Words and pictures by Barry Greville-Eyres
|Dili - Baucau Timor-Leste - still so much unfinished work....|
The contrasts and milieus could not be more marked and adjusting from a sub-tropical island paradise, with unfettered personal and physical movement, to a landlocked Asian, age-old frontier battle ground with real security concerns and severely restricted access requires a manual mind shift in more ways than one. The United Nations Integrated Mission to Timor-Leste (UNMIT) withdrawal was all but completed by December 2012, whereas the 2014 NATO/ISAF drawdown in Afghanistan is slowly switching into gear amid news reports and speculation that there will be a follow-up support facility of sorts.
|A prized pic - evocative and captivating at a recent meeting with members of the Lashkar Gah Provincial Council - Helmand|
With the onset of spring, after a relatively mild winter, the ‘fighting season’ is well underway. Many Afghan experts (if there is such a thing) paint a low road or worst case scenario post-2014. In spite of the lull before the proverbial storm, I revel in the ‘here and now’ and prefer to be blissfully miss or uninformed – speculative and emotive energies are best re-directed towards doing a meaningful and constructive job day in and out. We have our very own ‘patch’ to take care of and its important to do so remaining focussed, objective and ever hopeful.
|The cut and thrust of conquest - epic battles fought over centuries|
Omnipresent is the staggering/monumental history of Afghanistan and the greater region – the cut and thrust of conquest – melange upon melange of marauding invaders painstakingly plodding across limitless lunarscapes or sweeping off the steppes on horseback or elephant. One cannot but feel breathless and humbled by the broader geo-political significance of the Middle East and Asia. From a western perspective, to marvel at how the puzzle emerges, with clarity and understanding, piece by piece.
|History, repeating itself, with systematic monotony|
Initial forays eastwards from civilization’s cradle, the Fertile Crescent – Mesopotamia and at the centre of it all and the primeval constant … the overwhelming desires to conquer and endure. Small tribes and communities ‘exiling’ themselves from the Silk Road, the infamous east-west thoroughfare, in flight and fight mode often retreating into mountainous refuges to be lost and re-discovered as a consequence of ever-changing alliances.
|The Silk Road|
This is so vividly depicted by Sergei Bodrov, in his epic film Mongol - Temujin, which renders a rousing account of the life and times of Genghis Khan – founder, Great Khan, and emperor of notorious Mongol empire (1162 – 1227). A Mongolian proverb - Do not scorn a weak cub; He may become the brutal tiger – immortalizes the legendary Genghis Khan.
|Spring time in Kabul with bio-physical barriers blighting the urban landscape - blast walls and barbed wire in the foreground and surrounding snow-capped mountains behind|
Tagged as the 'Graveyard of Empires' Afghanistan remains at the mercy and epicentre of regional warmogers including Russia, Iran and Pakistan. A brief interlude of Afghan peace and prosperity (1929 - 1979) was shattered by an all out Soviet invasion numbering approximately 80,000 troops. What followed was a ludicrous attempt to exert power and control over the centre - Kabul and over 20,000 diverse and isolated villages populated by battle-hardened freedom fighters resisting an other-worldly ideology, imposed by nonbelievers. Toss into the mix US-backed mujahideen forces and what resulted was a conflagration in which over a million Afghans lost their lives mainly due to land mines. This was followed by the 1990s Afghan civil war, the rise and fall of the fundamentalist Taliban government and now, the ongoing UN Security Council-ISAF/NATO concocted Operation Enduring Freedom.
|Renewal, reconstruction and economic development feature prominently as hopes and expectations, of the Kabul government for 2013 and beyond, by many Afghans|
|The agricultural sector needs to be restored to its former glory - the economic engine that powers, nurtures and drives life in Afghanistan|
|Celebrating success and progress in Kabul - recently contructed high rise, high density accommodation units|
|Snow-struck in Kabul's Green Village - one of the countless compounds providing secure accommodation for the posse of civilians working in the capital city|
|Kabul-based compound accommodation|
|Gypsy Kings and Queens in Kabul |
Kabul 2 Dili brace yourself......
|Dollar Beach - Timor-Leste premier snorkeling site with pristine coral reefs on the outskirts of Dili|
|Old stomping ground and drinking hole on the Dili waterfront ..... unforgettable!|
|Old tramping ground - iconic Cristo Rei made to look infinitesimal when viewed from the ring of mountains habouring Dili and surrounds|
|Sheilas and blokes that made up Dili's vibrant expat and development assistance community|
|Stairway to health, happiness and heavenly Cristo Rei!|