Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Afghanistan from Above

I recently completed a tour of a section of Afghanistan while aboard a helicopter.  The experience certainly was one of the most memorable of my life.  It was also one of the coldest times of my life, too.

The cultural landscape itself demonstrates a sort of siege-mindset that has not been expressed in Europe since the Medieval-era and in the Americas since the early days of European colonization.  The cultural landscape also reflect the strong bonds of family that exist in Afghanistan.

Every farm house I saw from the air was in its own walled compound.  The mud buildings were along the inside of the wall leaving the center of the compound as an open air courtyard.  In numerous courtyards I saw families mingling about going about their lives.  Every village I saw was a collection of the these compounds placed close together.  The locations of villages were mixed, some where on flat plains, otherwise near water, and still others were placed on hills overlooking the plains.  Regardless of location, each compound/compound village felt like it was an island of safety in a sea of threats.

Only in cities did everyone not have a compound.  The cities were packed with everything from mansions to shanties.

The trip was probably the coldest trip of my life.  An Afghan winter is cold, especially when one factors in looking out an open window with the blades forcing a strong draft into the face.

My time in the air was tense, cold, but most of all fascinating.  Sometimes one has to see the geography from above to know what is on the land.

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