By BEN KRAIN,
For most of the trip we were living out of a hotel which was on a mountain overlooking much of
. Everyday when I woke up I would look through the thick smog hanging over the city like a fog to remind me the people here are not living nearly as well as I was in my expensive hotel room. I would take a deep breath of the foul air to get my head straight for the day ahead. Near the final days of our assignment, following an unusual 3 days of rain and really cold weather , the view stopped me dead in my tracks. The rain had hidden the mountains in clouds the days before and when it cleared, the surrounding mountains were glowing white with snow. Not snow capped, but all Nasar white. It was early in the morning and the sun was hitting them beautifully. It was breathtaking. I forgot what a dreadful place Kabul can be and felt like I was looking into heaven. I made a lot of really good pictures that day. Another great moment was a morning I was waiting in front of the Ministry of Social Affairs for an interview and a young girl approached me. Every kid I had encountered so far asked me for something. Their parents send them out or they learn it from their friends and they are very persistent. They'll follow you for blocks. I feel horrible for not helping them, but if I give to one, I feel I have to give to all, and that's just not possible. This girl however, never asked for anything. She was full of smiles and very fascinated with what I was doing. In very broken English we had a great conversation about how she loved art. She asked for my pen like many other kids, but instead of running away, she drew a picture for me and gave the pen back. She shyly ran away after handing me her drawing. It looked like a piece of hairy fruit but it was very beautiful. I taped it to the back of my camera. From then on, every time I got frustrated by the hundreds of beggars harassing me, I would look at that picture and smile. Kabul
I had finished my assignments for the day late in the afternoon and the light was too good to quit. It was very early on in the trip and my translator Nasar suggested we visit Quargha Dam. There was a small group of men having a picnic who had just sat down for the afternoon prayer. The country is almost entirely Islamic and they pray 5 times a day, each at a specific time. Where ever they are at that time they drop to their knees and face towards
Mecca, the holy place of the prophet Mohammed in . It was early in the trip and one of my first encounters with this intimate moment. They let me photograph them and then offered me some food. Afghans are very generous and friendly and will almost always offer some hospitality on a first greeting, even if they have nothing to give. I thought they were very generous for letting me intrude during their personal prayer time and I felt obligated to accept their gift of melon against my better judgment. I spent the next 24 hours violently ill from food poisoning. Saudi Arabia
I had to get my visa extended and pay for it at the Central Bank. In the lobby there were dozens of people withdrawing what had to be tens of thousands of dollars and loading them into large bags in front of everyone. Then they just walked out the door with large mule sacks of money thrown over their shoulder. It was very obvious the sacks were loaded with tons of cash, but they walked around the streets and rode crowded buses with no fear of getting robbed.