How to spend time while the plague rages…
In these days of the plague, there is plenty of time for my mind to cast back to Kabul, Afghanistan—my time there as a Peace Corps volunteer.
In the summer of 1971, I had been posted there with a plane load of fellow volunteer. We landed in Kabul, coming off a night of heavy drinking in mid-air. By spring 1972, I had stepped up to a position of teacher of English in the engineering faculty of Kabul University. It was a department of the university funded by the USAID / The United States Agency for International Development.
My younger brother, Adrian, a student of anthropology at University of Delaware, had been writing to me. He eventually hit upon the idea of coming out to visit me, and indeed he did. He made a daring trek to Kabul overland, having deplaned in Rome, through Greece, Turkey, and Iran—did not Alexander go along a similar journey? I admire Adrian’s pluck and adventure.
In Kabul there was a suggestively named nightclub— the 25 Hour Club—a disco in Central Asia if you can believe it. It is documented in The Lost Kingdom: Memoir of an Afghan Prince— His Royal Highness Prince Ali Seraj of Afghanistan.
After a few days of settling in, Adrian, myself and a few fellow volunteers went out on the town to the club. Having been there before, I knew they played The Rolling Stones – 2000 Light Years From Home. So I went to the DJ and requested 2000 Light Years From Home. It seemed like a fitting welcome song for my traveler. Kabul and Afghanistan were nothing, if not light years away from Adrian’s and my developmental years in the good old USA.
Land of the Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him
Another memory has surfaced. In my time out there, I learned that many mullahs were highly orthodox, doctrinal, and puritanical. Be that as it may, as a ferringhi and infidel, I was nevertheless respected because as a Christian I was one of the People of the Book—the Bible.
A business like the 25 Hour Club, a secular devotion of the West, had come to be allowed in a Near Eastern / Asian land of religious sentiment. The Club’s toleration, then, no doubt has not survived the turmoil that engulfed Afghanistan, starting with the Soviet-Afghan war: December 24, 1979 – February 15, 1989 (9 years, 1 month, 3 weeks and 1 day). This was followed by the United States invasion: October 7, 2001 – December 17, 2001. The invasion by the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) has metastasized into a filthy quicksand for 18 years and counting. The conflict has suffocated the Afghan people, and for that matter, the whole world. . . . And so it goes.