri Cultural Festival in the stunning Wakhan Corridor. Virtually untouched by the upheaval of southeast Afghanistan, the Wakhan is a thin stretch of land that extends from west to east between Tajikistan and Pakistan and reaches all the way to China. It is by far the safest part of the country and is home to the ‘other half’ of Badakhshan’s Pamiri people, who are renowned for their warm hospitality and proud cultural traditions. Not only that, but it was also the backdrop for the travels of Marco Polo himself in 1274 and for the cat-and-mouse games of Great Game/Tournament of Shadows spies in the 1800s – all of which stirs some marked Indiana Jones-y sentiments in my belly.

Within the hour, I had taken a deep breath and given Heidi an answer in the affirmative. We went through a rapid-fire paperwork process and had our visas, itineraries, and driver and host contacts by the end of the day. Despite the countless bureaucratic obstacles we had anticipated, somehow everything went smoothly. Really?? Not that I expected long line-ups of tourists waiting for visas, but I didn’t think it would be quite so easy to navigate the red tape to Afghanistan.

Regardless, we were on our way in the wee hours of Sunday morning in one of our now beloved AKF Land Cruisers. We soon dubbed our barrel-chested driver ‘Tiger’ for his pacing-in-a-cage persona and heavy foot. A few minutes outside of Dushanbe, we already had a flat tire from going over 100 km/h over the omnipresent potholes. No problem – it only took 10 minutes to change – but we were now about to drive the notoriously unforgiving 550-odd km to Khorog without a spare.

We had been hearing rumours of the brutality of the Dushanbe-Khorog road since the Ottawa training seminar in May. Land slides or avalanches sometimes wipe out entire sections of the road, which is often barely one lane wide and careens precipitously between towering mountains of rock and a sheer drop to the river far below. Moreover, the trip can take anywhere from 10 to 25 hours, depending on the abilities (read: balls) of the driver. Needless to say, I had mentally prepared for the worst bout of car sickness I could imagine and stuffed my backpack with an arsenal of ginger chews and plastic bags.

We lasted about 8 hours without incident before the second flat tire. By that point, my bones and brain were feeling quite rattled so I was not opposed to a little break from driving. Before I knew it, Tiger had set out on foot to the nearest village a few kilometres away and I was left with little else to do but keep an eye on the vehicle, explore the vicinity for exciting bugs and spiders, and wonder how much the Tajik border guards patrolling past us liked their jobs. Thanks to the chivalrous efforts of three different groups of men who had stopped to help us (foreign women stranded on the road seem to attract such gallantry), four hours later, we were on our way again to Khorog. We pulled into town exhausted but otherwise unscathed at around 10 pm. Cognizant of everything else that could have happened to further delay our arrival, our only complaint was that it was too dark to witness the rumoured beauty of the capital of GBAO.


Aug 11: ‘Please, Mr. Afghan Border Guard – Take As Many Apricots As You’d Like’

(Leg 2: Khorog, Tajikistan, to Khan Dood, Afghanistan, via Ishkashim; see pics #7-17)

After the long haul from Dushanbe to Khorog, I was somewhat wary of what type of vehicle would show up in the morning for the next leg of the trip. Either we would completely luck out and be spoiled by another comfy Land Cruiser, or we would be horribly spited by the powers that be with some unimaginable contraption to bounce around in for the second marathon drive in as many days. And no, there’s no in between here – it’s either one extreme or the other.

Our driver pulled up in what appeared to be a Land Cruiser from the front, but the comparable features ended there. He swung open the back doors of his ambiguous machine and my stomach promptly lurched at what lay before us – two rickety old bench seats lined up against the walls, facing each other into the center of the vehicle. My god, we were going to do the drive facing SIDEWAYS and with nothing resembling seatbelts or anything to hold onto in sight. Fantastic. I half-heartedly double-checked my supply of plastic bags and popped a ginger chew into my mouth.

After the initial moment of vehicular dread, I decided that it was a beautiful sunny day and turned my thoughts away from my stomach and towards an engaging conservation with our fellow passenger. An AKF-Afghanistan staff member who has worked in natural resource management for 30 years, his stories proved good fodder for our appetites for all things Badakhshan. The mere two hours it took to drive from Khorog to the border town of Ishkashim, through which we would cross into Afghanistan, flew by.

