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May 13, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, May 13, 2005

Cool times in hot Kabul Cool times in hot Kabul (May 13, 2005)

Birdsong, spontaneous dancing liable to break out

By Rosemary Stasek

I have 52 birds and a dancing plumber.

I am nearly at the four-month mark here in Kabul and life is really pretty cool. Or should I say warm. Spring is turning into summer, and it gets toasty in the afternoons.

We have electricity practically 24 hours a day now. Ismael Khan is the Minister of Mining -- which means he's in charge of electricity, of course. Khan was a warlord in control of Western Afghanistan, and President Karzai brought him into his cabinet to keep an eye on him. Khan could be running for mayor of Kabul -- he promised to turn the lights on, and he has. He may be a right-wing fanatical warlord, but getting the power on here will get you a lot of votes, including mine.

What with all the time we save not feeding fires and fueling generators, we have so much more time to party. Social events are a huge part of life here and the warm weather brings out lots of energy. Our salon/house has been cleared by security so many folks who can't go to restaurants can come to our place. And we throw a great party.

The huge kebab grill is going outside, plates of food are lined up along the pedicure baths, drinks roll around on perm rod carts, guests roll around on perm rod carts, and the best musicians in town provide the music for dancing. Dancing is so spontaneous here. I'll be working upstairs, hear music and come down to find the whole salon dancing and clapping. That doesn't happen at SuperCuts. Most men here are excellent dancers, but our plumber is incredible. Our bathroom sink has been leaking for a week, but who cares.

Afghans love pet birds, and they were outlawed under the Taliban, so everyone is enjoying having them back in their homes. We have about 52 of them at the moment, and the plumber built an aviary outside the salon window. It gets a little loud early in the morning, but that wakes me up in time to let my puppy out. And did I mention we had a lamb we were bottle feeding?

We actually get some work done once in a while. I headed back to New York for a fund-raising trip, and the day after I left Kabul the evil, evil landlord evicted the beauty school from its building. So now I'm trying to raise $30,000 to pay for the school building I just signed the papers to buy. (Hint, hint.)

We're doing classes at the salon on the days it's closed and it's working out well since the students are at the practical/testing part of the course and all the equipment is here. The place is packed with students who bring in their practice models, who bring their children. It's pretty crazy, but we're getting it done. Graduation is in a few weeks and I can't believe I've seen a whole class go through in the time I've been here.

Regular school is in session now too, and every afternoon I see hordes of young girls with their black outfits and white headscarves and bright backpacks running down the sidewalks laughing, which takes my breath away. I see them and remember why I'm here. It all seems so normal, until I need to get some chicken for dinner and realize I'm picking out live chickens. Yep, life is pretty cool.
Rosemary Stasek is a former Mountain View mayor. Her column appears monthly in the Voice while she serves as the logistics manager for the Kabul Beauty School. More about her project and trips to Afghanistan can be found at www.stasek.com/alittle-help.


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