John Patten
Photos from Afghanistan


    I sent a draft of the long nutrition report off for comment. I forgot to cut out a joke I wrote at the bottom of
    the acknowledgements when I had been at it for about twelve hours and was a bit loopy: “Finally, thank
    you to the fine folks at Johnnie Walker, without whose support this report would not have been possible.
    Thank you also for saving my life by making Johnnie Walker Blue so bloody expensive. Also to the DVD
    ‘Oh Brother Where Art Thou,’ whose countless witticisms, in addition to giving me the expressions, ‘You
    two are just dumber’n a bag of hammers,” and ‘Them sireens turned Pete into a horny-toad,’ sustained me
    through the drought.” I hope nobody forwards that copy ahead to the Office of Foreign Disaster
    Assistance, or they just might start wondering what happened to their 400 G’s.


    Our only female doctor on staff at this office could have been really attractive and fun to be around. Or
    very interesting in any case. Instead she is a rather severe and humorless woman, reflected in these
    photos we just got back. This is not a case of me trying to flirt and getting shut down. It’s just curiosity from
    a distance as she is always in this office. Straight man needs woman though, and as you can tell it’s just
    not going away. While out in the canyons of Kohistan I took a couple of photos of a natural rock formation
    that looked very much like a Georgia O’Keefe painting, which is the polite way to say it looked just like
    female genitalia. While going through the pile of six roles of photos, I had forgotten about it until the three
    guys here started laughing, so it wasn’t just me. I didn’t have to tell them anything until I bluntly answered,
    “Why yes, that is why I took the photographs.” These things need to be documented. I could get a grant
    from National Geographic for a very interesting coffee table book. Maybe testosterone will eventually make
    the list of banned substances.


    I suppose you heard about the Kabul bombing yesterday and the assasination attempt on Karzai, although
    the real story may have been they were trying to kill the Governor of Kandahar, who did eventually die. I
    got caught in the bombing aftermath because it just wouldn't be a bombing without me. We arrived at the
    airport in Kabul and went to the house for lunch. Then to the office at 2:30 pm. We have to drive right
    through the market area where it happened to get to the office. Lots of traffic and cars and we came to the
    spot three minutes after it happened and were only two blocks away. I could see the column of smoke.
    Then all the guys with automatic weapons came out of the woodwork and were running all over the place
    banging on cars to get then to divert down the street to the left. It was chaos. People and cars going all
    over the place. Then the other event happened and everyone is wondering if this was coordinated and a
    warm-up for the 11th. The UN staffers are under virtual house arrest by their own people and none of us
    are going out anyway.

    On the 11th last year I was in Uganda with Eriko and we had just gotten home from working that day and I
    turned on CNN and watched everything live as it happened. It was such an emotional day, and for me
    because I'm from NYC and have been at the World Trade Center so many times. My dad worked there just
    after they were built. I was so angry too, and knew instantly it was a matter of weeks before they started
    bombing, which as it turns out, was effective and supported by (most) Afghans here. American anger is
    ferocious when something like this happens. More so when I read the human stories of people on the
    planes, in the buildings, etc, and what it meant for their families. I knew then where I was going for my job.
    Now it's been a year and nobody knows where we should evacuate to if something happens. How ironic
    that Mazar might actually be the safest place. They even thought of evacuating Islamabad staff to

    The meetings I came for may be off. There's concern that the mood has shifted and gotten out of control
    and groups will start targeting the foreigners. Who knows. They have small posters in Kabul with the prices
    on the heads of foreigners. I think you get more if we’re alive, which is nice, but still only two hundred
    bucks. Not sure if I should be insulted. I will probably be here until April and then head to SA. Can't imagine
    being here longer than that, and Eriko has input into how long I should stay, rightfully so. She won't wait
    until June. I'm already overdue in her life.


    Masoud day. I’m still in Kabul and there was a huge rally at the stadium today with people lining up to say
    what a friend he was. If he wasn’t dead, he would probably be thought of as a war criminal. He leveled a
    third of Kabul and killed tens of thousands. But here they say people talk about you nicely after you die.
    My manager gives negative feedback when I do stuff right, let alone if I had killed only a few thousand


    Back in Islamabad to get a flight out Friday to see Eriko in Tokyo before she goes to South Africa. I will try
    not to get kidnapped off the street by the Yakuza, unless they are offering really good tuna sushi. It gets
    me every time.

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