I just had that moment hit me, finally. It took me two weeks of being here, it wasn’t until a few minutes ago while I was standing on the roof of our new guesthouse that I felt the full force of reality: I’m living in Afghanistan.
Since I landed, these past 14 days have been spent shuttling back and forth through traffic from my room to the office, stuck indoors and on the street level for about 99% of the time. I have seen parts of Kabul, but I haven’t actually seen Kabul. I haven’t seen the hills that surround the city, and I haven’t gaped at the mountains that surround the hills. Now I have, and I’m not sure I can even call them mountains. They’re so stunningly massive and stark behind the pollution that discolors from this distance, so impressive and imposing that I find it hard to believe them real. I’m almost hesitant to believe this is Earth, for a moment.
On the hills that rise up out of the city’s boundaries are patchwork blankets of Afghan homes, some painted easter eggs colors and others still shades of mud, wrapping the rocky surface with the patterns of human life, reaching all the way up to the peak where cell and TV towers are planted like flags claiming territory.
Down below the roof of our place, I can watch people coming and going; the neighbor is hanging laundry to dry, her son is running around in the garden, and I admire their trellised arbor that will hold blooming flowers over the walkway when spring arrives. On the other side, a tree is bursting with small, white blossoms that look like dogwood, and a house is painted the hue of lichen green that reminds me of R, because it seems like we were fixated on that color this past year. Two cats scream as one chases the other up a fence. Trucks lurch through the dust and mud, small boys loiter in the road, a man pushes a cart and calls through a megaphone to hawk his goods. The vegetable seller waves away flies from his tomatoes. The scurrying neon orange ants off to my right are construction laborers, working on a tall concrete complex, maybe a new apartment building or offices. Behind me, an old fortress stands on a grass covered hill where people go to fly kites.
I’d almost forgotten to think about the fact that these simple, beautiful facets of life are going on all around me, because frankly I’ve been rather blind to them until today. I hadn’t been able to take my first good look at Afghanistan until now, and I’m going to daringly say that I just fell a bit in love, if only yet for the rooftop view I have of this city and all its goings on. In my room now, typing this, my fingers and toes have gone back to freezing, the footsteps of others in the hallway echo like ghosts, and the 4 o clock sun coming in my window is kind but somber. I can’t wait for summer, even though I know I’ll eat those words once the 100-plus temperatures hit us. This house is beautiful and our staff is caring, but I think the roof is going to be seeing a lot of me.