John Patten
Photos from Afghanistan


    I decided to take a much-needed day off. I went to the Marriott in Islamabad to sit by the pool and read all
    day and not think about work. There was the French bus bomb yesterday though that killed all those
    people so they sent someone to tell me to go home and stay low anyway. Lots of luck. I stayed a very full
    day. You get tired of everything being dangerous and eventually just have to trust fate and live your life. I
    felt pretty secure and don’t take unnecessary chances anyway. Plus you start to think in ridiculous ways
    that become pretty reasonable. They had concrete blocks installed out in front of the hotel, and I was back
    out by the pool, so if there were an explosion I argued I’m sure I would have been fine. Everything
    becomes a plan of what you will do if this or that explodes, where to go, etc.

    I hear this hotel was where the war was covered from and it was really hopping. It’s pretty dead now, but I
    can picture all the correspondents here phoning it in regarding the war because they didn’t have access
    inside of Afghanistan. Most people here said they even made stuff up. How else could they get
    information? I bet their buddies hung out poolside with them and made helicopter noises when they were
    on the satellite phone. The boss back home might say, “Did I just hear someone say daquiri?” No boss,
    that was, “Duck, Larry, Duck, Larry!” A cold dawn rises over the war-torn city. Shuddup!


    I had a meeting with the donor in Kabul and these guys are really priceless. It sounds like a big game to
    them even if they are nice people. He actually wanted us to authorize coming to our office to visit in an
    armored vehicle with local militia security forces. He asked if there was a way to do it without compromising
    our neutrality as a humanitarian organization. Uh, no. He asked in ten different ways and my answer was
    still the same. But they think because they control the purse strings that we’ll all just bend over. Is that a
    stack of hundreds in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me? He’s no more of a target than me if he
    keeps low and anonymous, but he said they were required to have “shooters.” Who would probably
    actually just get shot. Get over yourself pal. It must be fun to play this game and take home the war
    stories. I’m here too you know, but I don’t believe my own hype.


    A few of us flew on a small Beechcraft back from Kabul to Mazar. We had to stop in Bamiyan first, the
    place where they blew up the two huge Buddhas. I’m still mad about that. Anyway, the pilots said we were
    in for an exciting ride and it was. The flew fairly close to the deck and zig-zagged through canyons and
    valleys. They appeared lost judging from the severe turns in these valleys that we went through.
    Sometimes you could see through the windscreen and windows out either side of the plane, and the view
    was of rocks, valley, sky and was very disorienting. It was windy there too. I don’t know why they didn’t just
    come straight over the mountains if it was like that anyway. I have a great picture of rocks right off the
    wingtip. Some ICRC pilots got fired for doing the same thing. One gust of wind could have blown us into
    the rocks. I don’t think I should show UNAMA the picture. Who knows what they were trying to do, but I do
    remember remarking that it was actually pretty fun despite falling cargo and rocks kicking up from the dirt
    landing strip. It would have been hard to feign being upset. My friend from WFP remarked that not many
    people get to see the things or work like we do. Turns out later he was actually afraid of flying and this didn’
    t help.


    Had some people over last night, which was pretty decent, but we all could not go to the office today as
    there is machine gun fire nearby and we don’t know exactly what is happening yet. The streets are a little
    quieter and I hope they don’t wait until tonight to start more fighting. Our house was gotten about six years
    ago, but is now conveniently located in shelling distance right between the nearby Jemiat compound and
    the Junbush group they are fighting on the other side.

    This just in: it was the coalition forces practicing near here where they could fire at some previously fired at
    walls. When I radioed UN security they had not known anything. The commanders here intercept radio
    messages, so what if they thought they were under attack? My own Yanks couldn’t pick up the phone and
    tell a few people? That’s how things start and people get killed. The army guys got reamed out at the
    security meeting by the UN and just about everyone else with an opinion.


    Trying to analyze messed up data from our last survey while the computer speakers are blaring nuovo
    high-energy punk rock music by a Canadian band full of 19 year-olds. They were in diapers when I was
    throwing up on my Smiths records. Saying that makes me old now. They would probably annoy the hell out
    of me if they had to crash at my place, but they’re at a minimum safe distance and I really love their stuff. I
    thought I would get over this stuff by now. My eventual kids will eventually be extremely embarrassed by

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