When we suddenly pulled to a stop, our conversation trailed off and I looked up in half-interest, expecting to see one of the many bribe-demanding police check points that litter Tajik roads. Instead, my eyes came to a rest on the gate that led to Afghan customs – now THAT made me sit up a bit straighter. We checked out the sign commemorating the Ishkashim bridge (construction of which was supported by the governments of Afghanistan and Tajikistan and the Aga Khan himself), wondered whether we could get away with snapping some pictures, and looked at each other as if we were about to go on a roller coaster that had a 50% chance of falling off its tracks. As we drove slowly across the bridge, I felt a slight tightening in my stomach and quickening of my pulse. It was as if a physiological switch had been flipped on and my senses were on stand-by for action, not too unlike that adrenaline rush before stepping into the ring for a medal fight.

I haphazardly pulled on my head scarf as I warily eyed the border guards – the Tajiks in army green fatigues and the Afghans in beige. They had different guns from each other as well, though I couldn’t say what kind they were (sorry, Derek). I looked a little closer at the small groups of men on either side of the border and took note of subtle differences in their behaviour – how they held themselves, how they interacted with their fellow guards, how they deferred to higher ranking officials. In each case, I couldn’t help but think that the Afghans were the more scrappy and confident – even defiant – of the two. Everything about their body language seemed to say, ‘I will love you like a brother unless you eff with me, in which case you’d better get the hell out of here.’ A line from the Central Asia Lonely Planet flashed through my mind: “No one wins a war in Afghanistan.”

I was enjoying my little mental juxtaposition of geo-politics with the scene that lay before me when my reverie was broken by a grizzled face peering through the window, not six inches from mine. I hadn’t even noticed one of the guards walking up to the truck, but I sure noticed him now. My eyes darted from the gun slung across his chest to his steely gaze and back to his gun again. He grunted and jabbed his finger towards me, a little more aggressively than I thought necessary. The other guards were already going over my passport with a fine-toothed comb and I didn’t think I was doing anything suspicious… what could he want? He grunted again and held his hand up to his mouth. ‘Ah,’ I thought, ‘he wants my food.’

Though it was probably the least concerning demand an Afghan guard could make of me, I was less than thrilled. The bag of apricots I had been absent-mindedly munching on was part of a small supply of dried fruit and nuts I had packed for the next few weeks on the road – precious commodities for a vegetarian in Central Asia. Nevertheless, I was well aware of the potential complications of an irate border guard should I be foolish enough to refuse his demand. This was Afghanistan, after all, and a completely different ball game. I held open the bag of apricots to the face in the window and hoped for the best.

My offering was returned with a toothy grin and a noticeably lighter bag. Not five minutes later, the same face returned to the open window with two others jockeying for position behind. ‘Great,’ I thought, ‘there goes my supply of vitamin C. Looks like I'll get a practice run of scurvy before the winter hits.’ I begrudgingly held up the apricots for a second time, waited until they had their fill and walked away, and then quickly hid the bag to salvage the last few.

After a brief respite, yet another guard appeared at the window. Determined to hold my ground this time, I met his gaze with what I hoped was one of uncompromising conviction. It turned out to be unnecessary, as all he wanted was a photo with us. ‘Hmm, seems harmless enough… annnd could also backfire horribly.’ Various potential outcomes played out in my mind. Taking pictures at borders and military posts is one of those massive travel no-no’s that could land you in jail in an instant – not something I aspired to do, particularly in a country that has little semblance of the rule of law. Then again, it was probably not wise to refuse the request of an Afghan border guard who himself could throw us in jail. After all, he probably just wanted to commemorate the occasion of female North American tourists (a rarity, one would imagine), or even tell his friends he had two new wives. Plus, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't keen on having photo proof of this incident.

We shrugged and climbed out of the truck to the delight of the guards. Several of them sauntered over to join or watch the spectacle; the mood had changed as suddenly as if we had cracked open a bottle of vodka*. Our AKF colleague joined in with hearty laughs and back-slaps rather than objection, so we figured we were in the clear.

