1 minute in Afghanistan

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Loin of my loins

April 20, 2008
In my dream, I was about to have a baby. I walked alone down a bumpy, pitted dirt road, like Kabul, to the hospital.  I found myself in a room, like a hospital here in Afghanistan, an empty, dark, paint-chipped concrete room. The only person with me was the nurse, who was young, inexperienced and didn’t speak English.

Then I was on this small examination table and suddenly the baby was about to come out, and I got REALLY scared, thought, “Ohmygod! It’s too big, it’s going to hurt, how is this going to work? I can’t do it! I really thought that I wouldn’t be able to do it. I realized that if I was scared, it would hurt, make it harder. Then I had this huge realization that I just needed to open up to this new being and allow it, and it would be okay. I went into this deep, profound space inside myself, beyond fear into pure trust, and opened to this being coming into the world. it was okay, and the baby came out easily and then she was born! It was a girl. And she was on my belly, tube still attached, and I fell off the delivery table. I had the baby in my arms and pointed to the cord for the nurse to cut it, and even though she wasn’t totally on it, like, she didn’t immediately tie up the baby’s cut cord and all, still it was all right. Me and my baby girl!

Wow what a dream. It was so vivid and real I spent all day walking around with that feeling in my body.  Incredible. I’ve been shooting at a hospital in Kabul, and yesterday I saw the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) with teeny-tiny preemie babies, born at 28 weeks, 2lbs, ohmygod! So tiny!! I shot those babies, and everyone said it was okay, but I was trying to not cry as I was shooting, it was so intense. I think that place crawled into my dreams.

The next day I went to an animal shelter/vet clinic in Kabul, ohmygod, talk about sad/inspiring! They wouldn’t let me shoot at all, for security reasons. (??? This place is so baffling, there is so much I don’t understand.) I told them it would be shown in America, that it might help raise money for the clinic, but they said no, too dangerous for them.

It is a secret place, I can’t even say the name, at their request. It is situated in an unmarked house behind a blank wall and nondescript metal door. It is a shelter and a clinic they take animals off the street, spay/neuter them, vaccinate them, wash them and prepare them for adoption (mainly). This is a big deal cause in Afghanistan dogs are filthy so they are trying to keep a low profile people hate them for helping stray cats and dogs when there are children in the street going hungry. Ahg! They have had people write Dog Seller across the blank wall, which is, apparently, one of the worst possible things you could say to a Muslim.

That night, I had a dream about a baby kitten. I was carrying her like a baby and taking care of her like that. Then at some point she turned into a real baby, and I was eating and the baby was trying to eat my food and I was not letting her, because she was so little. In my dream I was thinking of the time I interviewed for a nanny job, and the woman had a 7-month old baby boy and they were feeding him a BAGEL!!!! Aghhh! I was biting my tongue! What to say? (to clarify: that really happened in real life, and in my dream I was remembering it.)

The very next day we drove ten hours north of Kabul, across the Salang Pass, where the Hindu Kush range meets the Central Asian Steppes — INCREDIBLE scenery! We saw about ten completely different landscapes before arriving in Mazar e Sharif. We arrived late in the evening, tired, looking and looking for a clean hotel to stay for a couple nights. When we finally arrived at the Mazar Hotel, a bouncy ball of fur came bounding through the brush in the courtyard, out of the shadows of the brush in the full moon to see us. So tiny!

April 21, 2008

We found out later that that hotel is famous for breeding these fighting dogs, and she was being prepared  they had already cut off her ears and her tail. (!!) They take the puppies from their mothers early and don’t feed them, so they become fierce. Poor baby! She is SO tiny we figure about 6-8 weeks old. All gold and fuzzy and little and she has a little black lioncub face, so cute. We named her Shira, which means lion in Dari (one of the main languages of Afghanistan.)

Lion has been a huge theme on this trip.  Adam is a Leo, which is a lion, I am part Leo, so part lion, plus Sara means lion in Hindi, so in India we kept having these guys say, Sara! Loin! Sara! Loin! (by which they meant, Sara! Lion! Sara! Lion) and we thought that was hilarious so it’s been a joke all trip Loin! Loin!

And then there’s this guy who’s known as the hero of Afghanistan, a brave, fierce warrior who held off the Russians and the Taliban, repeatedly, until he was killed by the Taliban on Sept 9, 2001, 2 days before 9/11. His name was Ahmad Shah Massoud, he is beloved, known as the Lion of the Panjshir Valley (Panjshir means 5 lions, shir means lion) – his picture is EVERYWHERE in Afghanistan, huge billboards with his picture. He is way more popular than President Karzai and has way more publicity — and he is dead!

