A concatenation of bad

First I learned from Axel that someone has been busy stealing our identity and was caught by an alert employee of our bank when he asked to have a new ATM card sent to an address that wasn’t ours. The man seemed to know a lot about our finances.

Then I read Paula Constable’s article in the Washington Post (Dysfunction and Dread in Afghanistan) and would have packed my suitcases right there and then to go home – her story resonated painfully with my experience over the last nine years and the last two in particular. I felt very despondent after reading it and I am not even an Afghan and have the ability to leave and go home. I can’t imagine reading this about my own country.

Forces in the universe and in Afghanistan in particular, seem to conspire to worsen my gloom. Over lunch I asked what I thought was an innocent question to two of my colleagues, “How was your weekend?” I expected the usual ‘fine,’ or a description of family and fun activities. But no.

The first one said, “very bad.” I asked what happened. Her 19 year old niece was admitted to the hospital with fluid in her heart or something as serious as that. Her niece is a TB patient. She is a little better now but for the foreseeable future remains a TB patient with continued risks. Tuberculosis is a huge problem here with women more affected than men, a unique situation in the world. One of our MSH projects is aimed specifically at helping to detect and treat TB patients.

The second person I asked about her weekend also said, “very bad.” She and five of her colleagues frequently travel to the provinces to check on the results of clinical training given here in Kabul to specialists from the provincial hospitals. They were on their way to Ghazni when they got caught in the cross fire between government troops and anti government forces who had attacked a fuel convoy. For three hours they hunkered down in their car while fuel tanks got riddled with bullets and fuel streamed out through the holes. Both cases ended OK with an ‘alhamdu-lillah.’

Then, as if this wasn’t enough, I was informed about a team from the ministry that hasn’t settled their account with us about advances given to them for a trip abroad to attend a training course. As it turned out they blatantly falsified their hotel bills (which must have required some bribing) to pad them with an extra 100 dollars per night so that instead of them owing us, we owe them about a thousand dollars each.

The saddest thing about this is that people don’t want to make waves about this and there is a tendency to accept it as the inevitable cost of doing business here. It may well become the only thing that will be institutionalized after we leave. The revelation made me want to cancel all further assistance to this team that includes a senior level director; so much about setting a good example.

And then, as a special bonus to me, a huge dust storm turned the sky yellow and blanketed everything with the fine dust that made Axel so sick. Everything is gritty now.

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