Welcome to Afghanistan
Blog 1 - Week 1 - 20th October 2011
So here I am. I quickly introduce myself. My name is Jacob or known as Jake Simkin. I was once a commercial cinematographer and photographer. I guess I still am except I have left the safety net of Australia to work in developing and conflict zones. For 3 1/2 years now I guess I call Afghanistan home. I've travelled out to other conflict zones but still Afghanistan is home. This is really the first time I've committed to doing a blog so forgive me. I did a daylight blog last year on Skateistan: http://www.daylightmagazine.org/podcast/january2010
A friend has a post it note on his computer. It reads "why the fuck am I still here?". I often think the same. Afghanistan attracts the three M's. Mercenaries, missionaries and mad men. I am the latter, but then I am all three. I ride around by motorbike and walk around freely disregarding that the media perceives Afghanistan as a dangerous place. I believe in educationing the youth who are the future in changing this country and do as much I can to interact with youth and help give them a voice through the artistic means I know and still and foremost I am still a photographer and a cinematographer telling stories of what is on the ground and happening. So yeah, I am your man in Afghanistan on knowing what is happening culturally and artistic.
Afghan Embassy, Dubai
Today's story is about the painful and frustrating process of getting a visa. You need a friend or more so a fixer, an Afghan guy who runs around all the different ministries soothe talking and bribing people to get a fax number to come into the country otherwise they give you a tourist visa once you arrive at the consulate. Even after the years and learning basic Dari they don't get lenient in the last year so I am doomed with a tourist visa once again. I am sitting in the consulate and watching it fill with the other three M's.
They do this to keep out mainly the contractors out here to make money from governments to so call "rebuilding" the country. Some people do a fantastic job but a lot is here for the buck. But obviously this is a dying down. There are new hotspots coming up, Libya, Syria, Somalia that is all vouching for the money but then all the western countries are all out protesting about the state of the economy occupying for change. Budgets cut will be on it's way so what's next for the developing world?
I love Afghanistan though. It challenges your expectations and problem solving skills. It makes you more forth right in getting what you need done even when your afghan staff are leaning back and have a lack of self motivation. And why should they? They have become dependent on our money and salaries especially towards youth who have knowledge of English. But one day, this money will be gone and where does Afghanistan stand? Is there enough young leaders to make a stand to save itself from its warlords in power?
Dubai feels like a fake empire. It has no real history and culture though maybe the Emiratis may defend it. Built into the sand and out of a need to represent all the export of the Arab world, Dubai stands as their flagpost but the country is founded by the millions of expats mainly Indian or Pakistani labour workers who spend their years here living in one room maybe even twelve to a room. They spend long hours in the heat and humidity constructing the towers in the sand. I've always wondered why they spend the long hours for what seems like low pay. I'm intrigued but then I am told the Emirati government have close watch on the stories that come out of Dubai. Doing the story would mean my name could possibly be blacklisted on arrival and I need Dubai as the hub. Next time I am here I will.
Malls are huge here. It is a very consumerist culture. One it is hot, difficult to spend 30 minutes in the sun before being covered in sweat so the easiest thing to do is going to a shopping mall and if you got money, it is easy to get lost in buying fancy things. Even I bought the new Ipad 2. It has come in handy though cause without it, I actually don't have any cameras except my Lomo LC-A and Leica film camera which aren't as instant as I would like it to be for blogging.
Anyway next week I look forward to introducing you to Afghanistan as I leave tonight back to Kabul.
Till then, your man in Afghanistan
Dubai Mall Centre
The Diving men monument, Dubai Mall