All is well, we are here in Jalalabad. Joanna, I and Monireh (our Kabul-based collaborator) are staying at a local hotel, while the Kandahar Theatre Company is staying in a house directly across the street. The most dangerous part of our project is crossing that street each morning and afternoon.
The journey here from Kabul was interesting. The car that was sent to pick up the three of us was not nearly big enough for us and all our luggage, but it only took about a half hour for Ahmad Zia dismiss the first driver and car (at a cost of $40) and hire another, bigger passenger van. We drove for about forty minutes out of the city and through several small towns; when we slowed for a speed bump in the middle of one market area a bunch of surly guys started to pound on the car with sticks. These brutish, grunting Neanderthals turned out to be the toll collectors.
Interesting system. The toll was 4000 afs - $80 - and you'd think at those prices they could at least afford uniforms, if not actual toll booths. Reluctantly, the driver paid the toll. Then, about a mile down the road, the van broke down from a shattered fan belt. So, a third vehicle was called, slightly smaller than the second but still managed all of us and our stuff. It's a shame the van didn't break before the toll.
We got through the mountains and two hours later were dropped safely at the hotel. I paid $100 for the third vehicle. So if you were keeping track, that was $40 for a car we didn't use, $100 for the car we did, and in there was a $80 toll which no one asked me to pay. There is much that is inscrutable about the economics of Afghanistan.
Our local Jalalabad contact worked out an arrangement to rent a house for the Kandahar company, thinking it would be better than a hotel -- cheaper (potentially) and they can cook their own meals. That of course assumes that the house has water and electricity - which, when we arrived, we found it did not, though it did have excessive dust covering everything. No worries; we are assured it will all get better soon. The group arranged to stay the night in a local hotel (not our hotel). Although it did have water and electric, the hotel was so stifling hot that the house was deemed preferable despite its limitations, and they moved in the next day - the six women on the top floor, and the five guys below.
The plumbing and electricity were mostly fixed in a day. The limited electricity comes from a rattling old generator in the yard, as there is only 1 hour of electricity supplied by the city. While this keeps the water pump churning, the electrons don't seem to flow to any of the ceiling fans. Still, the Kandaharians seem satisfied with all that.
Our hotel does have pretty good AC in the rooms; a luxury in this country, but without it we would go mad. Especially because we didn't have any water for three days due to a big problem with their pump. Well, we didn't have water in the pipes, they did supply us with big buckets of the
vital liquid. Cold water.
We are rehearsing in one of the rooms of the house, so our view of Jalalabad this time is extremely limited to crossing the street.
Next update - the training process. Watch this space.
Michael and Joanna