The last time I was here in 2003 faces of war were all you could see.
The buildings that stood had been bombed and gutted out riddled with bullet holes.
Widows, orphans, and amputees swarmed the streets desperate for change.
Coalition tanks grinded through the battered asphalt, patrolling the broken streets.
Today, Kabul is a sea of change, the crumbling buildings have been knocked down and replaced with row upon row of shops, bazaars, noisy fruit stands and blaring music from block to block.
Some areas even host fancy western style high rise buildings and hotels and wedding halls by the dozen whose blue glass shimmers as an oasis in the dusty devastation amongst Kabul’s relics of war.
The changes are small but I still see HOPE.
The beggars and children still line the streets, but seem to have decreased.
I am unsure to what this can be attributed to…have they found a home?
Have they moved out of the city…or worse have they been sold into black market prostitution rings, human smuggling, the opium war or insurgent cells?
I shudder to think of where they have gone…and remember why I left my life behind to be here in what in western eyes is being called a war zone…to me its just home.
Contrary to what is reported in the west, the national army and police have taken over security in the capital, in fact they have it on lock.
NATO has moved to the outskirts and the Afghans have moved in.
Check point after checkpoint cars are scrutinized and searched, still, despite the redevelopment that has occurred there are constant reminders of the politics that have hindered true independence.
Despite all the strides Afghanistan has made towards peace and development each armed guard, tank and government militia is a reminder of the dangers that remain, dangers that threaten the lives of millions of homeless children across this country.
Sure the façade of war is slowly fading, but please don’t mistake this for progress.
No, no, we haven’t gone from third world to second world.
No, we have gone from an all out open war zone to a nauseatingly impoverished society desperate for development, hope and change.
I am reminded of this each time I step out of my post-soviet built projects and see children sleeping in the mud and refuse that most wouldn’t even allow their dogs to sleep in.
I am reminded of this each time I hear kids banging at my door begging for food.
I am reminded of how desperate my people are when I see grown men who should be war heroes bow their heads in shame as they beg for spare change to feed their families wasting away by the wayside.
I am reminded of this each time I see delicate little girls trudging barefoot through the snow.
I am reminded of this each time I step outside and see young boys working as welders and carpenters when they should be in school…
I wonder how these welders and beggars will move this fragile society forward when they lack even the most fundamental human rights; like education, health, and security…are they not the future of this country?
Is the fate of this country not linked to my comfortable life back in the states?
Walking the dusty streets of Kabul my heart breaks 10 times a day and I remember why I am here.