Afghanistan Diary
Monday, February 14, 2005
  Chawkidars

Our house is surrounded by three meter high barbwired walls. It is also protected by one or two chawkidars (“guards”). They stay next to the entrance in a wooden shack whose comfort level is somewhere in between that of a dog house and that of a shed. Within this small space, they cram a gas heater, a stove, and a few cushions. Their primary duty is to provide security. In that respect, employing them is unavoidable: any international staff lives in a house that is at least as protected as ours. The chawkidars also performs a number of additional duties, such as collecting the sawdust for the bukharis (furnace), turning the generator on and off, etc. They might perform heavier tasks such as removing the snow from the roof (Afghan roofs are not snow proof), but this is more controversial, and I have seen them arguing that it was not their job to do so.

On most days, we eat naan for breakfast. Breakfast is not a formal affair in our house. If we have time, we drink coffee and eat some naan covered with honey or peanut butter, standing in the kitchen. Today, my housemate asked me “Don’t you like naan for breakfast?” I knew of course, that it was her very polite way to ask “Why didn’t you get the naan this time, you lazy bum?” A very valid question, indeed. "Getting the naan" consists in asking the chawkidar to buy it for us. So far, I had been too embarrassed to ask him to embark on the perilous two hundred meters journey through ice, slow and slush that separates our house from the “bakery.” When the naan is there, I eat it with appetite, naturally. I just pretend not to know how it got on the kitchen counter. My hypocrisy has no bounds.

Today, I “dirtied my own hand.” I walked to the guard and asked him if he could get me a naan. He was a little disconcerted but not for the reasons you might expect. “One naan, not two?” he asked.

On a more serious note, two hundred and something DACAAR field employees were fired today. This was due to financial problems and changing donors requirements.



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

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Location: Kabul, Afghanistan
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