Afghanistan Memories

by Reg Green

What is happening in Afghanistan is awful: awful for world peace, awful for the standing of the US, awful above all for any man or, worse, any woman there with a shred of independence of mind. 

     But this is the Iconoclast where you are allowed to have more than one regimented thought and my second thought, when I saw those vehicles piled high with people and all they owned fleeing from Kabul, was of one bitterly cold day when I was there for a day or two as a newspaper reporter in my thirties with an afternoon to spare and decided to fill it by getting out into the country. 

     I found my way to the chaos of the bus station, saw the bus I wanted, saw too that it was bursting with people but that some of them were on the roof. They, good souls, hauled me up and we began our journey through the savage Kabul Gorge, thousands of feet below the road. It was a regular bus roof, no luggage rack to hold on to, the only support being a frozen arm spread out on each side.  

     I traveled probably thirty miles like that, the only diversion from the unending struggle not to slide toward the rounded edges of the roof being when the fare  collector clambered up, as the bus was moving. I remember digging out of my pocket a 100 Af bill, which had a slight tear in it, and holding it out to pay. 

     In an instance, the piercing wind tore the bill in two and one half was whipped away while I was left gazing in astonishment at the other half in my numb fingers. All around me I heard a collective sigh “Aaaaaiiiiiii,’ such as you might hear at a funeral. 

     A hundred Afs were worth perhaps two dollars, an unheard of case of money being blown away. They probably still talk about it. 

     Returning to Kabul, I flagged a bus and was instantly in steaming heat, standing — of course — for thirty miles in a swaying, shuddering claptrap, shoulder to shoulder with the packed people going to the market with their chickens and goats, but inside, safe and cosy. I think of that trip back as one of the most luxurious of my life.


7 Responses

  1. To Hattiesburg Slim, What a strange thing for you to say! You seem to think people over 90 can’t function properly. You need to learn a lot more about life, young fella, before spouting off about it.

  2. I’ve been noticing quite a few unintelligent, trollish comments here recently, usually signed with odd names and displaying no effort at all to engage with the piece being commented upon. My advice to the gentleman from Virginia is to find a better use of his time. Thanks for sharing, Mr. Green.

  3. Is that really an Afghan bus? The writing on the bus says “Jai Sri Ram” which is an invocation of the Hindu god, Ram. Unlikely to be seen in Afghanistan, I would think.

  4. I came across NER in January of 2012 and was immediately hooked. Since then I think I’ve read every article published on the site. Clarfield, Donovan, Berdichevsky and several others became my go to reads. Round about the middle of 2020 you were added to that group. Clarfield writes about places I’ll never visit, but in some of his writings it was if I were there with him. He has that Knack to put his readers in his stead. When I read “Afghanistan Memories” this morning it was as if I were reading Clarfield. Riding atop a rickety bus crossing the Afghan mountains is an adventure I’ll not experience but through your writing. Asking if you were Clarfield’s grandpa was meant as a compliment not as a smart-ass comment on age. Sorry it did not come off as such. (If I make it until 19 Dec 21 I’ll be 80). Clarfield, Donovan, Berdichevsky and Reg Green will continue to be my go to guys at NER but as far as comments to your articles I’ll take Hoover’s advice. Please don’t publish this as it’s meant for your eyes only. Farewell.

  5. J Anwaar, it’s a stock photo most probably, but it’s close enough to give you the picture at least in my opinion. Hattiesburg, you seem to get around a lot more than you’re letting on! Best regards Joe in Arlington.

  6. Slim, Sorry I misunderstood you but you baffled plenty of others too! Thank you for your explanation. I’m very glad to know you liked the story. I’m 92, by the way, so you’re still a young fella to me.
    Yes, J and Joseph, it’s a stock photo. That day my fingers were too numb to manage even a click.

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