Photos were taken, passports were returned unscathed, hands were shaken and placed over hearts, and we were on our way into Afghan Badakhshan. Over the next 6-8 hours, we traversed landscapes that alternated between gushing rivers, sand dunes, and barren rock, the latter of which looked like they would be more suited for the moon. Our driver soon became known as ‘Daryobek’ (‘King of the River’) for deftly navigating over/through the countless waterways flowing from mountain glaciers into the Panj**. We passed herds of Bactrian camels and learned of their roles in semi-nomadic Afghan-Kyrgyz trade networks; we discussed the militarization of development and the increased risk of ‘doing’ humanitarian aid in conflict zones; we waved back at reams of dust-caked children tending to flocks of donkeys, cows, goats, and sheep.

With dusk setting in and another 6 hours to our final destination, we decided to spend the night in Khan Dood and get an early start the next morning.

* Alcohol is illegal in Afghanistan, but/and is sometimes used for bribes.

** The Panj River is a tributary of Amu Darya, the largest river in Central Asia, and forms a good chunk of the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan.


Aug 12: Breaking Bread and Barriers in the Wakhan Corridor

(Leg 3: Khan Dood to Wakhan Corridor; see pics #18-49)

Unbeknownst to Heidi and me, there was a half-hour time zone change, but we still managed to leave Khan Dood by 4:30 am*. The further we drove, the more the terrain looked like Tajikistan again. The driving was the bumpiest to date, but miraculously enough, I still had yet to get car sick. Instead, I was bouncing around the back of the truck, laughing and shouting, “DaryoBEK! DaryoBEK!” as we barrelled across the countryside. Whereas Tajikistan had at least benefitted from development during the Soviet era, our Afghan neighbours still lack basic infrastructure. In fact, as the entire vehicle pitched forwards into one river, our colleague yelled over his shoulder, “Road conditions not good. No road.”

Just as I was wondering how much longer we would be tossed around like Mexican jumping beans against our will, we rounded a corner and two large striped tents appeared in the distance in a huge field bordered on three sides by jagged mountains. That could only be one thing: the Pamiri Festival.

After the obligatory head scarf readjustment, we disembarked from the back of the vehicle into the middle of a small group of men that had instantly gathered at the sight of two foreign women. I gave the customary greeting and smiled as sweetly as possible, all the while thinking to myself, ‘Thank you so much for your hospitality; your country is beautiful and your people are lovely. Now kindly get out of our way, we have to PEE.’ We headed straight to the bathroom, pointing excitedly at horses and yurts along the way and making wild guesses at how soon the rumoured buzkashi game would start. Though the door of the bathroom was adorned with a young ibex skull, I was impressed to find an actual toilet inside an enclosed area – no running water, of course, but much better than others I would later encounter in the Tajik side of Badakhshan.

The festivities began with long, drawn-out speeches by several government dignitaries in attendance. Whenever I could no longer politely pretend to be listening, I amused myself by people-watching: stone-faced guards with semi-automatics; old men carrying grandchildren on their backs; young boys gathering up plastic bottles from the stream that cut through the field. Though I had grown used to being one of only a few women, the gender balance was particularly skewed here – at least 50 to 1.

My legs breathed a sigh of relief as the speeches ended and we were free to stand up and stretch en route to the field to watch a polo game. The crack of the mallets echoed through the valley and a cloud of dust followed the scrum of horses and riders up and down the field as they jostled for position, muscles flexing, spit flying, and eyes flashing in pursuit of the prize.

I tore my attention away from the field for a moment, took a deep breath, and raised my eyes up and up and up to the peaks of Pakistan’s Hindu Kush to the south and pictured China just a stone’s throw away to the east. I closed my eyes and imagined Marco Polo standing in the exact same spot nearly 750 years ago, contemplating his past worldly conquests and shrewdly calculating his next. This is quite the fascinating little corner of the world!

The polo game subsided, the dust returned to the ground, and we headed over to a guesthouse for lunch. Just as in Tajikistan, the osh/pilov was preceded by meat and veggie soup and huge slabs of naan (I managed to inconspicuously eat around the meat without anyone demanding otherwise). The men around me ensured that the bottom of my teacup never ran dry and as I settled back into the korpachas lining the floor and walls, I let the lively yet soothing atmosphere envelop my senses like a fresh blanket of snow over a sleepy village.

A brief nap restored my energy for the non-stop slate of activities lined up for the remainder of the day. First up was an adrenaline-charged game of buzkashi, an ancient Persian version of polo with a headless calf or goat (see unedited clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpWB1xmYV4Q ; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buzkashi ). Somehow I think this is a bit rougher than the British version…!

