In 2012, I traveled to Afghanistan for grad school research. Kabul University campus, where I worked:
Kabul is a chaotic city, and there is no hiding the poverty or breakdown of public services after more than three decades of war and disfunctional government.
Nonetheless, it was a fascinating and diverse place to walk around and meet people. A quiet street and a bustling money exchange market:
Wandering around the bazaar, the Sony NEX-7 was the perfect inconspicuous camera. A fresh cane sugar juice stand:
The food was amazing, and what is interesting is that pretty much the whole chain of food production is visible to you there.
I took that last photo, with the incongruous California license plate, on a trip with new friends to the very beautiful Panjshir valley, north of Kabul.
The mountains lining the narrow valley makes it picturesque but also very difficult to conquer. Here, tourists in Panjshir pose on a Russian armored personnel carrier from the 1980s. The valley is famous for resistance to the Soviet occupation.
On a more peaceful note, Panjshir is also famous for its mulberries:
There were some dicey sections of the road, but Panjshir made an excellent day trip escape from Kabul's bustle:
And here I am, blending in but for the New Balance sneakers...
Sadly, conditions have not improved in Afghanistan since then. Violence and political instability are still a daily reality. I still think about and keep in touch with some of the friends I met during my stay, and was all the more grateful for their hospitality given the challenges of life there.
As for Kabul, some of my fondest memories are of my time training at a basement kickboxing club. Like all the images above, this was shot with my trusty NEX-7: