During my first time out into the non-Coalition Forces controlled part of Afghanistan I was able to walk up and down a bazaar street in a district center (DC) in Ghazni Province. The DC, what they call the capital of the various districts that make a province, was one of the few places in the district which was controlled by the local Afghan National Police (ANP). The district sub-governor, head of the district and the representative of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghainstan (GIROA), did not live in the DC because he did not feel safe because the Taliban controlled almost everything outside the DC.
The bazaar street experience was fascinating. The store owners were friendly and listen intently to what we had to say. However, when they talked they gave little faith to GIORA. Many store owners described how they had to bribe both the Taliban and the local ANP otherwise the store owners would be robbed by Taliban and/or ANP thugs.
It was here where I had the first encounter with Afghan kids. From an earlier e-mail I sent out:
The first stop was in a village bazaar. Immediately I and everyone else with me were rushed by legions of kids. We identified the eldest kid, about 12 years old or so, and made him the "elder" by giving him the huge bag of candy. He set out to distribute the candy in standard Afghan pecking order. A few kids broke off from his group to follow us. For the whole hour we were out in the bazaar the kids would say "pen, pen" (asking for a pen). They would not stop asking for a pen despite the fact we told them in Pashtun that we had no pens.Soon other kids joined in pointing at possessions and asking for them. "Watch!" "Belt!" It was beginning to become a mob scene when we finally left the bazaar street.
The delicious part of the bazaar involved a baker. He sold me on his daily special of four, meter-long pieces of naan bread for 10 Afghani (about 1 dollar). As a fan of bread I can assure you it was delicious!