John Patten
Photos from Afghanistan


    Two months to go! Starting to look forward to moving on to the next step. I’m glad there is no February
    29th this year. We’ll be busy with the food security assessments and I go out to Ankhoy tomorrow for
    most of this month, so it is going to move quickly. But I really can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It
    should still be exciting though as something is always happening. I’m sure the attack by George will
    happen soon while I am still here and I may be working my remaining weeks from a hotel in Uzbekistan.
    Had more close calls at the Buzkashi yesterday, but will get to that in a minute.

    I seem to be leaving at the opportune time. There are a lot of funding issues and issues for the rest of
    the people here with the manager. My two housemates have been seeing each other for months now,
    but had to break up because he will have to go to Pakistan for an arranged marriage by his parents, and
    both have been getting grief from the manager. It’s human nature though and it looks like it made their
    work better, not worse. Now they both want to leave in the next couple of months. I wonder if anyone at
    the home office is ever going to get it? A friend wrote and he said he wanted to call the home office to
    give them a piece of his mind and I had to scream NO! in an immediate email. Nothing like losing my
    livelihood because my caring friends want to yell at the home office, who don’t get the full context anyway.

    My replacement has been here for four days and it should work out well before I handover and go. We
    went to Buzkashi today, the big horse games, and it wasn’t four minutes into it when the horses came
    charging along the grandstand where we were standing. I had to put my body in between she and the
    horses. One crunched me and my camera bag into the wall. She was scared, as she didn’t know what to
    expect and it had just started. Welcome to Mazar! I don’t think my gallantry registered with her, so I’ll
    have to be the quiet hero. If I had acted like George Costanza and gone running in the other direction,
    later saying I needed to clear a path in order that others would survive, I’m sure that would have been all
    over the gossip vine. She wanted to go back to the car to view from a safer area, so I had stayed to
    photograph the horses flying around. They were in a part of the field to the left, but the whole crowd
    surged and was charging in my direction from the right. I immediately thought, oh no, here we go again,
    and the locals guys said there was going to be shooting. I couldn’t climb through the grandstand, and the
    other way was also blocked because a vehicle with more faction guys went driving that way through the
    horses, so I had to wait it out a couple of minutes until the crowd surged past in a panic and I could see
    where the shooting would be coming from. I was hoping they wouldn’t target where I was in the front
    grandstand area where the VIPs were. As it turns out, it all started right by our landcruiser and one
    faction used our vehicle for cover and were setting up their machine guns! Mir Ahmat pulled her into the
    car, locked the doors, and backed out down the hill, but it still took me four long minutes to get there and
    into the car before we could beat a path out of there, because I had to walk toward the whole thing. I was
    trying to keep my camera low so the soldiers wouldn’t think I was trying to get their picture. There had
    been this Greek guy near me yelling to stay put, and in a very panicky voice was telling me to not to
    panic, and I was like, dude relax, I’ve been here a year and am used to this shit, I just need to get back to
    our vehicle and get it out of there due to security concerns. Welcome to Mazar! I didn’t hear that
    anything happened after we left, but there was a lot of adrenaline and testosterone flowing on the field,
    and a lot of grenade launchers. I thought I would work from home that afternoon. Just another weekend.

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