Hello and welcome to my blog. It is a blog about an Air Force Physician that was reluctantly deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan for 6 months.

I have to admit, I did not exactly volunteer for the deployment, and I was a little anxious about how it would all turn out. I ended up making the best of it, and surprisingly, I actually had a pleasant, life changing, experience.

I decided to keep the blog up and running because I kept on hearing, "Why is it that you only hear the bad news coming from Iraq and Afghanistan." I figured that I was helping spread a positive message about what we are doing over. Even more important, I wanted to continue to spread the word about the plight of the Afghan people, 99.9% of which are the most incredibly friendly people that you will ever meet. The title picture is a great example of that. I have never encountered such genuinely warm and friendly people. It was so strange to see so many people with so little material objects, yet at the same time, filled with so much of the joy that comes with close family ties, abundant friends, and a close knit community. We could definetly learn a lot from them.

You may notice, as you read the blog in its entirety, my arc. I shift from focusing on myself and my personal comforts, to shifting my focus on the Afghan cause. It is very easy to get distracted by the hustle of daily life and the comforts that the U.S. provides. It is really a challenge to awake from that coma and to start to care and think about the welfare of other people unrelated to you. I think it really took me about 4 or 5 months before I really opened my eyes and became personally affected by what I was experiencing. I hope I was able to recreate it.

I have tried to keep the blog squeaky clean so as to not offend anyone (or get me in trouble-I am still in the military). Even though I am a political junky with very strong personal opinions I have been steadfast in keeping this site free of any politics. I was called to do a job and I tried to do it to the best of my ability regardless of my political stance.

I recreated the blog to read more like a book, or should I say blook (get used to the corniness it only gets worse from here) just to make it an easier read. I have removed some names and pictures just to keep it more anonymous. I hope that it helps in making it less about me and more about the cause.

Lastly, in the spirit of the blog, I decided to include the Chipin Widget that I used to raise money for Nazia. If I get any additional money I will send the funds to The Women of Hope Project and someone over in Kabul will discretely give it to her (unless I hear otherwise). You can also contribute directly to the Women of Hope Project website. They are a wonderful cause. If you enjoy this blog then feel free to contribute. I am sure that once you read her story you will be very moved.

So kick back. Get ready to hopefully laugh and definitely cry.
If you like what you read then post a comment. I will be continuously editing this site in an attempt to improve it. Who knows maybe one day it will become a book!

Enjoy. Thanks for reading.


Today Show Clip

Chipin Widget

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Daily Routine

"Start every day off with a smile and get it over with."
W. C. Fields US actor (1880 - 1946)

"If you do a good job for others, you heal yourself at the same time, because a dose of joy is a spiritual cure."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer German Protestant theologian & anti-Nazi activist (1906 - 1945)

"It is the great privilege of poverty to be happy and yet unenvied, to be healthy with physic, secure without a guard, and to obtain from the bounty of nature what the great and wealthy are compelled to procure by the help of art."

"At points of clarity, I realize that my life on earth is meaningless, and that I am merely a pawn in a bigger game. A game I cannot possible understand or have control of. Thankfully, before depression sets in, I drift back into my cloudy, bewildered daily routine."
-Joel Patrick Warneke

Today was a low tempo day. Time seems to be flying by. It seems like just yesterday that I wrote about the bazaar. I think the key to making time fly on deployments is to develop a routine and to stick with it. I will have to remember that when I get back home and try and avoid getting into a routines as much as possible.

Since there was not much going on today I thought that I would highlight another good cause. Recently a colleague of mine visited CURE Hospital. They are helping to fill a very big void in areas that are definitely in need of more attention- women's health, medical education, and health care for children. Here is a blurb from their website.

"Early in 2005, the Afghan Health Consortium invited CURE International to assume control of both the Family Health Clinic and a hospital partially restored by the Coalition Forces in Kabul. In February 2005, CURE signed an agreement with the Ministry of Public Health to manage and further develop services and training programs at the 115-bed hospital and the health clinic. By the end of 2005, both facilities were fully operational and together serving more than 8,000 patients each month.

The Ministry of Public Health recognizes that the training of midwives and doctors is essential to improving the health of Afghans. CURE specialists and midwife trainers spent hundreds of hours in 2005 developing and measuring competencies of staff midwives and General Medicine doctors in training to develop appropriate curricula.