Up next was an impromptu game of volleyball, which consisted solely of me returning every shot to a huge group of men encircling me. I wasn’t sure how they would react to a woman playing sports at all, let alone with men, but if anything, they were delighted and fought with each other to be the next to return one of my hits. I could say a lot about the gender norms in this context, but for now, I will just say one thing: it was damn annoying readjusting my head scarf after every shot!

As soon as the volleyball players dispersed, I made my way over to the festival tents, drawn by snippets of tantalizing Persian music wafting through the air. As the music grew louder and the crowds grew larger, I lit up at the scene that unfolded before me. Half a dozen musicians were jamming their hearts out on rubabs, dilrubas, and tablas as a respectable number of people danced up a storm – eyes and arms raised to the sapphire sky, legs and torsos twisting around each other at a feverish pace, faces beaming with radiant smiles in motion. And at the heart of these human tornadoes was Miss Heidi – admittedly not moving as gracefully as the other dancers, but having a blast. After wondering for a moment about the likely more conservative gender norms enshrined in this new activity, I succumbed to the prompting waves and friendly calls to ‘Beyo’, join in. I kicked off my flip-flops and tried my best to remember the Pamiri moves our local friends had taught us at the wedding in Dushanbe (which, by the way, involve absolutely no physical contact with fellow dancers).

A few hours later, we were scathingly informed by another female expat that women “never” dance with men in Afghanistan and that we had been quite insensitive to do so. I felt a bit taken aback, especially considering the locals had practically pushed us into the dance circle and that several others had said they were thrilled that we participated and showed interest in their culture. The Pamiri Festival, after all, was intended to promote tourism in Afghanistan. Oh, the power dynamics inherent in being a foreigner…

After setting up the tent in the waning moments of dusk, we were treated to a couple more hours of live music and dancing before turning in for the night. This time, we were careful to politely decline offers to join in, citing the long drive and busy day as modest excuses. The temperature had dropped low enough to make me take shelter in my hoodie, windbreaker, and wool socks, and I revelled in the silver glow of the moon that cast dancing shadows over the festival-goers in the distance. I crawled into my sleeping bag with a smile on my face and peace in my heart.

* Tajikistan is ½ hour ahead of Afghanistan. Interestingly enough, China only has one time zone – that of Beijing – and even though it borders Afghanistan, there is a 3.5 hour time difference between the two countries.


Aug 13: Not Your Average Marriage Proposal

(Leg 4: Wakhan Corridor to Ishkashim; see pics #50-83)

Heidi and I woke up at a decent hour, hopeful for signs of the yak races that we were assured would occur before our departure. Unfortunately, there was no indication of such activity and it wasn’t until later the next day that we would find out that they had taken place in the wee hours of the morning before we were awake. Nothing like a sunrise yak ride to get the day going, I guess!

Instead, we were directed to a makeshift restaurant set up partially in the back of a van and partially under a tent. I was looking forward to a nice breakfast and was presented with tea and a plate of French fries (I don’t know what I was expecting, but it sure wasn’t fries). I let myself get lost in my thoughts, enjoying surveying the early morning hustle and bustle of the tent village just beyond us.

Suddenly, a pair of elderly gentlemen approached the food stand and, by default, our table (the only one). We quickly shuffled our chairs over and offered them a place beside us after the obligatory hand-over-heart, bowed head, and ‘Salaam aleikum’ greeting. We launched into conversation with them in broken Tajik and Dari, the native tongue of most northern Afghans, about the rather limited list of topics we could speak about – where we’re from, how long we’ve been in Tajikistan, where we work, and so on. Oh, and of course, whether or not we have husbands (the most pressing question of just about every man in Central Asia). Every now and then, I looked up to an increasing number of male faces gathering around our table, peering over each other’s shoulders in curiosity but remaining silent. Though I usually don’t like being the centre of attention, I was finding it more amusing than unsettling to continuously draw a crowd of observers simply with our presence.

I noticed that the old man closest to me seemed particularly interested in my answer to that last question. Since arriving in Tajikistan, I have grown accustomed to giving a little white lie that I am indeed married. I don’t like lying, but it’s so much easier to shoot down marriage proposals that way. Saying you’re single is like an open invitation for persistent suitors and saying you have a boyfriend usually means nothing, particularly when speaking with middle-agers with twenty-something-year-old sons – ‘Oh, you’ll still marry a good Tajik boy, don’t worry.” Thanks, lady, it was really keeping me up at night.

