NEW IMPRESSIONS FROM BAMIYAN, AFGHANISTAN

The following is another description of Irene Carlos’s trip to Afghanistan. This is not a textile trip so far, but it is fascinating, indeed!

Dear Silvia, I don’t have internet (it took almost two days to find this small internet place.) When I get back to Guatemala I will try to send photos to upload on the blog.

From Kabul they placed me on a waiting list to travel to Bamiyan, the central region of Afghanistan.

In order to get to the Kabul airport one must go through several check and search points where traffic lines up at the entrance, so the taxi driver left me about 500 meters from the first search point.

As a woman, I had to enter the small rooms destined for checking luggage, handbags, breasts, hips, between legs and feet…two or three of these check points before looking for the gate for national flights. I made it in!

I board the helicopter, at last!, but after a few minutes the flight is suspended for security reasons. All of us unknown people, look at each other with expressions of WHAT? But for many this happens all the time, with the difference that they get picked up by their international office vehicles, whereas I get to pay a taxi again! Luckily they decide to wait many minutes together, and we finally fly. I can’t believe it!

Earth, sand, minerals, ocre, rose, grey, and suddenly a small oasis in green, with a creek coming down the snowy mountains. I wonder how they communicate with each other? Where are the roads? How do women give birth? Ahead, the IndoKush…so beautiful: the snowy peaks and then the greenest valley of all—Bamiyan! An Afghan man points at the empty space leftover from the 138 meter high Buddha statue. We’re there!

I’m in a small hostel with five white rooms and a terrace overlooking the potato and wheat fields, and beyond, the pink and brown mountain where the oldest Buddhist monastery used to be, with its 700 caves that once held their Lamas. It’s so spectacular and pristine after being in the cities of Herat and Kabul, that my heart gets overtaken with joy. There’s no electricity and everyone uses generators, candles, or solar panels.

A couple of Azara brothers have been so good to me and I really feel welcome. One of them took me to visit the remains of Buddhist temples. Something incredible. Now all the Bamiyan community is Azara, chiite.

Bamiyan is the only peaceful place in Afghanistan at the moment. Previously its kingdoms fought for centuries, forcing migration to mountains, Iran, or Pakistan from Shas and taliban during the last two centuries. Women don’t wear burkas although some sunni Pashtun women do.

Irene Carlos, Guatemalan painter and mixed media textile artist.

I, with all the layers of shawls and pashminas (fine cashmere wool covers), give myself away by my way of walking, my shoes or my eyeglasses—they’re not dark, but they’re made by some Italian designer having nothing to do here… A friend invited me to dinner with his wife. We ate basmati rice, roasted meat, fried potatoes and spinach, with watermelon for dessert… On the way home I realize that many bazaars become homes at night, and one can see people’s shadows as they spread the rugs on the floor to sleep…

I return to my room and tell myself how far away I am!

A strong hug to you from Irene Carlos.

—Silvia Piza-Tandlich

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