CURE Kabul opened its maternity unit at the end of September, 2005. The hospital and clinic together serve about 110 women each month (both inpatient and outpatient prenatal care). In 2005, CURE established a General Practice Residency Program, an OB/GYN Fellowship training program and OB/GYN training for nurses and midwives. In the fall of 2005, the maternity ward was refurbished and ultrasound services became available. In December 2005, the CURE International Hospital opened a modern Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to address the needs of critically ill newborns, premature newborns and newborns requiring close observation. In 2005, CURE also developed a modern pathology laboratory, blood bank, therapeutic feeding center and tuberculosis surveillance and treatment program in Kabul.

Additionally, as Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, and its people severely injured by war, a great need existed for orthopedic services and training. CURE Kabul has received numerous accolades for services from the Afghan Ministry of Health.

CURE has three fully equipped operating rooms for general surgery, obstetrics, gynecology and orthopedics. CURE provides general practice and OB/GYN care and specializes in the orthopedic rehabilitation of children with disabilities. For example, the expert repair of a clubfoot can enable a child to walk normally instead of having a life-long disability. CURE orthopedic doctors also care for a wide range of acute and chronic bone diseases, tuberculosis of the spine, and trauma-related injuries. CURE has established a corrective plastic surgery program that serves burn patients and also treats cleft palates and lips. Many of the patients treated at the CURE International Hospital in Kabul are in need of care to treat injuries that were either improperly treated or were not treated at all.

CURE has treated more than 120,000 patients since opening in early 2005 and more than 40,000 laboratory tests were performed during this period. CURE has established for the Afghan Ministry of Public Health the baseline competencies for staff midwives and General Medicine doctors that will now be used in all training programs throughout Afghanistan.
Established Training Programs:
Orthopedic Surgery and rehabilitative care
General practice
Obstetrics and Gynecology including midwifery
Endoscopic diagnosis
Lab Technology
Nurse specialists (Neonatal Intensive Care, Operating, Anesthesiology )
Partnership with The Smile Train

In the fall of 2006, in collaboration with Smile Train, CURE developed cleft lip and cleft palate surgical training programs in most of CURE's hospitals worldwide. These programs have been piloted in Afghanistan and in the Dominican Republic. These programs will train 20 surgeons in the correction of cleft lip/palate surgery each year."

Here are some pictures that my colleague took on her recent trip.

I provided links to both CURE hospital and Smile Train. If you are looking to contribute to a worthy cause then I think that those are 2 good ones.
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


"All of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon - instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today."
Dale Carnegie
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet."
William Shakespeare, "Romeo and Juliet", Act 2 scene 2Greatest English dramatist & poet (1564 - 1616)
"God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December."
James M. Barrie, (attributed)Scottish dramatist & novelist (1860 - 1937)
I borrowed pictures from an Afghan blogger who runs a blog called Afghan Lord. I provided a link. Here is his intro:

"My name is Nasim Fekrat and I'm 25 years old. I born in the land of pain and injustice. Whatever I want for myself, I wish for the others. I write from Kabul. I write what I see and what I hear. I am the winner of the in 2005 Freedom of Expression Blog Awards of RSF (Reporters without Borders) - France among seven Bloggers throughout the world. I am obviously a defender of freedom of expression and independent media free of threats and intimidation. I want to highlight the problems of my society in an independent manner, without fear and in a non-partisan manner in regards any group or political interest in Afghanistan."

He has gotten death threats so he is literally risking his life to speak out about issues that are really important. Topics such as women's rights, homeless children, drug addicted Afghans, and support for the U.S. campaign.

I chose the rose theme for 2 reasons. One is because the rose bush is a very popular over here in Kabul. You see them everywhere. Another reason is because of Muslims are celebrating Day of Ashura today and red is an appropriate color. I will not try and and attempt to explain the significance of Day of Ashura, for that I refer you again to the Wikapedia article on the topic. Part of the ceremony involves a flagellation ritual where a a chain is used to beat a persons chest and back. That is why a lot of pictures in the slideshow show people with their shirts cut open.
Nasim Fekrat's pictures also allow you to see another aspect of Kabul that I am not able to show you. For instance, here is a picture of group of people watching a cock fight, also known as Morgh Jangi.

Here is a photo that I thought was pretty funny. Imagine seeing this guy walk past you on the street.