Anyways, despite insisting that I was already married, this man rattled on for a few minutes in Dari. I looked quizzically at him for a moment then realized the gist of what he was saying – he wanted me to marry him! In a panic, I quickly reminded him that he already had two wives (which was true), but he just grinned and chuckled with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. His friend said, “He is commander, many wives, good.” The small crowd roared with laughter at our little exchange, which only seemed to fuel the old man’s already over-inflated self-confidence. I imagined myself calling up my parents and saying, “Mom, I know you said not to marry an Afghan commander, BUT…”


Though it threw me into a fit of laughter at the time, it wasn’t until a couple weeks later that I would find out a little more about ‘commanders’ in conservative strongholds of Afghanistan (Badakhshan excluded, to my understanding).

Consider this your forewarning.

It’s not unusual for Afghan men to have several wives, none of whom are safe from verbal and physical abuse and a lifetime of forced domesticity and submission. They also acquire ‘dancing boys’ – the more of whom they have, the higher their social status. The boys are usually sold by their poor families through an illegal trafficking network that also involves opium dealers (a whole other can of worms in itself that involves the arms trade and terrorist networks). They are used to ‘entertain’ guests and – I hate to even type this – are often raped. For those who have read “The Kite Runner”, if you can recall the part when the narrator first sees Hassan’s son in the Taliban leader’s house, you’ve got a good picture of the horrors that these little boys suffer.

It makes me sick to even think about some of the things that people face every day, especially because most of them act like there’s nothing that can be done to change it. “It’s tradition,” people say, as if that automatically excuses them from considering the implications of their actions on other human beings. “It’s our culture. It always has been and always will be like that.” As an anthropology geek with a bit of a temper, I’d quite staunchly argue otherwise. Don’t get me wrong, I’m usually the first to get defensive about cultural insensitivities and to stand up for marginalized people. However, there is no such thing as an unchanging culture. Sure, there are lots of social systems and customs that are passed down for generations, but by no means do they remain the same, even within one generation. It’s a bit like the game ‘Telephone’ – the message at the beginning turns out to be something completely different by the time it reaches the last person at the end of the line, whether it’s because each person might interpret it differently or because they just don’t like what they heard. Culture is an incredibly complicated concept and social construct that is constantly shaped by everything from history and politics to individuals’ opinions. Even if a particular practise or custom is part of your ‘culture’, if it knowingly harms other people, maybe it should change.


Aug 14: Stereotypes and Reality Checks in Ishkashim

(see pics #84-123)

After making the whole journey from Wakhan back to Ishkashim the day before, we were granted a day respite from the bone-rattling driving and were instead allowed to explore Ishkashim on foot (accompanied by a local, of course). We visited several AKF business projects, including carpentry workshops, a chicken farm, a barbershop, and a cashmere processing workshop, and were consistently greeted with the legendary Badakhshani hospitality.

Rahmon, our unofficial tour guide, was the son of the AKF Enterprise Development manager – a man who I came to greatly respect through his son’s daylong recount of his life to date. At the age of seven, Rahmon earned the only income in his family selling corn in a bazaar; his father was not allowed to work under the Taliban regime because he did not have a beard. In Afghanistan and much of Central Asia, many rural children (particularly girls) are forced to drop out of school and enter the informal economy to help feed their families. Although the younger generations are gradually casting aside conservative mentalities, parents still often pressure their children (again, particularly girls) to marry at a young age rather than pursue an education.

Rahmon and his family fled to Pakistan in the late 1990s but have successfully resettled in the sleepy village of Ishkashim, where his father, from a humble upbringing himself, has since dedicated his life to providing for his family so that his three children can pursue their education. His mother now leads a women’s sewing training center, his younger sisters attend school, and he teaches English while finishing secondary school and applying for university scholarships. Looking into Rahmon’s eyes as he told me all of this, I couldn’t help but wonder what he would give to forget some of the things those eyes have seen. Or maybe he wouldn’t give any of it up; every word he spoke was underscored with a dogged perseverance that is borne only from a lifetime of struggle.

Wise beyond his years, he shrugged, met my curious gaze with one of quiet resolve, and simply said, “In bad times, God gives people talents.”

