It may well be “Labors Day” but the alarm clock rings rather early this morning for our team: for safety reasons our guides told us to leave early the town of Bamyan (while everybody is still asleep) in order not to draw the attention and try to reach Kabul by lunch time. During the first kilometers, the journey proceeds smoothly and fast; we manage to get through some checkpoints without any problem until we reach a point near Gozar in the Parwan region which is rather unsafe (and where we were aware that we would have needed a police escort), we are forced to stop: there is a ceremony for the beginning of spring time taking place (somewhat belated..) and all the soldiers must be present. So, we are requested by the district governor to take part to this so that at its conclusion he can entrust us with an armed and armored patrol. We have no other way out but follow the orders. We park our vehicles inside the military base in order not to draw the attention of prying and malicious eyes watching along the road and from the surrounding mountains.
Once we overcome the initial suspicion the climate becomes familiar. Isn’t there a better chance to offer some coffee as a sign of gratitude towards the soldiers? We manage to have their smiles and bows while they hold their right hand over their heart: a typical afghan gesture of welcome and gratefulness. Some shy picks and then, funny and cheerful ones with the entire group; we managed to “buy their confidence”… we are in safe hands!
We keep on waiting, the muezzin echoes all around us.
It should have ended in a couple of hours, or so we were told.. but the ceremony was delayed: it will start only after the funeral that is taking place (we just needed this!).
So, it started at 10 o’clock in the morning and it is only by half past two in the afternoon when the people attending give their final round of applauses.
The district chief invites us to have lunch with all of them, but some of us, not having attended his speech, have already emptied Beta’s galley and just roll their eyes to the sky; the others thankfully cheer up since they had breakfast at five! We try to rush up to hit the road again as soon as possible, but at the very end, as the icing on the cake, we are required to attend with the governor (although, shortly) to the Buzkashi which was organized in honor of the party.
Luckily it doesn’t take long and we head towards Kabul with our escort! We are escorted by two armed Hummers and three 4X4s for about 70 kms! When, according to them we had reached a safe place, we stop to say goodbye. The governor is grateful and spends some words to show his appreciation for our work and gives his farewell wishing us a good journey.
Who knows…. Maybe it is just a “see you again”!
So, we reach eventually what has now become our second Afghan home (it does sound rather weird to say something like that in Afghanistan.. in Kabul, but this is what it is after all) by dinner time.