Here is one of my favorites. It is an example of something beautiful persevering despite dark and gloomy weather all around.
Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Knowledge and Ignorance

"Most of our obstacles would melt away if, instead of cowering before them, we should make up our minds to walk boldly through them."
Orison Swett Marden(1850 - 1924)
"The pleasures of the world are deceitful; they promise more than they give. They trouble us in seeking them, they do not satisfy us when possessing them and they make us despair in losing them."
-Madame de Lambert
"If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment."
Marcus Aurelius AntoninusRoman Emperor, A.D. 161-180 (121 AD - 180 AD)

"Do something every day that you don't want to do; this is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty without pain."
Mark TwainUS humorist, novelist, short story author, & wit (1835 - 1910)

"But pain... seems to me an insufficient reason not to embrace life. Being dead is quite painless. Pain, like time, is going to come on regardless. Question is, what glorious moments can you win from life in addition to the pain?"
Lois McMaster Bujold, "Barrayar", 1991US science fiction author

I apologize for not publishing a post yesterday. I blame it on Elvis. I usually watch a movie in the corner of the computer screen when work on my posts late at night. Last night I was watching a disc that I recently bought that is packed full of old Elvis concerts and movies. I just got so distracted by them and I ended up watching them until 2:00am.

To make up for it today's post will be super-sized. It will be for only the most dedicated 6 M.I.K. readers. I wanted to talk about some of the landmarks that we pass by when we drive and some other places that are significant to Kabul. All of the descriptions were borrowed from other sites such as Wikapedia, Survival Guide to Kabul, and the American International School of Kabul. I also wanted to highlight Sharbat Gula. She is an Afghan girl that appeared on the cover of National Geographic. The caption that I included was directly from National Geographic.

Just to recap yesterday's events. At the hospital it was business as usual. The ER nurse was putting anti-fungal cream on a very large burn. I asked him why he was doing it and he said that the ER doctor told him to put some cream on the burn. I had him wipe it off and reapply the right kind of burn cream.

After the hospital we went to the slaughter house to have lunch. I know, having lunch at a slaughter house is like eating sushi at an aquarium. We sat on the floor, on a big carpet, in a big circle and were served the usual Afghan meal.
Here is someone pouring warm water so we could clean our hands.

Here is someone rolling out a plastic tarp so we do not make the carpet dirty.

Here is the meal.

I wanted to spend the rest of the time highlighting some of the city's interesting sights. I am only including places that have not been mentioned in previous posts.

Here is the Spinzar Hotel. Translated Spinzar means white silver.

Here is The Column To Knowledge and Ignorance

"The inscription on the monument states that this column was erected so that coming generations may remember those who sacrificed their lives in the heroic struggle of knowledge against reactionary ignorance. There are several interesting emblems on this theme carved onto the sides of the column. On the eastern face, for instance, there is a book, a pen and an inkpot above crossed swords signifying the fight for education. The emblem, known as the Nishan-i-Maaref, was worn by all students in Kabul during King Amanullah's reign. The monument is set among huge boulders beside the Kabul River."

Here is the KABUL MUSEUM

"The Kabul Museum is in front of the Darulaman Palace and is undergoing extensive renovation. The museum was famous in central Asia for its prehistoric to 20th century collection. But over the last ten years 70% of the collection has been lost. The museum is closed but the editors of The Survival Guide did manage to get inside and meet the director and his deputy. The director Mr Omara Khan Masoudi, who’s worked at the museum for 24 years, showed us the rooms being renovated; mostly for storage though he hopes exhibitions will open by the end of 2003. In the foyer is a magnificent huge black marble basin dating from the 15th Century. Back then the basin would be filled with juice for the pilgrims to the Sultan Mir Wais Baba shrine in Kandahar to drink from. The basin is surrounded in Islamic text. On the wall down the corridor is a 12th Century calligraphic frieze from Lashkar Gah. Opposite the frieze is a 12th century reconstructed mosque also from Lashkar Gah. There’s a lovely 19th Century Arabic style marble door that belonged to the royal family. In March 2003 the main corridor was full of old steel filing cabinets that used to house the museum’s collection of 40,000 coins. Sadly all the coins, many dating from the time of Alexander the Great, have been looted. At the time of writing, rooms were being restored with help from organisations like the British Museum and UNESCO, but there were no exhibition rooms open. The library has a collection of books, mostly stored in trunks. Fortunately the Taliban didn’t destroy many of the museum’s books, but outside you’ll see the destroyed statues of lions and horses.
The second floor of the museum was completely destroyed in a fire in the mid-90s. In 1995 the museum did try and start the process of retrieving objects but then the destruction began under the Taliban who destroyed around 2,000 pieces. The museum director says there’s a huge job to be done to restore the museum and the collection. He’s also worried that people are still looting Afghanistan’s heritage: ‘I’m sure there are some ancient pieces on Chicken Street, but we haven’t checked’ he says. Though he says most of the ‘guns on Chicken Street are new and not ancient.” Mr Masoudi also says many of the museum’s pieces are still in secret hiding."


"King Nadir Shah’s Mausoleum is the resting place for the recent monarchs of Afghanistan’s royal family. King Zahir Shah returned to Kabul in April 2002 after 29 years in exile. King Zahir’s wife, Queen Homaira never made it back to her homeland. She died in Italy at the age of 86 while waiting to rejoin her husband in Kabul and is now buried here The Queen is survived by seven of her nine children and by 14 grandchildren. Usually there’s a man on duty at the mausoleum who will take you into the catacombs. There are good views of the city from here giving you an idea of how the infighting Mujaheddin fought over the high ground and just destroyed the city from it."


"This beautiful square building on the Kabul River opposite the Pul-I-Shah-do-Shamshira Bridge is the Mosque of the King of Two Swords. According to legend the mosque takes its name from a 7th century battle that took place between attacking Islamic troops and defending Hindus. Despite fighting heroically with a sword in each hand, one of the Muslim head commanders fell in battle. It is his memory that is honoured by the mosque today. The two-storey edifice was built in the 1920s on the order of King Amanullah’s mother on the site of one of Kabul’s first mosques. Today, the building has seen better days. Bullet holes can be seen in the façade, but the doors are still open to worshippers and visitors alike. Women are advised to visit on Wednesdays when the mosque is closed to men."


Here is the firing wall that the Taliban used to execute a lot of people.

"Ahmad Shah Massoud (Persian: احمد شاه مسعود) (September 2, 1953September 9, 2001) was a Tajik Kabul University engineering student turned military leader who played a leading role in driving the Soviet army out of Afghanistan, earning him the nickname "Lion of Panjshir". His supporters call him "Amer Sahib e Shaheed", translating to "Our Martyred Commander".
He became Defense Minister of Afghanistan in 1992 under President Burhanuddin Rabbani. Following the collapse of Rabbani's government and the rise of the Taliban regime, Massoud became the military leader of the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan. In September 2001 Massoud was assassinated by al-Qaeda agents, allegedly with the complicity of Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, and the following year he was named "National Hero" by the order of Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai."

Kabul is a city of contrasts. It has its rich and its poor. It has its old and its new buildings. 99% of the people are incredibly friendly and warm but there are 1% that want to cause trouble.

Lastly, I wanted to include the story of Sharbat Gula. Even though it has been many years since her early photo appeared it can still be seen in many places. I think that it is a fascinating story.

"The Story of Sharbat Gula: Her eyes have captivated the world since she appeared on our cover in 1985. Now we can tell her story. Names have power, so let us speak of hers. Her name is Sharbat Gula, and she is Pashtun, that most warlike of Afghan tribes. It is said of the Pashtun that they are only at peace when they are at war, and her eyes—then and now—burn with ferocity. She is 28, perhaps 29, or even 30. No one, not even she, knows for sure. Stories shift like sand in a place where no records exist. Time and hardship have erased her youth. Her skin looks like leather. The geometry of her jaw has softened. The eyes still glare; that has not softened. “She’s had a hard life,” said McCurry. “So many here share her story.”
Consider the numbers. Twenty-three years of war, 1.5 million killed, 3.5 million refugees: This is the story of Afghanistan in the past quarter century. Now, consider this photograph of a young girl with sea green eyes. Her eyes challenge ours. Most of all, they disturb. We cannot turn away. “There is not one family that has not eaten the bitterness of war,” a young Afghan merchant said in the 1985 National Geographic story that appeared with Sharbat’s photograph on the cover.
She was a child when her country was caught in the jaws of the Soviet invasion. A carpet of destruction smothered countless villages like hers. She was perhaps six when Soviet bombing killed her parents. By day the sky bled terror. At night the dead were buried. And always, the sound of planes, stabbing her with dread. “We left Afghanistan because of the fighting,” said her brother, Kashar Khan, filling in the narrative of her life. He is a straight line of a man with a raptor face and piercing eyes. “The Russians were everywhere. They were killing people. We had no choice.” Shepherded by their grandmother, he and his four sisters walked to Pakistan. For a week they moved through mountains covered in snow, begging for blankets to keep warm. “You never knew when the planes would come,” he recalled. “We hid in caves.”
The journey that began with the loss of their parents and a trek across mountains by foot ended in a refugee camp tent living with strangers. “Rural people like Sharbat find it difficult to live in the cramped surroundings of a refugee camp,” explained Rahimullah Yusufzai, a respected Pakistani journalist who acted as interpreter for McCurry and the television crew. “There is no privacy. You live at the mercy of other people.” More than that, you live at the mercy of the politics of other countries. “The Russian invasion destroyed our lives,” her brother said. It is the ongoing tragedy of Afghanistan. Invasion. Resistance. Invasion. Will it ever end? “Each change of government brings hope,” said Yusufzai. “Each time, the Afghan people have found themselves betrayed by their leaders and by outsiders professing to be their friends and saviors.”
In the mid-1990s, during a lull in the fighting, Sharbat Gula went home to her village in the foothills of mountains veiled by snow. To live in this earthen-colored village at the end of a thread of path means to scratch out an existence, nothing more. There are terraces planted with corn, wheat, and rice, some walnut trees, a stream that spills down the mountain (except in times of drought), but no school, clinic, roads or running water. The young Afghan refugee who stared from the cover of National Geographic in June 1985 was an enigma for 17 years. What was her name? Had she survived?
This past January photographer Steve McCurry joined a crew from National Geographic Television & Film to methodically search for her. They showed her photograph around the refugee camp in Pakistan where McCurry had encountered her as a schoolgirl in December 1984. Finally, after some false leads, a man who had also lived in the camp as a child recognized her. Yes, she was alive. She had left the camp many years before and was living in the mountainous Tora Bora region of Afghanistan. He said he could find her, and three days later he and a friend brought her back to the camp. There, the remarkable story of this woman, Sharbat Gula, began to be told. “She’s as striking as the young girl I photographed 17 years ago,” says Steve McCurry. Then as now, Sharbat Gula looks at the world with uncompromising, unforgettable eyes. Until she was shown the June 1985 Geographic this year, she had no idea that her image had been seen by millions. People have told McCurry that her face alone inspired them to aid refugees.

