Mountains of Textiles and Mixed Feelings

Turquoise Mountain Foundation Compound
Kabul, Afghanistan 7:45 a.m

Well, my heart is a jumble of mixed emotions these days. On the one hand, I feel turned slightly inside out by the whole experience of being here in Kabul, and being at the end of this road trip I’m feeling my desire to be home again, in my own backyard. And, I’m pretty much out of money, and I need to re-focus on finishing my work in India and getting my goods out of Delhi and on to Boston. On the other hand, I feel like while I am here I want to enjoy more of the amazing possibilities for exploration that this country possesses in such abundance—including road trips west to Bamiyan and Herat near the Iranian border, north to the mountainous Salang Pass and over to Mazar-e-Sharif and so much in between.

Also, I am just hitting my stride in the hunt for goods here, at least vintage textile-wise. Affordable decent handicrafts are still tough to find so far, but I’ve spent the last several days searching deep in the dusty stacks of an increasing handful of small shops just bursting to the seams with chappans (the overcoats that Hamid Karzai is rarely seen not wearing over his shoulders), red onion- and pomegranate-dyed silk scarves from Herat and Mazar, various hand-embroidered textiles from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and the heavily Tajik and Uzbek areas of northern Afghanistan, and these super funky embroidered boots that I’ve scored a nice collection of. Too much great stuff! I wish I had another five or ten thousand dollars and a couple more weeks to spend here…

But, I suppose all good things come to an end, someday. Everyone here says “you’ll be back—everyone who comes here gets it in their bones and returns, don’t worry.” But I don’t know if I’ll ever have again the kind of friendly support structure that Jenny and the good folks here at Turquoise Mountain have offered us during these last weeks. And I know how hard it can be to make it back to some great place across the other side of the planet after we’ve once again gotten swept back into what seems to make sense at home. And who knows how the political and social situation in Afghanistan develops from here—it may never again be as easy to head into the hills here as it is right now, this next week.

So it’s not without a somewhat heavy heart and sense of missed opportunity that I prepare to enjoy my last two days here in Kabul and return to Delhi at dawn on Friday. But there’s also no mistaking that the last couple of weeks have been a Grade A experience of something truly new to me, coming here to a place virtually nobody I know has ever been to and seeing the post-Taliban, post-everything Afghanistan with my own eyes. I can’t wait to get into the film editing mode and put some of this footage together so you can check out a slice of this place as well.

Anyway, time to get geared up for the day. I need to return this bogus “Nokia” phone I bought the other day (which nobody can hear me speak on) and then try to find a different vintage textile market area that I heard about yesterday—as well as find boxes to ship these goods home. I didn’t realize finding boxes was going to be a three day affair! But welcome to Kabul, 2008.