*          *          *

Later in the evening back at the guesthouse, we and other festival attendees were gathered around long spreads of food on the floor, sharing naan, pilov, and thoughts on the past couple of days’ events. The conversation remained light and the TV in the background alternated between Al-Jazeera news and an Afghan sketch comedy show (think Dari-speaking Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert with beards). When Heidi and I wondered aloud how fondly the government took to public political satire, a colleague cocked one eyebrow: “We have freedom of speech here in Afghanistan – not like in Tajikistan.” We gaped at each other incredulously for a split second then burst into yet another fit of laughter.

Throughout the evening, more people trickled into the guesthouse from Wakhan. We couldn’t help but notice a particularly morose air about one of the expats, a girl working in Kabul for AKF. Word quickly spread that she had known the two female Canadian humanitarian aid workers killed in a Taliban ambush outside of Kabul the day before. I looked at Heidi: the innocent Afghan vacation was over. Just like that, I was smacked back to reality with a 2x4 as I realized just how different Badakhshan was from the rest of the country, and at the same time, how the war can hit home no matter where you are in this region. I didn’t really know what to say to the girl, but in a way, I’m sure we all had similar thoughts running through our minds: of fear of the unknown digging itself a little deeper under our skin; of sorrow and empathy for the loss of life – any life; of frustration and resentment towards the entire war for its unrelenting complexity.

This little jaunt to Afghanistan showed me a very human side of a country I previously only knew of from Western news reports on war and terrorism. It was heartening to see so many ‘good news’ stories in person, not to mention all of the everyday things that we base our lives around in North America, like sports, music, and kids.

Some friends and family members have asked me how I felt on this trip. When traveling in places like Afghanistan that are laced with historical and political complexities, I think that it's absolutely critical to have an open mind and heart. The more you learn, the more you can understand where individual people are coming from, and the more you start to see just how small the differences can be between someone from Afghanistan and someone from Canada. And the more you see people as similar to yourself, the harder it is to hate them and be scared of them. Sure, there are Taliban in Kandahar and Kabul who will kill a foreigner without blinking an eye – but what about all the other non-extremist Afghans who are mothers and daughters, grandfathers and grandsons? It’s easy enough for us to not even think about the rest of the people going about their lives as normally as possible when all we know of a country is our perception of the entire place as one big, homogeneously terrifying mess. It's vital to be cautious wherever you are, of course, but sometimes you just have to extend the first open hand. If everyone just stayed in their bomb shelters, creating a mental picture of the terrifying 'Other', where would we be? There has to be dialogue, there has to be sharing of experiences and ideas, and most importantly, there has to be willingness to go out on a limb to empathize with each other as fellow human beings.


Aug 15: Back to the Future?

(Leg 6: Ishkashim to Khorog, Tajikistan)

With minds full of Badakhshan’s sights, sounds, and smells, we crossed back over to Tajikistan and paved roads with only a minor delay at customs. Apparently there were some problems with the goats from Kabul that MSDSP was planning on importing a couple days later across the Ishkashim border (which I would be involved in after meeting my boss in Khorog). Oh well, I’d deal with it later. At that point, all I could think about was getting my hands on a big meal and about a gallon of water.




Woah Holly! Sounds like quite the adventure already! Be safe!!!

  Tom! Sep 9, 2008 9:08 AM


hey, holly...your writing reads like a great travelogue...you two stay safe...PLEASE!!!!

  peggy carrubba Sep 22, 2008 7:15 AM


Holly, your account of the trip to Afghanistan is beautifully written and poignant. I may print it off and offer it to the Sarnia Observer. Would you like me to do that or would you rather not?
In any case, I have two students who I will allow to read this for their enrichment.
love, mom

  mom Oct 1, 2008 11:17 AM


I thouroughly enjoyed your writing. Your eyes and mind are wide open. I sense a smile as you take your photos. Loved the long haired goats, beautiful cows and sweet puppies. Keep writing. Valerie is loving her anthropology class. It is fall here- yellow gold and red trees -as pretty as your headscarfs and robes. Keep Safe. Love Barbara and Griff

  Barbara Marshall Nov 4, 2008 12:02 PM


wow its really a nice place

  obaid May 4, 2012 6:25 PM


i googled badakhshan to look up where the recent mudslide happened and ended up on this page. i read it all. thanks for giving me this new trip idea.......!

  ed from montréal May 3, 2014 5:59 AM

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