The focus of Sharbat Gula’s life is her husband, Rahmat Gul, and their daughters. She remembers her wedding day, when she was perhaps 16, as a happy one—possibly, her older brother told the Geographic team, the only happy day of her life. She became an orphan and refugee of war at about age six. Soviet bombing killed her parents, and her grandmother led her and her brother and sisters on foot, in winter, to Pakistan, where they lived in various camps. Here Sharbat holds Zahida, age 3, and her husband holds one-year-old Alia. Their oldest, Robina, is 13. A fourth daughter died in infancy. Sharbat says she hopes that her girls will get the education she was never able to complete. Sharbat Gula does not know her exact age, but she is likely 28, 29, or 30.

In the mid-1990s, during a lull in the fighting that has rocked Afghanistan for most of her life, she returned to her village. Hers has been a hand-to-mouth existence. She had not been photographed since Steve McCurry made her portrait in 1984, and she only agreed to be photographed again—to appear unveiled, without her burka—because her husband told her it would be proper. She is a private woman, uncomfortable with the attention of strangers. A devout Muslim, she attributes her survival to the 'will of God.'

Is Sharbat Gula without question the famous “Afghan girl”? Though she remembers being photographed in the school tent of her refugee camp, and her resemblance to the girl in McCurry’s photo is apparent, the Geographic sought expert opinion. In Pakistan, ophthalmologist Mustafa Iqbal examined Sharbat, with her husband at her side. Iqbal felt “100 percent certain” that her iris patterns and eye freckles matched those in McCurry’s photo. A scar on the right side of her nose was another distinguishing mark. Iris patterns are even more individual than fingerprints. So the Geographic turned to the inventor of automatic iris recognition, John Daugman, a professor of computer science at England’s University of Cambridge. His biometric technique uses mathematical calculations, and the numbers Daugman got left no question in his mind that the haunted eyes of the young Afghan refugee and the eyes of the adult Sharbat Gula belong to the same person.

To read more about this story please visit National Geographic's website."

Thanks for reading.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A Drop of Water Within a Rose

"The fields were fruitful and starving men moved on the roads. The granaries were full and the children of the poor grew up rachitic."
John SteinbeckUS novelist (1902 - 1968)

That quote reminded me of Kabul. I attached a link if you wanted to read more about rickets. In Kabul you can see prosperity popping up all around but you also see a lot of people being left behind.

We went to a place where we shipped some medical equipment downrange. We were able to see breathtaking views of Kabul. The city is surrounded by some very large mountains.

Seeing the mountains reminded me of a poem that I read not too long ago. I read it on the American International School of Kabul website. I also got the title pic from there.
Kabul-- "A poetic reading of the name was composed by Mahmud Tarzi in a couplet which pays tribute to this city nestled within the mountains. In Persian, Kabul is written with the letters KABL. The K with slight modification may become a G which together with the final L forms gul, the word for rose. The intermediate AB means water. Thus it may be written:

"If you ask me the name of my abode; It is a drop of water within a rose."

