Afghanistan Diary
Monday, January 31, 2005

Today was my first day at work. As usually in those circumstances, I did not do anything productive. I met with my two bosses who seem very kind (of course, I’ve got to say that in case they ever read this, but it is actually true). My direct supervisor is younger than me (first time that happens to me).

I was again taken on a tour of the facility to meet everybody. That took a while, not only because there are a lot of people in this organization but also because Afghans are heavily into the whole greeting thing. It is possible for two men to greet one another for several minutes. It is purely traditional because they talk at the same time and therefore cannot understand each other. It is also tricky because men are not supposed to shake hands with women (so I have been told) although they typically do shake hands with others men. Many times we have been asked to sit down for a tea, but this is a ritual invitation that one should refuse. After the tour, we went for lunch. It is a local tradition in Afghanistan to eat at one’s workplace and DACAAR has a cantina that serves all its employees. Food is ok and it is one less thing to worry about. I should add that I haven’t had even as much as an upset stomach since I have been in Kabul.

The main topic of conversation is the weather. Everything freezes: the road, the water pipes, the gas pipes, etc. With the electricity being down also, that leaves little facilities that work. I was upset at myself for having burned my sleeve while playing with the bukhari (furnace), then I realized that everybody in the house did the same thing. Last night the temperature reached -18C and five people froze to death.

I found a radio station (in French) that broadcast the news daily. I have yet to see any place where it is possible to buy a foreign paper (and the cost would probably be prohibitive).

I am getting quite nervous about my work. I will have to immerse myself deeply into Access and VBA. I know VBscript (sort of) but my knowledge of Access is largely restricted to using it as a back-end for a website. There is a lot I need to learn. Luckily I brought the appropriate books with me. As a result, even though I am dying to start learning Dari (DACAAR will provide us with a teacher), I decided to wait a little and catch up with some computer skills in the meantime.

I should say regarding the security that we don’t really stand out on the road because we travel with unmarked local vehicles (and not big-ass white 4x4 marked UN). Furthermore, the consensus among Afghans was that I could pass (one even claimed that I resemble a local pop singer. I’ll have to check it out to see how ugly he is).

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This is my diary. My name is Lev and I work in Kabul for a non-governmental organization (

Location: Kabul, Afghanistan
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