(We drove up to the Panjshir Valley last week on a day trip BEAUTIFUL!! Unbelievable lush and pastoral, like a land from another time. Jagged steep mountains, small snow-fed river rushing through the narrow valley floor.)

Anyway, so weird! The dream! And then I met that puppy. And she’d been taken from her mommy way too young, still should have been breastfeeding, but they were feeding her BREAD! She could barely walk she was so malnourished. But she’s scrappy and sweet and we rescued her from a horrible life of dogfighting doom!

I cradled her in my arms all the way back to Kabul in the car (10 hours of driving unbelievably bad roads), feeding her milk with a baby bottle – she was so good! She’d whimper when she had to do her business and we’d stop the car, put her on the ground and she would go.

Back in Kabul, I’d planned to take her to the secret clinic I’d just visited. I knew they’d find her a home, but I’ve already decided I am going to take her with me back to America. Trying to figure out the logistics for actually doing this. I know people will think it’s crazy. I’m a gypsy no life for a dog. And even if you think so too, you must understand what it’s like when an animal, or person, or being comes into your life, and that’s just it. For whatever reason. This is my girl.

Anyway, if it’s for the highest good. Insh’Allah (god willing) I will bring her home with me. Shira!

——


April 21, 2008


I took her to that same animal clinic I went to last week. She got examined by the vet, her vaccines, a flea bath, a bit of puppy formula and she is fine, although having diarrhea, very tired, etc. she needs to rest, eat some baby puppy formula and regain her strength. She is so tiny! She needs a mommy!

Conrad and Jenny, our hosts in Kabul, laughed when they saw Shira. They said she is a Sanga-Janga (can that be right?) and she will grow to approximately the size of a small Shetland pony. Conrad bet me that Shira will outweigh me in two years. She really is a lion! But she will be well-loved and well-trained, and she will NOT grow up to be a fighting dog.

I am trying to arrange the papers with the vet and the government to take Shira with us on our flight to Delhi in two days – he doesn’t think he can do it!

APRIL 25, 2008

We did it — we managed to get everything we needed for Shira, vet exam, vaccine, official papers, etc, AND got her a bag to sit in on the plane and got her through 19 security checks and the whole thing she made it all the way, so sick! Pooping and peeing blood, throwing up, getting worse, not drinking or eating anything the vet said she was fine, but it was becoming more clear that she was NOT fine.

We got to Delhi, dropped our bags at our guest house and asked the dog-loving owners for the nearest vet (not many in India! Dogs are dirty here, not pets) and went straight there. They said she has a bowel infection, a virus, she was very dehydrated (duh) and needed medicine and a saline IV, which I knew. The vet had no medicine, not even an IV bag or needle, so she wrote everything on a piece of paper and Adam ran out to get the medicine while I stayed with Shira.

He couldn’t find the place which was allegedly across the street, but wasn’t, of course, and it took him half an hour (in 100+ degree heat). Ten minutes before he got back, she died in my arms. He came rushing in with the medicines, but it was too late. We just cried and cried. So sad. Poor girl! She was so close! Unbelievable! Can you imagine? She died AT the vets! I yelled and yelled at this poor guy for not helping her, but it wasn’t his fault, they just didn’t have ANYTHING. My heart is broken. She was so little, so sweet, so special. I know it’s only a dog, we only knew her for a short time, but she is in my heart. I miss her! Little baby girl.

So so sad.

I was determined to liberate one female from Afghanistan, and I guess I did, but now she is ultimately liberated, and we are just crushed. We are just wrecked. Got so attached!

Shira is with the goddess now (that’s what the guys with the shovels digging a grave her behind the vet said to us, “Please, don’t cry. She is with goddess now. We buried her right then, in the dirt behind the vet. Came home crying and then slept. We are preparing to go home now, but I don’t care about anything right now..——

Even with everything that might be true, like it was meant to be, it was her time, it’s all divine perfection, she is with the goddess all that stuff, even with everything, I just wish she was here. That’s all.  

nursing and shooting

Working mom! Here I am feeding my “baby,” the puppy I rescued in Afghanistan. She was going to grow up into the Afghan blood sport fighting dogs, so I bought her for one American dollar and decided to take her back to America with me.nursing while shooting in afghanistan

Working mom, on the road in Afghanistan

She’d been taken from her mom too early so I was feeding her from a bottle while shooting video out the window of our rented SUV as we crossed the mountains from the northern provinces.