On the way home we encountered child beggars. It is difficult site to get used to seeing them. It is pretty cold out there and these kids should be in school, not begging for change.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Abode of Peace

"How can anything simultaneously be both immersed in history and drained of it?"
-Terence Hawkes (Shakespeare in the Present 141)

Victory Arch in Paghman

Darul Aman Palace ("abode of peace")

Buddhas of Bamyan


Babur's Gardens

Kabul Museum

"We learn from history that we do not learn from history."
-Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel




Of course, none of these of photos were not taken by me. I got them from various photo sharing websites.
Thanks for reading.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Light Amid the Thorns

The world is my lobster.
-Henry J. Tillman

A stitch in time would have confused Einstein.
UnknownQuotations by unknown author

The human race is faced with a cruel choice: work or daytime television.
Unknown Quotations by unknown authors

What a child doesn't receive he can seldom later give.
P. D. James, Time to Be in Earnest

The world is not respectable; it is mortal, tormented, confused, deluded forever; but it is shot through with beauty, with love, with glints of courage and laughter; and in these, the spirit blooms timidly, and struggles to the light amid the thorns.
George Santayana

A lobster, when left high and dry among the rock, does not have the sense enough to work his way back to the sea, but waits for the sea to come to him. If it does not come, he remains where he is and dies, although the slightest effort would enable him to reach the waves, which are perhaps within a yard of him. The world is full of human lobsters; people stranded on the rocks of indecision and procrastination, who, instead of putting forth their own energies, are waiting for some grand billow of good fortune to set them afloat.
- Orison Swett Marden (1848-1924), Editor, Success Magazine

The hospital was great today. Last week I brought over a large dry erase board and I have been trying to give a lectures on different topics every time that I go there. Yesterday's lecture was on asthma and today's was diabetes. We must have covered ever aspect from the basic definition to the management if diabetic ketoacidosis. It is actually really fun to teach people who are engaged and eager to learn. You could tell that the ER doc was listening because he was asking a lot of questions. For some reason he really got hung up on the whole concept of short and long acting insulin.

He said to me, "Tell me what you are going to talk about next time so I can read about it before you give your talk." I had been getting discouraged the last few days because I would bring things in and somehow they would disappear. But I was thinking about it earlier today, when you give someone knowledge and information that is something that is very valuable and it does not have to be locked up and can be useful and passed along very easily.

We have all gotten comfortable enough with each other that I can feel free to tell them something and not worry about offending them. For instance, they like to keep their used scalpels in container that is filled with rusty alcohol. I pointed to the container and made a disgusted face and they were able to understand what I meant.

I recently got a really sweet care package. It was meant for a patient that I mentioned on the wards. One really nice lady was so moved when she heard that a patient's family was giving him potato water for nutrition through his feeding tube that she sent me a number of bags of different kinds of beans. I thought that it was a very sweet gesture. The patient was discharged already so I could not give the beans to his family (not to mention I think that they would have clogged his tube). I gave the beans to the interpreter to give to a homeless family. They are very easy to find. The same person also sent me little hats for the new born babies. I was able to give them to the OB department. They really needed them.

When I was in the inpatient ward I encountered a new patient. He was quadriplegic and had a serious head injury from driving over a land mine. They had just removed his trach which is a breathing tube that comes from his neck. He had 2 family members there taking care of him. He was moaning some incomprehensible words. It was very sad to see.

I just came back from a comedy show. It was OK. It was very nice of the comedians to come all the way over here to perform for us. I think that they make the show extra raunchy because we are military. They think that we like it that way. Oh well.

I took some pictures today that I wanted to share. Unlike the slide show and title pics, these are actually mine.

Would you buy fish that was nailed to a board?

Who needs an SUV. Just shove everything into the trunk. Adam said that he saw a goat in the back of a taxi today. I would of loved to have gotten a picture of that.

Here are 3 women wearing burqas in the back of a taxi.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Equal In the Grave

"If you deny any affinity with another person or kind of person, if you declare it to be wholly different from yourself—as men have done to women, and class has done to class, and nation has done to nation—you may hate it, or deify it; but in either case you have denied its spiritual equality, and its human reality. You have made it into a thing, to which the only possible relationship is a power relationship. And thus you have fatally impoverished your own reality. You have, in fact, alienated yourself."
-Ursula K. LeGuin

"Divine Justice demands that the rights of both sexes should be equally respected since neither is superior to the other in the eyes of Heaven. Dignity before God depends, not on sex, but on purity and luminosity of heart. Human virtues belong equally to all!"
Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks

“Come, tell me, hast thou not seen a play acted in which kings, emperors, pontiffs, knights, ladies, and divers other personages were introduced? One plays the villain, another the knave, this one the merchant, that the soldier, one the sharp-witted fool, another the foolish lover; and when the play is over, and they have put off the dresses they wore in it, all the actors become equal.""Yes, I have seen that," said Sancho."Well then," said Don Quixote, "the same thing happens in the comedy and life of this world, where some play emperors, others popes, and, in short, all the characters that can be brought into a play; but when it is over, that is to say when life ends, death strips them all of the garments that distinguish one from the other, and all are equal in the grave.""A fine comparison!" said Sancho; "though not so new but that I have heard it many and many a time, as well as that other one of the game of chess; how, so long as the game lasts, each piece has its own particular office, and when the game is finished they are all mixed, jumbled up and shaken together, and stowed away in the bag, which is much like ending life in the grave."
Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

"Doctors at a hospital in Qalat, capital of Zabul Province in southern Afghanistan, are treating a brutally tortured woman whose husband cut off both her ears and nose, broke her teeth and shaved her head only three months after their marriage. The victim, 16-year-old Nazia, is also suffering from psychiatric distress due to her experience, according to a doctor in Qalat hospital. From her bed in Qalat hospital Nazia told IRIN her story:

“My family wedded me to Mumtaz [a 40-year-old man] some three months ago, in Pakistan. Soon after our marriage we moved to his house in Qalat where his relatives told me he had another wife who had died a year ago. In Qalat my husband was jobless and was always complaining about economic problems. Two weeks after we moved to our new home he beat me for no obvious reason.

“One day I asked him to let me go to a party at my in-laws. He agreed and said I should return home in the afternoon. That day, although I came home early, I found him very angry. He beat me again, worse than the first time, and warned that he would kill me if I stepped outside the home again. He also told his brother and nephews not to come to our house in his absence.

“Day-after-day Mumtaz’s suspicion increased. He was thinking other men were visiting me while he was not at home. He did not listen to my pleas and was always saying that all women are bad and unfaithful to men. During this time he often beat me with a stick. “One night he hit me so much that I fainted. When I regained consciousness I found my head had been shaved. I cried so much, but he did not care. “One week later he knocked me down, bound my hands, and then broke my teeth with a stone. He also poured boiling water on my feet. After this I could not walk and was in a lot of pain, but he said I was only pretending. “No one was coming to our house so I could not tell anyone about my situation. I had nowhere else to go either. My family lives in Pakistan.

“One night I could not cook dinner for him because I could not stand on my feet. He got so upset when he found that there was nothing for him to eat. He started beating me. Again, he bound my hands with a piece of cloth. I felt a terrible pain in my left ear and then blood was flowing down my face. I thought that he wanted to kill me so I started screaming. Then I felt a similar pain in my right ear and more blood. “I tasted a mixture of blood and tears in my mouth while my voice was fading. I felt the worst pain in my life only a few seconds later when my husband used his knife to cut off my nose. I fainted.

“Now I do not know where my husband has gone.”
(Source: IRIN, Qalat, 26/12/07)

Child brides

"He’s forty, she’s eleven. And they are a couple – the Afghan man Mohammed F.* and the child Ghulam H.*. “We needed the money”, Ghulam’s parents said. Faiz claims he is going to send her to school. But the women of Damarda village in Afghanistan’s Ghor province know better: “Our men don’t want educated women.” They predict that Ghulam will be married within a few weeks after her engagement in 2006, so as to bear children for Faiz.

During her stay in Afghanistan, it consistently struck American photographer Stephanie Sinclair how many young girls are married to much older men. She decided to raise awareness about this topic with her pictures. Particularly as the official minimum age for brides in Afghanistan is sixteen and it is therefore illegal to marry children.

Early marriages are not only a problem in Afghanistan: worldwide there are about 51 million girls aged between 15 and 19 years who are forced into marriage. The youngest brides live in the Indian state of Rajasthan, where 15% of all wives are not even 10 years old when they are married. Child marriages are a reaction to extreme poverty and mainly take place in Asian and African regions where poor families see their daughters as a burden and as second-class citizens. Already in their younger years, girls are given into the “care” of a husband, a tradition that often leads to exploitation. Many girls become victims of domestic violence. In an Egyptian survey, about one-third of the interviewed child brides stated that they were beaten by their husbands. The young brides are under pressure to prove their fertility as soon as possible. But the risk for girls between the ages of 10 and 14 not to survive pregnancy is five times higher than for adult women. Every year, about 150,000 pregnant teenagers die due to complications – in particular due to a lack of medical care, let alone sex education."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Capacity To Care

Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to the place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it. As busy, active, relevant ministers, we want to earn our bread by making a real contribution. This means first and foremost doing something to show that our presence makes a difference. And so we ignore our greatest gift, which is our ability to enter into solidarity with those who suffer. Those who can sit in silence with their fellowman, not knowing what to say but knowing that they should be there, can bring new life in a dying heart. Those who are not afraid to hold a hand in gratitude, to shed tears in grief and to let a sigh of distress arise straight from the heart can break through paralyzing boundaries and witness the birth of a new fellowship, the fellowship of the broken.
Henri Nouwen

Each small act of kindness reverberates across great distances and spans of time, affecting lives unknown to the one whose generous spirit was the source of the good echo, because kindness is passed on and grows each time it is passed, until simple courtesy becomes an act of selfless courage years later and far away.
Dean Koontz, the character of H.R. White in "From the Corner of His Eye"

I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good thing, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow human being let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.
Stephen Grellet

The capacity to care is what gives life its most deepest significance.
Pablo Casals

I am getting my quotes from a new site. They are a little longer but well worth the read. Just an FYI, I have started to remove any photos of me or anyone else on my team. I am trying to make it more of an anonymous site since I will be going home soon.

I am pretty excited because I just came up with one last thing readers can do if they want to help out. Everyone already knows about Betsy's Women of Hope project, the Volunteer Community Relations program, and Operation Outreach. Well those of you that read yesterday's post also know about Nazia and how she was brutally beaten and had her nose and ears cut off by her husband. Here are some recent news articles if you would like more information.

It turns out that a civilian physician that I know is helping to manage her care at a local hospital. We talked about the surgeries that they will be doing in the coming months. I thought that it would be a good idea to start a fundraiser because I know that she is poor and in need of financial assistance. Her only possessions are the ones you see and they have all been donated by mentors.

Here is the way the fundraiser will work. If you are interested in contributing to the fund you can donate through or the widget at the top of my blog. Chipin will not charge any money to either the contributor or the fundraiser. The money will get sent to a Paypal account. 2 other people that I know and trust will be remaining in Kabul for some time and will have access to the account to verify the integrity. My goal is to raise $10,000 in 6 months. It would be great to raise more. The funds will be easily transferred to Nazia though Dr.Davis via Paypal. Obviously, no one will make any money from this . I think PayPal charges minimal fees for the money transfer. Other then that, 100% of the money will go to Nazia. If you are also interested in sending cloths or gifts to her you can send them to this address:

Dr. Gary Davis

Liberty House


APO AE 09356

Today at the clinic I did a lot of teaching on women's health. I was locked in a small room with 10 women. The interpreter was really put to the test today. I would ask a question and everyone would speak up at the same time. They would argue and debate the answer amongst themselves. It was a pretty funny site. I would just sit there and enjoy my chai and nuts that they provided for me. I was able to get in a good solid hour of teaching, so from my standpoint I think that it went very well. I think I will try and work on getting them a microscope to use for their exams.
I visited the inpatient ward again and I spoke with the family of the patient that is quadriplegic with a serious head injury. I am just so amazed at how his brother and a cousin are at his bedside 24 hours a day. When I approached them they were giving him physical therapy. I asked them how they were getting by since they were not working. They said that they were dipping into their savings. I think more then anything that I have encountered so far, this was a great example of the Afghan spirit. They are so dedicated to their family members that they are willing to put their lives on hold and care for a family member that is in need.
I spoke with some kids that are always hanging behind a fence outside of the clinic when we arrive. I usually just wave or throw them a candy but today I was able to speak to them for a little while. They live up in the hills in a small home with no running water or electricity. I asked them how they got their water and they said that they had to walk down the hill and carry it up everyday. I asked them how often they bathed and they said once a week, every Thursday. I asked then what kind of food they ate and they replied potatoes and rice. I asked if they ever ate meat and they said once a month. I asked them if they could have one gift what would it be. They all said chocolate. I told them that I always give them chocolate. Aside from chocolate what gift did they want. Their reply was some new shoes. They were wearing thin plastic boots without any socks. Their feet must have been freezing.
Whenever we pull up there they are. They usually are asking for things. Sometimes they are singing and dancing. The kid on the far right does this thing were he does a fake cry to get attention but he is unable to stop breaking into a smile in the middle of it. It always makes me laugh. When I start to think about the things that I will miss about Kabul these kids will be high on the list.

Thanks for reading.